It’s no secret that European vehicles are often expensive to maintain. Even worse, base on most recent studies, BMW has now been crowned the car manufacturer with the highest overall maintenance cost, all categories combined. Luckily for you, here are some tips and tricks to help you save money on your BMW’s maintenance cost while ensuring it stays in the best shape possible so you can get the most bang for your bucks.
Overview of the maintenance cost of a BMW
The total cost of all future repairs of a specific car is almost impossible to predict. Even two identical vehicles driven under the same conditions for the same exact time could very well end up having numerous different problems. Not to mention that not everybody drives the same mileage every year and obviously, more mileage equals more frequent services.
To approximately estimate the maintenance cost of a vehicle, one must take into account the cost of the replacement parts, the bills associated with the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule, and an average of the cost related to common mechanical problems.
For example, spark plugs replacement for a BMW 328i normally cost around $200 to $349, which is already kinda pricey. Minor services at a BMW dealer cost around $200 to $400 while major ones can cost you up to $600. Consequently, the total bill can rise pretty quickly if you drive a lot.
If you plan to keep the vehicle for more than 4-5 years, you are most likely to run into mechanical problems at some point. Bimmers are well-known for their oil leaks problems and a front cover oil leak repair can easily cost you a hefty $2,500$. Leaking head gaskets are less frequent but are often seen on vehicles over 80,000 miles on the counter. Such work can easily go up to $3,000$. That’s definitely not to overlook when thinking about acquiring a used BMW.
Electrical problems are also frequent with most European vehicles and are always a pain to get fixed. Intermittent wiper problems, defective A/C, and complicated Vanos systems diagnosis are commonplace within the BMW community and regularly end up with a quite expensive bill for the owner.
All in all, studies have reported that the maintenance cost for a BMW over a timelapse of 10 years averages around $15,253. That’s more than enough to make you wonder if there’s a way to cut down on the cost without having a negative impact on your precious vehicle.
How to save on your BMW maintenance
Save on labor
The easiest way to save on the maintenance cost of any vehicle is to do most of the work yourself. Obviously, some service and basic repairs can easily be performed at home while others simply can’t. Being able to differentiate what you can do and what should be left to professionals is definitely your best bet here. To help you with that, here are some of the easier tasks you could learn to do on your own and save money at the same time.
Oil change and basic services
Buying a high-performance car like a BMW also means that replacement parts and fluids will be more expensive. Better components cost more to produce. Simple as that. The high-performance engine oil used in BMWs alone can cost up to $100 for a single oil change but it’s priced at the dealer at around $200. Changing your oil at home could easily save you $100 every 10,000 miles.
A BMW minor service consists of nothing more than a basic oil change plus an inspection, a brake service, a tire rotation, a replacement of the engine and cabin air filters and basic battery maintenance. Nothing that can’t be done in your home garage during the next weekend and could save you over $500 right there.
Changing light bulbs
On a typical 2016 BMW 328i, a simple headlight bulb replacement cost around a hundred bucks. When you realize that the light bulb in itself cost around $10, it’s easy to understand that there’s a lot of room to save some money here.
If you are not quite sure how to remove the headlight assembly to reach the light bulb, I strongly suggest you buy a copy of your vehicle’s repair manual. You can get one for a fraction of the price of what you’ll save on that light bulb replacement alone and you’ll have access to step-by-step procedures for every job you might want to try your hand at in the future.
And so on…
The same rule applies to most other maintenance related tasks. Coolant replacement, brake system service, injector cleaner, drive belt replacement, etc. All these can easily be done at home, without the need for a lift or any other professional equipment.
Buy aftermarket parts
This one is somewhat controversial. Every mechanic has its own opinion about aftermarket parts and whether you should or shouldn’t use them. But if your budget is a bit tight, I say go for it.
In my honest opinion, I think it’s still safer to install a set of aftermarket brake pads than to drive your car with completely worn out OEM pads. Even the cheapest Chinese eBay type pads will provide a shorter braking distance than dangerously damaged ones.
In some cases, the companies producing parts for a car manufacturer sell the same part to both the dealership and aftermarket part stores under different part numbers and packages. For example, Bosch is the company manufacturing spark plugs for the BMW 328i. If you go directly to the BMW dealer and ask for a set of plugs, they will give you a set of BMW part# 12120034087. If, instead, you go to an aftermarket part store and ask for plugs for the exact same application, what you will get instead is a set of Bosch ZGR6STE2. The secret here is that both part numbers are exactly the same thing but packaged differently. And with a totally different price tag!
Simply remember that doing a little bit of research before blindly following your dealer’s advice can really pay off in the end.
Shop around and compare
You can also save on all the auto mechanic work you can’t really do on your own, either because the required skill level is outside of your abilities or because it requires the use of professional tools you simply don’t have in your tool chest.
When it happens, keep in mind that you should always ask for quotes to more than one auto repair shop. Not all shops ask for the same hourly rate and some even charge their customers based on flat rates. Always shop and compare the quotes you receive and choose the shop best fitting your budget. It’s important to understand that a cheaper auto mechanic isn’t always a good thing, though.
I would personally prefer to have aftermarket parts installed on my car by a certified mechanic instead of asking an incompetent one to install my new set of high-performance struts. No matter how good the components are, if they are incorrectly installed, you risk being really sorry in the end.
No level of care can save you as much money as driving carefully and nothing is more harmful to your vehicle than high speed and reckless driving. Spinning tires will significantly reduce their lifespan, hard accelerations will put excessive stress on internal components and drifting will definitely damage suspensions and steering system parts a lot quicker. Even driving 80mph instead of 60mph will literally cost you 30% more in fuel.
Easy saving right there.
What about BMW Ultimate Care plans
Most vehicles sold or leased by BMW come with an Ultimate Care maintenance plan covering most basic maintenance jobs like oil changes and spark plugs as well as brake fluid and filters.
If you are not the handyman type yourself, the plan could very well be beneficial for you. BMW claims that customers can save well over 30% on their maintenance over the life of their vehicle and that is probably true. Sadly, Ultimate Care plans are only valid for the first 3 year/35,000 miles for MY 2017 and up and 4 years/50, 000 miles for 2015-2016 and aren’t transferable to a subsequent owner.
If you intend to buy a pre-owned BMW or a model with 60,000 miles or more on the odometer, you’ll have no other choice than to rely on the other tips on this list to reduce the maintenance cost of your newly acquired vehicle. Unfortunately for you, this is when most serious problems happen and expensive car repairs need to be done.
In the end
BMWs are certainly great vehicles providing outstanding performances. No doubt about that. Simply be aware that the cost of owning and driving a luxury car is often more expensive and that they may not be for everybody. If your budget is a little tight, taking advantage of all the little tricks included in this article will help you to greatly reduce the overall maintenance cost of your beloved BMW while keeping in the best condition possible for as long as possible.