3 Best BMWs for First Car (+Models to Avoid)

BMW has established itself as one of the prestigious car marquees over the past century that signifies luxury, performance, and status. Although, these cars are expensive to start with and are usually not the choice for beginners. I shall discuss 3 models which are the best BMWs for first car.

Also save yourself from trouble by avoiding one BMW model that I’ve talked about at the end.

Is BMW Good for First Time Car?

Although iconic and a success symbol, a BMW is not a good option for first-time car. Especially the old sports sedans and flashy SUVs.

While shopping for the first car, a person must keep various considerations in mind and decide accordingly.

The first car usually should be less costly, economical to maintain, and cause less hassle with repairs. Keeping these points in consideration, BMW is not a suitable choice for first car and there are plenty of other options worthy of being the first choice.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of having a BMW as the first car;


  1. BMW cars have premium build quality.
  2. They are equipped with high-tech driver assistance features and safety equipment.
  3. Comfortable and luxurious driving experience.
  4. A symbol of success and status.


  1. Very expensive to purchase, a basic 3 series start above $35,000.
  2. Hectic and costly to maintain, average repair costs around $900.
  3. Reports of various manufacturing and quality issues, such as transmission failures and head gasket faults.
  4. Getting insurance for a BMW can also be very costly.

But it is not all bad and costly as long as a person understands his finances and how the market works. For first car, it is advisable to go for a used BMW model in the second-hand market, especially the certified pre-owned cars.

These used cars are much cheaper to buy and economical in maintenance and repairs. One can easily get a handsomely equipped model in mint condition with fewer miles on the odometer, under $10,000. Let’s discuss the three best BMW models which are optimal for the first car.

Also read: Are BMWs Reliable After 100k Miles? (Checked)

1- 2006 BMW 320i (E90)

The 2006 BMW 3 Series can be regarded as one of the most reliable and economical cars available right now. Back in the day, it was one of the most desired models on the market, popularly known as E90. Available in different trims and specs, it is one of the most well-equipped, powerful, and practical cars one can opt for as a first choice car.


  1. 320 i
  2. 325 i
  3. 330 i
  4. 320 d

All of these are available with both gasoline and diesel engines and four body styles – sedan, coupe, wagon and convertible.

320i with a 2 L engine is one of the best choices for first car as it has optimal power (150 horsepower) and is equipped with all the safety and tech features. It is a practical car as a daily runner and economical as well, as repairs are not too costly. Buying an E90 and owning it as your first car can be a memorable experience. Below is a breakdown of some important aspects and features that make 320i an optimal choice;

Price: $4,500 – $8,000

Fuel consumption: Combined: 42 miles/gallon

Co2 Emissions: 158 g/km

Insurance: Full coverage: $1,250 per annum

Trending Video: How to Easily Bring Back to Life any Old Car Battery and Save Tons of Money (click to watch)

Maintenance and Repairs: The yearly maintenance and repair costs: $300 – $400

Fuel costs: $1,200 – $1,400

Safety and Reliability

The car comes equipped with all standard active and passive safety features and various driver assistance options. These include ABS with brake assist, traction control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, 6 airbags, and active-collision avoidance technology.

Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 Stars

J.D power reliability report: Top 10 most reliable cars.

Also read: BMW E90: Maintenance Costs (Calculation)

2. 1996 BMW E36

Every 90s kid had a favorite car and the majority of enthusiasts had posters of BMW E36 on their walls. Launched in 1990, E36 was one of the most sought after and celebrated BMWs ever and was available in multiple trims and options. These cars are truly a masterpiece of engineering and art, very gorgeous to look at and inexpensive to run.

Not only is the maintenance and insurance dirt cheap on these, but these aren’t too fast either if the concern is the safety of the new driver taking on his first car. BMW 318i and 328i came with enough power to handle the daily commute and had the German quality to back the emblem. It still is a great choice for the first BMW and doesn’t even put much burden on the bank.


  1. 316 i
  2. 318 i
  3. 328 i
  4. 325 td

Both gasoline and diesel engines are available with manual and automatic transmission. Four popular body styles include sedan, 2-door coupe, convertible, and wagon.

The 1996 BMW 318 i (E36) can be an optimal choice for first car as it comes equipped with a 138 horsepower 1800cc engine, mated to an automatic or manual transmission. Very easy to maintain and use as a daily commuter, no sophisticated software or electronics that could go wrong.

E36 has just about optimal power to move about without having to worry about over-speeding or damage repairs. Insurance and routine maintenance are very pocket-friendly and these cars are highly regarded in the automobile community for their character and value.

Price: $2,500 – $5,000

Fuel consumption: Combined: 35 miles/gallon

Co2 Emissions: 180 g/km

Insurance: Full coverage: $750 per annum

Maintenance and Repairs

Annual maintenance and repair costs: ~$ 300

Fuel expenditure: $1,200 – 1,300

Safety and Reliability

Being almost 3 decades old now, the E36 doesn’t offer all the latest safety tech but comes equipped with airbags, ABS with Brake Assist, and stability control. Nonetheless, the vehicle has a rigid chassis and have multiple crumple zones to ensure occupant safety in case of a collision. The car is reasonably reliable as it doesn’t have any sophisticated technology and only demands routine maintenance.

Euro NCAP safety rating: 2 stars

Edmund’s reliability: 4/5 stars

Also read: 5 Real Reasons why BMW is so Expensive

3. 2010 BMW 1 Series

In 2004, BMW took a bold step and launched a hatchback, a first of its kind BMW. Not only was it premium in quality and had German character, but it was also a remarkable vehicle that quickly topped the sales charts.

1 series is offered in multiple trims and comes loaded with the latest technology and features. Of the whole BMW lineup, 1 series is the best choice for first car. It is compact in size and turning radius that makes it easier to maneuver and use in congested areas. Parts and maintenance are comparatively cheaper than the other German cars. Overall, 1 series is a great package and must be shortlisted while looking for first car.


  1. 116 i
  2. 118 i
  3. 135 i Xdrive

Both the gasoline and diesel engines are available with the option of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

The BMW 118 i makes the strongest case for the first car, among all the BMWs available. The main reason is that it is a relatively newer model with up-to-date technology and the latest features. It is the least expensive to purchase in the second-hand market as well and cheapest to maintain and insure.

Despite its compact size, it is well-equipped and packs enough power to offer an exhilarating driving experience and reliability. The most advisable option for a new driver is the 1.6l engine that is fun to drive and doesn’t cost too much to run.

Price: $8,000 – $9,000

Fuel Consumption: Combined: 45 miles/gallon

Co2 Emissions: 130 g/km

Insurance: Full coverage: $950 – 1,100 annually

Maintenance and Repair Costs

Annual maintenance and repairs: $600

Yearly fuel expenditure: ~ $1,000

Safety and Reliability

Apart from the build quality, the car ensures that occupants are safe and confident by offering a range of features. The 118 i comes standard with ABS, Vehicle stability control, 6 Airbags, lane departure and blind-spot warning, and active driver assistance features.

Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 stars

Which BMW Should You Avoid for First Car?

The one BMW that you should avoid at all costs is BMW e46 M3. Though it is popular among enthusiasts and regarded as a legend, the trouble of ownership can turn the experience into misery.

The M division of BMW produces high-performance versions of their normal cars and has given some absolute legends like E36 M3 and v10 powered M5. Although these cars are powerful and fun to drive, but with time the mechanical and other failures taint the ownership experience.

The most notorious in terms of reliability is the e46 M3. Launched in the early 2000s, it quickly rose to fame because of its powerful v8 engine, sporty handling and performance. It also became a hot cake in the used car market, falling in the range of $5,000. But various mechanical and electrical problems overshadow the performance, and the cost and trouble of repairs make it an underwhelming deal.

Common Issues

  1. The coolant system and radiator malfunction.
  2. Oil leakage due to oil filter gasket failure.
  3. Problems with turbocharger and transmission failure.
  4. Various electrical problems, such as power windows malfunction.

All of these problems occur before the 100,000-mile mark and costs thousands of dollars to repair.

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