BMW E39 5-Series Buyer’s Guide

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Ryan Schultz, Robert O’Hearn

E39Source Administration

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2000 BMW E39 M5, Silverstone Metallic. 2002 BMW E46 330xi, Topaz Blue Metallic. BA Business Management, Kent State University. E39Source Owner.

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31 thoughts on “BMW E39 5-Series Buyer’s Guide

  1. Hello, Ryan,

    I’m looking at buying a 2003 E39 540i M-Tech 6MT with ~97k miles. The current owner tells me that he purchased the car from the original owner, and he says that the clutch and the radiator have both been replaced. I just test drove the car, and there were no lights on the dash. Clutch engagement was predictable, the engine ran cool (despite the 100-degree outside temperature), and the A/C blew very cold.

    The car also has the optional DSP hi-fi system and park distance control, both of which function properly. The interior is almost perfect, and every mechanical/electrical feature appears to work (including the power rear sunshade).

    Drawbacks: cosmetically, the car isn’t perfect. There are two noticeable dings on the driver door and two dings on the rear bumper, and the wheels have some curb rash. One lobe of the twin-kidney grill is a bit loose. Also, the owner doesn’t have service records on-hand.

    The current asking price is $12k. What’s market value for a car like this? Also, what can I expect to need replacement in the next few years?

    Thanks for your advice.

    • Frank, that sounds like a really great 540i. I tend to feel that these cars are worth more than what the market says- especially the M-Techs. However, the market probably says that it’s worth around $10,000 or a hair more if its really one of the clean ones. The kidney grill is an easy fix, and the dings are usually cheap and easy as well. Seeing that this 540i is loaded, has low miles, and is a manual, that’s not an unfair deal if it’s in the top 5% like it seems to be based off of your description. I would try to negotiate to $10,000 though, and use the fact that there is no service history to negotiate. Make the point that the car’s unknown aspects make it a risk.

      At 97,000 miles, the cooling system will likely need attention soon (water pump, thermostat, hoses, fan clutch). A clutch usually goes around 100,000 miles. So that’s fantastic that it has been done. The M62 in the 540i has plastic timing chain guides. At this age, they have some risk of cracking and failing. It is a very involved and expensive job to open the engine and replace them. Expect around $4,000 to complete that job. They -should- last quite a while longer, but I won’t warranty that! It would not stop me from buying the car though. Just thought I should mention it.

      Hope this helped.

    • Hey Jack! That is a pretty rare 2003 540i M-Tech. It looks clean, and the miles are relatively low. It’ll all come down to condition and maintenance. If the cooling system is original, it’ll soon be ready for a new radiator, expansion tank, hoses, thermostat, water pump, and temperature sensors. The suspension could need some refreshing as well. A PPI (pre-purchase inspection) could help you determine all of this. Best of luck!

      • A graet thank you to Ryan for your advice.
        I have more questions. you said “It’ll all come down to condition and maintenance. If the cooling system is original, it’ll soon be ready for a new radiator, expansion tank, hoses, thermostat, water pump, and temperature sensors. The suspension could need some refreshing as well.”
        so I think I need to refresh them. but how much should i spend for them? and..that car is too expencive more then other 540i.
        Thank you Ryan!

          • Actually I wanna get that car but many people said “BMW used car is called ‘bust my wallet’ so never but that car. If you get that car, You have to pay more for fixing the car” I know parts of BMW are more expensive but that car has low mileage so I think it’s not bad to buy. How about you? They said “never get the car, just buy a Japanese car like Toyota or honda.
            I think It will be okay while I am driving that car. right?

            • You will be fine as long as the maintenance is up to date. Also definitely change the transmission fluid and filter if it hasn’t been done.

            • Mileage is almost irrelevant. It is ALL how the car was maintained. My M5 has 193,000 miles on it. It should have another 150,000ish miles before I need to spend big money on maintenance again. I have seen M5s with 40,000 miles that are ready to be scrapped.

  2. Hello, I’m a new E39 enthusiast interested in purchasing a 2003 540i MTech automatic with 83,800 on the clock. It’s a two owner, local Texas car and the dealer offering it for sale has detailed vehicle history and knowledge of the previous owners. It was maintained at local BMW dealer and garage kept. Shows extremely well. I’ve never owned a BMW before, so learning a lot as I go. Going to have PPI done. I’ve driven the car and it felt very tight with no ominous sounds coming from engine bay. Electronics are in excellent condition. What are the major issues I should be concerned with? I plan to DIY most repairs/ maintenance myself. Thoughts?

    Thanks!

    • These cars are hit and miss, largely dependent on how the previous owners have used and maintained them. 83,800 miles is pretty low, so that’s good. A clutch (if it’s a manual) can be expected to last around 100k miles. So be aware of that. The M62 4.4 V8 in the 540i runs very hot, so under the hood plastics are known to fail more quickly than those components found in the M5’s much cooler running S62 5.0 V8. Timing chain guides are the big issue in the engine though… but as I said 83.8k miles are low enough that you should be fine for quite a while. Otherwise, if it doesn’t make odd sounds, drives well, doesn’t have lights on the dash, and appears to have been cared for, then I don’t see why you can’t make an offer! Best of luck. Ryan

      • A big thank you to Ryan for your insights and advice. It’s great to get relevant feedback from a true enthusiast. I know the demand for these cars varies regionally. Would you consider a very low five figure price fair in today’s market? If I end up pulling the trigger, I’ll be sure to post a video and share my experience with everyone. Thanks, MH

        • Mark, I am happy to help!

          Kelly Blue Book can’t even be used on these old special cars. It doesn’t take in factor how rare one in truly good condition is, let lone the low production numbers of the M-Tech.

          If the car is a TRUE M-tech (not just a sport package), then a low five-figure price should be fair. Again, providing this is a truly clean and cared for example with a clean title. A true M-tech will have M badged door sills, style 37 wheels, an M shift knob, etc from factory.

          I hope all goes well, I would love to see a video of this car!

  3. Considering taking on a DIY project for an 01 E39 540i. It has the M62. Needs timing chain tensioners and a VANOS service. I had an E90 335i before, and changing the VANOS solenoids were pretty easy. Do you guys think this is something that could be good to take on and keep? I’ve always wanted an E39 and they’re not getting any younger or cheaper, so I wanna do it. Just wanted to see what you guys thought.

    Its an 01, 220K on it now. Says he has service records, brand new cooling system. Just needs the tensioners and VANOS solenoids to get it running normal again.

    Thanks guys!

    • Chain tensioner (bottom left one) is fairly cheap and super easy, and the VANOS solenoids shouldn’t be hard to change. At 220k though, I’d be more worried about connecting rod bearings and the timing chains and the internal guides themselves. The guides are plastic, and with the very high operating temperature of the 540i, they dry out and then can fall apart, which can then cause the engine to go out of time and be damaged.

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