Best BMW 3 Series Cars – A BMW Series 3 Comparison

Best BMW 3 Series Cars – A BMW Series 3 Comparison

Today we’re going to shed some light on the BMW 3-series and which cars represent the best value for a person looking at
buying a used 3-series BMW. I’m gonna walk through the different generations
very briefly, and express to you the best models available or at least
representing the best value, and some of the highlight models that you could find
in those model years. We’ll start at the beginning the e30 generation of 3-series.
This is the earlier, boxier style, but it is the classic BMW, but the e30 was actually
one of the best-built, heavily constructed BMWs of all generations. It
was a simple car, it was a car that didn’t have a lot of electronics, it was
a very simple machine. The only downside with the e30 now of course, because of
the age it is entering, that area of classic car, and so a lot of these cars
become harder and harder to find, at least in great condition. So again as I
say these are exceptional cars for simplicity, for driving fun and enjoyment,
low cost of getting into, and low cost of maintenance as well, as it’s a simple
vehicle to work on if you like to wrench on your own vehicles. The e30 is your car.
So here we have the wonderful e30. Well I got to tell you this isn’t
probably one of the better examples of an e30, but you’ll notice the headlights.
That’s old-school e30 here with the little round headlights. They’ve got the
double headlights, the classic BMW grille, of course this one’s missing the decal,
it’s a little bit rough, looks like this guy’s converted this to a race car, but
basically there is your e30. You’ll notice the big back window.
Hofmeister King, we’ve got the back end old-school kind of bumpers, you know
that’s the classic ,you know for the 80s that was just the look. Taillights very
simple, but it was a simple car, and for that reason a lot of people like the e30s because they were simple and obviously in this case he probably didn’t even
have to remove much of the interior to convert it to a race car. So
beautiful little car, very you know, kind of traditional looking and simple ,and
very cost-effective to buy one of these guys. So the e36 is the next generation
and that came out early 90s, 1992 or so, and that car had several different
variations. You could get the 318, you could get the 325, you could get a 320,
which was an inline six as well, and they were all actually very good cars to
drive. As a matter of fact I owned a 320 with the inline 6-cylinder. Now the one
thing I would comment is, although the engines are great and they are easy cars
to drive, and is relatively simple for maintenance, they aren’t without their faults. The biggest thing that I found with the e36
generations are the quality of fit and finish. I had several things break on me, windows that came off the racks, trim come apart,
like the controls, and the trim around your door handles to exit the car,
door handle trim came off, you had stereo issues, and as a matter of fact one of my
corners on the rear suspension broke a spring and collapsed the rear suspension.
So they aren’t without their fault, but they are a very economical way
to get into BMW motoring, and they are sort of that bridge into the new look,
the new generation, and the new styling of the BMWs in the 3-series generation
the e36. So here’s another example but this is the 318 TI. You’ll notice the
hatch, it’s kind of chopped off quickly at the back, but that is the e36
generation, probably not one of the better models of the e36, but they
definitely have a following, and as a matter of fact this looks like the car I
owned. I actually owned a purple 318 TI like this back in the day. So this
actually could be my car. It looks like many years later, I’ve sold it. So this
could actually be my car but there’s e36. You’ll notice you’ve still got the
dual headlights but the front bumper now is a lot more cleaner looking from the e30, and of course a little bit of flare on the
front like that, the mirrors are a little cleaner, and then as you move around to the back, the back end of these cars obviously,
this is the 318 TI, so it’s kind of chopped, but the taillights are a little
bit again an evolution right. And the rear bumpers, again just like the front
bumpers, are a little cleaner. The big distinctive thing on these, on the e36
where I think it evolved dramatically, was the whole look of the rocker. The
rocker actually had a bit of a flare to it, now and that to me was more
distinctive on these cars than you found on the e30. Otherwise ignore that and
largely this is a very much a similar car. Like I said it’s that bottom rocker
the drive train was improved, but essentially that’s e36.
So now we’ll move on to talking about the e46, and the e46 was a slight
evolution from the e36, and in the sense of styling, and there wasn’t a
large change in a lot of the body, looks, the overall structure, and style looked
very, very similar. Although it was a little more rounded off and a little bit
more up to date. Now the e46 had some vast improvements. You had the
models like the 325s, 328, and the 330, which coincidentally was the best of the
natural lineup of the BMW 3 series cars in that generation. It then also had the
e46 m3, which had some fit and finish related issues, but it was a vast
improvement over the e36 m3, which was known to have some internal engine
issues like oil pumps that become unfastened and created catastrophic
failures. The e46 moved along and created a much better m3, the rear sub frame was
an issue but aside from that the engine was amazing and the exhaust note was
phenomenal, and it just made the hairs on your arms just stand up.
So overall the e46 was really a move in the right direction as well. If you can
find one of the really rare models, there was a ZHP, the performance package
that you could add to a 330, those models are very rare and if you can find a ZHP ,there are actually a small niche group of people that really
especially loved these cars, and there’s a small following and gathering. And you
can actually join forums specifically for the ZHP group. Some people feel that
it’s just an option, but other people feel that no it makes the car actually
quite special. So the e46 was a great generation of
cars and moved BMW along and you can get into those cars very, very, affordably as
a matter of fact for some of the nicer cars, even here the e46 and if you can
see, you take a look at the e46. You’ll notice the front spoiler is a lot nicer
than a E36, so this is a drastic change. The headlights are a lot cleaner on this,
this is a very nice example, actually by the way of an e46. Look at how clean the
headlights are. Very crystal clear, they might even be new, but look at this
front, so they’ve cleaned up a little bit and simplified the rocker on these cars.
This is a 2 wheel drive, a coupe of course, and again look at the taillights a
small evolution from the previous generation. This one here is a 325 CI, 325
again is easily one of the most reliable BMW 3-series BMW can buy. It’s the 325 of
course, I would buy the 330, but this is also a very very nice example of a BMW
to drive would be a lot of fun, and would be relatively reliable to drive. I happen
to have a good friend that had one of these, and we would go rip around and
honestly it is surprising how well this car handles, the CI the 325 C. I like this
car, actually handles like it’s on rails. I was really really surprised this thing
out handles, I had a Porsche 930, and this thing actually did better than that, now
you’ll notice the the handles very, very clean. That’s a nice upgrade from the
previous generation from the e36, the handles were very kind of nasty, they
were sort of kind of flush mounted but they were a cheaper
look. This is a cleaner more you know more of a higher quality looking handle on their mirrors upgraded now they’ve got this vents on the hood that’s a
little bit different I’m not sure if I love it or hate it I guess what it does
is it sort of breaks up that full oversized hood look but again here’s
your traditional kidney grilles BMW symbol great cars that you
46 and then after the e4 t6 we move into the e90 and the e92 which represented a
whole vast change of vehicles we’re talking about in the knee in the mid
2000s all of a sudden you saw different cars you had three two threes three two
fives 3 2 eights 3 30s and now a newly introduced for BMW in the day is a 335
that happened to have dual twin turbochargers and it produced similar
power numbers that you would expect that normally typically out of the m3 model
lineup the 335 had a whole host of new technology it was a fast car it was
spectacular to drive the only problem is it also had a lot of maintenance related
issues and we could cover that in days to come in future videos but the 335 was
a great performer if not lacking in some of the reliability factors now also in
the e90 that also represents the best of the m3 generation and arguably even to
date including the newest generation which went back to a straight turbo 6
engine in the new m3 but the e90 that we’re talking about in a 92 with the m3
the 4 liter v8 engine in that generation was one of the best arguably the best m3
of all time and had a high-revving 80 250 rpm redline it was really really
fast yes it had rod bearing problems but all in all it was easily one of the best
m3s of all time you could get it in an SMG or later on
it came equipped with a DCT so a dual clutch transmission one of the early
generations or if you’re a purist like myself you can always appreciate a good
manual 6-speed gearbox so that was also available the e90 s had a whole host of
different models and it was an exciting time in the BMW world in that mid 2000s
up to you know the 2012/13 era where things start to change
this is the e90 generation this particular car you could see has evolved
a lot this obviously with the headlights you know is a vast improvement even from
two generations so you had the e36 the e46 and then to the e90 evolved quite
dramatically between two generations but looking at this car look at the front
spoiler a lot nicer already compared to e36 and again the side end now the
rockers are a lot simpler on this car but this is not an M this is a pretty
standard machine here we’ll work our way around to the back again tail lights a
lot cleaner than you would typically find on the previous generation on the
e36 now we’ve got the e90 look at the generational taillights much cleaner the
rear bumper smoother this of course is the 325 and arguably one of the best one
of the most reliable three series BMWs of all time unfortunately that’s sort of
ironic as there’s a tow hook connected to it so obviously this thing died for
some reason but again you know it’s mechanical so everything will and can’t
fail but this is actually easily one of the most reliable BMW 3-series cars of
all time it’s the 325i very simple fun to drive but very reliable right there
and that brings us to the last generation of the 3-series BMW and that
is the F 80 and that ran from about 2015 until current now that’s a great machine
because BMW brought back a straight-6 engine strapped on twin turbos on the M
version and all the other cars really were just finely fettled and actually
the entire lineup was tuned up nicely as a matter of fact the DCT was
incorporated in a lot of the cars as well and overall this 3-series was a
nice evolution of further evolution and styling wise it’s definitely very
current but the prices are still too high to suggest good value on the used
car market at this time so time will tell as well as reliability we’re not
entirely sure yet what the f80 looks like ten years down the road from now we
have the beautiful F 80 m3 you’ll notice the updated the beautiful
headlights on their the blocked out grille it’s got the aggressive front
spoiler which is awesome look at this black wheels to match the car it’s
basically murdered out their car and looks stunning right that is an amazing
car the f80 but it comes out of price fancy mirrors awesome car look at the quad exhaust
tips on these cars m3 everything looks a lot more squared off here look at the
back end square carbon-fiber roof so what I’m gonna do now everybody because
I know you guys trust my opinion on a lot of these matters I’m gonna give you
my best my picks of each generation that if I were shopping for a used car what I
would buy so let’s start with the e30 easily without question the e30 for me
just because of its simplicity but yes latest generation highest performing car
outside of the m3 now if you can find the m3 that’s the car to have but
because it’s very rare it’s very expensive now and it’s very collectible
it’s good luck in finding one I would say for the mainstream very difficult to
get your hands on and not recommend it in the sense of value sure all you know
cost aside the m3 is the car to have but outside of that m3 which is really cost
prohibitive for a lot of people now the 325 is is my favourite car you get that
it’s a nice nice manual gearbox a very simple car but it has 208 horsepower and
that is far more than you need in a simple little car like the early
generations of the BMWs now if we talk about the e36 generation goes to the e36
m3 now the Euro version had up to 316 horsepower while the US version only had
240 horsepower either way the car was a beast and it
was a ton of fun to drive and now because you can get those cars for
$10,000 eight to ten thousand dollars is not
uncommon to find him in that price range it represents actually a really good
purchase on the used car market just make sure you get a model a version of
that m3 that has been well looked after and then it holds up well overall it’s
an experience that you really really need to try so the next generation the
e46 what are my picks on the e46 well without question my picks go to either
one of two and a depending on what your flavor is so I’ll leave the two options
and so on one hand if I’m just thinking of a car that I want that to have a very
reliable car that’s fun to drive and will give me minimal problems I’m going
to definitely buy the 330 I that’s the car don’t get this at HP cuz you’re
gonna pay a little premium for that it’s a great car but in terms of value the
330i is a great car and that’s probably they might pick my top pick now for me
if I’m not worried about value and I’m willing to spend a few more bucks and
I’m less worried about reliability I am without question going to arguably one
of the best m3 is built of all time surely on exhaust note and the driving
experience definitely want to get that 333 horsepower m3 with the manual
gearbox do not buy it with the SMG that SMG gearbox was slow and certainly not
even as refined as the e60 m5 which was poor by the way this was even worse so
stick with the manual in the eeeh in the m3 of the e46 generation then we moved
to the e 90s now talking about the e 90s my favorite pick of the e 90s are going
to go and I didn’t even mention this before
but it actually goes to the 335 d not the I the D now what that is is the
inline turbo diesel engine that is also shared in the x5 diesel which
coincidentally I own I own that x5 diesel why because I’ve done the
research and sure it’s not the most reliable however it has great power and
it’s fuel economy is exceptional if you can get around the reliability factor
price-wise there they’re reasonable and certainly
performance you’ll have no concerns so my number one pick in the 90 in the e90
generation is the 335 d and of course an e 90 m3 those are my two picks of course
the m3 being substantially more money here where I live you can pretty much
expect to pay 30 to $40,000 for a nice used version with reasonable miles I
can’t seem to find anything closer to 20k at least where I live there’s
nothing in that price range you’re really looking at 30 grand plus so
that’s why if you’re looking for something slightly more economical I
would go with 335 d if you’ve got extra money certainly the m3 is your car and
then my pick on the F 80 we’re talking about the latest generation of the BMW
3-series would have to go likely to the m3 yes
there’s other options like at the 340s and such so you really want to get a
manual gearbox f80 m3 even though it’s a lot of money yet
that’s my pick everybody I hope you enjoyed that list mark you’re against
signing out make sure you check out my channel a little more dig deep for sure
give me a thumbs up don’t forget to share the video and of course subscribe
to the channel hope to see you back real soon guys see you then bye bye

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. Don’t forget 335d e90. Also I thought the current 3 series was F30? Shame there’s no 3 litre diesel in the current model.

  2. My friend has a E30 330i his car aint working because he needs a $500 part but mechanics want $3000 for that one part.

  3. Don’t forget the E21 3 Series thats the first gen of the 3 series and the E30 is the second Gen, but Honestly my favorite 3 series models are E21, E30, E36, and E46 the others E90/91/92/93, F30, and G20s I do not like.

  4. The D baby, the D ! The 335d ! That's the D I wanna make mine 1 day <3 Cuz I'm in love with my e90 320d already <3

  5. A friend owned an e90 325i for about a year, after a couple of water pump issues he sold it off and bought an e46 323ci. I've never seen him happier 😁😁

  6. what do you guys think of 2009 BMW 3 Series 328i Coupe RWD ? i'm thinking of getting this one. Is it reliable?

  7. I own a 325i 2006 and all I can say is that it wastes too much gas for what it is. $70 to fill the tank and it only lasts for close to a week, oil needs to be filled constantly cuz it sucks it up for breakfast. Very reliable car but I would definitely suggest buying a 335i if you want that strong turbo engine that has about the same reliability of a 325i.

  8. You are not the sharpest tool in the shed are you? The E90 has the tow hook on the back, the E36 right next to it has the hook on the front, but "obviously this thing (pointig at the E90) died for some reason". I guess they towed it backwards didn't they?

  9. Okay rewind back to 8 minutes and 30 seconds…… You don't really believe those vents are there for ascetic purposes do you??..
    if you looked underneath that Grill I bet you would probably find your cabin filter…… But what do I know I haven't taken mine apart yet

  10. I'm a little surprised you coulden't find better examples for your video. If you have a BMW of America Car Club (BACC) in your area you will find great examples of all the cars you were discussing. I live in Portland Oregon and the (BACC) has examples vintage Beemiers from M1's, 635CSi's, all the way to current. There are three great 2002's with in a block of me. I own a 93 E36 325is that's in far better shape than the one you showed and the E30 was patheticly sad. The 88 E30 325ie I sold two years ago was a far better example. It was an amazing car! I loved every minute of the 12 years I owned it. Also it would be great if you could find a place to shoot your discussion with BMW's in the background. The view from your back yard is nice but it's incongruous with your subject. Cheers

  11. I have 2 e46 and 1 f80. Although the f80 is much faster, I prefer my e46s over the f80. The inline is what I associate with BMWs. My f80 sounds like a diesel when starting cold and just the overall quality is not as good as the e46s. One example is how the door cards look and feel on the f80 vs e46. F80s have a cheap vinyl feel to the door pulls that looks like it will soon tear if I keep resting my elbow on it. The trunk hinges and the way the doors shut on they F80s vs e46. Again, E46 > F80. Another bonus is how relatively easy it is to work on the e46. Even the cooling system, pulleys, vacuum lines are easy DIYs. Window regulators are easy and straight forward.

  12. A little bit of misinformation for the F30 3 series (3 series and 4 series are F30/F32 and only the M3/4 are F80/F82), and you definitely cannot get a DCT on any other models besides the M3/4 in this generation, but other than that a pretty solid video!

  13. Kind of chopped ? It was called the Compact one would admit to owning one ..The E36 sedans were rubbish quality for quite sometime..being made but new labour from the fall of the Berlin Wall ..the E36 Coupes were built by west Germans ..much much quality..this guys just waffles on …

  14. You cant compare a 330i with a 330i zhp. Dont handle nowhere the same as a zhp and quit a few little differences between them too. Which make for a different driving car campared to the regular 330

  15. E46 3 Series destroys the newer model in every way possible. I have drove my the newer model and it is pure shit to drive.

  16. Dislike from me. U mentioned just some models when u were talking about them. eg "E90 and E92" And what about E91 and E93? next one: F80 only stands for current M3. Other 3 series are F30(sedan) and F31(touring/wagon)
    Pls don't inform others with false facts! :/

  17. I currently own a e46 325iT SULEV and e92 328i SULEV. Both at nearly 200k miles, both pretty reliable. Don't get a SULEV though… Very expensive to fix. 335d is nice, but insanely expensive to maintain above 80k miles. F series sucks. BMW went backwards with interior design and has QC issues. IMHO, the e89 Z4 35i is the last good car BMW made (except for the 7 series, and the upcoming X9).

  18. Those maintenance problems you had with the earlier three series are all meant because it's meant to be a race car and just tore apart and left basic as it gets and with high performance parts left in their places

  19. Ahm, you forgot completely about the very first 3 series Bmw. The shark nose E21, a 2 door sedan produced from 1975 -1983. It came in the configuration of 316, 318 and 323.

    The E36 also came with the 318is (both in twincam 4 door sedan and 2 door coupe).

    Know your Bmw history, it might help a bit.

  20. I have. 2011 335 msport it’s been great and I like it- water pump died at 20k miles but was replaced under warranty- oil filter gasket also leaked was repaired under warranty
    Nav is. Nice- the hifi stereo is great if you don’t find a Hartman Kardon –

  21. Oh ny god… you don't understadn anything of BMW cars…. where is the E21? Abother 3 series model.. the first one… and the Compact.. is not an e 36.. is a e36/5!

  22. My 328 xi was my favorite it was super expensive for upgrades but worth every penny smoked 5.0s wrx and all these Honda’s in my city

  23. Ive always liked all your previous videos and I never commented on any of them. However with this video… I must say im very disappointed with. The E30 looks terrible and the e36 has definitely seen better days. The e90 looks as if it was driven through the mud. With a tow hook stuck out of the back. It does look like it has actually towed something and not other way around otherwise the tow hook would have been in front. The only car that looked descent was the e46 and it was a sexy coup not a sedan. If you were gonna compare apples to apples get an e92. I honestly think your videos are awesome but this one i unfortunately had to vote down Otherwise thank you for all the great content.

  24. say my friend i just sold my M3 E46 SMG i want a 2011 and beyound you absolutely right about the M3 E36 i had one it was a 97 sedan i sold it b cuz i wanted a E46 there wasnt anything wrong with it

  25. Guys ,what about MY 2010 with 110 000 km,one owner,E90,330d for 71 y.o.retired MD.Not" F1 driver" but love sometimes speeding when cops are not around. In Australia is top speed 110 km. !!! Thank's

  26. I'm 17 and I'm trying too look for a good first car. I want to get one for around 10k and less then 70,000 miles and I was thinking about buying a BMW 328i 3 series. I still do not know the big difference between the years 2007-2011 the cars look alike can someone help me and tell me what year model is the best and why. every video I watch though doesn't talk about those cars in depth much. Are these bad cars to get or are they good? Can anyone tell me more about these cars. Like which of the BMW 328i is most reliable and which year of the BMW is not good.

  27. One stop at the junkyard and you found the cars you used in the video. Really, you couldn't find better looking cars to feature in the video?

  28. Last good BMW was the 2005 one after that they are designer shit with the take me to the dealer software they went the same way as Mercedes plug in a scanner and if it dont have 20 faults there is something wrong /UK old fart !

  29. Hey I love your videos man . I have a question I found a good bmw e92 525i and u think that this is as reliable as the e92 525i ? Ty for the good videos

  30. My favorite is the 2006 330i and 2008 325i sports sedan. Sports packages on both of these are a great looking! Xeon light package have always been a plus for me. As minor as feature Xeons are, without them in the E90 body style has been a deal breaker for me lol

  31. I have a 1991 E30 & E90 currently. Both great cars and interestingly my E90 has more mileage. Also have owned an E46 and F30. Each one put a smile on my face.

  32. Curious to know why only petrol cars are talked about in laods of videos which are not economical and less torque than a diesel engine.. is it all about reliability as I'm aware the diesels are less reliable

  33. The ZHP caught some slack here. I noticed you didn’t come close to the Sport Evo 2, LTW, CSL , CRT or GTS for the top of the line ///Ms to pick.

    E46M3 next then picking an F80M3 right after. Can’t stand the E90.

  34. 2 bmws
    2009 328i 170xxx
    2007 328i 207xxx
    both going strong not once left me stranded. and when it does i will b OK with one100k with no issues

  35. The best value is e46 330i MPower 03. That car is maximum coooool
    If you take care of it you have it for as long as you live. With much fun

  36. So what you're saying is to find and buy the M330? It seems smarter to me to only lease a BMW so you can enjoy it well during the good times and ditch it before the problems arise.

  37. Owned E36 M3, currently own E90 325 and F80. Very few minor problems or no issues at all. Cant say the same for bmw V8 models we owned

  38. E36: 325 and 328 is the new classic! a combo of analog and electronics but very reliable and fun once you get the potential issues taken care of. Don't waste your time or money on 318…

  39. I really enjoy your videos. I am a big bmw fan. I currently own a 2004 330i zhp. I also just bought a 2012 335is convertible. The 2012 335is I'm really enjoying, only negative so far is the side bolsters are a bit to tight.They are adjustable but still to tight. Wondering if you could do an in depth video and test drive of the 2012 335is.

  40. I had the 330xi E90 sadan damn thing was nothing but issues and only had 69,000 miles on it 2006 but lots of power

  41. What years was that E90 325 made? Seems like just 2006. Please comment. Manual would be my only choice.

  42. Just bought my first BMW last week. It's a 2008 328xi 6spd Manual with 80k miles, all service history done at the dealer, it was a 1 owner car (a woman in her 50's). I paid $7600 but I got it at a dealer so after taxes, registration, and dealer fees(bs $599),and insurance, it cost me $8900 "out the door" and I could not be happier!

  43. i have a 06 325i got it like 3 months ago, anyone have some knowledge or anything to say about it? i just want to learn more about my car
    BTW: Mind don’t have comfort access, gps 🙁

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