Last week I picked up a 2008 BMW M3 to replace my 2012 BMW 328i as my daily driver and occasional track car. To be honest, the 2008 model year was more-or-less off my radar because it has the first generation iDrive. We all have heard how awesome that is.
My only requirement was the carbon fiber roof, a decent service history and a sale price under $30k. I did not have a problem finding those M3s, but I did find that if they were local and priced at fair market value, they sold very quick. VERY QUICK. There was a 2009 with 60k miles and DCT transmission near me that sold for $29k in a matter of hours. Another popped up across town for $32k and was gone the same day. Deposits the same day? Buyers flying in from across the country next day? That tells you something – the V8 M3 is a great car.
Browsing AutoTrader, Cars.com, Craigslist and the numerous M3 forums for cars is a breeze. Finding M3’s with the carbon fiber roof if you can’t clearly see a sunroof or sunroof opener buttons in the photos? That means running a VIN check on every car that’s questionable. New cars would be posted without a photo. RUN THE VIN! I must have done this a thousand times using Bimmer.Work.
I found half a dozen potential candidates but none that were remotely close. A half day’s drive at best. Weeks were going by and frustration was setting in. How is it that there were so many M3’s for sale and so few near me?
Then last Wednesday morning I saw a new listing, posted using the free version (read into that if you will) and only 30 miles away. It was a 2008 BMW M3, again not my first pick. But it was spec’d properly. Alpine White on Fox Red, 6-speed with navigation, and a carbon fiber roof. It also had the lowest price I’ve seen in my month of researching – $24k. That price was clearly due to mileage. 117,600 fun filled miles, I’m sure.
Now, I’m no stranger to high mileage cars. Six digit odometer numbers may psych out other people, but it doesn’t bother me. I’d much prefer a high mileage car that’s been maintained with service history than a babied garage queen that rarely sees the streets. The kicker on this car was the first sentence, “one owner”.
I immediately picked up the phone and left a voicemail. The owner called me back the same day and told me how he bought the car brand new from VOB and how it was maintained by S2 Dynamics, driven primarily highway commuting to Baltimore and that it was always garaged. It recently had a new fuel pump, new brakes, new tires, new clutch and other various bits, so it seemed the seller invested money into maintaining the car. And it had no track time, either.
The question we all ask is “why are you selling it?” In this case, the seller had a baby on the way and no room for three vehicles so the M3 was for sale to make room for a larger vehicle. We’ve all heard this before. True or not, it added up. When I asked about arranging a time to come see the car he told me how there were several parties from out of town who were looking to fly in Saturday morning to get the car. If it wasn’t for my prior shopping experience that I may have called bullshit and kept looking, but I’d had enough losing out on fairly priced cars to let this one-owner M3 slip through the cracks.
I pinged a buddy of mine who used to work at RRT, a renowned local BMW specialist, and we drove up that night to meet the seller and the M3 in a well lit parking garage. The car was very clean for the mileage and drove well. No hiccups, no lights on the cluster, but we didn’t have a scan tool nor a lift. With flashlights on, we peeked in all of the nooks and crannies we could. We didn’t find much. Both valve covers were leaking but that wasn’t major enough to be concerned about.
Inside, the leather steering wheel and shift knob were notably grimy and disgusting to touch but the seats, door cards and all leather was looking mint. And that Fox Red looked so good on Alpine White!
As you recall, the seller was also saying he needed to let these other guys from out of state know by Thursday night if they should be flying in or not.
This is where I went in to semi-panic mode. I can’t take off work to get a pre-purchase inspection done on this thing. The price is right. Almost too right….do I risk it?
Research has informed me that the biggest concern on these cars is the engine – specifically the rod bearings that seem to wear quickly and with no certain explanation. But without hearing any audible knocking noises or removing the oil pan it was impossible to know their condition. If the engine was running well after this many miles then they’re likely okay.
All of the other unseen bits on the underside are minor in comparison. From what I could see outside and inside of the car, it was very well cared for and made me feel better about the decision. Besides, it’s not like these cars have subframe tearing to worry about.
We agreed on $22,000 and shook hands. Short of getting married, that was the most intense verbal agreement I’ve made in years. Now to get the ring.
Nearly Disastrous Delivery
Our local resident technician, Sean O’Donoghue, drove me up to get the car on Thursday night with $22,000 cash in hand. The seller calls me just minutes from the meet up location with bad news. A Check Engine light had just illuminated and asked if I wanted to cancel. He said the car was driving fine so I told him we were still on.
Naturally I took this opportunity to further negotiate the price. He didn’t know what was wrong and neither did I but my knowledge of the S65 led me to believe that there was likely some dumb sensor that had failed. We went back and forth, but I was standing there with cash in a box. Upper hand, mine.
Hindsight, being what it is, I should have negotiated harder. But knocking an extra thousand off an already underheard of $22k selling price was a win in my book. Even if I had to put that $1k or more back in, I still believed I was winning.
So on that very night, in a foggy parking garage, with the Bill of Sale signed, I handed over a brown box filled with Benjamins. We had just transacted the shadiest deal ever but I was now the owner of an E92 M3.
The Real Pre-Purchase Inspection
Code reader attached. Several codes were stored. Evap Leak and Throttle Actuator. Not bad. In fact, I was kind of expecting the throttle actuator since they all seem to fail. The bad part was that they retail for over $1100 – and there’s two of them! In my case, only one was bad according to the code reader.
With the car up on a lift we really got a better look. There was expected wear here and there but overall in very good shape. The underside of the front bumper had seen it’s share of parking spot curbs and inclines. There was a thick ground wire that connected the muffler to the chassis which was disintegrating, but other than that, no surprises.
Oil was changed with fresh BMW 10w60 and an oil sample sent out to Blackstone Labs for analysis. I figure I’ll see how that report comes back before making decisions about how to spend the remaining bit of my maintenance funds. Fingers crossed I won’t be buying new rod bearings any time soon.
At some point, a comment along the lines of “you get what you pay for” or “there’s a reason it was so cheap” will be left.
I’ve now filled up the tank twice and put just over 400 miles on the car in about five days. What an experience. The chassis is so solid, the feedback through the wheel is just shy of the NSX and Porsche 911 but steering is light. The seats are supple and supportive and the back seats are just large enough to accompany two adults with ease. The Recaro child seat fits snuggly and my daughter seems to really enjoy the new found visibility and passenger experience.
The fuel economy is shitty (you can track me on Fuelly), the 4.0 liter V8 doesn’t produce a great deal of torque, but good God does it love to rev. The tachometer seems magnetized to 8,400 RPM. Everyone should experience a V8 engine this eager and smooth. “Life changing” seems appropriate.
It’s been argued that the new turbo powered M cars have lost soul. Admittedly I haven’t driven an F80 but I’ve driven plenty of turbo cars and I find it impossible to compare these two boats to their naturally aspirated predecessors, which is funny because even though the E92 weighs in at 3,700, it just doesn’t feel it.
As a previous owner of many sports cars and plenty of 3 series including E36 and E46 M3s, I feel I’m in the position to one day make claim that the E92 M3 is in fact, the last true M car. Here’s to M ownership.
Follow Me and my 2008 BMW M3: