Likes

  • A true motoring classic.
  • Huge support network.
  • Proper old school analogue driving characteristics
  • Wide range of examples and budgets to choose from.

Dislikes

  • Suffers all the old car reliability issues.
  • Many have been abused or poorly maintained/rebuilt.
  • Asking a premium for what is a simple old car.
  • Rust will probably eat the life out of it.

Stuff you should know

  • The E30 BMW 3 Series was the second generation of the 3-series, produced from 1982 to 1994.
  • Continuous improvements were made throughout its production cycle, with notable updates in 1985 and 1987, often referred to as the Series 2.
  • A distinguishing feature of the Series 2 is the absence of chrome trim.
  • Available body styles include a 2-door Coupe, a 4-door Saloon, as well as a Touring and Cabriolet.
  • Official engine options include 4- and 6-cylinder variants, including a Diesel option. Unofficially, numerous engine swaps have been performed, ranging from Turbocharged Nissan 4 cylinders to V10s and even V12s.
  • Model designations typically reflect the engine type, though variations exist. Locally, there were officially 12 variants, including special editions.
  • Thanks to imports, a wide range of trim specifications are available, along with country-specific models, various M3 editions, and factory-modified examples from Alpina, AC Schnitzer, and Hartge.
  • This review focuses on the more accessible non-M3 models.
  • BMW offered a plethora of factory options, and the aftermarket scene for the E30 is extensive, catering to various preferences such as track racing, drifting, rallying, restoration, restomodding, and street driving.
  • Despite its age and often enthusiastic ownership, many E30s can suffer from a range of issues, which will be detailed further.

What goes wrong

Exterior:

  • Electrical issues are common with age, including malfunctioning lighting and power windows.
  • Door handle mechanisms may fail due to brittle plastic components
  • Wiper motor and linkage issues can be challenging to rectify.
  • Replacement body panels and parts are readily available for the E30.
  • Due to age and enthusiastic driving, check for accident damage and subpar repair work.

Rust is a significant concern for many E30s, particularly those exposed to cold climates with salted roads.

Key areas to inspect for rust include:

  • The license plate light area
  • The base of the windshields, especially in the bottom corners
  • Around the sunroof due to clogged drainage channels
  • Top of the front quarter panels under the bonnet
  • Rear of all four wheel arches and the entire wheel arches
  • Bottoms of the doors
  • Under the rear bumper
  • Entire undercarriage, focusing on the rear subframe, jacking points, and along the sills
  • Pinch welds to ensure they haven’t been crushed due to improper jacking or lifting
  • Battery tray, suspension towers, entire boot floor, footwells, and seat belt mounting points

Interior:

  • Instrument cluster failures are reported by many owners, with repairs often costly.
  • Plastic gears in the instrument cluster can wear out, leading to trip odometer failure.
  • Ensure all electrical components, such as power windows and HVAC functions, are operational.
  • Electrical gremlins are common, indicating potential larger issues.
  • Upgrading the HVAC system is recommended for improved functionality.
  • Plastic components, including door handles and dash parts, are prone to brittleness and breakage.
  • Cracked dashboards are notorious; replacement requires extensive searching and labor.
  • Speakers may require replacement, and standard systems lack modern connectivity.
  • Moisture under carpets may indicate hidden rust.
  • Repairs can lead to further issues, requiring patience and skill during maintenance.

Mechanically:

  • Due to age, E30s exhibit a range of mechanical challenges.
  • Inspect the fuel tank for internal rusting.
  • Rubber components, particularly brake lines, are likely brittle and in need of attention.
  • Various engine options exist, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
  • The Bosch L Jetronic & Motronic injection systems, while robust, can be challenging to maintain.
  • Engine swaps are common, with popular choices ranging from BMW M54 & S54 to Honda K series and LS V8s.
  • Engine swaps may impact legalities and insurance, necessitating professional installation for reliability.
  • Look for signs of amateur swaps, as poorly executed conversions can lead to future problems.

Exterior:

  • Electrical issues are common with age, including malfunctioning lighting and power windows.
  • Door handle mechanisms may fail due to brittle plastic components
  • Wiper motor and linkage issues can be challenging to rectify.
  • Replacement body panels and parts are readily available for the E30.
  • Due to age and enthusiastic driving, check for accident damage and subpar repair work.

Rust is a significant concern for many E30s, particularly those exposed to cold climates with salted roads.

Key areas to inspect for rust include:

  • The license plate light area
  • The base of the windshields, especially in the bottom corners
  • Around the sunroof due to clogged drainage channels
  • Top of the front quarter panels under the bonnet
  • Rear of all four wheel arches and the entire wheel arches
  • Bottoms of the doors
  • Under the rear bumper
  • Entire undercarriage, focusing on the rear subframe, jacking points, and along the sills
  • Pinch welds to ensure they haven’t been crushed due to improper jacking or lifting
  • Battery tray, suspension towers, entire boot floor, footwells, and seat belt mounting points

Interior:

  • Instrument cluster failures are reported by many owners, with repairs often costly.
  • Plastic gears in the instrument cluster can wear out, leading to trip odometer failure.
  • Ensure all electrical components, such as power windows and HVAC functions, are operational.
  • Electrical gremlins are common, indicating potential larger issues.
  • Upgrading the HVAC system is recommended for improved functionality.
  • Plastic components, including door handles and dash parts, are prone to brittleness and breakage.
  • Cracked dashboards are notorious; replacement requires extensive searching and labor.
  • Speakers may require replacement, and standard systems lack modern connectivity.
  • Moisture under carpets may indicate hidden rust.
  • Repairs can lead to further issues, requiring patience and skill during maintenance.

Mechanically:

  • Due to age, E30s exhibit a range of mechanical challenges.
  • Inspect the fuel tank for internal rusting.
  • Rubber components, particularly brake lines, are likely brittle and in need of attention.
  • Various engine options exist, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
  • The Bosch L Jetronic & Motronic injection systems, while robust, can be challenging to maintain.
  • Engine swaps are common, with popular choices ranging from BMW M54 & S54 to Honda K series and LS V8s.
  • Engine swaps may impact legalities and insurance, necessitating professional installation for reliability.
  • Look for signs of amateur swaps, as poorly executed conversions can lead to future problems.

Exterior:

  • Electrical issues are common with age, including malfunctioning lighting and power windows.
  • Door handle mechanisms may fail due to brittle plastic components
  • Wiper motor and linkage issues can be challenging to rectify.
  • Replacement body panels and parts are readily available for the E30.
  • Due to age and enthusiastic driving, check for accident damage and subpar repair work.

Rust is a significant concern for many E30s, particularly those exposed to cold climates with salted roads.

Key areas to inspect for rust include:

  • The license plate light area
  • The base of the windshields, especially in the bottom corners
  • Around the sunroof due to clogged drainage channels
  • Top of the front quarter panels under the bonnet
  • Rear of all four wheel arches and the entire wheel arches
  • Bottoms of the doors
  • Under the rear bumper
  • Entire undercarriage, focusing on the rear subframe, jacking points, and along the sills
  • Pinch welds to ensure they haven’t been crushed due to improper jacking or lifting
  • Battery tray, suspension towers, entire boot floor, footwells, and seat belt mounting points

Interior:

  • Instrument cluster failures are reported by many owners, with repairs often costly.
  • Plastic gears in the instrument cluster can wear out, leading to trip odometer failure.
  • Ensure all electrical components, such as power windows and HVAC functions, are operational.
  • Electrical gremlins are common, indicating potential larger issues.
  • Upgrading the HVAC system is recommended for improved functionality.
  • Plastic components, including door handles and dash parts, are prone to brittleness and breakage.
  • Cracked dashboards are notorious; replacement requires extensive searching and labor.
  • Speakers may require replacement, and standard systems lack modern connectivity.
  • Moisture under carpets may indicate hidden rust.
  • Repairs can lead to further issues, requiring patience and skill during maintenance.

Mechanically:

  • Due to age, E30s exhibit a range of mechanical challenges.
  • Inspect the fuel tank for internal rusting.
  • Rubber components, particularly brake lines, are likely brittle and in need of attention.
  • Various engine options exist, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
  • The Bosch L Jetronic & Motronic injection systems, while robust, can be challenging to maintain.
  • Engine swaps are common, with popular choices ranging from BMW M54 & S54 to Honda K series and LS V8s.
  • Engine swaps may impact legalities and insurance, necessitating professional installation for reliability.
  • Look for signs of amateur swaps, as poorly executed conversions can lead to future problems.

Should you buy it?

Buying an E30 is akin to investing in the worst house in the best neighborhood—a project that demands constant attention, repairs, and modifications, prompting doubts about its worthiness in terms of both effort and expense. However, the true value reveals itself when you witness the car at its peak, experiencing an unparalleled level of satisfaction from the results of your dedication.

Moreover, these vehicles are steadily appreciating in value. Similar to someone who purchased and renovated a rundown apartment in Sydney fifteen years ago, a properly restored or enhanced E30 could prove to be a lucrative investment opportunity.

Nevertheless, many E30s have suffered from neglect or abuse, while others were initiated as projects with lofty intentions but left unfinished due to time constraints or waning enthusiasm. Therefore, exercise extreme caution when making a purchase. Conduct thorough pre-purchase inspections, ensuring the car meets all necessary criteria and that you are prepared for the long-term commitment it entails. If it aligns with your expectations and dedication, an E30 could be a rewarding choice; otherwise, consider alternative options.

Buying an E30 is akin to investing in the worst house in the best neighborhood—a project that demands constant attention, repairs, and modifications, prompting doubts about its worthiness in terms of both effort and expense. However, the true value reveals itself when you witness the car at its peak, experiencing an unparalleled level of satisfaction from the results of your dedication.

Moreover, these vehicles are steadily appreciating in value. Similar to someone who purchased and renovated a rundown apartment in Sydney fifteen years ago, a properly restored or enhanced E30 could prove to be a lucrative investment opportunity.

Nevertheless, many E30s have suffered from neglect or abuse, while others were initiated as projects with lofty intentions but left unfinished due to time constraints or waning enthusiasm. Therefore, exercise extreme caution when making a purchase. Conduct thorough pre-purchase inspections, ensuring the car meets all necessary criteria and that you are prepared for the long-term commitment it entails. If it aligns with your expectations and dedication, an E30 could be a rewarding choice; otherwise, consider alternative options.

Should you buy it?

Buying an E30 is akin to investing in the worst house in the best neighborhood—a project that demands constant attention, repairs, and modifications, prompting doubts about its worthiness in terms of both effort and expense. However, the true value reveals itself when you witness the car at its peak, experiencing an unparalleled level of satisfaction from the results of your dedication.

Moreover, these vehicles are steadily appreciating in value. Similar to someone who purchased and renovated a rundown apartment in Sydney fifteen years ago, a properly restored or enhanced E30 could prove to be a lucrative investment opportunity.

Nevertheless, many E30s have suffered from neglect or abuse, while others were initiated as projects with lofty intentions but left unfinished due to time constraints or waning enthusiasm. Therefore, exercise extreme caution when making a purchase. Conduct thorough pre-purchase inspections, ensuring the car meets all necessary criteria and that you are prepared for the long-term commitment it entails. If it aligns with your expectations and dedication, an E30 could be a rewarding choice; otherwise, consider alternative options.

Need help with finance?

What is the car's build year?

2020

Loan Amount

$5,000

Finance estimate ~

$30

Per week*

8.49%

Comparison rate p.a#

Models, pricing & features

BMW E30 3 Series-2

318i (1982-1987)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 318i

Year: 1982-1987

Engine: 1.8 L M10 straight-4

Power: 77 kW (105 PS) at 5,800 rpm

Torque: 145 N⋅m (107 lb⋅ft) at 4,500 rpm

318i (1987-1994)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 318i

Year: 1987-1994

Engine: 1.8 L M40 straight-4

Power: 83 kW (113 PS) at 5,500 rpm

Torque: 162 N⋅m (119 lb⋅ft) at 4,250 rpm

318is (1989-1991)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 318is

Year: 1989-1991

Engine: 1.8 L M42 straight-4

Power: 100 kW (136 PS) at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 172 N⋅m (127 lb⋅ft) at 4,600 rpm

320i (1982-1985)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 318is

Year: 1989-1991

Engine: 1.8 L M42 straight-4

Power: 100 kW (136 PS) at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 172 N⋅m (127 lb⋅ft) at 4,600 rpm

320i (1985-1992)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 320i

Year: 1985-1992

Engine: 2.0 L M20 straight-6:

Power: 95 kW (129 PS) at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 164 N⋅m (121 lb⋅ft) at 4,300 rpm

323i (1982-1984)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 323i

Year: 1982-1984

Engine: 2.3 L M20 straight-6

Power: 102 kW (139 PS) at 5,300 rpm

Torque: 205 N⋅m (151 lb⋅ft) at 4,000 rpm

323i (1984-1985)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 323i

Year: 1984-1985

Engine: 2.3 L M20 straight-6

Power: 110 kW (150 PS) at 6,000 rpm

325, 325e, 325es (1985-1987)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 325, 325e, 325es

Year: 1985-1987

Engine: 2.7 L M20B27 straight-6

Power: 90 kW (122 PS) at 4,250 rpm

Torque: 230 N⋅m (170 lb⋅ft) at 3,250 rpm

325 (1988)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 325

Year: 1988

Engine: 2.7 L M20B27 straight-6

Power: 95 kW (129 PS; 127 hp) at 4,800 rpm

Torque: 231 N⋅m (170 lb⋅ft) at 3,200 rpm

325i, 325is, 325ix (1985-1993)

Price when new: N/A

Price used: N/A

Model: 325i, 325is, 325ix

Year:
1985-1993

Engine:
2.5 L M20 straight-6

Power:
125 kW (170 PS) at 5,800 rpm

Torque:
222 N⋅m (164 lb⋅ft) at 4,300 rpm

Price when new:

Price used:

Tech specs

Body styles:

  • 2-door Coupe
  • 4-door Sedan
  • 2-door convertible
  • 5-door wagon (EU only)

Engines:

  • Petrol 4-cylinder
  • Petrol 6-cylinder

Transmissions:

  • 4-speed auto
  • 5-speed manual

Dimensions:

  • Length: 4,320 – 4,460mm
  • Width: 1,645mm
  • Height: 1,360 – 1,400mm
  • Weight: 1,080 – 1,200kg

Body styles:

  • 2-door Coupe
  • 4-door Sedan
  • 2-door convertible
  • 5-door wagon (EU only)

Engines:

  • Petrol 4-cylinder
  • Petrol 6-cylinder

Transmissions:

  • 4-speed auto
  • 5-speed manual

Dimensions:

  • Length: 4,320 – 4,460mm
  • Width: 1,645mm
  • Height: 1,360 – 1,400mm
  • Weight: 1,080 – 1,200kg

Body styles:

  • 2-door Coupe
  • 4-door Sedan
  • 2-door convertible
  • 5-door wagon (EU only)

Engines:

  • Petrol 4-cylinder
  • Petrol 6-cylinder

Transmissions:

  • 4-speed auto
  • 5-speed manual

Dimensions:

  • Length: 4,320 – 4,460mm
  • Width: 1,645mm
  • Height: 1,360 – 1,400mm
  • Weight: 1,080 – 1,200kg

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

  • N/A

Service intervals:

  • 6 months/5,000km

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Disclaimer

Please note that pricing information is subject to fluctuations in the automotive market.

Information correct as of Apr 26, 2024.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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