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The BMW 3 Series Is Not More Expensive Than It Used to Be

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2019

I recently posted a review of the new 2019 BMW 3 Series, where the 330i -- now the base model, with 255 horsepower -- costs around $54,000. This set off a surprising number of comments lamenting how expensive the 3 Series has become, angry comments in fact, noting that BMW pricing is just out of control.

Except it isn't. To illustrate this point, I want to bring up the 2003 BMW 3 Series, which was the famed "E46" model that everyone seems to love so much. Back in 2003, the entry-level version of the E46 3 Series here in North America was the 325i, and the starting price was $28,800. Based on these two numbers alone ($28,800 and $54,000), you'd think the 3 Series has nearly doubled in price in the last 15 years. Except ...

Inflation is a major factor here. The 2003 325i started from $28,800, yes, but that's in 2003 money. If you convert $28,800 in "2003 bucks" to today's money, it translates to $40,100. And guess what? The new 330i starts from $41,200, which is barely any more expensive than the E46 model.

And, in fact, some could argue that it's cheaper. The base-level E46 3 Series had just 184 hp, while the latest entry-level 3 Series has 255 hp-- a significant jump. Then there are the vast arrays of increased and improved technology, with better systems and upgraded features basically everywhere -- from phone connectivity to navigation to safety. The latest 3 Series is a far better car than the 2003 model, and for not that much more money.

And it doesn't stop there. Back in 2003, the 3 Series was the entry-level model in the BMW range, as there was nothing below it -- but that's no longer true, as we now have the smaller 2 Series. As a result, it makes sense for BMW to increase pricing of the 3 Series over time, to make room for a new, lower-level step in the lineup. And yet, they didn't, based on the inflation calculation above.

And so, with that in mind: the next time you're tempted to suggest that things have gotten "very expensive," consider the real culprit: inflation, and perhaps our perception of cost. The 3 Series isn't more expensive than it once was. Find a BMW 3 Series for sale

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Used 2019 BMW 3 Series Sedan
Used 2019 BMW 3 Series
$39,981
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2019 BMW 3 Series Sedan
Used 2019 BMW 3 Series
$43,971
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2019 BMW 3 Series Sedan
Used 2019 BMW 3 Series
$41,341
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2019 BMW 3 Series Sedan
Used 2019 BMW 3 Series
$43,201
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The BMW 3 Series Is Not More Expensive Than It Used to Be - Autotrader