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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m finally getting one of my dream cars. It goes back to when I was in the Navy in 2003 and one of our F-18 pilots rolled into the parking lot in his brand new M3. I fell in love that day. I know a coupe would be best, in both looks and performance, but the idea or rolling up the California coast with the top down has me looking at the vert. I have a Ducati for when I really wanna carve up a road anyway. Anyway, I’m going to look at an 04, two owner, under 75k on the clock. I doubt I’ll have access to really get under it, so a subframe inspection from below is out of the question. What should I look for before I hand over a check? What are some visual signs that I should walk away. The photos I’ve been sent make the car look top notch, and after talking with the seller, he seems legit. Only has very minor modifications, which I like. Any help on what to look for during initial walk around and test drive would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 

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Do some basics, ask about the big 3, any service history records, take a code reader and read any codes, open the hood, check oil look and smell, brake fluid, coolant levels and color, check trunk battery mfg date, tread on tires, fluid leaks under the car. You are looking for evidence that the car was cared for or neglected. Check all assessories to see if they work.
 

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Do some basics, ask about the big 3, any service history records, take a code reader and read any codes, open the hood, check oil look and smell, brake fluid, coolant levels and color, check trunk battery mfg date, tread on tires, fluid leaks under the car. You are looking for evidence that the car was cared for or neglected. Check all assessories to see if they work.
Love my silver gray ‘04 M3 convertible for California coastal and other drives. That feeling of great handling, power and open air driving is hard to beat! Did the PPI as others have suggested. Still I’ve been working on undoing the damage the PO did by not doing regular maintenance and correcting the welded solid feeling coil-over suspension back to stock. A few other things too including new ignition switch. Enjoy!
 

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2003 M3 6MT Slicktop
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agreed you really need to have a PPI done by a mechanic who knows E46 M3s.

also any convertible I would check the top functions/operates without issue.

also is it a stick shift or SMG? SMG+convertible M3 is the lowest valued M3 so don’t over pay.
 

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I bought mine on paperwork and a test drive (60k miles). Sure a PPI is best. But at those miles with regular dealer maintenance records (or even non-dealer), I wouldn’t sweat it too much, unless you get the sense the car has been driven hard and put away wet, in which case I might keep looking. I’ve had zero trouble out of mine, but it was still under extended factory warranty when I bought it. The vert drivers aren’t the hard core track people to beat the cars to hell, so you might just score a good one. GL

maw
 

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The vert drivers aren’t the hard core track people to beat the cars to hell, so you might just score a good one. GL
Track people don't "beat the cars to hell", as you put it. The fact is - tracked M3s are far more intensively maintained and inspected. They need to be. If you ever participated in HPDEs you would know that.

Try not to paint with a broad brush in areas you aren't familiar with.
 

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Fair. Stated differently, I see the vert cars as driven more gently — more for fun and less for sport.

Still the point is, at 75k miles a stack of paperwork and a test drive might get OP as comfortable as he needs to be.

For clarity, my statement was about what Vert drivers aren’t, not about what track drivers are. And yes, broad brush statements.

maw
 

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I bought mine on paperwork and a test drive (60k miles). Sure a PPI is best. But at those miles with regular dealer maintenance records (or even non-dealer), I wouldn’t sweat it too much, unless you get the sense the car has been driven hard and put away wet, in which case I might keep looking. I’ve had zero trouble out of mine, but it was still under extended factory warranty when I bought it. The vert drivers aren’t the hard core track people to beat the cars to hell, so you might just score a good one. GL

maw
I’ve finally come to accept my 03 M3 vert as the money pit it is. I’ve got a 1-2” stack of receipts without major faults on engine or trans, but it’s ez to spend a couple k USD annually on maintenance especially when I was commuting 80 miles round trip daily. Luckily no vanos or subframe issues but I did bend a rear lower control arm on a curb once…still relatively inexpensive. Shocks,bushings, cosmetics, tires, brakes, 30K mile tuneups and valve adjust add up..it’s not a Toyota or Accord
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Wow, thanks for all the replies. I'm looking for a shop to do a PPI in the sellers area. the car fax shows regular intervals of maintenance at a BMW dealer. There aren't a lot of details though. No mention of Vanos or Subframe repairs, but I don't think that would make it on a Carfax. Several times it just states "Recommended maintenance performed." Car was owned for 15 years by the original owner, and the 2nd owner only put 1600 miles on it since 2019 when he got it. My biggest worry right now is how long it has been sitting. The owner moved out of the country about a year ago, and left it at a friends house in the event he decided to move back. He's not, thus the reason for the sell. I count on it needing an oil change and maybe tires depending on the date code.
 
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