There were a number of factors that contributed to my choice to buy the E34. After the demise of my E46 at the hands of a pothole and the insurance adjuster, I was looking for a car that would be economical, fun, reliable, and economical. Good looks were also a plus.
With the exception of the cost of repairs, the E34 (which we found on craigslist) seemed to fit all those constraints quite well. Asking price was a little over $3k and the car appeared to be in no need of immediate repairs. I think the biggest item the pre-purchase inspection turned up were worn windshield wiper blades. The potential cost of repairs was a major concern (even older BMW parts aren’t inexpensive), but given the price and apparent dilligence of the previous owners, it seemed like a reasonable tradeoff.
I’ve now put around 18,000 miles on the 530i in just over a year. I’ve used it extensively both commuting to and from work and school, and for traveling all over California. It’s been a good companion, polishing off the miles with aplomb and providing a comfortable and relaxing vantage point to observe the road from.
Thanks to a lucky search on craigslist and some quick phone calls by my resident car-expert (thanks dad!), I am now simultaneously the proud owner of a 1990 BMW 325i (E30) and a 1994 530i (E34). Lest I give the wrong impression, I should add that the combined purchasing cost of both these vehicles came out to slightly less than the insurance payout for my wrecked 2000 328i (E46). The plan is to put the E34 on craigslist, once things calm down a bit.
Below are my thoughts on how the two cars stack up.
For much of the 1990s and 2000s, cars in the US seemed to be suffering an obesity epidemic. Station wagons bloated into SUVs, compacts swelled into full-sized sedans and even the handful of practically every vehicle managed to grow in size and weight from one generation to the next.
A case in point is BMW’s 3-series. Once marketed as a compact car for driving enthusiasts, the 3-series of today is more than a foot longer and 600 pounds (25%) heavier than the 3-series of early 1991. It’s not just a BMW problem. The Golf may well be the least-changed car stylistically over the past thirty years, but based on the weight you could make two 1979 Golfs from a single 2005 Golf (1750 lbs vs. 3550 lbs).
Fortunately, it looks like one consequence of the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression is that bigger is no longer always better. The combination of increasing CAFE fuel economy standards and increasing pump prices has finally gotten Detroit and its foreign competitors, not to mention the almighty US consumer, to give some thought to efficiency.