I Spent 5 Times My BMW 330d’s Value Fixing It, and I Have No Regrets

bmw 330d

Let me tell you a story about an old BMW and the adventures it took me on. I admit, I may have gone slightly overboard with the amount of money I spent fixing it up, but I have no regrets. The car holds a special place in my heart, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. However, if I had known the true cost beforehand, I might have thought twice about it.

The Beginning of an Obsession

It all started in 2021 when I realized I needed my own car. My wife and I shared a family wagon, but with her often out with our infant daughter, I found myself without wheels more often than not. Tired of renting cars occasionally, I decided it was time to purchase a used car that needed some work. I set a budget of around £5000, ready to embark on another project. Little did I know, this project would take on a life of its own.

Love at First Sight

While searching for a suitable candidate, I stumbled upon an ad for a 2002 black BMW 330d Touring M Sport with a manual gearbox. The pictures showcased a stunning car on a beautiful day, and I was instantly captivated. Despite the high mileage of around 186,000, the car seemed well-maintained, with a detailed ad and a forum thread documenting the seller’s ownership journey. It was love at first sight. After all, an early 2000s BMW promised more excitement than a ’90s Volvo.

A Deal Too Good to Pass Up

Although I hadn’t initially considered an E46, I decided to take a test drive. The handling was decent, despite worn-out tires, but the real treat was the powerful straight-six diesel engine. The body showed signs of wear and tear, with rust spots and some paint issues, but given its age and mileage, it was to be expected. The attractive package, accompanied by a thick book of receipts, convinced me that this was the car for me.

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The asking price was a bit steep at £3000, but after some negotiation, I settled on £2700. Looking back, I may have acted impulsively in the heat of the moment, as I probably could have gotten a better deal. Regardless, I agreed to buy the car on the condition that the seller would ensure it passed its MOT, which he did.

Unveiling the Surprises

Eager to ensure I made a good purchase, I took the car to a BMW specialist for a post-purchase inspection. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t great. The boot floor had cracks, a prevalent issue in E46s caused by strain on the subframe mounting points. I had assumed this problem only affected the E46 M3, but I was mistaken. Fixing this issue would require reinforcement plates and would cost several thousand pounds.

As if that wasn’t enough, there were other parts that needed immediate replacement. I had reached a crossroads – should I cut my losses and sell the car, or dive headfirst into the repairs? Foolishly, I chose the latter. I approved a Grand Overhaul, which included a new subframe, bushings, welded boot floor, shocks, and various other chassis replacements. I convinced myself that it was better to address all these issues at once, even if it meant going over my budget. Surely, it would be worth it in the end.

The Neverending Saga

A day into the repairs, I received photos revealing more surprises. Rust had taken hold under the subframe, requiring further attention. While it wasn’t severe enough to write off the car, remedying the rust would still cost a significant amount. I decided to have the affected areas treated with Waxoyl for the time being, knowing that I would have to address it properly later.

After a few days, the work was completed, and my wallet was significantly lighter. I had already spent more than double the purchase price, all on repairs and replacements. Yet, the car felt like a different beast altogether.

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However, my joy was short-lived. Within a few months, the water pump failed, the electric fan broke down, and various hoses sprung leaks, necessitating further replacements. I discovered that one of the alloys was buckled, and three others needed refurbishing. The cheap tires the previous owner had put on to pass the MOT turned out to be of poor quality and started to bulge after a year. I splurged on a full set of Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tires as replacements. On top of that, the steering started to wander, leading to the replacement of the universal joint and drop links. Additionally, the rear nearside top mount went, causing damage to the trim in the boot, which also had to be replaced.

The receipts for various cosmetic repairs and improvements started piling up, and I started to realize that I had invested a small fortune into my E46. I had spent enough money to buy a much better car.

Lessons Learned

Through this experience, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons. First and foremost, taking on a project car and having a newborn do not mix well. I barely had time to do the basic repairs myself. Secondly, I made the mistake of getting carried away by excitement and buying the first cool car I came across without properly researching or negotiating. It’s important to exercise caution and conduct thorough due diligence. Lastly, I should have cut my losses and sold the car when I first discovered its issues, as that would have been the financially wise decision.

And yet, despite the exorbitant costs and ongoing repairs (I still haven’t addressed the underbody rust), I genuinely love my E46. If financial sensibility were my primary concern, I would have purchased a newer and safer car. But where’s the fun in that? The E46 brings me unparalleled joy when driving, with its taut yet comfortable handling and engaging performance on winding country roads. Furthermore, it cruises effortlessly at high speeds, perfect for long journeys.

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Of course, as luck would have it, the car is currently stuck on my driveway due to a faulty starter motor. But do I regret my decision? Absolutely not. I can’t help but glance back at my beloved E46 every time I walk away from it, knowing that the adventures it has yet to embark on are worth every penny.

FAQs

Q: Was it worth spending so much money on an old BMW?
A: While the expenses were undoubtedly high, the joy and satisfaction I derive from driving and owning my E46 make it worth every penny.

Q: Do you regret not selling the car when you first discovered its issues?
A: In hindsight, it would have been a financially wise decision, but the incredible driving experience and emotional attachment to the car make it impossible for me to regret keeping it.

Q: Would you recommend others to embark on similar project car journeys?
A: It depends on one’s circumstances and priorities. If you have the time, resources, and passion for such projects, it can be a rewarding experience. However, it’s crucial to approach it with caution, conduct thorough research, and set realistic budgets.

Conclusion

My journey with my E46 BMW 330d has been filled with both triumphs and challenges. While I may have spent far more than the car’s initial value on repairs and replacements, the love and fascination I have for this machine make it all worthwhile. Every time I get behind the wheel, I’m reminded of why I chose this car in the first place. The financial implications aside, the joy it brings me is priceless. So, here’s to many more adventures with my beloved E46.