BMW E46 M3 vs BMW E92 M3 – Which One to Buy Today?

BMW E46 m3 vs BMW E92 M3

With Prices for E92 M3 Coming Down and E46 M3 Appreciating, Which One to Buy?

I’m in a dilemma. A definite 1st world problem but still a problem. I need to buy an used BMW M3, but I don’t know which one to buy. I lost my dear BMW M3 E46 with the Competition Package last summer on the track. I need a new car for the upcoming driving season. I’m coming to realize that I happen to hit a milestone in the BMW E46 M3 pricing curve – we have past the bottom and are now going up in the appreciation curve. Thats the only way I can interpret the prices I’ve seen on the used car market for BMW M3 E46s. These cars use to be so cheap to buy and pick up but now I notice that prices are going up, and its not even spring time when hopes, dreams and seller prices are at the highest. I’m not even talking about those eternal greedy-moneybags known as Enthusiast Auto Group – who always raise their prices on their used BMW M3s, but I’m talking about the general public. It may have just been that time where good quality, decent mileage and un-modded E46 M3 are finally in limited numbers and owners of them currently know it, and want top dollar. Now you can still find cheap BMW E46 M3s but those are usually with SMG, are a convertible, have high miles – or worst have all of these attributes combined. But thats not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a decent mileage (i.e. under 80,000 miles), 6-speed manual, 2003.5 and up, well maintained BMW E46 M3. And those that I do find are asking in the high 20s and more.

Take for example this car. Its a nice car, if you don’t mind Imola Red (which I don’t, I like red cars). Has all the right options and seem well maintained by a caring owner, but seriously 23k plus for a car with over 90,000 miles?

And then you have seriously low mileage cars like that barn-yard find 2001 BMW E46 M3 in Laguna Seca Blue and 19,000 miles. But its all original gear including tires, brakes, etc. Lots of work to bring it back up to current spec and conditions.

Which has gotten me to start looking elsewhere and my sights have now started looking at the E92 M3.

BMW E92 M3 Prices Are Dropping. Fast

The BMW e92 M3 is slowly coming to be defined by BMW enthusiasts in its place within the M3 hierarchy. And I think its going to rank very highly with BMW M3 fans. In many ways its a perfect car and the last of a breed for BMW. It has that dazzling V-8 engine that defines the whole experience and the first working example of a dual-clutch transmission known as the DCT. Plus it had many options and features that made this car the perfect driving M3 including carbon fiber roofs (for coupes), a great suspension, dynamic shocks, hydraulic steering and terrific body control. The cons is the weight, the horrible gas mileage and that issue with the rod bearings.

Like in past generations, the convertibles are the cheapest price cars you can find. Which is funny because when brand new, the most expensive was the convertible models. I’ve seen early year, low mileage BMW E93 M3 (the E93 is the convertible internal numbering code) to be had for under 30k. Now if you’re looking for a great daily driver, then this is the car for you. Basically a fully loaded car that can be used in all seasons, haul 4 people and be a blast to drive. But for me, its a no-go due to the weight gain of the folding convertible top. The E92 M3 is a heavy car (3,700 even with all those carbon fiber, aluminum hood and other weight saving pieces) but the folding hardtop adds another 400 lbs to the car weight. Yes 400 lbs is like having 2 buddies in your car, when taking it on the track. Its a performance killer.

The E92 M3 is where its getting interesting. Good year models – including the vaulted Competition Package year models are now in the mid 30k – low 40k  range. But if don’t mind an early year model – 2008 or 2009 – then you are now looking at cars in the 20k range. And that is now in the same consideration price range as the E46 M3.

Which BMW M3 if the Price is the Same?

So which M3 to get, if pricing is the same? Thats a great question and currently still processing my thoughts on this dilemma. When I think it out, here are my internal thoughts:

• Performance on the track. From what I’m reading from folks who drove both on the track, the E92 M3 is a the better performance car. The downside is the E92 is a heavier car and newer car so consumables (i.e. tires, brakes, etc.) is going to cost more.

• Maintenance wise the E46 M3, while a incredible car had issues that needed to be addressed especially if you plan to use it for motorsport or driving events. Mainly you had an engine that need constant valve adjustments, a Vanos unit that may need to be upgraded down the road, sub-frame issues (I always preemptively reinforced my sub-frames on the E46 M3), and a crappy standard braking system.

• The E92 M3’s biggest issue to date has been the rod bearing issue, which is a serious problem if your car has that problem.

• The E46 M3 is now on the uptrend in the appreciative curve. The E92 M3 will still on the downtrend and will depreciate over time. This is purely a consideration if you plan to resell the car anytime soon.

• E46 M3s will have higher miles on them compared to E92 M3 with the similar pricing.

• The E92 M3 is a more modern car and will be fine to use as a daily driver (as is technically the E46 M3). But the E92 M3 gas mileage is really really bad. With current low gas prices, thats ok. For now.

So, whats my decision? I’m leaning towards the E92 M3 at the moment. Strictly because I think you’re get more bang-for-the-buck for the price. Also theres going to be a lot more E92 M3s coming onto the market compared to decent E46 M3s. That’s my thoughts, what you guys think?

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