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  #1  
Old 06-20-2022, 06:46 AM
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Is it worth it?

Hi everyone,

I'm Steve and I find myself in a unique position. I am shopping for a car and have recently found the process of buying a car in 2022 to be... appalling. So, I have decided to forgo purchasing a brand new car or a slightly used one that cost as much as a new one and look for something I can buy with cash. While there are a few Toyotas and Hondas out there that will be reliable, I find myself drawn to the luxury and style of the E53 X5.

So my question to the forum is, is it crazy to buy a 18 year old BMW for a daily driver and road trip car? I have found a couple candidates in my area with roughly 100,000 miles. They are all facelift models with the M54 inline 6-cylinder. This car will mainly be a commuter, but occasionally tow my utility trailer on runs to the hardware store for the house and road trips that will range from 600 - 2000 miles round trip.

I fully expect to do the following things after purchaser to hopefully ensure reasonable reliability. This is a car that I'd like to drive for the next 2 - 3 years and probably put sixty to eighty thousand miles on.

In summary, is it worth it to daily an E53 and will it be reasonably reliable?

List of work I plan to do after purchasing the X5
- Oil Change (x2 within 500 miles) to flush the engine
- Transfer case fluid service
- Diff fluid service (front and rear)
- Engine tune-up (plugs and coils)
- PCV valve and hose replacement
- Alternator
- Brake flush
- Belts and tensioners
- Entire cooling system replacement
- Transfer case repair (plastic gear)
- Wipers, bulbs, other miscellaneous items
- Inspect brakes (replace if needed)
- Inspect CV axles (replace if needed)

Thanks for your help!
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  #2  
Old 06-20-2022, 07:15 AM
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60-80k in 2-3 years? That’s quite a daily.

I don’t think the E53 is particularly pleasant on the highway.. it will likely have a fair amount of wind/road noise and if it has a sunroof (most do) it will have more wind noise.

You can make an E53 reliable. I would add the hard coolant pipes and a brake line refresh to your list.

Unless you have the time and interest in fixing the many niggling issues - some serious- I do not think an E53 is a good choice.

I chalk some of the E53 issues up to the fact that it was an early US-made car.. quality was not as good as the European-made BMW’s IMO…

I have owned two E53’s and drive one daily now…
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  #3  
Old 06-20-2022, 07:23 AM
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In short, yes I think its worth it. If you can find a decent one for a good price and do the maintenance yourself, it's not a bad choice. The M54 is a reliable engine, a bit lethargic in the X5 but still enough to be satisfying.

The cooling system is the most important in my opinion.
Radiator, water pump, housing if plastic, thermostat, expansion tank, hoses, fan clutch, etc.

Coil replacement isnt necessary in my opinion, just carry a spare. You may want a code reader to reset transfer case adaptation values after the fluid change. Some may argue you don't need it but I disagree. I used my Foxwell NT520. The only other thing you may want to consider is a trans filter change, and be prepared for some suspension component replacements.

For what it's worth, my second vehicle choice was a 2001-2007 Toyota Sequoia or an LX470. I also have an Avalanche and would consider replacing the X5 with another one. Those 2 vehicles are in similar price ranges and fit my needs in a daily driver.
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  #4  
Old 06-20-2022, 08:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Effduration View Post
60-80k in 2-3 years? Thats quite a daily.

I dont think the E53 is particularly pleasant on the highway.. it will likely have a fair amount of wind/road noise and if it has a sunroof (most do) it will have more wind noise.

You can make an E53 reliable. I would add the hard coolant pipes and a brake line refresh to your list.

Unless you have the time and interest in fixing the many niggling issues - some serious- I do not think an E53 is a good choice.

I chalk some of the E53 issues up to the fact that it was an early US-made car.. quality was not as good as the European-made BMWs IMO

I have owned two E53s and drive one daily now
Yes, a ton of miles for sure. I love a good road trip. A few times a year I'll make a 600 mile round trip and a couple times a 2,000 mile trip.

I can definitely add the lines to my list. My #1 E53 that I am looking at is a one-owner that spent its entire life in North Carolina. It is very clean with 130,000 miles and a factory tow package which is important to me.

I don't mind doing all my own maintenance, so long as the car is not calling for it every weekend. Preventative and as-needed maintenance does not scare me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auto Parts Guy View Post
In short, yes I think its worth it. If you can find a decent one for a good price and do the maintenance yourself, it's not a bad choice. The M54 is a reliable engine, a bit lethargic in the X5 but still enough to be satisfying.

The cooling system is the most important in my opinion.
Radiator, water pump, housing if plastic, thermostat, expansion tank, hoses, fan clutch, etc.

Coil replacement isnt necessary in my opinion, just carry a spare. You may want a code reader to reset transfer case adaptation values after the fluid change. Some may argue you don't need it but I disagree. I used my Foxwell NT520. The only other thing you may want to consider is a trans filter change, and be prepared for some suspension component replacements.

For what it's worth, my second vehicle choice was a 2001-2007 Toyota Sequoia or an LX470. I also have an Avalanche and would consider replacing the X5 with another one. Those 2 vehicles are in similar price ranges and fit my needs in a daily driver.
The M54 is the only power plant I'll consider. It seems dead reliable and even the VANOS parts seem easy enough to repair in my garage. If I could find a 6-speed manual, I'd be set, but those are definitely hard to find.

I'll definitely have a code reader ready for whatever. Good point on the trans service, easy enough while I'm down there for everything else as well. I'm looking at non-sport package X5s to avoid the air suspension to keep it simple on that front as well.

I'm toying with the idea of a good 3rd gen 4Runner or GMT800 truck. But, the 4runner is hard to find in good condition and all the GMTs are just a little too big for what I need. I have always love the looks and simple cleanliness of the late 90s - early 00s BMWs and keeping one on the road seems like something special to me. Before too long, they will all be computers with 4 wheels and no soul. So, I think that is why my excitement might be out-weighing my logic a bit. Because if I was logical, I'd be buying a Toyota, no questions asked.

Thank you both for your replies!
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  #5  
Old 06-20-2022, 11:32 AM
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I don't think it's logical at all to pay those prices for used Toyotas. And I am a born-and-bred Toyota guy. Our dilemma was that anything Japanese (such as a 4Runner or Xterrra) was $15-20k for the same year/mileage as an E53, which we paid $6k for with only 93k miles, six years ago. Even 20-year-old 4Runners with 200k cost twice that around here. There is a huge value proposition in the E53 platform, IMO, since it is far nicer than any Japanese car of its vintage and costs much less. You just have to be prepared to do a lot of preventative maintenance if you want to make it reliable. Plus, the E53 drives and feels much less like a truck.

Definitely stick to the M54 if you want reliability. Unfortunately with the facelift models, you can't avoid at least rear air suspension, and some cars have it at all four corners. That is one guaranteed maintenance item that can strand you if you don't get to it first. (EDIT: I believe 2004-2006 non-sport models did have air suspension in the rear but I might be wrong.)

You have the PCV valve listed, but the entire PCV system needs to be torn apart and cleaned or replaced. It depends on how bad the sludge damage is. In Mississippi you may be OK because temperatures are not very low, but if the PO only drove short trips it may still have caused sludge buildup. BMW calls it the CCV (crankcase ventilator) in literature.

I also opted for a manual transmission to avoid having any issues with the automatic. Definitely find one if you can (and if you want it). The manual transmission is bulletproof and the 5MT/6MT cars actually have higher tow ratings than the autos.

Speaking of, if you want to tow at all, ever, find one with the factory hitch AND towing module. It is difficult and expensive to retrofit unless you find all the OEM hitch hardware on a junkyard car. The factory hitch is very complicated and has many pieces, and it's so big and heavy that it's difficult to ship. If you don't use the OEM towing module you will have alarms on your dash when you tow.

Also, buy a Foxwell the day you bring the car home. Don't mess around with anything else.

Hope that helps. I have had mine for six years, I tow a camper trailer over mountain passes with it all summer, and have never had a breakdown-stranding-driver. I just checked my maintenance spreadsheet and I've spent almost $4,000 in those six years on maintenance (including tires). Adding in the $6,300 purchase price it is still cheaper than the 200k-mile, beat up 4Runners I was looking at originally.
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Last edited by Bdc101; 06-20-2022 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 06-20-2022, 12:32 PM
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My April 06 is a non sport model. No air suspension on it. The one key option I didnt find when looking for an X5 was a towing package. M54 was my only preference. I chose mine based on info gathered from this site. A Foxwell Pro has served well. To complete my set up, I need software to code new modules and make changes. Good luck. Finding one under 100k miles is sweet. You can base maintenance on items needed as they wear out.
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  #7  
Old 06-20-2022, 12:56 PM
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Good to know, sounds like I had bad information. Hopefully OP can find one like that as well.
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  #8  
Old 06-20-2022, 01:45 PM
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I owned an ‘05 and an ‘06.. still own the former. The ‘06 had the sports package, but no airbag suspension. The ‘05 (no sports pkg) also does not have air suspension.

Last edited by Effduration; 06-20-2022 at 01:53 PM.
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  #9  
Old 06-20-2022, 04:44 PM
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Of all the woes that an E53 can bring into your life, I would consider the rear air suspension to be the least woeful. I replaced both rear bags immediately after getting mine because one blew on the transport from CO to TX. The pair cost me under $300 and took about 4 pretty easygoing hours to swap. That said I have pretty skewed view because now that I've done the timing guides on my m62 I fear not even fear itself, except maybe doing any work in the driveway in the middle of summer, I do fear that.
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  #10  
Old 06-20-2022, 06:07 PM
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The major issues on an E53 can be solved with aggressive maintenance. What you’re missing on your list is a suspension refresh. The service life of E53 suspension bushings and many of the balljoints is about 80k.

Avoid the panoramic roof.

There were about a thousand 6MT X5s built. I’ve got one and love it. I wouldn’t be in an E53 without the stick.
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