Every once in a while we get a first time customer come into the shop that bought their first used BMW from a local used car dealer and after diagnosing it we see they got taken for a ride. On these automobiles we see all sorts of patch work. Just enough for the dealers to have car drive off their lots. Unfortunately, those band aids don’t hold and after a few weeks the dash board lights up like a Christmas tree. Then the customer brings their car to our shop and after a full diagnosis we have to break the bad news to them.
Used car dealers have a business model where they buy used cars at private auctions. They are able to look and start the cars before bidding on them, but not much else as the cars are sitting in giant lots. The dealers bid on the cars at auction and then have to pay fees to have them delivered or are driven down with transport plates to their dealer lots. Luxury German automobiles tend to be more popular as they are tend to offer better profit margins for the dealers. Once the vehicle is in the dealer’s possession they will try to get any glaring flaw “repaired” as cheaply and quickly as possible. They will glue broken plastic pieces. Any oil leaks will get cleaned and slathered with silicone gasket to hide the leaks on BMW leak prone areas. They will use thicker oil to hide valve train noise on an engine or slip on transmissions. All these are band aids that hide major problems enough for the car to drive off the lot and the new owner to not notice right away.
Aside from those poor patch jobs you have the usual maintenance items that get replaced with the cheapest components available. Economy brake pads get slapped on old rusty rotors. Trim pieces with broken clips get glued on body panels. Oil changes with conventional oil without a new filter. Top off fluids that are low from leaks. They will do anything they can to hide any issue as they know flaws will be used to negotiate the price down.
There are particular things to look out for on used BMW automobiles. Look at the ground under the car for oil residue from it sitting on the lot. Turn the fan on in the BMW and as you test drive it be alert for a smell of burnt oil. Don’t buy a car with an inoperable sunroof. Replacing sunroofs on German automobiles can be very expensive as most aren’t serviceable and the entire sunroof will need to be replaced. This is specially true for models with panoramic sunroofs. Be cautious of cars with airbag lights. The salesman might try to tell you that something like the sunroof works and it just needs adjustment. Don’t take their word for it. If the repair wasn’t such a big deal then the used car dealer would have fixed it themselves.
The bottom line is that BMW, Mercedes Benz, Land Rover, Audi and others are luxury vehicles that don’t take well to patch work or improper repairs the way you can get away with in a Honda or a Chevy. If you are investing $10,000.00 on a used luxury vehicle wouldn’t it make sense to spend $175 or 1.75% of the cost of your car to make sure you aren’t digging yourself into money pit?