Treb Reader
Oct. 27, 2009 8:42 a.m.

My wife and I are kicking around the idea of a BMW as a daily -- probably something like an E34, E36, or early E46. The right E32 or E39 might be considered, too. This would be a street car -- the basic idea is that we're thinking about a sedan, bigger than any of our current cars, that is both good looking and sporting.

I was at the local parts place yesterday, and was waiting in line behind a guy who bought a headlight bulb -- just the bulb -- and paid something like $120. When I got to the front of the line, he was out the door, and the staff was still laughing about how expensive it was. I asked what it was for, and they said "a BMW." Which got me worried -- are these cars full of ridiculously expensive parts? Some more than others?

Any suggestions for parts places to check out/browse to get a sense of the prices for things like maintenance/wear items?

Thanks for your help. Matt

Buckhead Reader
Oct. 27, 2009 8:45 a.m.

Buckhead Reader
Oct. 27, 2009 8:46 a.m.

Buckhead Reader
Oct. 27, 2009 8:48 a.m. <----- lights, and cheap wheels..

Josh HalfDork
Oct. 27, 2009 8:50 a.m.

I use bavauto sometimes because they are close, but their prices aren't exactly good. They will pricematch anyone else online though, now that I know that I head down there a lot more often :).

I usually get them to match either or depending on the part.

But, to address your concerns, generally speaking parts are pretty reasonable on bmws. Stuff isn't as cheap as my Miata, but parts for those are laughably cheap ($12 brake rotors, $23 wheel bearings, etc). Prices on the BMW seem to be in line with most other Jaoanese cars that I have worked on. Some of the stuff you have to get at the dealer can be pricey, but a lot of the small bits (bolts, clips and whatnot) are surprisingly cheap.

One thing I have noticed though, the local chain parts huts tend to be a little overpriced, I am guessing that's because they don't see too much demand for BMW parts. Napa is better than most of the chains in this regard. But really if you try to stick with online vendors and the dealer you will be fine. The worst thing about using a generic parts store is that quality seems to vary greatly between different euro parts manufacturers, and they rarely carry the good stuff.

Oct. 27, 2009 8:51 a.m.

A headlight bulb for an E32, E34, E36, E46 (non-xeon) or E39 (non-xeon) is about $9.

Non of the cars on your list are ridiculous to maintain but they do require that you maintain them or bad things happen that cost a lot.

My older BMW fleet (E30, E36, E28, E46) parts are cheap compared to what I've had to buy for my Toyota Tundra ... those are ridiculous.

Oct. 27, 2009 8:52 a.m. (Zygmunt Motors in Doylestown, PA) is also very fair for OE stuff and they are good guys. They are also BMW and NASA club racing supporters.

mtn SuperDork
Oct. 27, 2009 8:55 a.m.

We have a 91 E30 318 and a 95 E34 525. Not too expensive to maintain (we don't do hardly any of the work ourselves), but we figured it out pretty quick that its good to have to shops to compete for your business.
Also, shop around for the parts, not expensive, but don't think you've found the best deal.

Both are ridiculously reliable, just make sure you keep up with maintenance.

Kentetsu New Reader
Oct. 27, 2009 9:51 a.m.

I picked up a '98 328i a couple of years ago, and have been very happy with it. I can actually work on it myself, unlike the last Audi I had.

I've put 40k miles on it (up to 140k now), and have replaced:

Brake rotors Front control arms (3 ball joints each) and maybe a couple of other odds and ends. Very impressive results for the miles I've put on it.

Parts were running pretty expensive, but then I found a site that was a great help. The guy that runs the forum can get you parts for almost any car at unbelievable discounts. Just PM the administrator (spooledUpRacing) at his site, and he'll hook you up.

Grtechguy SuperDork
Oct. 27, 2009 1:29 p.m.

When I had the 318is I bought a few parts from

z31maniac Dork
Oct. 27, 2009 2:25 p.m.

Patrick @ BMA or Pelican Parts has been where I've sourced most of my new stuff.

Used stuff I use a small outfit in Maplewood, NJ called "GutenParts" I'm also getting ready to have them put together a clean E30 DD for me.

Duke SuperDork
Oct. 27, 2009 2:37 p.m.

I've got a 2003 325i as my DD and autocrosser and I haven't spent anything ridiculous on it. I have also bought from autohausaz (brakes) and got good service. A good set of pads all round and 4 Brembo rotors for a complete brake overhaul was well under $500. Not as cheap as Chinese Miata parts but certainly nothing hideous.

81gtv6 Reader
Oct. 28, 2009 10:02 a.m.

I have used to buy parts for my two SAABs and the prices have been very good and there is free shipping on orders over $49. FYI, they also sell Volvo stuff.

I am so smart that I forgot to add that they sell BMW stuff.

nderwater Reader
Oct. 28, 2009 11:25 a.m.

BMW dealer prices and labor rates are a joke. After a dealer quoted $650 for an alternator, I bought a rebuilt for $150 at the local O'Reilly auto. It's got a lifetime warranty, so I'll take it back if it ever craps out on me.

For specialty parts, I second the recommendations - great prices, quick shipping. I've also had luck with used parts (wheels, interior bits) from

JohnW Reader
Oct. 28, 2009 9:33 p.m.

Bav Auto has some haters for some reason, but in 10 years of doing business with them, they have never effed up an order, it always ships right away, and often they have it at the lowest price.

I have a 91 318is (daily driver for two years) and as someone above alluded too, it is just ridiculously reliable for its age. My parents also owned a '94 525i for 14 years, selling it just a couple of months ago. Same story there -- very reliable.

Josh HalfDork
Oct. 28, 2009 9:51 p.m.
JohnW wrote: Bav Auto has some haters for some reason, but in 10 years of doing business with them, they have never effed up an order, it always ships right away, and often they have it at the lowest price.

Well, the biggest problem I have with Bavauto is that almost all other BMW parts vendors will tell you, straight up, exactly who made the part you are buying, and will often let you select from different manufacturers at different price levels. With Bavauto, they list one price for each part number and you don't know for sure if you are getting top quality parts or something else. $42 might be a good price for that strut mount or whatever if you are getting a Lemfoerder, Sachs or FEBI part, and it might be a ripoff if you are getting something from URO for example. The quality really varies between the various different manufacturers for a lot of these parts, and I think it's pretty crappy of bavauto not to be up front about who makes the part they are sending you.

I don't have as much of a problem with this when I show up in person because I can see exactly what they have pulled before I pay for it and usually get them to price match accordingly if they are overcharging for that manufacturer. I'm not sure that I would use them if I couldn't walk into the showroom, though.

mad_machine SuperDork
Oct. 28, 2009 10:02 p.m.

the nice thing about most BMWs (can't speak for the newest generation) they are very easy to work on. If I had a choice between working on my BMW and my Saab.. I will work on the BMW

Helterskelter Reader
Oct. 29, 2009 6:17 a.m.

Steve Haygood has the absolute best prices for e28 stuff. I don't know how much he does in the other models, but I'm pretty sure he can get parts for anything. He can be found on

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