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Home > used car buying guide > Quick guide to buying a used BMW

Quick guide to buying a used BMW

The number of people choosing pre-owned cars over new models has risen significantly in the last few years. It's understandable too - the depreciation that hits a car when it leaves the showroom is one of the biggest costs of vehicle ownership, so it makes sense to avoid it. If you're in the used market for a BMW in particular, you have plenty of exciting options to choose from.


Many people look to the BMW range for a touch of luxury, and understandably so. While the brand's vehicles are designed to offer comfort all round, some have that little bit extra to give. These models are typically signified with a short suffix. The ES - Edition Sport - is a level up from the basic range and gives the driver a few extra gadgets and sporty touches. Expect to see an upgraded steering wheel, a re-tuned suspension setup and, in some cases, wider alloy wheels.

Taking this a step further is the SE, or Special Equipment. It's all in the name here, with a number of extras making the driving experience even more comfortable and enjoyable. As well as the ES features, buyers will benefit from more conveniences in the form of climate control, cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel. While it may seem a little trivial, many of the SE models also come with a handy lighting pack. This includes puddle lights on the doors, designed to illuminate the kerb whenever the car is unlocked.


BMW's 'M' range has quite the reputation. It effectively comprises more powerful and sportier versions of its popular saloons and hatchbacks. The standard turbocharged diesel engines certainly offer enough pull for everyday motorway driving but the M models provide that extra bit of torque. For example, with a 4.0 litre engine and 414bhp, a 2010 M3 Coupe can reach 60mph in 4.6 seconds. The most powerful version of the standard 3 Series, however - the 335d SE - has just 281bhp and takes 5.7 seconds to reach the same speed.

It's not all about speed and power, though, the M series' aesthetics are a big draw. It's normal to find larger graphite alloys, with 18" as standard and 19" optional. With subtle body changes too, the cars bear sportier looks than their standard equivalents. In terms of practicality, buyers can expect to benefit from cruise control, parking sensors and satellite navigation, which all come as standard. Deep, electronically adjustable leather seats top the cabin off.

For those who are looking for a compromise between the all-out power of the M range and the efficiency and practicality of the standard series, the M Sport package is ideal. Offering a nod to the M range's sportier appearance, the M Sport comes with touches of luxury throughout. Sport seats come as standard, with drivers also benefiting from light-alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and short-shifter gear lever. While it packs a punch, the M Sport range doesn't quite have as much power as its big brother.

Body types

As is the case with most manufacturers, BMW offers a number of different body types across its range. The standard saloon shape of the four-door 3, 5, 6 and 7 Series is perhaps the most readily associated with the brand, although the two-door coupes are proving just as popular these days. While they don't quite offer the same level of access, they do give a sportier, minimalistic appearance.

Buyers also have the opportunity to make the most of the sun, with cabriolet versions available with some models. In the last couple of years, the convertible version of the 1 Series Coupe has become extremely popular, with the larger models offering retractable hard-top roofs for added security and durability.

The standard 1 Series is BMW's flagship hatchback, and is perfect for drivers for whom space isn't the biggest priority. If storage space is a big deal, however, the touring and estate variants of the 3 and 5 Series are great solutions.

A great decision to make

There is plenty of value on offer in the used BMW market. The brand is at the forefront of the innovative and exquisite engineering that German manufacturers have become known for. So if you do decide to go down this route, you can be sure that you're making a smart decision. Choose the model that best suits your own needs and you'll be setting yourself up to enjoy years of hassle-free motoring courtesy of one of the industry's most stylish brands.