Are BMWs expensive to maintain?

Repair costs are a major consideration in most car buying decisions, whether they’re focused on brand new vehicles or the used cars and salvage cars like those we stock here at RAW2K. After all, it doesn’t matter if a car is cheap to buy, if those savings are eclipsed by maintenance and repair costs further down the line. Over the years, BMW is one particular make of car that’s seemed to earn itself a reputation for being especially expensive to run and repair. But how much truth is there to that?

Are BMWs expensive to repair? 

The general consensus amongst mechanics and drivers is yes, BMWs are expensive to repair. But as with most things in the automotive world though, most individual answers to that question tend to be influenced heavily by own personal experiences and opinions. 

So, let’s look at some hard numbers. A few years ago, British company compared BMWs to Audi and Mercedes, and found that the first two marques were more or less neck-and-neck. Audi barely edged out on top to become the most expensive, while Mercedes was noticeably cheaper to maintain. 

More recently, in 2019, a survey by the Express newspaper revealed the five most expensive cars to maintain in the UK. They used DVLA records and quotes from over 12,000 different garages, and took into account the cost of regular servicing, MOT prices, and a variety of other factors. Out of the top five slots available, BMW cars occupied three of them. The BMW 5 Series cost an average of £585 per year to maintain, while the BMW 1 Series came in at £518, followed by the BMW 3 Series at £486. 

The survey is only a year old, but contemporary data from the Reliability Index shows that these figures still stand up, with all of them still hovering around the £500 mark.  And if you’ve ever owned one yourself, you may well have first hand experience of just how pricey the repairs can be!

Why are BMWs expensive to repair and maintain? 

We should start by saying that obviously BMW is a luxury brand, so buyers are right to expect that it will naturally cost more than others, both in terms of initial price and in cost of maintenance. But to delve a little deeper, there are two key factors which affect the cost of BMW repair - the complexity of their design, and the proprietary nature of their parts. 

BMWs are highly (or notoriously) engineered

The idea of German efficiency and engineering is one that’s strongly associated with German makes and model of car, and as we’ve touched on before, it’s a reputation unsurprisingly encouraged by the manufacturers themselves. BMW is no exception - their designs are famously complex and often highly innovative, to the point that they’re even dismissed as being over-engineered by some buyers and mechanics. 

For example, it was the BMW 850i which introduced the concept of multiplexed networks to the world. To give the briefest and simplest explanation of this, multiplexed networks essentially cut down on the number of wiring necessary within the workings of the vehicle, and helping to make the car ‘smarter’ and giving it additional capabilities - for example, the ability to pre-emptively disable any features that it thinks might unnecessarily drain a dangerously low battery. Of course, while this all makes life much easier from a driver’s point of view, it all comes with an additional financial cost.

Systems like infotainment systems and similar technology also factor in. While they’re enormously helpful for planning, navigating and communicating while out on the roads, the way they’re integrated into the vehicle means that even temporary electrical issues can end up crippling the car just as effectively as mechanical problems can. 

BMWs are fussy about their parts

A big part of what often makes BMW repairs so expensive is their components. Unlike other makes of car, BMW components are highly proprietary, which means repairs often need replacement parts or expertise that can only a BMW dealer can provide. For example, even a professional mechanic can’t replace the battery on a BMW 3 Seriesunless they have access to a dealer who can register the new battery to the car’s Engine Control Unit. Without this input, even if the mechanic has all the necessary parts on hand and knows how to do the job, they’re not going to be able to guarantee a repair. 

Partially as a result of this, the labour and time involved in a typical BMW repair tends to be higher than in some other vehicles, and and as we’ve covered above, these parts are generally quite costly to begin with! 

So should you buy a BMW salvage car?

It’s true that the cost of repairing a used, seized or salvage BMW might be higher, but don’t let that put you off buying one. It cuts both ways - if it’s more expensive to fix, you can also sell it for a higher price, too. They’re especially useful if you’re one of the many customers browsing our online vehicle auctions with some professional mechanical or dealing expertise behind you, as they’re one of the most lucrative types of car to ‘flip’ for profit. (If you’re not in the know, it’s a term that essentially refers to the practice of buying them, fixing up and selling them.)

If you’re a driver on the other hand, even if you’ve not got the requisite mechanical knowledge to repair them, you can still save yourself a lot of time, hassle and money through simply keeping on top of basic car maintenance. A lot of the issues mechanics end up fixing have started out as very basic, easily-solvable problems, and have simply been left to evolve into something much more challenging. As long as you’re proactive about making Spring checks and winter checks on your car, for example, it might not end up being nearly as expensive to maintain as you think!

And if you’re looking for a bargain on seized BMWs or a salvage BMW car, you’re in exactly the right place. Here at RAW2K our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, as well as a range of other choices from leading manufacturers such as PeugeotMercedes and Renault. Why not take a look around, and see what you can find?