I get a lot of articles sent my way from friends and family members and last night my inbox didn’t disappoint.  This is an article recently published on the car mega-site jalopnik that outlines 4 reasons why you should buy a used e39 540i Right Now!

Jalopnik’s advice on buying an e39 Right Now!


I wholeheartedly agree, the 540i is a wonderful machine.  However, there are a few things to know if you are in the market for such a car. So allow me to give you 4 reasons to think before you do anything Right Now!

1. Don’t expect repair bills to be as cheap as the car you bought.  While you can pick these cars up for under $10k any day of the week, it might need over $5k in repairs once you get one.  When compared to the 530i, things like brakes, cooling system overhauls, valve cover gaskets, etc. are much more expensive and the prices haven’t dropped in line with the purchase price of the car.  It’s an incredible machine, but everything down to the tires is going to cost you more than your average BMW, and certainly more than a Nissan Versa as they mention in the article.

2.  They are correct in that the 540i does lack some of the expensive repairs that the M5 will have; but don’t be fooled.  Somewhere between 150-200k miles, these engines will need a new timing chain and timing chain guide rails.  One fateful morning the engine will sound as if it were coming apart and run horrible.  Shut it down, tow it away, and be ready for a repair bill that will range from $2-5k depending on what else needs attention at that time.  I’ve done numerous timing chain jobs on these cars and it is massive when compared to a tune-up or brakes.

3. Saying that it may be the best used car value ever is a pretty blanket statement, especially for a car that is not easy on the wallet.  Look around, see what else you like, make sure this car fits your needs.  In my opinion, I think the 530i with a manual transmission is a much better value and will be much more merciful on your wallet when it comes to repairs.  I also feel that the e46 ZHP with a 6-speed is an incredible buy if you can find the right one.  So don’t go buying something because so-and-so said it’s a great deal.

4.  “It is nearly as fast as an M5” and “Fuel economy is wonderful . . . upwards of 30mpg”  OK.  False.  It is not nearly as fast as an M5.  I owed an e39 M5 and have been behind the wheel of dozens of 540i cars. There is no comparison.  Don’t get me wrong, the 540i is plenty fast, has great torque, and is very well balanced.  But if you’ve ever launched from a stop light in an e39 M5, you know what massive torque is.  Don’t be romanced into thinking that this car is almost as fast. It simply is not.  As far as fuel economy goes, you might be able to hit 30mpg in a 540i, but it’ll most likely be while headed down the grapevine with a tailwind, otherwise you can expect 25-27 on the freeway driving conservativly and about 12-18 in an around town.  It will not be a gas sipper. Promise.

I will say that without a doubt, this car is fantastic.  I got rid of my M5 after about 2 years of ownership and I always said that if I had the chance to do it over, I would have bought the 540i with a 6-speed.

Had I bought this car instead of the M5, I might still have it today . . .

Chris Keefer

Independent Motorcars – Servicing BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz

5836 Autoport Mall

San Diego CA 92121