How Long Do BMW 3 Series Last? (Solved & Explained)

The BMW 3 Series is a compact executive car that has been manufactured since 1975.

The 3 Series epitomizes the modern day sports sedan, offering high tech features, driving enjoyment and copious amounts of luxury.

In this article we’ll cover the average lifespan of the BMW 3 series, read on to find out…

Here is the Short Answer to How Long BMW 3 Series Last:

The BMW 3 Series can last between 200,000 – 250,000 miles when properly maintained and driven conservatively. If you drive 15,000 miles per year it will last approximately 13 – 17 years before requiring expensive and uneconomical repairs. There are instances of 3 Series reaching up to 300,000 miles.

How Many Miles Can You Expect from a BMW 3 Series?

In general BMW 3 series are solid, reliable and durable cars that when properly looked after can last a very long time.

There are plenty of reports online from owners who are well on their way to reaching 200k and many others who have hit this milestone although the importance of regular maintenance really can’t be stressed enough.

Some owners we encountered have cruised right past 250k and there are even reports of owners clocking well over 300k.

Whilst high mileages like these aren’t unattainable, they should by no means be expected, hence we advise a reasonable expectation for the lifespan of a 3 Series BMW to falls within the region of 200k – 250k.

After accumulating a certain of miles big-ticket items begin to fail such as the engine or transmission – when that happens the car costs more to fix than it is worth.

Longevity is determined by:

  • Climate
  • Driving habits
  • How rigorously maintenance procedures are followed

Quite a few BMW buyers look for used vehicles in states (at least in the US) with little or no snow and moderate temperatures.

Full-service history is essential regardless of where the car has been driven, and you’ll find a lot of people in forums who swear by their rule that they’ll never buy a BMW out of warranty.

Japanese cars are generally accepted as being more durable, a saying that can be taken with a pinch of salt is:

‘BMW’s go on forever if you maintain them. Honda’s, however, will go for a long time, even when not maintained!’

Essentially, if you want your 3 Series to live a long healthy life you’ll really have to stay on top of maintenance.

This includes routine checks such as fluid levels, air filters, tire pressures etc as well as keeping up to date with factory scheduled maintenance intervals.

How Soon Should You Expect Rust on a BMW 3 Series?

Due to the use of higher quality materials and the under-body of the car being galvanized and sealed, 3 Series BMWs are not expected to rust for a very long time.

BMW offers a comprehensive corrosion protection treatment that they are confident enough in to provide a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Owners have reported that to keep this warranty validated their vehicle must be subject to an annual rust inspection at the dealership at their own cost.

Rust on a new 3 Series is out of the ordinary and additional rust protection treatments are not usually recommended.

Depending on where you live, rusting can be much more of an issue:

  • Coastal regions, where salty ocean air harms the paint and corrodes metal parts.
  • Areas that aggressively salt the roads in the winter – again, the salt and chemical agents used can wreak havoc on your vehicle.
  • Areas with lots of rainfall and high humidity; moisture will speed up rusting.

To help keep your 3 Series rust free, we advise:

  • Clean your car properly and regularly – Especially after exposure to rain, dirt, snow and salt. Be sure to get the underside of the vehicle too.
  • Storage – If possible, keep your car stored in a garage out of the elements. 
  • Repair damaged paint spots and scratches – Exposed metal will oxidize

How Long Do BMW 3 Series Last Compared to Similar Models?

Below, we take a look at how the BMW 3 Series compares against some of its closest competitors:

BMW 3 Series vs. Audi A4

The A4 made by rival German automaker Audi has a sophisticated design and zeroes in on technology, efficiency, and quality.

The A4 is estimated to last between 150,000 – 200,000 miles on average while the 3 Series is projected to last slightly longer, in the region of 200,000 – 250,000 miles.

In terms of reliability, the A4 scores higher with a reliability rating of 82/100 Vs 76/100 for the 3 Series – according to J.D Power.

With regard to maintenance cost, the A4 is slightly less than the 3 Series, with a $739 annual cost compared to $773 for the 3 Series.

Related: How Long Do Audi A4 Last? (Solved & Explained)

BMW 3 Series vs. Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The C-Class is Mercedes’ offering to the compact executive cars segment and is known for its minimalist design and luxurious comfort.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class models are estimated to last up to 200,000 miles on average Vs. 250,000 for the BMW 3 Series.

J.D Power scores the C-Class as being slightly more reliable with a reliability score of 81/100 compared to 76/100 for the 3 Series.

With regard to maintenance cost, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is slightly cheaper than the 3 Series, with a $739 annual cost Vs $773.

You may also be interested in our article: how long do Mercedes Benz C300 last?

BMW 3 Series vs. Volvo S60

The Volvo S60 is available in a wide range of power trains including a plug-in hybrid and prides itself on its excellent safety record .

The Volvo S60 is estimated to last up to 200,000 miles on average Vs. 250,000 miles for the 3 Series.

In terms of reliability, the 3 Series scores slightly lower with a score of 76/100 Vs. 78/100 for the Volvo.

With regard to maintenance cost, the Volvo S60 slightly edges the BMW 3 Series, with a $750 annual cost (compared to the $773 cost of the BMW 3 Series).

Model Comparison Table

Make and ModelReliability (J.D Power )Annual Maintenance Cost(RepairPal)Average Lifespan (Miles)
BMW 3 Series76/100$773250,000
Audi A482/100$739200,000
Mecedes-Benz C-Class81/100$739200,000
Volvo S6078/100$750200,000

How Reliable is a BMW 3 Series?

Although there are some models from BMW that have not lived up to expectations regarding reliability, when following a stringent maintenance routine the 3 Series is a reliable car.

The 3 Series is considered by some to be the most reliable of all the vehicles in BMW’s line-up and has been improving its reliability ranking across auto review sites in recent years.

RepairPal gave the BMW 3 Series a reliability score of 3.0 out of 5.0, which places the model in the middle of the pack, ranking 19th out of 31 places.

J.D. Power issued the 3 Series a quality and reliability rating of 76 /100, which they class as “average.”

Based on customer reviews, Kelley Blue Book gave a reliability score of 3.7 out of 5.0, which is slightly above average.

Reliability Compared to Other Luxury Cars

ModelReliability 
Acura TLX4.5 / 5.0
Acura TSX4.5 / 5.0
Lexus ES300h4.5 / 5.0
Lexus ES3504.0 / 5.0
Genesis G704.0 / 5.0
Infiniti G254.0 / 5.0
Acura TL4.0 / 5.0
Lexus IS2504.0 / 5.0
Infiniti G374.0 / 5.0
Lexus IS3504.0 / 5.0
Infiniti Q504.0 / 5.0
Volvo S603.5 / 5.0
Mercedes-Benz C3503.5 / 5.0
Mercedes-Benz C3003.5 / 5.0
Audi A43.5 / 5.0
Mercedes-Benz C2503.5 / 5.0
Hyundai Genesis Coupe3.5 / 5.0
Cadillac CTS3.5 / 5.0
Cadillac STS3.0 / 5.0
BMW 328i3.0 / 5.0
Lincoln MKZ3.0 / 5.0
Audi A4 Quattro3.0 / 5.0
Jaguar XF3.0 / 5.0
Audi A5 Quattro3.0 / 5.0
BMW 328i xDrive2.5 / 5.0
Porsche 9112.0 / 5.0
BMW 335i xDrive2.0 / 5.0
Audi S42.0 / 5.0
BMW 335i2.0 / 5.0
BMW M32.0 / 5.0
Audi S52.0 / 5.0
BMW 335d1.5 / 5.0
Avg. Lux. Midsize Car3.5

Source: Repair Pal

The Best and Worst Years for the BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series has spanned seven generations and has been offered in several variants, from the 318 all the way up to the 340. 

Below are our best and worst picks across the various models.

BMW 3 Series Worst Model Year

The worst BMW 3 series is the 325 model for the 2003 year.

Based on data from Car Complaints, a total of 20 complaints were recorded against it, the most for any 325 model year.

The most prominent issue was faulty power steering that occurred around 87,000 miles and cost $1,200 to repair.

It also had its fair share of electrical and engine problems.

BMW 3 Series Best Model Year

The best model year for the BMW 3 Series we believe are the most recent models, 2020 onward.

The advantage of newer models is they have learned from all of their predecessor’s mistakes.

They also offer the most up to date tech, drive-trains and safety features and are available in electric versions such as the 330e.

What About Recalls for the BMW 3 Series?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) database, the BMW 3 Series has been recalled a total of 56 times since 2010.

You can use the VIN lookup tool on the NHTSA website to check for recalls on your car, or search by make and model.

Here are the total number of recall campaigns per year for the BMW 3 Series since 2010.

Model YearRecall Campaigns
2010 BMW 3 Series7
2011 BMW 3 Series8
2012 BMW 3 Series6
2013 BMW 3 Series5
2014 BMW 3 Series6
2015 BMW 3 Series3
2016 BMW 3 Series2
2017 BMW 3 Series1
2018 BMW 3 Series3
2019 BMW 3 Series6
2020 BMW 3 Series9

You may also be interested in our article: How Long Do Lexus IS Last?

BMW 3 Series Model Year List

Below is a list of BMW 3 Series units per model year:

First Generation (1975 – 1981)

  • 1975 BMW 3 Series
  • 1976 BMW 3 Series
  • 1977 BMW 3 Series
  • 1978 BMW 3 Series
  • 1979 BMW 3 Series
  • 1980 BMW 3 Series
  • 1981 BMW 3 Series

Second Generation (1982 – 1989)

  • 1982 BMW 3 Series
  • 1983 BMW 3 Series
  • 1984 BMW 3 Series
  • 1985 BMW 3 Series
  • 1986 BMW 3 Series
  • 1987 BMW 3 Series
  • 1988 BMW 3 Series
  • 1989 BMW 3 Series

Third Generation (1990 – 1996)

  • 1990 BMW 3 Series
  • 1991 BMW 3 Series
  • 1992 BMW 3 Series
  • 1993 BMW 3 Series
  • 1994 BMW 3 Series
  • 1995 BMW 3 Series
  • 1996 BMW 3 Series

Fourth Generation (1997 – 2003)

  • 1997 BMW 3 Series
  • 1998 BMW 3 Series
  • 1999 BMW 3 Series
  • 2000 BMW 3 Series
  • 2001 BMW 3 Series
  • 2002 BMW 3 Series
  • 2003 BMW 3 Series

Fifth Generation (2004 – 2010)

  • 2004 BMW 3 Series
  • 2005 BMW 3 Series
  • 2006 BMW 3 Series
  • 2007 BMW 3 Series
  • 2008 BMW 3 Series
  • 2009 BMW 3 Series
  • 2010 BMW 3 Series

Sixth Generation (2011 – 2017)

  • 2011 BMW 3 Series
  • 2012 BMW 3 Series
  • 2013 BMW 3 Series
  • 2014 BMW 3 Series
  • 2015 BMW 3 Series
  • 2016 BMW 3 Series
  • 2017 BMW 3 Series

Seventh Generation (2018 – Present)

  • 2018 BMW 3 Series
  • 2019 BMW 3 Series
  • 2020 BMW 3 Series
  • 2021 BMW 3 Series

Are BMW 3 Series Expensive to Maintain?

A BMW 3 series is generally considered to be expensive to maintain.

The average total annual cost of repairs and maintenance for the BMW 3 Series is $773 according to Repair Pal, however it’s not uncommon to pay $1000 – $1700 per year for maintenance and repair costs for a used 3 series.

Compared to the average of this model’s segment ($739), the cost of maintenance for this vehicle is slightly higher.

ModelAvg. Annual 
Repair Cost
Frequency of
Unscheduled
Repairs (per year)
Probability of
Severe Repairs
Acura TLX$4400.26%
Acura TSX$4150.46%
Lexus ES300h$5240.44%
Lexus ES350$4680.66%
Infiniti G25$5330.57%
Acura TL$4670.49%
Lexus IS250$4870.68%
Infiniti G37$5400.58%
Lexus IS350$5430.79%
Infiniti Q50$6480.68%
Volvo S60$7500.58%
Mercedes-Benz C350$7240.510%
Mercedes-Benz C300$7390.79%
Audi A4$7390.413%
Mercedes-Benz C250$7700.89%
Hyundai Genesis Coupe$6210.417%
Cadillac CTS$6630.416%
Cadillac STS$6690.417%
BMW 328i$7731.012%
Lincoln MKZ$8310.615%
Audi A4 Quattro$9250.714%
Jaguar XF$1,0660.712%
Audi A5 Quattro$8871.212%
BMW 328i xDrive$9001.212%
Porsche 911$1,0720.522%
BMW 335i xDrive$1,0791.216%
Audi S4$1,1710.917%
BMW 335i$1,0301.218%
BMW M3$1,1610.821%
Audi S5$1,1641.217%
BMW 335d$1,1131.424%
Avg. Lux. Midsize Car$7390.612%

How Long Do the Brakes of BMW 3 Series Last?

The brakes of a BMW 3 Series last about the most other BMW vehicles, around 30,000 to 70,000 miles or 2-4 years based on 15,000 miles per year.

If you typically drive in stop-and-go traffic you can expect the brakes to wear out sooner.

You may also be interested in our article: How long Do Audi A3 Last?

How Long Do the Tires of BMW 3 Series Last?

The stock tires of a BMW 3 Series can last roughly 3 years based on 12,000 – 15,000 miles per year.

You can get more life from your tires by making sure they’re kept at the right pressure, something you should check on a monthly basis.

Having your tires rotated every 5,000 miles will also ensure even wear – in most cars, only one or two wheels ‘drive’ the car at a time.

How Long Do the Transmissions of BMW 3 Series Last?

The transmission of a BMW 3 Series is expected to last between 200,000 – 250,000 miles or approximately 13 – 17 years, based on 15,000 miles of driving per year.

This is provided that it is maintained as per manufactures’ recommendations, your first 3 Series routine service will happen about 6 months in, or once you hit around 5,000-10,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Please also read our article: Are BMW Cars Worth the Money?

How Long Do the Spark Plugs of the BMW 3 Series Last?

The stock spark plug of your BMW 3 Series should last for up to 80,000 miles or 5 years, based on 15,000 miles of driving per year.

These should be inspected when you go for a tune-up and replaced if worn or fouled.

What About Insurance Cost of the BMW 3 Series?

The average insurance cost of a BMW 3 Series is $2,136 per year (or $178 per month). 

The BMW 3 Series comes in a wide range of trims therefore you can expect to pay more for sportier versions. Its always worth getting a few insurance quotes to get the best possible deal.

Tips to Prolong the Life of Your BMW 3 Series

  1. Stay up to date with factory-required maintenance.
  2. Adopt smooth driving habits (this includes acceleration and braking)
  3. Fill the gas tank before it gets too low.
  4. Carry our routine checks such as tire pressures and fluid levels
  5. Have repairs done as soon as any issues arrise to prevent further, costlier problems
  6. Wash your car regularly including the underside
  7. Keep your vehicle stored in a garage

Resources

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  4. https://repairpal.com/reliability/mercedes-benz/c300 
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  6. https://www.jdpower.com/cars/2021/volvo/s60 
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