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Are BMWs Good First Cars And Which Is Best? (Explained)

We’re on a mission to answer every possible question you can have about buying a luxurious BMW. Therefore, we’re going to take a deep dive into all the information that first-time car owners need to know. Let’s start with the most summarized answer we can give you:

A BMW 3-series is the best BMW for first-time car owners. The 3-series can reach 240,000 miles, which means a used model has plenty of life left. Furthermore, compared to other BMWs, 3-series have relatively low annual maintenance cost ($780) and reasonable annual insurance cost ($2,400).

However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question wholly. This blog will compare BMWs to other car brands on more than six different points. Furthermore, we’ll do the same for all models part of the BMW line-up. This way, you will know if you should get a BMW and, if the answer is yes, which one to get and why. Read on!

How Reliable Are BMWs?

Instead of beating around the bush, we feel it’s best to dive straight into the numbers. One of the things you have to be most aware of when you’re buying a car for the first time is how reliable the brand is that you’re going to buy. There are very significant differences between brands and their reliability.

As a first-time car owner, you likely have to keep to a budget, not only when you’re buying the car but also when you need to maintain it every month. So, how much time and effort do you have to spend on a BMW? Scroll down the table to find out.

BrandReliability RatingVisits To Repair ShopProbability Of Severe Problem
Honda40.3110%
Toyota40.3412%
Mazda40.3710%
Hyundai40.2710%
Kia40.2210%
Nissan40.3113%
Acura40.398%
Mitsubishi40.1912%
Lexus40.538%
 Buick3.50.3817%
Chrysler3.50.312%
Subaru3.50.3313%
Dodge3.50.2215%
Jeep3.50.2713%
Infiniti3.50.6710%
Chevrolet3.50.2815%
Volkswagen3.50.4911%
Volvo3.50.549%
Ford3.50.315%
GMC30.2817%
 Cadillac30.417%
RAM30.2615%
Lincoln30.4415%
Mercedes30.7313%
Audi30.813%
 BMW2.50.915%

Unfortunately, BMWs are highly unreliable cars when we look at the brand itself. We already dove into the specifics of their unreliability in this blog post.

Of all the car brands that we’ve examined using data from repairpal.com, we found that BMWs have the lowest reliability rating (2.5 out of 5), have to go to the garage for unexpected maintenance around 0.9 times per year (higher than any other car brand). You have a 15% chance of having a severe problem when you bring them to the garage (only Buick, Cadillac, and GMC perform worse.

However, there’s much more to a car essential for a first-time car buyer. Furthermore, we still don’t know if there are differences within the brand (maybe some BMW are very reliable while others aren’t). Let’s find out.

Do BMWs Last A Long Time?

So maybe BMWs aren’t the most reliable cars as a group. However, does this also mean they don’t last very long? This would be a very bad thing for a first-time car owner since the likelihood is very high that you’re planning on buying a used BMW. If BMW only lasts 150,000 miles and you buy it at the 100,000 miles mark, you’ll have to be aware of this.

In this blog post, we already dove into the specifics of the potential mileage for different types of BMW (that’s also where we explain our research methods). Those results are displayed in the table below. We found out that a group of BMWs perform very well and are capable of reaching a mileage around the 200,000 miles mark. On the other hand, there’s a group that barely crosses the 150,000 miles mark and a group that doesn’t even do that.

What’s clear here is that it seems the 3-, 5-, and 7-series together with the M3, M5, X3, and X5 are BMWs that can last quite a while.

Assuming you buy a used BMW with 50,000 – 100,000 miles on the odometer, most BMWs in this group will have 100,000 – 150,000 miles left. Assuming an average mileage of 15,000 per year. This means most BMWs will have between 6 years and eight months – 10 years left. Assuming they don’t ruin you financially in the meantime, those could be solid options.

On the other hand, certain BMWs definitely don’t seem worth it for a first-time car owner. For example, the 2-, 4-, 8-series, and the X4 can’t reach the 150,000 miles mark. This means you would only own the car for 3,5 – 6,5 years before it broke down completely.

Furthermore, the X1, X6, and M4 fall somewhere in the middle. Whether or not these are good cars needs to be determined.

Are BMWs Affordable In Maintenance?

The final aspect we need to discuss when it comes to owning a BMW is how much it will cost you in maintenance on an annual basis. For this, we’ll again take a model-by-model approach to identify which models are far more expensive than others. The original research was done in this blog post, and we also discussed BMW maintenance cost more in-depth in this blog post.

What becomes apparent quite quickly in the image below is that there seems to be a strong correlation between the models with high annual maintenance costs and the previously discussed models that weren’t capable of reaching a high mileage.

For example, the 4-series has an incredibly high annual maintenance cost and isn’t capable of reaching a mileage of more than 140,000 miles. That would be a horrible car for a first-time car owner (or any car owner for that matter). The same pattern can be spotted for the X6; high maintenance cost, low potential mileage.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that the M-series also have significant maintenance costs. This is not surprising given that these high-performance models always require a lot of upkeep. So, we can conclude those also wouldn’t be ideal for a first-time owner.

On the other hand, there are also positive outcomes. Earlier, we saw that the 3-series and 5-series are cars that can last between 220,000 – 250,000 miles. Coincidentally, these are also the BMWs that have the lowest annual maintenance cost. It seems we’re slowly zooming in on potential used BMWs. However, there’s still more to discuss.

Did you know that the BMW 5-series is our top pick for car owners that want a BMW? Check out the article here: Which BMW Series Is Best (And Should You Get It?)

Are BMWs Affordable To Buy?

In this blog post, we already discussed the depreciation of BMWs, and we saw that BMW, compared to other car brands sold in the United States, depreciates the fastest of them all. Now, this is a good or bad thing if you’re planning on buying a used BMW.

If you’re planning on buying a BMW and then keeping it for the rest of its lifespan, you’ll be able to extract the maximum amount of value out of the car. However, if you plan only to use it for a couple of years and then sell it, that will mean you’ll have to incur a financial loss that’s larger than other car brands would have.

However, there are, of course, differences between the models. Let’s have a look at the image below in which we’ve compared the deprecation of these models for ten years.

depreciation of BMWs compared to other BMWs

We see in the image above that most BMWs (like most other car brands) lose the most value in the first five to six years that they’re on the market. Some models hold their value for a little longer (like the X3 and the 3-series), but they eventually also depreciate at the same rate.

However, after six years, we see that all BMWs start to depreciate at around the same rate per year. Some models have already depreciated much more than others at this point. Nevertheless, after the six-year mark, all models seem to depreciate at the same rate.

This is great to know if you’re in the market for a second-hand BMW. It doesn’t seem to matter what BMW you buy; it just matters that you buy one that’s six years or older if you’re worried about losing a lot of money in terms of depreciation. Still, the 3-series and the 5-series are our favorites at this point, given the other factors we already discussed.

Is BMW Insurance Affordable?

Another monthly cost we haven’t considered yet is the insurance cost. Each model is going to have a different insurance cost. Furthermore, this also depends on your age (if you’re a young driver or don’t have that much experience, expect to pay more) and the region that you live in.

Using this data, we’ve compared the insurance cost of different BMWs in the table below. Please note that we only had data for 2021 models. Insuring a used BMW will be cheaper if all factors remain the same. This data is just here to provide a reference point for your research.

What’s clear immediately is that the M-series and the most luxurious BMW series (6-, 7-, and 8-series) cost much more than the other series. This won’t be a surprise given that the models have more power and are more expensive in general.

What’s interesting to note is that the X-series seem to have gathered at the bottom of the chart. This means they’re cheap to insure compared to other BMWs, and that’s a good sign. However, we also know that these cars generally cost more in maintenance and that some of them can reach higher mileages. The X3 is the only car that can reliably reach 200,000 miles or more, has maintenance costs of around $1,000 per year, and insurance costs lower than $2,00 per month.

Furthermore, we see that the 3-series has insurance costs of $200 per month and the 5-series ends up at $225 per month. Especially the 3-series is quite affordable to insure and, as we know, has low annual maintenance cost and high reliability, which makes it the strongest contender so far.

Do BMW Have Good Gas Mileage?

One of the final questions we want to research is whether or not BMWs have a good fuel economy and which ones are better than the others. We’ve compiled this data in the table below. Please note that the MPG data we’ve gathered here is from the 2022 models. However, while spot-checking, we found that most BMWs have around the same MPG for the 2019 models.

What becomes clear here is that the sedans and the smaller SUVs are the most fuel-efficient cars available in the BMW line-up. The only exception is the 7- and 8-series since there are top-of-the-line luxury sedans. On the other hand, the larger SUVs and the M-series have a terrible MPG.

So, definitely no groundbreaking discoveries here (smaller, less heavy cars are more fuel-efficient than bigger, heavier cars); however, it does show us that the top cars we’ve found so far are still on top of our list.

ModelCombined MPG
5 Series27
2 Series26
4 Series25
X125
3 Series24
X224
X423
X523
X322
M322
8 Series20
X719
7 Series18
X618
M518
M417

Should You Get A BMW As A First Car?

Finally, it’s time for our conclusion: are BMW good cars to start with, and what model should you get if you’re going to get one.

Are BMWs Good First Cars Compared To Other Brands?

As a group, BMWs aren’t a good car to get as your first car. This is because BMWs are highly unreliable, and most models have an annual average maintenance cost of $800 – $1,200 per year. Furthermore, they’re expensive to insure, costing $175 – $350 per month.

If you’re just going to walk into a second-hand dealer without doing proper research on what BMW you should get, there’s a significant chance you’re going to end up with a BMW that’s going to cost you a large chunk of money in the upcoming years.

However, when you do proper research, some BMW would be as good as any other car.

What BMW Should You Get As Your First Car?

When you want a BMW, it’s essential to keep in mind that you’ll always pay more maintenance and insurance costs than most other brands. In the end, you’re buying a German luxury car, and you need to be able to afford that over the long run.

If you can, all you need to know is which car will give you the most miles and the least headaches. Below, we’ve given our list of suggestions together. For this example, we assumed you were buying a six-year-old model.

BMW 3-Series

Our top pick for first-time car owners is the BMW 3-series. You’ll be able to buy a six-year-old model for $18,650. At that point, the 3-Series will have 90,000 miles on the odometer, but these cars are known to last for another 150,000 miles or ten years.

Furthermore, you’ll need to set aside around $65 per month for the maintenance costs and another $200 per month for insurance. Finally, the car will get you anywhere you need to go with an MPG of 24.

BMW 5-Series

Our second pick for first-time car owners is the BMW 5-series. A six-year-old model will cost you $23,200. These cars are known for reaching the 250,000 miles mark, which means you’ll have 160,000 miles (or a little over ten and a half years) to enjoy your purchase.

Furthermore, you can expect to set aside $68 per month for the maintenance costs and another $225 per month for the insurance. The fuel mileage of this car is the best of all BMWs, and you’ll enjoy a combined MPG of 27.

BMW X3

Our third pick is the BMW X3. We’ve also included this car because it performs best out of all SUVs, which makes it worth mentioning. A six-year-old model will cost you $20,500. At that point, your X3 will have another 120,000 miles (8 years) left (assuming it will reach its 210,000 miles potential).

Furthermore, you shouldn’t forget to set aside $87.5 per month for maintenance costs. However, the insurance costs of $175 per month are more reasonable than most BMW sedans. Finally, the car will get you where you need to go with an MPG of 22.