Buy advice? Low mileage BMW but infrequent oil changes

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4
Hi, l'm considering buying a 20 year old BMW with roughly 40000 miles. The mileage is great, but after speaking with the owner he told me that he has followed BMW oil change intervals which are years between oil changes. Over the life of the vehicle he's told me there have been roughly 1/2 dozen oil changes all with synthetic. Should I be concerned? I'm used to changing oil every 5000 or annually. Anything I can do to alleviate concerns? I was thinking of having a blackstone inspection done.

Thanks!
 

gkinsella1

Thread starter
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:DYes, I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm very familiar with the typical issues (coolant system, valve cover gaskets, oil filter housing etc.). with e46 BMWs so for me they aren't a real concern. Well maintained e46 engines will easily go for +200k.
 
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10,741
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MA
The real problem with a 20 year old car with low mileage is that the price is usually out of whack for the condition. Some like to charge almost double what a normal mileage car would have and I'd kinda like one with normal miles. Then things like struts and other suspension parts might have been changed on a regular schedule whereas a car with 40k probably has many original parts that are now 20 years old and rubber ages even with low mileage. But to answer you oil change question, many people will go several years on an oil change if the car isn't driven much so I wouldn't worry too much about the low number of oil changes and the long interval. Every low mileage car I see though, the premium is way too high for what it is.
 

JC1

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6,055
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Oshawa, Ontario Canada
What is the price for this low mileage 20 year old BWM? I would rather buy a higher mileage car unless it was an outstanding deal. Usually these owners still want top dollar.
 

BlueOvalFitter

Site Donor 2021
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Cajun Country, La.
I thought April Fools Day was 3 days ago.
Don't walk, RUN away from this car!
Oh, and watch that movie called THE MONEY PIT. The car that comes with the house, just imagine it's the BMW.
Good Luck!
 
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6,480
Location
Connecticut
Pop off the oil fill cap and have a look down into the valve cover, that should give you an idea of how it was maintained. The longer oil changes aren't ideal, but if the car was rarely driven, stored inside, and brought up to operating temp every time it was driven it probably isn't a big deal. I'd be more concerned about the rubber hoses and plastic cooling bits that will need attention from age and sitting, but if it's in good shape and you are familiar with working on them it could be a fun car to mess with.
 
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74
Location
Southwest
If he's been using full synthetic I wouldn't worry too much. Check the dipstick and check under the oil fill cap. It's all the other stuff like rubber and plastic things and especially tires. There are date codes on the sides of each tire. Check them. 20 year old tires or even less than 10 are dangerous to drive on.
 
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12,340
Location
Colorado Springs
Hi, l'm considering buying a 20 year old BMW with roughly 40000 miles. The mileage is great, but after speaking with the owner he told me that he has followed BMW oil change intervals which are years between oil changes. Over the life of the vehicle he's told me there have been roughly 1/2 dozen oil changes all with synthetic. Should I be concerned? I'm used to changing oil every 5000 or annually. Anything I can do to alleviate concerns? I was thinking of having a blackstone inspection done.

Thanks!
What BMW? What engine?
Oil intervals are not big deal if like jeepman said oil was brought to operating temperature when driven.
If you buy it immediately replace all coolant hoses and coolant reservoir. Change of course all fluids.
If it is an inline 6 engine (M54) go for it.
ANd do not listen to people who know BMW's bcs. their cousin's boyfriend's friend had one.
 
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134
Location
KansasCity
It better be cheap. Old BMW's require a lot of care and feeding.

20 years ago, BMW oil change intervals were 15,000 miles (I'm not sure if there was a time requirement). I bought a 2001 BMW 525i that was maintained like that (it was dealer maintained and each visit was documented), it was 5 years old and had 69,000 miles on it. When I changed the oil the first time, (there was still at least one green bar on the service minder), I was shocked to see that the oil filter was covered with coked oil. The oil had completely broken down into hard carbon particles that looked like Folger's Coffee Crystals. I was crushed and was sure that I had just bought the biggest lemon in history. I started shopping for a used engine because I was sure that one was toast. Well, it's good thing I didn't buy that used engine, because we kept that car for another 15 years and put 110,000 more miles on it. That engine was fine. The rest of the car needed a lot of attention, but that engine purred like a kitten the whole time we owned. it.
 
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2,103
Location
British Columbia, Canada
I have a 2000 528i (so an E39) with 100,000 miles on it. It's been a reliable car and hasn't been all that costly to maintain. Much of the stuff everyone is worrying about is still original on my car.

I'm only driving a couple of thousand miles a year right now and go at least 2 years between oil changes.

The shop foreman at my specialist repair place in Edmonton told me E39s are one of the most reliable BMWs. He bought one for his wife so I guess that's a clear recommendation.
 
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234
I have a 2000 528i (so an E39) with 100,000 miles on it. It's been a reliable car and hasn't been all that costly to maintain. Much of the stuff everyone is worrying about is still original on my car.

I'm only driving a couple of thousand miles a year right now and go at least 2 years between oil changes.

The shop foreman at my specialist repair place in Edmonton told me E39s are one of the most reliable BMWs. He bought one for his wife so I guess that's a clear recommendation.
If you don't mind me asking, what shop is it?
i purchased my BMW in Edmonton years ago. Also been trouble free (with maintenance).
 

gkinsella1

Thread starter
Messages
4
Thanks for the advice and recommendations. I'm going to have a PPI done and ask that they send the oil out for analysis and inspect for any sludge build up as suggested. Perhaps they can use a borescope through the drain plug and oil cap as well.
Cheers
 
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269
Location
York, Pa.
Too old for such low miles, I wouldn't recommend any car found like that....every single person I've known that has bought an old low mileage cream puff has had way more troubles with the vehicle than they should have. Time counts.
So true. In 1978 I bought a 1970 Porsche 911T with 20,000 miles (because my beloved 914 had been stolen), that I thought was a cream puff. Wrong. Timing chain tensioners had to be replaced. Some oil seal at the clutch was dried out and the clutch had to be replaced. I would be driving the car and all of a sudden it would just die. Wait a little while and it would start again. This would happen multiple times. Turned out the gas tank was rusting and junk would block the passage causing the car to die. I assume after a while the junk would settle back down and the car would be able to run again until the path got blocked again.

There were probably other problems that I've forgotten. All of the above mentioned problems occurred within the year and half that I kept that car. Running expense was too high for me at the time. I learned my lesson.
 

gkinsella1

Thread starter
Messages
4
@kschachn. Its a 2002 M3.
FWIW, I bought a 2004 BMW 330Ci a couple of years ago with 27k miles on it. It was fantastic car. No leaks anywhere and I had no issues with it in my short ownership.
 
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