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