Are BMWs Expensive To Maintain? Need To know this!


BMWs are high-end German-engineered cars. As they age like all cars they become money pits. But just how deep are your pockets? Let’s take a look.

The cost to maintain a BMW is approximately $1500 per year. They cost more year on year than a Mercedes or an Audi. A five-year-old BMW may cost as much as 50% more than an equivalent model Audi.

Choosing to buy a BMW or any high end luxury car is a big decision. Many people look at the purchase price and don’t factor in the overall running costs over the year and into the future. In this article, we’ll look at how much a BMW costs to maintain.

General Running Costs of a BMW

BMWs are luxury cars, and to most a dream buy. Whether you are buying a new BMW or a used one there are still day-to-day running costs associated with any car.

Initial costs are registration of your car after purchasing. This is different depending on where you live and also sometimes on the age and weight of the vehicle. A BMW is usually in and around $100 – $150.

The cost of getting from A to B can sometimes be the first shock after purchasing a BMW. Especially if this is your first luxury car. All BMWs require Premium Gas (unless a Diesel model). Premium is more expensive and every time you pump gas it’s going to cost that bit more in your wallet.

Cost of Gas  MPG Cost per Mile 1k Miles
Premium $3.80 22 (City) 30 (Highway) $0.17c$170
Regular $3.00  22 (City) 30 (Highway) $0.14c$140

If you travel an average of 1000 miles per month (city driving) Premium Gas will cost $170, compared to a car that takes Regular Gas costing $140.

BMW Service Costs

BMW recommends their cars be serviced every 10,000 miles. This is pretty much the industry standard now. All new BMWs are covered by a Service Warranty for 3 years or 36,000 miles. Most drivers travel around 10 -12,000 miles per year and so your service will be covered for at least the warranty time.

If you are buying a used BMW that may be still under the Service Warranty, your entitlement to the warranty is not a done deal. The original owner is required to tell the warranty company that there is to be a transfer of ownership and this needs to be authorized.

This is also the case for the extended warranty which many BMWs have. The extended warranty can be 7 years or up to 100,000 miles.

The first Service is recommended at 10,000 miles is an oil change and car inspection. It’s the inspection you need to watch for. It’s the auto tech and Salesperson job to upsell. It’s where they make their money.

Consumables are not included in the Service warranty. Wiper blades, bulbs, brake pads, tires, these are all chargeable items. After 3 years or 36,000 miles, your service will start to cost you money. A standard oil change on a BMW can set you back $150 – $400.

A more in-depth service i.e. after every 20,000 miles is going to cost from $900 – $1000. This service includes

  • Oil & Filter
  • Air Filter
  • Cabin Filter
  • Brake fluid change due
  • Coolant change due
  • A/C recharge due
  • (Fuel Filter on Diesel Engines)
  • Full Inspection
  • Software update
  • Key Inspection

Comparing a BMW service to a standard sedan is on average costing $300 more.

Tire noise

Tires are also a consumable that needs to be considered. Tires last an average of 10 – 12,000 miles. More expensive tires surprisingly don’t last as long as cheaper tires, as cheaper tires have a harder compound. However, your BMW deserves good quality tires, and you will definitely feel the driving difference with good tires underneath you.

So what will tires set you back? A set of good quality tires will cost $150 – $300 per tire, and high-performance tires will be upwards of $500 per tire.

If you’re thinking about buying a BMW that is no longer in warranty, it’s worthwhile finding an Indie Mechanic (Independent). All BMW parts are available as both OEM and aftermarket. BMW dealerships only use OEM parts and as your car ages, aftermarket parts are just as good and not nearly as costly.

Check out the Amazon link below for, gives you a feel for the current prices of standard BMW parts and accessories.

Amazon BMW Parts

Indie mechanics are going to be cheaper for servicing and for the bigger jobs but if you are anyway handy with some tools, doing some basic servicing yourself is going to save you some cash over the year. However, if you are not 100% sure, get some advice before you tackle any job.

Changing your oil and filters is not very involved and as I say parts are widely available online and in local parts shops. BMW dealerships can cost up to $150 per hour. My advice is that you at least buy an engine code scanner, so before you bring your BMW to a shop you have a fair idea of what the problem is and won’t be blindsided by lack of knowledge.

If we take a look at two BMWs, a 2015 and a 2018, 3 Series and a 5 Series and compare the costs of service to an Audi A4.

Yearly Maintenance Cost20182015
BMW 2015 3 Series$1,500$2,000
Audi 2015 A4$1,400$1,600
BMW 5 Series$1,400$3,000

As the BMW ages, its repair and maintenance costs become much larger than an Audi A4 of the same age. Almost twice as much with the 5 Series.

The Cost Of Insuring a BMW

Insurance is something we often forget to factor into our annual costs. We can’t drive without it but BMWs are luxury cars and also some models are seen as sports cars and the insurance companies charge customers accordingly. Insurance on a BMW is going to cost $1800 – $2000 for a 3 Series. This is all dependent on location, your age, and of course driver’s history.

Car insurance is cheapest in Missouri and most expensive in New York and Michigan.

It’s a large chunk of money to be paid either annually or monthly and not something that can be neglected. Think wisely and get as many quotes as you can before purchasing.

Before buying a used BMW or any car, always run a VIN check for Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuild, Title washing, and Vin cloning. There are plenty in the business, it only costs a few dollars but could save you thousands. I’ve used VinAudit (links to VinAudit.com) several times and found them reliable and fast.

Top 5 BMW Maintenance Problems

1 Coolant System

The BMW coolant system is definitely something you need to keep an eye on. It first manifests itself as problems with your heating /AC. If you have noticed it’s giving trouble then you should definitely book it into the shop for repair. Although BMWs are highly engineered machines, in recent years some metal parts have been swapped out for plastic. Plastic weakens over time and begins to crack.

Your car may begin to overheat, or you may be able to smell coolant (sweet-smelling) in the cabin, or there may be a red puddle or stain on your driveway.

If you notice any of these symptoms you need to have it repaired as soon as you can. The longer you leave it the more damage will be done and the higher the final cost will be, which will ordinarily be up to $1000.

2 SRS Engine Light

The SRS Engine light – Supplemental Restraint System – is connected to your seatbelts and airbags. If this light is on, on your dash, it can cost a lot to repair, as the onboard computers need to be reset to be told everything is fine. Although there is a possibility that there is an airbag issue – and thus can’t be discounted, most of the time the SRS is activated because the seat sensor is failing.

This needs to be replaced before it fails completely. A new sensor is about $20, but if it fails, your airbags will no longer work, and your car will have to be reprogrammed with a specific BMW computer, meaning large cash dollars.

3 BMW Batteries

There’s a couple of battery issues with BMW. The first being the Central Locking System tends to drain the battery. From a security point of view, this can be quite expensive. Central Locking can fail and you return to your car and it’s gone! BMWs are the most stolen cars on the planet! Or the Central Locking has failed and all your belongings are gone. You now need jumpers or a tow because your battery is completely flat.

The other issue is that BMWs are fitted with BST (Battery Safety Terminal). This is a safety system that BMW installed that disconnects the battery when involved in an accident to prevent fire. It’s also known to disconnect if you hit a rut when traveling on unsealed roads or you hit a curb.

You think your car has died (and in truth it has!) but the last thing you think to check is that the battery has disconnected itself.

4 Windows

Another plastic problem. As your BMW ages, the clips on the window switches give up. The plastic becomes brittle and the windows take on a life of their own. They can go up and down at any time or unfortunately not at all. Which is immensely irritating, if you are out and can’t park and leave your car due to the windows refusing to close.

The parts are relatively inexpensive but the whole door panel needs to be removed and at $140 per hour labor, this becomes a very expensive clip.

5 Instrument Cluster Failure

BMW Instrument Clusters are known to give trouble due to age, or after a jump start. Symptoms include dimmed display, loss of LCD or intermittent loss (which is worse), gauges displaying incorrectly, needles stuck in one position.

If you have recently jumped your car you may be able to reset your cluster. It may just be a blown fuse (usually number 43, but check your user manual first). If this is not something you feel comfortable tackling, unfortunately, the cost will be very large. The job itself is relatively quick, possibly an hour’s labor but the part can cost up to $1000.

Conclusion

The cost of owning and maintaining a BMW is on the high side. From parts to labor, to ongoing repairs, as I said at the beginning you need deep pockets and a reliable mechanic if you’re going to travel the BMW route. That said, they are a great driving car with performance and handling in their DNA.

And so, if driving is your thing, a few extra dollars a year on maintenance is likely worth it for a year-round smile on your face.

Check the Edmunds.com BMW link below to see what Hot BMW deals are on offer right now, but be warned, I sometimes lose an hour or more to all the eye candy on offer.

BMW

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Are BMW good cars?

Should I buy a used BMW?

John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty years, I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of classic car ownership, from tires to roof aerials and everything in between.

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