Second-hand BMW 3 Series: which one to buy?

The BMW 3 Series is one of the most sought after VOs… and also the brand’s best-selling model (with 15 million units sold since its launch in 1975). We review its seven generations, the most interesting versions and how much they will cost you.

The BMW 3 Series saloon, rear-wheel drive and longitudinal engine, hit the market in 1975 (under the internal name of E21). It was sold only as a coupe, with gasoline engines up to 143 hp. From 1978 to 1981, the German coachbuilder Baur produced popular convertible versions.

The second generation (1982-1991; known as E30) It was sold as a saloon, coupe, convertible (on the market until 1994) and, since 1987, with the Touring estate variant. It had gasoline engines of up to 245 hp and diesel engines of up to 115 hp. It premiered the first Series 3 4 × 4: the 325ix.

The E36 (1991-1998) was the third generation. It was sold as a saloon, coupe, convertible and station wagon and, from 1994 to 2001, in a 4.21 m variant called the Compact. It fitted four and six-cylinder gasoline engines from 100 to 321 hp (the latter in the M3 sports variants) and diesel engines from 90 to 143 hp.

In 1998 the E46 arrived on the market, which was sold as a saloon, touring, cabrio and coupe until 2007; in addition, from 2001 to 2004 it was manufactured in Compact bodywork. The E46, which underwent a redesign from 2001, had gasoline engines from 105 to 360 hp (in the M3), and diesel up to 204 hp. It recovered the all-wheel drive versions (not available on the E36).

The fifth-generation 3 Series, E90, began sales in 2005 (as a saloon, in 2006 as a coupe and in 2007 as a convertible). It equipped gasoline engines from 129 to 420 hp (a V8, in the M3) and, in diesel, from 116 to 286 hp; kept 4 × 4 versions (named xDrive) and received a restyling at the end of 2008.

EThe F30 (2012-2019) offered turbo petrol and diesel engines up to 460 hp (M3) and debuted a hybrid version in 2012: the ActiveHybrid 3 340 hp. It was sold as a saloon and a family car, as its coupe and cabrio bodies were already marketed as BMW 4 Series.

The G20 (2019- /) is the latest 3 Series. Sold as a station wagon and saloon, it offers turbo petrol and diesel engines from 120 to 510 hp, as well as microhybrid versions, xDrive and up to two PHEVs: the 320e and the 330e.

The BMW 3 Series E21 / E30 Baur and the E30 M3, the most sought after

The BMW 3 Series E21 cabrio manufactured by Baur It had a targa roof and, behind it, a soft top. Only 4,595 units were manufactured. In 1982, Baur launched, with the same configuration, a convertible of the E30 (the ‘official’ convertible would arrive in 1985), but of this 14,426 units were manufactured. and it is already less exclusive. Of the M3 E30, 17,184 units were manufactured from 1986 to 1991, in a coupe version but also in a convertible body.

BMW Serie 3 E21

BMW Series 3 E21 323i Baur (Gasolina)

  • 4.35 meters
  • 143 CV
  • Aprox. 10,5 L/100 km
  • 0-100 km/h: 9.5 seconds

Based on the original saloon, this Baur offered, with the most powerful engine in the range and thanks to a weight of 1,135 kg, very
good performance: 190 km / h top speed. Of course, despite having electronic injection, its average consumption is around
12 liters / 100 km. Its interior, well finished and sufficient for five occupants, debuted the console oriented towards the driver: a feature later copied by all manufacturers. Its trunk was 404 L, but some sources cite 460 L.

Its price? In Spain there are very few units of E21 and E30 Baur; look for them in Germany. An E21 323i can cost, depending on its condition, from 16,000 to 49,000 euros. An E30 Baur, according to engines and condition, from 5,000 to 18,000 euros.

BMW M3 E30

BMW Serie 3 E30 M3 (Gasolina)

  • 4.35 meters
  • 194/200 CV
  • 11 L/100 km
  • 0-100 km/h: 6.7 seconds

Created as a base to participate in the German touring car championship, until 1989, this version was fitted with a 2.3 L, 200 CV (194 CV with catalytic converter) naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, which from 1989 went on to deliver 215 CV (M3 Evo); in 1990 600 units of an exclusive version with a 2.5 L engine and 238 hp (Sport Evolution) were created. The 200 hp M3 weighed 1,165 kg and reached 235 km / h; the Sport EVO reached 248 km / h.

Its price? A 200 hp M3 in good condition (with more than 150,000 km) starts at 55,000 euros (from about 70,000 euros for Cabrioes); A Super Evo (if you can find it) will cost you from 110,000 euros.

Other BMW 3 Series to consider

BMW Serie 3 E36

BMW Serie 3 E36 320i (G)

  • 4.45 meters
  • 150 CV
  • 0-100 km/h: 9.8 seconds
  • 8.7 L/100 km

The E36 stood out for its good feel on the road, with precise steering and shifting; not so much for its trunk (435 L) or its rear seats, for two. The 320i was the last ‘affordable’ six-cylinder of the 3 Series: and although it delivered 150 hp at 5,900 rpm, it reached 214 km / h. Another interesting option is the 325i / 328i of 192/193 CV, but they are difficult to find without preparations or tuning.

Its price? You can find 320i saloon (with more than 170,000 km) from 2,000 euros. For its part, the 325i / 328i are scarcer and, in good condition and with less than 200,000 km, will cost you from 5,200 euros.

BMW Series 3 E46

BMW Serie 3 E46 320d (D)

  • 4.47 meters
  • 150 CV
  • 0-100 km/h: 8.8 seconds
  • 5.5 L/100 km

The E46 offered more rounded shapes, and better materials than the E36. It kept the sporty feel, even in the diesels, which already offered
power and low consumption. Of course, the first 320d (1998-2001) had problems with the turbo: if you are interested in one, opt for the 150 hp and
manufactured from your actual consumption? About 6.7 liters / 100 km. It had 440 liters of trunk.

Its price? If you search a bit, you can find 320d from 2003 to 2005 with less than 150,000 km from 5,000 or 5,300 euros. In family body you will find them from just 3,500 euros, but always with more than 200,000 km.

With label B: All gasoline since 2001, and diesel since 2006. With label C: Gasoline since 2006.

BMW Serie 3

BMW Serie 3 E90 325i (G)

  • 4.52 meters
  • 218 CV
  • 0-100 km/h: 6.7 seconds
  • 7.1 L/100 km

Its aesthetics were disputed, as well as its turn towards comfort, with a softer suspension. But it maintained the quality of the finishes … and the
rear seats somewhat fair for tall adults. Both the saloon and the Touring offered 460 liters of luggage space. If you don’t care too much about the
consumption (it uses about 9 liters / 100 km actual), the 325i is a refined six-cylinder that offers very good performance.

Its price? You will find quite a few units of this version, and at a good price. For 9,000 euros you can find copies with less than 160,000 km; and with less than 200,000 km, for less than 7,000 euros.

COn label B: All gasoline since 2001, and diesel since 2006. With label C: Gasoline since 2006.

BMW Series 3 F90

BMW Serie 3 F30 320i (G)

  • 4.62 meters
  • 184 CV
  • 0-100 km/h: 7.3 seconds
  • 6.1 L/100 km

With a slimmer design, the F30 maintained its spin on comfort and driveability, while offering 480 liters of luggage space and finally more legroom in the rear seats. Of course, these, by width, are only almost suitable for two occupants. With this engine, it is a balanced gasoline saloon, fast (it reaches 235 km / h) and that, in real use, uses about 8.2 liters / 100 km.

Its price? They are modern cars and that already affects their price: you can find units with less than 100,000 km from 18,000 euros. And units, with less than 20,000 km and 2019, that are around 29,000 euros.

With label B: Diesel since 2014. With label C: All gasoline. With Eco label: The ActiveHybrid 3

BMW Series 3 G20

BMW Serie 3 G20 318d (D)

  • 4.70 meters
  • 150 CV
  • 0-100 km/h: 8.4 seconds
  • 4.6 L/100 km

Like the F30, the G20 maintains 480 liters of luggage space and a great balance between dynamism and comfort. But also a cabin something
more spacious, although the rear seats are still better for two adults. If you are looking for a car to travel, this 318d vibrates very slightly, but has a very low consumption: about 5 liters / 100 km on the highway and, on mixed routes, less than 6 L / 100 km.

Its price? They are expensive vehicles: a BMW 318d with 100,000 km costs from 23,000 euros (the Touring, a little less), but a 320d of 190 hp and with about 50,000 km, already represents approx. 30,000 euros.

With label C: All thermals. With Eco label: Microhybrids. With Zero label: The 320 and 330e.

Looking for a 3 Series coupe or a convertible?

BMW E93 Cabrio

Depending on the engine and condition, you will find coupes and cabrios of the E21 or E30 (both with manual top) for between 4,000 and 12,000 euros (Baur cabrios aside). The cabrio of the E36 generation already included an electric hood and you can find units in good condition, with less than 170,000 km and depending on the engine and age, for between 4,000 and 7,000 euros; coupes of that generation range between 3,000 euros for a 318i with about 200,000 km, 8,000 euros for a 328i or 29,000 euros that they ask for the M3 with less than 120,000 km.

The E46 coupé was launched in 1999 and the convertible, with an electric top, in 2000. You can find the former from 4,000 euros (a 318i or a 320i from 2000 and with less than 150,000 km) to the 45,000 euros that are asked for a M3 from 2005 or 2006. The convertibles? They have prices close to those of coupes.

In the E90, the coupe and cabrio had different bodies than the saloon: the coupe was called E92 and the convertible, E93. The latter had an electric hardtop that opens or closes in 22 seconds. You can find coupes for from 7,000 euros (a 320i with 200,000 km) to 40,000 euros that cost the M3 with less than 100,000 km. Cabrios are about 2,000 euros more expensive in terms of motorization and year; but the M3, on average, up to 2,000 euros cheaper.

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