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2002 E39 vs E90/2/3 + Indie repair costs

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Hi everyone,


I have a 2002 E39 520i (2.2L) manual which I bought with 66,000 miles on the clock. It had one owner from new who sold it to buy an F10. I have now clocked 9000 miles (75k current odometer reading) and so far it's been perfect. However, since pretty much everything is still the original parts and no repairs have been done as yet, I am worried that I might face expensive repair costs soon. I have read a lot on forums about E39 issues such as the cooling system needing overhaul at around 80k miles, suspension bushings getting worn out and window regulator issues.


However, most of the guidance seems to be for DIY and give an estimate for the cost of parts only. Unfortunately, I am not confident on attempting DIY repairs because:

- it's only my first car and I don't have any prior experience with maintaining cars. I don't have any friends who know about car repairs either from whom I could have learnt some skills.

- I am a uni student and live on campus with a tiny bedroom and crowded parking lot. I don't have much space to store the specialized tools needed for car repairs and it would be quite awkward for a novice like me to be attempting to work on a car in a busy campus parking lot! There is a lack of space and privacy in the communal parking lot compared to having one's own garage.

- Time: I am in my final year at uni and will be very busy in coming months. Attempting DIY would mean spending hours reading up on the web, searching for the best places to source the parts, spending hours tinkering around with the car and possibly troubleshooting if the repairs are not successful.


I therefore think the best thing for me is to get my car repaired by a BMW indie. However, i don't know how much this would cost me; as I previously mentioned, most of the posts I've come across seem to be for DIY spare parts cost as opposed to indie costs. Obviously, I could attempt to drop by a few indies and ask them about their prices, but I reckon the prices would probably vary significantly among different indies.


I would appreciate it greatly if you could give me advice on which indies would be cheapest. i live in the East Midlands, but don't mind travelling reasonable distances if need be. I am mainly concerned with getting the preventative maintenance needed on an E39 reaching 75k miles such as the cooling system overhaul, suspension bushings, alternator (feel free to suggest anything else which I might need to do).


I really need to work out an estimate of these impending repair bills as, if they are too high for my limited student budget, I would probably sell the car as I no longer need it for the time being (It was essential for me last year as I was going on distant placements). I really love the car though - it's an amazingly practical, refined and comfy long-distance GT, while being fun and nimble too! I paid £2650 for it and I can hardly think of any car which would have provided so much bang for the buck. However, if the repair costs I would incur soon would be too high, it might be preferable for me to sell it and then, once I start working after graduation, get a newer car. I think that a 2007 E90/2/3 330i manual with around 60,000 miles would be feasible when I start working if I can get a £10,000 loan over 3 years.


I would however prefer to stick to the E39 than splash so much on an E9x as long as the maintenance won't be excessive. I am planning over the long term when it comes to whether to keep or sell the E39. After all, the E9x would suffer from depreciation and would have running costs of their own. I need to work out which one would be cheaper to run over the next 2-3 years (maintenance + depreciation) - the 2002 E39 520i with 75k miles which hasn't been repaired yet or a 2007 E9x 330i with 60k miles. I have a slight preference for the E9x mostly because of the additional poke of the 3L engine, but LOVE the classic looks of the E39 to bits. I would therefore keep the E39 as long as it doesn't work out to be more expensive than the E90.


Thanks :)



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Any E39 has depreciated pretty much to the point of nothing now so depreciation isnt a big cost. You can easily spend a significant proportion of the value of an E39 just in repairs but you're only likely to have to do each job once - a cooling system refresh will last another 80-120k miles.


Any £10k car will cost perhaps £1500+ each year just in depreciation although newer cars are likely to be more economical.


An old E39 will probably be cheaper to insure - I'm guessing as a student you're young and so insurance isnt cheap.


Even a £10k BMW will need maintenance and repairs - often newer cars are more expensive to fix, parts for older cars tend to be a bit cheaper.


It's impossible to say for sure really - but I'd say if your E39 is basically sound it will be cheaper to keep that.

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Hi pt530i,


Thank you for your reply. I indeed forgot to mention that depreciation would indeed be negligible for the E39. I hope that the insurance would become more affordable for me in December this year as by then I will be 25, have 1 years NCB and 3+ years driving licence (no penalty points so far) and I don't mind a reasonably higher premium for a more powerful and reliable car. I will proabbly do around 10-20,000 miles every year - the 520i does 30 mpg while the 330i does around 37 mpg and the fuel cost difference would be around £500 per annum.


The main thing for me is the maintenance cost. For argument's sake, maybe we could consider the maintenance costs for the 12 year old E39 75k miles vs a 7 year old E9x with 60k miles considering the fact that the E39 is likely to require more repairs than the E9x, but the individual - albeit less frequent - repairs for the E9x (as you've rightly pointed out) would be more than for the E39.


What are your thoughts? Any idea how much the cooling system overhaul would cost at the cheapest UK indie?



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Someone mentioned on here they charge 250 for a CCV replacement.


A full cooling system refresh would probably be 500 quid or so but obviously depends how much gets changed.


Because E39s are so old, there's plenty of knowledge about how to fix them and most back street garages will have seen all the common faults many times before.

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If you only have a year to go I suggest pushing everything thats not an absolute must out of the way

Suspension can wait its not an absolute must unless somethings badly wrong theres plenty of cars knocking around with well over 100k on the clock with all original parts

If you want to look at one thing and one thing only look at the cooling system and just keep tue car regularly serviced

Just to add my cooling system didn't fail until the car hit 120k miles rad split and water pump gave up so I changed the lot

If you go ahead with it id recommend sourcing good quality parts yourself then getting a few quotes from different indies preferably a bmw specialist but its not a must

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Parts you will need

Exspansion bottle



Water pump -metal impeller

Serpintine belts

Coolant change

You can change plugs yourself in 15 minites without even getting dirty same goes for the air filter

Just let the indie do the oil and filter for you too

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I've just had new radiator and ccv replaced, with oil service and a couple of other bits...£850 at Mark Purcell, a good BMW indy Oxford way.

Edited by themanstan

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Oil and filter change - check out National Tyres, cheaper than anywhere else, including DIY.

As others have said, cooling system probably the weakest point. Keep a close eye on running temp. Don't trust the gauge - if you do get a problem, by the time the gauge reacts it will probably be too late.

Check out how to get the temp on the "secret" menu (recent thread on here, search for "KTMP") or better still, if you've got an Android phone, get the Torque app and use it at all times.

Sounds like you've picked up a decent motor there though, worth hanging on to.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

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