Calling all E38 owners, should I buy one?

Shift Option K

macrumors regular
Original poster
Nov 26, 2013
128
0
I've been deciding to store the van for a while and get a bimmer of some sort, and I drove past a 98 E38 740i with 180k for $5800. I've read some ratings and reviews for its reliability and it had pretty good ratings. However, any owners, are there any things I need to be aware of with these cars? It caught my eye because of its good price (not too low or high), mileage, and condition (10/10 like it just left the factory). Not sure if this was a German-made or Mexican-made model, but does that even make a difference?
 

Synchromesh

macrumors 6502a
Jul 15, 2009
578
48
SF
I'm not an owner and I never owned one. But buying an old luxury German car isn't for a faint at heart. It means you are either good at wrenching or you have too much money to spend on it. If you want a reliable daily driver I'd stay away as far as possible.
 

dborja

macrumors 6502a
Sep 13, 2007
838
12
Northern California
We have a 2001 E38 (740iL) and are quite happy with it. It is comfortable and responsive. The shape is classic and still gets stares when we drive it (it's our weekend car).

Issues are with the cooling system. The radiator, expansion tank and fan are plastic. I had an expansion tank leak after I bought the car used. The fan is known to explode. Our car's records show it did this for the previous owner. We've had the car for 8 years now and have not had the problem so the fan was probably built better afterwards.

I replaced the manifold profile gasket since it hardened and cracked with age and caused the car to miss when started cold. I'm not an expert wrencher but was able to do this myself. I also do the oil changes (synthetic oil), replaced the plugs and my nephew helped me with brake pad changing. I also bought a diagnostic tool to read off the ECU codes and figure out if there's problems.

There are a lot of resources out there for parts and information. I go to http://www.bimmerboard.com/forums/e38/ and http://www.bimmerforums.com to chat with fellow E38 owners. I use E38.org for help in fixing/maintaining our car.

Let me know if you have more questions. We do plan to keep our car. With some proactive maintenance, it's a good car.
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
17,586
8,221
Colorado
I'm not an owner and I never owned one. But buying an old luxury German car isn't for a faint at heart. It means you are either good at wrenching or you have too much money to spend on it. If you want a reliable daily driver I'd stay away as far as possible.
Agreed. I wouldn't buy a 16 year old car.
 

js81

macrumors 65816
Dec 31, 2008
1,199
16
KY
Not an E38 or even a BMW, but I recently bought and drive a 96 Mercedes w202 (C220). Through 8 months ownership and 10k miles as a daily driver, I can attest to the fact that there is no such thing as a cheap Mercedes; I'd imagine the same rule applies to a BMW. I love the car, though, and try to do most of the work myself; its headed to the shop next week, though, for a head gasket replacement to the tune of $1100. Mine has 140k, btw.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,117
7,756
Austin, TX
You're going to buy an old BMW, while paying for a new one. Even those who argue reliability is a thing of the past in today's market will admit that you'll have to throw multiple thousand dollars per year into a 7 series bimmer with 150k+ miles.
 

puma1552

Suspended
Nov 20, 2008
5,559
1,919
Absolutely would NOT touch an old 7.

If you MUST, then get a 2000-2001 sport (740iL) or sport short (740i). The non-Msport looks like crap (like all BMWs without Msport, yawn).

I played with the idea a couple years back, I had found an uber rare Imola Red sport for a good price with decent miles.

Then I started researching, and as I expected, even the enthusiast owners on E38 forums flat out told me the cars rip you apart financially once they hit 50k miles, age aside. Reports of $3k for catalytic converters and I came back down to earth and passed on that gorgeous Imola Red sport.

Buyer beware…you can buy an '08-'09 with low miles for about $30k, if that…and I still wouldn't touch one.
 

kellen

macrumors 68020
Aug 11, 2006
2,362
55
Seattle, WA
Those cars were 60-90k new, just because it has depreciated to 6000 doesn't make it cheap to own. Still pay for maintenance on a 75,000 car.

If you can afford the maintenance and like the car, I would. But I echo the above statement, get a later model year 2000 or 2001. I love the look of those cars.
 

G51989

macrumors 68030
Feb 25, 2012
2,506
10
NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
I've been deciding to store the van for a while and get a bimmer of some sort, and I drove past a 98 E38 740i with 180k for $5800. I've read some ratings and reviews for its reliability and it had pretty good ratings. However, any owners, are there any things I need to be aware of with these cars? It caught my eye because of its good price (not too low or high), mileage, and condition (10/10 like it just left the factory). Not sure if this was a German-made or Mexican-made model, but does that even make a difference?
BMW = Bavarian Manure Wagon

Junk.

The fact is, these were very expensive cars when they were new, they were built to provide super awesome comfort for a short time, they were not built to be reliable like a Honda, Toyota or a Ford.
 

turtle777

macrumors 6502a
Apr 30, 2004
679
15
The fact is, these were very expensive cars when they were new, they were built to provide super awesome comfort for a short time, they were not built to be reliable like a Honda, Toyota or a Ford.
LOL, you're trying to tell me that 1990ies Fords were a bastion of reliability ?

LOL.

-t
 

puma1552

Suspended
Nov 20, 2008
5,559
1,919
LOL, you're trying to tell me that 1990ies Fords were a bastion of reliability ?

LOL.

-t
I have to say, the '94 Tbird LX with the 4.6 my parents bought new, and my old '98 Mustang GT that had 78k on the clock when I got it were both extremely well built, tight, smooth cars that felt well out of their price range, even once they hit fifteen years of age.
 

G51989

macrumors 68030
Feb 25, 2012
2,506
10
NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
I have to say, the '94 Tbird LX with the 4.6 my parents bought new, and my old '98 Mustang GT that had 78k on the clock when I got it were both extremely well built, tight, smooth cars that felt well out of their price range, even once they hit fifteen years of age.
I forgot about the 90s Thunderbird.

Was always a fan of those, the 5.0 V8, 4.6 V8, and supercarged 3.8, taking a sledgehammer to the European overpriced Coupes of the time.
 

penguy

macrumors 6502
Feb 20, 2007
344
1
CA
I owned a '95 740i for 6 or 7 years...bought it at 3 years old with 49k miles and sold it at 110k miles in 2005. It had the same radiator problem described above...but other then that, it was a great car.

I currently drive an 2002 e46 M3...I bought it with 47k mi for 18k 4 years ago. Sure there's risk. But I am driving a car that is incredibly fun, responsive (not many cars at that price that are sub 5 sec to 60 and capable of 190 mph - if the 155 limiter is removed), good looking and its fit and finish is much better then most cars at $18k.

Like others have said...repairs can be costly, but if you are handy, or can find an honest mechanic, it's generally not that bad. I used to buy new...I prefer used to avoid the depreciation hit.

I figure my cost on cars as purchase price + maintenance cost - final sales price divided by the number of months I own the car. By that metric, my most expensive car was an Acura MDX! My least expensive a BMW 325 followed by - wait for it - a Land Rover LR3 :D
 

pvmacguy

macrumors 65816
Sep 2, 2009
1,112
28
Jax
Like others have said walk away. Once those old 7's hit 100k miles they have a self destruct and everything goes wrong.

A friends dad had a 99 750Li with the v12. Electrical started to go, electric stiffening/dampening struts needed replacing for many of thousands. Radiator blew. Drivers power seat failed.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,117
7,756
Austin, TX
Rankings for CarMD are out of date. Either way, I don't know why anyone would try to argue Ford reliability. Toyota/Lexus (one brand on CarMD) or Honda/Acura (same) maybe, but not Ford.

http://corp.carmd.com/2013-manufacturer-vehicle-ranking.htm?subId=232

Edit: I also just realized your rankings are UK. In England, you would expect BMWs to be more reliable as their maintenance is probably more reasonable than here in the states (More places are able to fix European cars), and therefore Europeans are more likely to service their bimmers.
 

puma1552

Suspended
Nov 20, 2008
5,559
1,919
Rankings for CarMD are out of date. Either way, I don't know why anyone would try to argue Ford reliability. Toyota/Lexus (one brand on CarMD) or Honda/Acura (same) maybe, but not Ford.

http://corp.carmd.com/2013-manufacturer-vehicle-ranking.htm?subId=232

Edit: I also just realized your rankings are UK. In England, you would expect BMWs to be more reliable as their maintenance is probably more reasonable than here in the states (More places are able to fix European cars), and therefore Europeans are more likely to service their bimmers.
I know it must be tough to fathom, but there are brands that are reliable that are NOT just soulless Japanese appliances.

Porsche, for one.

Ford is building high quality vehicles now. You can choose to be aware, or choose to be completely ignorant. It's up to you - you're starting to look as bad as Synchromesh, who's proven himself to have zero credibility in any car discussion due to his blind allegiance to Japanese cars and absolutely nothing else.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,117
7,756
Austin, TX
I know it must be tough to fathom, but there are brands that are reliable that are NOT just soulless Japanese appliances.
Ford is not one of them.

Porsche, for one.
I'm aware of Porsche, and they are the exception to German car reliability. It's too bad Volkswagen can't make any other reliable vehicles.

Ford is building high quality vehicles now.
They do. As to most brands now. They're just not as reliable as Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, etc. Unless OP is in the market for an F150, then Ford is not a reliable brand choice. It's not bias. It. Is. Fact.
You can choose to be aware, or choose to be completely ignorant.
You have no good sources and I am ignorant?

It's up to you - you're starting to look as bad as Synchromesh, who's proven himself to have zero credibility in any car discussion due to his blind allegiance to Japanese cars and absolutely nothing else.
I have no brand allegiance. I have owned a Japanese car, a German car, and an American car.
 

G51989

macrumors 68030
Feb 25, 2012
2,506
10
NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
The majority of Fords recent issues come from that stupid sync system and meaningless gadgets you don't need.

BMWs are overpriced junk. Trust me, I've worked on enough of them to realize WHY BMW has such high rates of leasing, no one wants to deal with a blown up plastic water pump, shredded cooling fan, leaky radiator and iffy automatic transmission that will run 1900 dollars to repair at 80K miles.

BMW does make some very cool cars, but all of them are VERY expensive to maintain, and overpriced.

They still use cork gaskets in half their engines...German engineering in the house....:rolleyes:

I cannot figure out why anyone in their right mind would piss away hard earned money on a BMW over a Porsche or a Benz.




----------

Ford is not one of them.
.
Fords recent issues stem mostly from useless gadgets and the SYNC system, their only real engine issues are the ECOBOOST line, which is very new, but the issues are being worked out. It should be noted that the ECoboost line are some of the most advanced engine in the world.

My GF has ONLY bought Fords, back in Franec and here as well, Ive owned a bunch to. I cant say Ive ever had a major problem with ANY Of them.

I mean, Ive owned Japanese cars to, but Japanese care are souless, boring, not fun to drive, and have boring engines. At least outside of the GTR.

They do. As to most brands now. They're just not as reliable as Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, etc. Unless OP is in the market for an F150, then Ford is not a reliable brand choice. It's not bias. It. Is. Fact.
Yes, they are slightly less reliable than a Honda or a Box, but the fact is. Asian cars are not fun to own, they aren't fun to drive, they sound terrible, can't handle, boring interior, look boring, lackluster engine output, why bother? Sure they are good for A-B, but that is for normal people

The only Japanese car I owned that I ever liked was an S2000. But honda stopped making it.
 

shinji

macrumors 65816
Mar 18, 2007
1,309
1,499
I've been deciding to store the van for a while and get a bimmer of some sort, and I drove past a 98 E38 740i with 180k for $5800. I've read some ratings and reviews for its reliability and it had pretty good ratings. However, any owners, are there any things I need to be aware of with these cars? It caught my eye because of its good price (not too low or high), mileage, and condition (10/10 like it just left the factory). Not sure if this was a German-made or Mexican-made model, but does that even make a difference?
Where did you read the the '98 E38 had good reliability? I can't believe that, especially given 180k miles or anywhere near.

If you love BMWs and really want one, go for it. Just realize you're almost certainly going to be paying more than $5800 once the repair costs start piling up.
 

D.T.

macrumors G3
Sep 15, 2011
9,085
6,976
Vilano Beach, FL
Ford is building high quality vehicles now.
Yeah, I’m seriously considering a Shelby GT500 convertible* as my next ride (2013/2014), never owned a Ford, but pretty happy with what I’ve read over the last several months.

I’ve owned BMW, Toyota, Honda, Chevy (Corvette specifically), Lexus, etc. - in a few cases, multiple cars (3+) from the same manufacturer - and I’ve been surprised by the overall quality/lack of and excellent/poor dealer experience relative to the perceived “brand status” (especially when spending 50K+ or more).

Meant to say congrats on the new ride from the pictures thread too :D


* w/ SVT package, Recaros