BMW Z4: Years to Avoid (and Safe Years to Buy)

If you’re in the market for a used BMW Z4, you’ll want to know which years are the best – and worst – to buy. The BMW Z4 is a fantastic car, but it has its share of problems like any other vehicle.

In this blog post, I’ll take a look at the years to avoid – and the years that are safe to buy. I will also give you some tips on finding a good used BMW Z4 and why they are reliable. So if you’re in the market for one of these cars, keep reading for more valuable information.

Which BMW Z4 Years Should You Avoid?

When you think of reliable luxury sports cars, the BMW Z4 is a typical example of one that is considered better than most luxury sports cars. In general, RepairPal gives the vehicle a reliability rating of 3.0 out of 5.0, which means it has above average reliability compared to similar vehicles.

However, some specific years or models have more problems than others despite their reliability. Therefore, steer clear of the 2003, 2004, and 2005 models because they have more issues reported than other years. 

Year To Avoid – 2003

The first generation of the BMW Z4 was introduced in 2002 as a direct successor to the Z3. It has a single-piece aluminum frame powered by an inline six-cylinder engine with manual or automatic transmission. The 2003 models were similar to the 2002 models, with only minor changes. However, one of the most notable changes was an updated engine.

While the 2003 BMW Z4 has above-average reliability overall, it is still one of the worst years for this vehicle. In addition, the research found that some models had issues with:

  • Coolant leaks – are leaks that stem from the expansion tank. Mechanics had to replace the upper and lower hoses to fix the leak. This job costs about $700.
  • Oil leaks – BMW is notorious for oil gasket leakage, and the same goes for this model. As a result, the valve covers need a frequent inspection to detect leaks; otherwise, it will cost $460 to replace them.
  • Clunking Steering Wheel – drivers usually feel a clunk or a jolt from the steering wheel when applying the brakes. Or they would hear grinding or cracking noises when they drove in reverse due to a faulty control arm. This job costs about $150 to fix.
  • Malfunctioning Convertible Top – owners would have this problem fixed repeatedly, but it never seemed to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, water would collect near the hydraulic motor and ruin it due to a design flaw. It could cost upwards of $2,100 to fix.
  • Defective Door Locks and Handles – owners reported that the door handles failed to open the door on both the exterior and the interior of the car. Some even said the driver’s door would open while they were driving. Altogether this could cost about $165 to replace.

Also read: What’s a High Mileage for a BMW? The Truth…

There were also a few reports of transmission problems in manual-transmission cars from 2003. In addition to these things, there were also complaints about the car’s electrical system, including issues with windows. 

Year To Avoid – 2004

The BMW Z4 underwent some significant changes in 2004. First, BMW updated the body style, producing a new front and rear end. In addition, the automaker also updated the interior with a center console while also updating the steering wheel design and instrument panel. The 2004 BMW Z4 has been above-average reliability overall; however, it’s still one of the worst years for this vehicle. Some models who had issues with:

  • Oil leaks – BMW is notorious for oil gasket leakage, and the same goes for this model. As a result, qualified mechanics often need to inspect valve covers; otherwise, replacing them will cost $460.
  • Coolant leaks – leaks that stem from the expansion tank. Mechanics had to replace the upper and lower hoses to fix the leak. This job costs about $700.
  • Clunking Steering Wheel – drivers usually feel a clunk or a jolt from the steering wheel when applying the brakes. Or they would hear grinding or cracking noises when they drove in reverse due to a faulty control arm. This job costs about $150 to fix.
  • Recalls – for VANOS solenoids, leading to engine failure if not repaired.
  • Electrical Problems – windows, door locks, batteries, and other features would not work correctly.

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

Year To Avoid – 2005

The first generation of the BMW Z4 series continued in 2005 until 2009. The automaker updated the engines in this iteration, but unfortunately, this didn’t mean that the car became more reliable. Instead, it seems that the 2005 models were even worse than the 2004 models. There were several reports of engine failures and other significant problems, including:

  • Transmission failure – seems to be a common problem with BMWs in general, but it was especially prevalent in the 2005 model year. One-third of all repairs done on these cars were for transmission-related issues.
  • Coolant leaks – again, these seem to be a common problem with BMWs, and the 2005 Z4 Roadster was no exception. There were reports of coolant leaks from the water pump, radiator, hoses, and oil cooler. All of which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair.
  • Oil leaks – BMW is notorious for oil gasket leakage, and the same goes for this model. As a result, you need to have a mechanic inspect the valve covers for leaks; otherwise, it will cost $460 to replace them.
  • Steering Issues – this model would stick under highway speeds and make it impossible for drivers to maneuver the car without great effort. The loss of power steering was another common problem.
  • Faulty Airbags – some reports would say that the airbags would deploy, even when the car was parked and off. However, others mentioned that the airbags didn’t protect them during an accident.

Also read: BMW vs Audi: (Head-to-Head Depreciation)

Which BMW Z4 Years are Safe to Buy?

If you’re looking for a used BMW Z4, the best years to buy are 2009-2011. These models have fewer problems and less costly repairs. However, even these cars shouldn’t be considered perfect, and it’s always important to do your research before buying any used car.

Make sure to read online reviews and check with your mechanic to see any common problems associated with the year and model that you want to buy.

Year To Buy – 2009

After the significant redesign in 2004, BMW didn’t make any more changes to the Z4 until 2009. The most significant change for 2009 was the engine – it was now a twin-turbocharged inline-six instead of the previous iteration. With BMW’s N54 engine in the sDrive35i, you can’t go wrong, especially with better performance and fuel economy.

While there were some complaints about the engine in the base model in terms of power, most drivers found that it still offered better performance and fuel economy. The redesign also added more interior room, and safety upgrades also were incorporated into the design. For example, it had side impact airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, stability control, and traction control that came standard on the Z4.

The roof was made of aluminum and incorporated a rollover system for protection; the seats also had a steel loop behind them to help with top-down rollovers. While many owners thought it was entertaining to drive the sDrive30i, they wanted to drive the twin-turbocharged sDrive35i. However, the feel of the drive was lackluster due to the electric power steering system.

Year To Buy – 2010

2010 was the last year of the second-generation Z4, and it saw few changes. The most significant update was the iDrive system, which now had a touchpad screen that allowed drivers more flexibility in how they interacted with the car.

There were also some styling updates, including new headlights and taillights. But other than that, most of the changes were under the hood. The N54 engine (used in the 335i) was available in the mid-year Z4 models, and it offered more power and better fuel economy.

After hearing some pointers from previous owners, BMW updated the powertrain giving rise to the Dynamic Drive Control. This system used electronically controlled steering, brakes, and independent front and rear suspension. With three settings – Normal, Sport, and Sport+ – drivers could adjust the car to their driving style. Most drivers commented that the ride felt much more pleasant than in previous years.

Year To Buy – 2011

The last year of the second generation was also a bestseller; this is likely because it was the most affordable of all three years and offered the best value for drivers. Thanks to the M-Sport Package, the only change was introducing a new trim option labeled the sDrive35is, with greater power and sportier handling than the other trim options.

Under the hood, it still had the N54 engine that many drivers have come to respect. This engine was an excellent choice for those who didn’t want to deal with any problems that may have come with previous years. A robust powertrain and either a standard six-speed manual or six-speed automatic in the base model ensure that this roadster achieves the best fuel economy of all models so far.

The estimated fuel economy for both standard options is 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. So while it can’t compete with the Porsche Boxster, it’s still an excellent option for those who want the feel of a sports car but don’t want to spend too much.

Also read: 3 Cheapest BMWs (with Maintenance Costs)

BMW Z4- How to Buy and not Regret?

So, now that you know a bit of the different years of the BMW Z, what should you look for when buying one?

First off, make sure to avoid any model year younger than 2009 as they may have more problems. Second, if you want a powerful engine with excellent fuel economy, go for the 2010 or 2011 models as they have the N54 engine.

Third, if you’re looking for a comfortable ride with excellent handling, go for the 2011 model, as it has the Dynamic Drive Control system. Some other factors to consider when researching used Z4 models is:

  • Depreciation
  • Common problems with the car
  • What other features are available on each trim level
  • Check valve gaskets, steering components, and electrical components (especially the retractable roof) to ensure that all parts are working as intended.
  • Inspect the cooling system since BMW Z4s are prone to coolants leaks in various locations.


The new Z4 is a great car, but it’s essential to do your research before buying it. Ensure you know what you want, and that the vehicle maintenance is documented and evident during the inspection. 

Have a trusted mechanic determine the vehicle’s status and what type of maintenance it may need when buying it. Watch out for red flags such as coolants leaks. If you take these precautions and stick to the 2009-2012 lineup, you’re sure to enjoy this impressive sports car for years to come.


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