Petty comments that disregard the age of the car. I have owned several BMWs past 150,000 with NO major work required. I currently own a 1985 535i that runs like new with 135,000 miles.
Yes, with any car rubber ages and things need replacing. So with BMW. If this kind of general maintenance is done, the car will last a very long time. And it still looks good... no Toyota or Mazda of similar vintage even looks presentable or road worthy.
I agree with the above comments wholeheartedly. My 535i has over a quarter million miles on it, and with regular maintainence (yes, that includes a new flimsy intake boot every 3-4 years) I think I can probably put that many more on it before it dies. As long as it doesn't overheat, the engine is nearly bulletproof.
You are correct in that the Service Interval lights are a pain in the neck. It was poor engineering to solder leaky Ni-Cd batteries to the circuit board.
Repair your car and maintain it well, and it will reward you with many years of fine service. Neglect it, and it will bite you in the rear end.
I got 350000kms before any moajor problems, even then its was just the rings and seals that needed replacing due to age and deterioration. Generalyl thee are bulletproof, though some tend to suffer from electrical problems.
I have a 1983 533I that will not quit, recently clicking over 214,000 miles. This car is easy to maintain (especially compared to the electronic-laden new cars) and has had few problems over the years (I have owned it since 1986 with 24,000 miles). I cannot imagine a Japanese car of this vintage running as well and, in particular, as smooth as this car still does. Never pampered, this car is a daily driver that routinely sees high revving acceleration, high speeds, hard braking, and very high speed cornering.
The cornering is fun as it has numerous aftermarket goodies including vulcanized adjustable camber plates, adjustable sway bars with poly bushings, stiffer and lower springs, Bilsteins all around, and 16" BBS wheels with steamroller tires. It was topped of with a Zender aero kit with the factory metallic gray.
This 533I is still lots of fun to drive after nearly 20 years. Hope to see this one go on for many more and (cross my fingers) see the engine go beyond 300,000 miles.
The bottom line: if you aren't a car enthusiast, and don't want to spend a lot, and just want a good value, economical car... by Japanese (Honda, Toyota). If you are a car enthusiast, are willing to pay a bit more for service parts, and respect German engineering/design...buy German (BMW, Mercedes-Benz).
I have owned a `84 533i for 9 years (see my extensive/detailed review), and currently have 185,000 miles. I have every service record since 1984, and have entered the car in a few BMW CCA car shows (won one show). I also won a photo contest with it. Although it can be finicky, and expensive, it is a phenomenal vehicle. It is very fast ("fastest sedan in USA" in 1983 - 134mph), has plenty of luxury features for a 22 year-old car, and is used everyday in all weather (even snow).
To this day, I continue to tell people, when it comes to an old BMW (over 15 years old), only purchase one if you really LOVE BMW's. If you don't, buy a Honda. Too many people criticize old BMW's, because things where out or it's too expensive - but when things are right, boy they are right! You'll never know unless you respect them, and love them.
You bought a car that's not been looked after. It was that way before you bought it, and it sounds like you haven't done much to improve it. Either sell it & look before you buy next time, or get yours fixed.
I commented on the review that said the car's over-rated. Read it and you'll understand.
Ultimately, get a BMW that's up to par, and it's cheap to look after it from there. And the quality is awesome. My '85 535i is driven hard all the time, but I don't drive it rough, and it can handle all I put it through without breaking a sweat!
Amen to those who talk sense!
If you aren't into cars as an enthusiast - as in the type of person who enjoys replacing worn stuff on an old car and seeing the improvements, and who actually misses the car while its in the mechanic - then don't buy an old BMW!
These are DRIVER'S cars and are very refined and require maintenance to keep them that way. Just because turd owners cease to do this isn't the car's fault. I had an 1984 S. African e12 on which I was replacing ORIGINAL rubber components at 220,000kms. The thing never stopped once! My old e30 suffered a cracked head (at 260,000kms) because of lax maintenance by the previous owners. It ran around with this crack for 3 MONTHS and started every time and never stopped. These engines are very sound and will last a lifetime if kept well. It is not the fault of the car that lazy owners just wanted a cheap 'prestige' ride and didn't bother looking after the car (esp lazy materialistic Australians - butholes!).
When you buy one old, unfortunately in many cases (unless you hunt for a rarity) you need to deal with this reality. It is all part of the game. But repairing them will give much joy. Its just a case of if that isn't your thing, then don't bother with old BMWs (bless their soul).
I have owned Porsches, Mercedes Benzs, GM, and BMWs. My 1985 535i is perhaps the best car I have ever owned! It runs and runs and runs. It handles better than many Porsches and is solid like a Benz.
Sadly, all the German automakers decided in the early nineties to lighten-up and begin using a lot of plastics in order to compete with the Japanese cars being manufactured in Japan. Suddenly, German cars no longer had the solidness and incredible engineering as before. My mechanic who has worked on German cars for thirty-seven years says that the German cars of the seventies and eighties are far better than what is being produced in Germany today. I will never get rid of my BMW. It will go forever!