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Here’s Why You Should Never Ever Buy a Cheap Used BMW 7 Series

It’s official: I’m at the end of my rope with my cheap 2008 BMW 760Li. When I purchased this flagship V12 sedan for only $4,500 and didn’t spend a ridiculous amount fixing all of its issues, I thought I had finally found an older modern BMW worth owning. Then it broke on its first road trip, and then it broke again shortly thereafter — and while they weren’t obscenely expensive repairs, they were pretty annoying. Now I’m faced with a looming repair that almost exceeds the value of the car — and even more surprising is that one of my friends, who is well aware of my misery, decided to buy an old 7 Series that’s even worse than mine.

Before I go into shaming my friend for sharing my stupidity, though, let’s go over everything that’s happened in the six months that I’ve owned this 760. I purchased this opulent sedan at a wholesale auction after it was traded in to a Toyota dealer — and based on the car’s needs, I can totally understand why the previous owner went rushing into the arms of Japanese reliability. Still, it was only $4,500 — less than 5 percent of its original MSRP — and it drove well enough and was in decent cosmetic condition. After driving it to a BMW specialist for an inspection, none of the repairs were too out of the ordinary for a 10-year-old car either — except thanks to BMW engineering, they were way more complicated than they needed to be. The valve cover gaskets, for example, required removing the intake, which bills at 16 hours of labor. Add that to the tune-up, brakes and other miscellaneous items, and I spent $3,000 to fully sort this 760. Not bad, I thought.

Unfortunately, the first trip after the repairs brought the car to its knees after the wiring failed at one of the mass airflow sensors, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except it took away all throttle response from the car when I was 400 miles away from home — the dreaded limp-home mode. I managed to get home, and the wiring repair was simple enough — but not long after, I noticed new oil leaks. Additionally, the airbag light had popped on — so back it went for the driver’s seat to be torn apart for the occupancy sensor, as well as for another seal for the engine. The cost of these repairs was less than $1,000, and because I’m used to having a few rounds of repairs to sort out neglected auction cars, I was happy to give this BMW another chance.

The honeymoon didn’t last long, though — or really at all — because this BMW’s fuel pumps are now beginning to leak into the evaporative emissions system. I’m told that this will eventually clog the system with fuel, triggering a check engine light, and mess with the fuel pressure enough to make this car hard to start — until the engine doesn’t want to run at all. Like a terminal illness diagnosis, my mechanic doesn’t know whether the pumps will last a few months or another year, but they will fail eventually. This wouldn’t be the end of the world if BMW didn’t want more than $5,000 for the pair. Yes, five thousand dollars for a pair of fuel pumps.

In essence, this single part mechanically totals my BMW — a car that I once praised for not having engineering defects like other BMW cars with similar disastrous consequences. So while the 760Li doesn’t have weak copper rod bearings like the V10 BMW M5 and others or similarly devastating failures such as bad timing chain guides or valve stem seals, BMW chose to take its most reliable engine and saddle it with a part that costs the same as tearing apart one of its unreliable engines.

These complicated high-pressure fuel pumps, which are needed for the direct-injection fuel system, are the latest common headache among BMW and Mini owners, but the 760 is unique because it has two separate fuel rails, which are run by this pair of very expensive pumps. As much as I like the way this 760Li drives, with its quiet and powerful acceleration curve, almost like an electric-powered vehicle, and all the comforts of a flagship BMW, I don’t like it enough to spend another $5,000 for fuel pumps.

So I’ve decided that while the car is still running well enough and isn’t showing any warning lights for the first time since I purchased it, I’m going to dump it at the same wholesale auction from which I bought it. I don’t expect it to bring much more than what I paid for it, given most people don’t go to the auctions looking for terrible cars to buy, like I do. Still, this makes much more sense financially than spending $5,000, plus labor, on a car to replace its fuel pumps and then maybe get $6,000 from a private-party sale when it’s all done. Keeping it would likely feel like a car payment in itself, too, as the inevitable repairs coming after this latest round will continue.

It has me curious, though, as to why BMW would price its fuel pumps so far out of the realm of sanity with its direct-injection cars. I suspect that we’ll see a whole new generation of BMW products with otherwise good powertrains thrown away because of this — unless someone from the aftermarket starts offering an alternative. This isn’t the first time that a car I’ve owned has failed to prove my hypothesis and make me look like an idiot, though. And, speaking of idiots, I’m always surprised when I find that my loyal viewers — and my close friends — think it’s a good idea to follow in my footsteps.

The most glaring recent example of this is my good friend Rob, who thought it was a good idea to buy the cheapest Alpina B7 in the U.S. — even though he doesn’t have a YouTube channel with enough enablers to justify his bad decisions. He did do some smart things beforehand, though — he took the car to a BMW dealer for a prepurchase inspection, but figuring out misfires and other detailed issues from a cursory inspection doesn’t always paint the whole picture.

The inspection reported that the BMW was misfiring, but the reason turned out to be disastrous. This once 500-hp, beautifully styled, $115,000 luxury sedan was brought to its knees by the same thing that plagues most BMW V8s of the era: failed valve stem seals, which allow engine oil into the combustion chamber. Replacing the spark plug that was fouled with engine oil fixed the misfire, but now it’s igniting the engine oil, sending a thick cloud of smoke out the exhaust. Repairing this costs nearly as much as the fuel pumps on my 760Li, which wouldn’t be the end of the world considering that my friend purchased the car for only $3,500 — but there are plenty of other mechanical issues and missing parts.

Thankfully, he’s smart enough to know when to punt a lost cause. Unfortunately, I’m not smart enough to avoid catching the ball. It’s an Alpina B7 for only $3,500! There’s no way that I could resist that. Find a BMW 7 Series for sale

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3 COMMENTS

    • But since you didn’t share any information those <$100 fixes (really, more than one?) they must be either top secret, made of unobtanium, or bullshit. As an owner of an older (2004) BMW myself, I cannot believe all the repair jobs that are normally easy but are frustratingly difficult on a BMW. Even the insulation on the wiring is starting to crumble now leaving bare wires showing. I fully expect it to some day spontaneously catch on fire and burn to the ground from an electrical short. 

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