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Buying Used BMW 7 Series: Which Years Are Most Reliable?

1. Introduction: Is a BMW a Good Car to Buy Used?

Running counter to the above reasoning is that the less a car costs to purchase, the more likely it is that you are buying another person’s headache. Although no e38 will be a great purchase if it has not been properly maintained, in certain model years, the initial outlay for a good condition one-owner vehicle is less than it is for a similar age Japanese luxury car such as an Infiniti Q45 or Lexus LS400. The long-term cost of ownership for a ten-year-old seven series in similar condition to a Lexus may still be higher given potential repair costs, but the initial purchase price does factor into the used car buying decision.

Then again, you may have heard (or experienced firsthand) horrors of the staggering repair costs associated with BMWs. The 7 series is often cited as a car that should never be touched once the warranty has expired. In this article, we will attempt to identify model years where the car was relatively trouble-free and less likely to be a money pit once the car is outside of the new car warranty.

The BMW 7 Series, like any luxury flagship car built by any manufacturer, can be an attractive used car purchase. Many people feel that they simply cannot afford a new 7 Series, but find a two or three-year-old one that has come off lease for dramatically less than the new price.

For folks who are used to driving a new $20,000 to $30,000 car, this is an attractive entry into a car that originally sold for in the $70,000 to $90,000 range. If you’ve ever checked prices on eBay or any of the several used car classifieds on the web, you might have received the impression that a used BMW 7 Series is an extremely poor purchase. However, in certain model years, that may not be the case. Any well-built German luxury car, especially BMW cars, has a well-earned reputation as a great used car buy, providing that it has been properly maintained.

The caveat, of course, is maintenance; a poorly maintained luxury car of any type can be a worse nightmare than a poorly maintained economy car. With the purchase of a well-maintained low mileage 7 Series, you have the benefits of a very nice car that has already experienced its greatest period of depreciation. It's crucial to have a trusted repair shop familiar with BMW cars to manage potential repair costs effectively.

2. The Most Reliable Years for the BMW 7 Series

The E32 was a very solid car and any model is a good choice if you are willing to contend with the car’s overly complex construction and systems. E23 users looking to upgrade may find the E32 a bit disappointing in terms of reliability. E32 were the first luxury cars to have a built-in telephone, and while it is quite amusing now, the wiring has been known to cause problems with the car’s various telecommunications accessories throughout the years.

Steptronic cars feature a BMW integrated traction control system which is an added headache for those less mechanically adept. Both the phone and ITS are really just put-offs to potential 7 Series buyers of more reliable and basic cars such as Lexus LS. In terms of engines, M30 and M60 powered models are the most reliable and easiest to repair. E23 addicts keen on a large BMW luxury sedan would be best advised to look for a 93-94 740i with the M60 engine, as this was essentially a heavily updated version of the E32 with simplified systems and much less of the electronic gadgetry which plagues these cars.

Additionally, it's important to note that certain model years have been known to experience issues with fuel pumps, alongside other common problems such as engine cooling systems, vacuum leaks, oil leaks, and electronic system issues. Fuel pumps and injectors can falter, often triggering the 'Check Engine' light, so it's advisable to check for this problem when evaluating the reliability of different BMW 7 Series models. (Voinea et al.2023)(McGill et al.2022)(Uschnig et al.2022)(Rönnebrand, 2022)(Roads)(Boucher et al., 2021)(Carmena Cabanillas, 2021)(Cabrera-Paniagua et al.2023)

The E23 was the first 7 Series. 1978-1979 733i models are the most reliable due to the engine being a version of the BMW M30 six-cylinder engine which powered the car in various forms throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was a very reliable and easy to repair engine which is also used in the much more reliable 3 and 5 Series of the same era. This car is now very old, and many will have been neglected or poorly maintained, so a good one will be hard to find but well worth the effort for someone seeking a reliable classic luxury car.

The BMW 7 Series has a reputation for being very unreliable and difficult to repair, so it is quite hard to find a reliable year. Even the most reliable year for a model is still fairly unpredictable compared to an average Japanese sedan. However, some have been much worse than others, and we can give our suggestions based on which years to consider and which to avoid.

3. Alternatives to Consider for a Used Luxury Car: BMW 7 Series Saloon

Regarding condition, be wary of tatty looking cars with worn interiors, as rectifying these issues can prove costly. If the electronic park brake or parking sensors don’t work, the general advice is to walk away as both can be expensive to repair. It’s probably best not to bother with an early pre-facelift E65 model either. Build quality was a lot better on the later models, and the car was subject to a heavy facelift in 2005, with the range of engines being replaced with more powerful and efficient units.

Many older 7 Series will now be up for sale following the recent introduction of the new (and slightly controversial) F01/F02 generation, and these are probably the best ones to go for. With such a huge price decrease in just a few years, the 2005 models are looking particularly good value for money. When considering a used BMW 7 Series, look for trims that offer desirable features such as adaptive cruise control, massaging seats, and multi-zone climate control to enhance your driving experience. These options can significantly add to the comfort and luxury of the vehicle, making it a worthy competitor to the Mercedes S-Class. (Sánchez‐Torné et al.2020)(von der Heidt, 2023)(Delic & Eyers, 2020)(Liu et al.2023)(Reuschl et al., 2022)(Salim & Abu2020)

If you choose to look for a used Seven, we would strongly recommend considering a petrol model. The 728i was a lively performer, while the 735i could feel properly quick and the V8 740i and 740i Sport positively rapid. Steer clear of the overpriced and ultimately sluggish 730d turbo diesel. Also, avoid the high-mileage, ex-fleet or previously taxi cars that can be found for under £10,000. They may look tempting if you’re on a tight budget, but the repairs and maintenance costs could work out being substantially more in the long run. A well-cared for private example is much preferred, especially if it comes with some service history and bills, and has never missed one of those all-important BMW inspections.

4. More About the BMW 7 Series

4.1 What years to expect E23 7 Series Having been the model that launched the entire lineup, the E23 was BMW’s first attempt at a large luxury car. Production started in 1977 and continued on until 1986. This particular era in BMW’s history was not its best, and this reflected in the vehicle. Low in build quality and reliability, it is hard to find 7 Series cars from this year. Although not all BMWs from this period were bad, a good condition used one may be hard to find.

This is a shame because E23 7 Series cars are quite cheap on the used car market, some priced around a couple thousand U.S. dollars. Coming in 6 cylinder and 7 Series, the 7 could be had either as a 728 or 733 and in later years a 735. But if you are looking for a reliable used 7 Series, more options are found in the next model. (Mahajan et al.2022)(Abdin & Al-Tayyan, 2023)(Bernhardsson et al.2023)(Yazır et al., 2021)(Yeung et al.2024)(Royer et al.2020)

The flagship offering of the BMW brand, the BMW 7 Series, is the epitome of luxury and performance in the company’s offerings. First introduced in 1977, the 7 Series has been BMW’s luxury offering in the large saloon market for 31 years. The 7 Series is BMW’s second best-selling car to date. Having an annual production of 50,000 units worldwide (as of 2005), there are more 7 Series vehicles rolling off the assembly line.

This high production volume generates a selection of BMW 7 Series cars in the used car market. These cars typically have high mileage and low cost relative to the original MSRP. Among the technological advancements that set the BMW 7 Series apart is the inclusion of a rear view camera as standard equipment across all trims, underscoring its status as a luxury vehicle and a technologically advanced alternative to competitors like the Mercedes S-Class. If you are looking for a used 7 Series, here are some tips to keep in mind.

5. Conclusion: Is the Used BMW 7 Series Worth the Fair Price?

And remember, never ever buy a car over $4k after it has reached junk status (approximately 12-15 years of age, no matter what make or model). At this point, the car is too cheap to be worth anything as transportation and is not worth the problems that will occur due to wear and tear on an aging vehicle. Always give more thought into whether the car is worth its maintainability, not its initial purchase price. In summary, the BMW 7 Series itself is a very stylish, luxurious, and beautiful car that is very enjoyable to drive and has great handling for its size. But the lesson here is that one should not be disillusioned by an awesome car, thinking that it will be a good car.

Every model and purchase has to be analyzed critically to ensure that reliability, repairs, and maintenance are not going to be a nightmare in the future.

In conclusion, buying a used BMW 7 Series under the 5th generation (manufactured between 2009 and 2015) is not such a great idea when talking about reliability. It is a known fact that during BMW's production of a new model, there will always be free-flowing problems in the current model and a solution can only be found in a future model. This is exactly the phase where the BMW 7 Series (5th generation) is in at the moment, despite it being such a beautiful and luxurious machine. Too many things can still go wrong and be very expensive to fix. However, the 3rd and 4th generations of the BMW 7 Series (manufactured between 1994-2001) are good used cars to buy. Prices are very low and there are still plenty out there for sale due to high production quantities. Although these were not BMW's best in terms of reliability history, the problems that have occurred on these models are well documented and there is an excellent knowledge base on how to maintain the vehicle.

A lot of the complicated problems in these models have very simple solutions, but BMW had a habit of needlessly throwing complex technology into cars. An example of this is the I-bus system, which can cause a multitude of electrical problems on the car. However, the fact that the 5th generation BMW has too many unresolved problems is evident that newer generation does not mean better. This results in a good 3rd or 4th generation 7 Series being a good choice of purchase priced at around $7-$10k on a car that was once over $60,000.


Explore our range of BMW models, where luxury meets efficiency! Discover vehicles that boast impressive gas mileage, advanced safety features like lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring, all at an unbeatable average price. Experience the best value in luxury vehicles with a state-of-the-art sound system designed for audiophiles. Visit us today and find your perfect BMW — where every drive is a journey in comfort and style.



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Buying Used BMW 7 Series: Which Years Are Most Reliable?

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