There is a common thread among many car lovers that German cars are typically expensive when it comes to maintenance, especially the older ones. In reality, that is mainly true since most German cars include premium brands, which means they use premium-brand parts. So to say that a BMW is expensive to maintain makes a lot of sense. However, there are many variables as to why BMWs are expensive to maintain.
BMW car maintenance costs will come down to how reliable the car is, the part types that usually need to be replaced or repaired, where the parts are sourced from, and whether you send the car to a mechanic or a dealership. For example, certain BMWs seem to be more reliable when compared to others, while the latest models usually have more uniformity since they share platforms, parts, and electronics.
The most significant maintenance problem for BMWs is that these cars are too complex and over-engineered. You may be wondering what "over-engineered" means? The catch-all term refers to car manufacturers' multiple things, making the car more complex or more challenging to maintain once the car starts to age. When it comes to BMW, this is a company that relies on heavy usage of items such as electronic sensors, complicated onboard computing, and proprietary parts. These parts also usually require BMW scan tools.
For example, if you owned a Z4 and the battery failed, you would not be able to take it to a local auto-store to purchase a new one. In most cases, the replacement of the battery should not take longer than 10 minutes. This would not be the case when it comes to a Z4. All the later-model BMWs require that the battery replacement is registered to an onboard ECU. This means that you can only use a BMW dealership to replace your battery. This is just one example of many complications that BMW had added to their designs in the last few years, which increases the maintenance costs.
BMW's over-engineering has resulted in pushing independent mechanics and DIYers out. All the Series of BMW in the last 15 years has increasingly become a lot more complex or even impossible for DIYers to try and work on. A few of the complications that have managed to push the DIYers out of these spaces successfully include no dipstick, Idrive, and highly advanced and complex electronic gadgets that often require very costly specialty tools, diagnostic equipment along with extensive knowledge of how computer diagnostics work.
These are the same complications that have also discluded many independent mechanics due to selecting BMW proprietary-scan equipment that independent auto shops cannot obtain. The independent mechanic stores are now forced to send cars to BMW dealerships with higher parts and labor rates.
Not every BMW model is made in a similar way, which means the prices to maintain them will also vary. There are many different Series that BMW produces today. Even though the 3 Series was once a very popular model, many other models come with varying maintenance issues.
Here is a list of the 2019 BMW models, along with the maintenance costs involved over the following 5 years:
These maintenance costs are based on estimates and derived from data from Edmunds.com, which offers information on the "cost of ownership". One of the interesting discrepancies is that Edmunds stated that a 3 Series 2019 BMW would cost more to maintain when compared to a 5 Series. Yet the 3 Series models have always been cheaper when compared to 5 Series models, which means it is unlikely that it will cost more to maintain. This is even more likely since the 5 Series models usually come equipped with a lot more gadgets (electronic) compared to the 3 Series.
The premium luxury 6 and 7 Series BMWs cost the most to maintain compared to more affordable BMWs. It is also very probable that when these cars start to get older, the costs to maintain the car on the 5, 6, and 7 Series will be much more than the 2, 3, and 4 Series.
The 2 Series BMW will usually cost the least to maintain, which comes out at around $6.518 over five years. Here is a comparison of how the 2 Series BMW compared to other similar brands when it comes to maintenance costs:
These estimates were also derived from Edmunds.com. The 2 Series BMW competes pretty well when it comes to maintenance estimates from other cars in the same class. However, it is important to keep in mind that the other cars are not a perfect or accurate comparison to a BMW 2 Series. For example, the Audi 3 and the Mercedes 2.0 CLA are closer to the 3 Series BMW since these are both bigger cars when compared to the 2 Series BMW.
Here is another comparison on how a 2 Series BMW compares to the non-luxury vehicles for maintenance costs over 5 years:
It becomes easier to see that even the cheapest BMW model will cost a lot more when it comes to maintenance when compared to various other non-luxury vehicles. This comes as no surprise since BMW has already built a reputation of having much higher maintenance costs, while brands like Honda or Toyota are better known for having much lower maintenance costs.
If you had to compare these vehicles "apples to apples", it would make sense that not many people would still buy 2 Series BMWs. According to the data we mentioned above, many non-luxury vehicles will cost a lot less to maintain when compared to most BMWs. Yet many people still invest in BMWs due to their comfort and performance compared to the cars listed above.
There may be a few variations between the different models and series in one year, yet even the lowest maintenance prices for a 2019 model BMW costs far more when compared to a car like a Toyota Camry. BMW has produced many different cars over the last two decades. Many people that only buy BMWs will agree that the older models cost far less to maintain when compared to the newer models. The main reasons behind this have to do with the fact that BMW used parts of far better quality in previous years, independent mechanics could work on the cars, and these vehicles featured far fewer electronics.
Even though the cars like the E46 and E36, which are both 3 Series BMW's, are now getting older (the E46 was last in production in 2006), these are some examples of BMWs that are generally still found in exceptional condition. Independent mechanics and DIYers can work on these cars, and most of the parts are not as expensive, helping the owner save money and time.
Another example is the BMW E90 which was last in production in 2011. These cars have also held up very well when it comes to maintenance costs. Even though there have been a couple of notable issues with some of the years, in general, the E90 is still one of the best options when it comes to "lower maintenance" performance vehicles.
It is generally true that most BMWs cost more to maintain when compared to many other brands, with the most considerable reason revolving around the fact that BMW is known for over-engineering their cars. The best advice or recommendation to get around paying these higher maintenance costs would be to buy one of the older BMW models or lease one of the new vehicles.