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Should I Buy a Used BMW M6 That's Had an Airbag Deployment?

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Used 2014 BMW M6
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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2017

It's that time again! Time for everyone's favorite weekly feature, as long as you don't count Monday Quiz, or Autotrader Find, or stuff posted by Aaron Gold. It's time for me, Doug, to answer your most pertinent automotive-related questions in a segment I like to call Ask Doug.

If you'd like to submit a question to Ask Doug, you can! Just email me at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, or send me a note on my Facebook page. Although I can't promise I'll post your letter on the site, I'll be happy to read it, and potentially giggle at your misfortune.

Today's letter comes to us from a reader I've named David, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, the city that's too busy to hate. David writes:

Hi Doug,

I was perusing the main website of your employer and came across my dream car "unicorn," a 2014 BMW M6 convertible with manual transmission. It has low mileage and is for sale for under $55,000. It is located in Orlando FL. The Carfax report shows the car was purchased and driven in California, and there was an accident with deployment of the front airbags. I'm sure that is why the price is so low, but do you think it is worth pursuing? Is the fact that it is now for sale on the opposite side of the country a concern? Basically I'm asking if (in your esteemed opinion) it is more trouble than it's worth?

Thanks in advance for your insights,
David - Atlanta, Georgia

In general, David, the answer to the question "Should I buy a car with an airbag deployment?" is a resounding "No." In fact, it's more than a resounding "No." It's a resounding "NO" (note that the "O" is capitalized) followed by an angry look, as if I just caught you trying to steal my lunch out of the shared office refrigerator, but I can't raise my voice, because then it'll cause a scene.

With that said, there are three situations where I think it's OK to buy a car that's been in a serious accident.

Number one is, obviously, if the price is good enough. A lot of people insist they'd never buy an accident car, even if the price was good enough, but these people are obvious idiots. If I had a Ferrari F430 that had been in an accident, and was properly repaired, and I offered it to you for $920, would you turn it down? Of course not. Everyone has a price, and the question is exactly how much of a discount you'd need.

To me, this discount situation depends on two factors. One is the severity of the accident: If the car was in a minor accident, with little to no damage reported, the discount shouldn't be substantial -- though it should still exist. If the car was in a serious accident with deployed airbags, the discount should be much larger. But a second factor also comes into play -- and that leads me to my next point, which is...

Rarity. A car that's been in a severe accident is probably worth ruling out unless it's so tremendously rare that you'll never expect to find another one that hasn't been in a severe accident. For example, a Ferrari 250 Lusso probably only comes up for sale twice a year, if that, and there are dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of people interested in buying one. Considering that situation, a Lusso that was once smashed up might be an attractive proposition, since finding a clean one is so challenging -- and so expensive. At some point, the accident history is simply meaningless, because it's just so difficult to find ANY example that even an accident car becomes better than no car at all.

Meanwhile, a nice, accident-free Chevy Tahoe is one of the most common cars for sale on Autotrader. If you run across one that's been in a serious accident, you can usually just move right along, because it's probably very easy to locate another one nearby. The exception to that, of course, is my First Rule of Cars With Accident Histories: If it's been repaired right and the discount is steep enough, it might be worth considering.

There's also one more reason why you may want to consider a car with an accident history: if you plan to keep it forever. I've always counseled forever-car-keepers to consider a vehicle with an accident history -- largely because, if you never plan to sell it, you'll never have to deal with the depreciation hit that comes from buying a car that's been in an accident. Instead, you only get the benefit of a good deal when you buy the car, allowing you to get a newer model (or a lower price) than you would've gotten if you had purchased a car without an accident history.

Now, David, here's the problem I see with your situation: That M6 is rare, but not so unbelievably rare that you will never conceivably find another one; there are currently 31 different V10-powered M6 models listed on Autotrader with a manual transmission. Even if half of those are mis-listed cars with an automatic, that's still not rare enough to justify buying an accident-history car on its own. Additionally, I strongly suspect you won't keep this thing forever -- since most people who buy powerful BMWs eventually want to move on to more powerful BMWs.

That leaves the final condition for buying an accident car: if the discount is good enough. And so, David, I'd suggest pulling the trigger on that M6 only if you get a good enough deal. Otherwise, find another one.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Used 2014 BMW M6
Used 2014 BMW M6
$55,000
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.
Should I Buy a Used BMW M6 That's Had an Airbag Deployment? - Autotrader