People are always asking me what cars they should be investing in, and I’m always telling them the same thing: Cars are stupid investments. Very, very, very stupid investments. They leak and they catch fire and sometimes they get destroyed by people who ran a red light because “it was behind some branches.” Don’t invest in a car. Ever.
But if you absolutely must invest in a car, make it a BMW M car from the 2000s.
To illustrate my point, I borrowed an “E39” BMW M5 and an “E46” BMW M3 from Automobili Limited, a local dealership here in Pennsylvania that always has a good stock of nice, reasonable luxury cars they sell to nice, reasonable people, and also weird stuff that you or I would get excited about at Cars and Coffee. For instance, Automobili Limited is the dealer who loaned me the Isetta a few months back. The Isetta is really weird.
Not so weird are the E39 M5 and the E46 M3, although these two particular examples were pretty special. The M5 has just 56,000 miles, while the M3 has less than 30,000 — making these cars two of the most original 2000s BMW M cars in existence, especially considering they’re in the same place. I decided this would be an excellent way to illustrate a point I’ve been considering quite a bit: I think BMW M cars are going to shoot up in value.
They already are, of course. Automobili Limited is asking $44,950 for the M5 and $39,950 for the M3 — prices that would’ve been unthinkable 5 years ago. But while those numbers are pretty high when you consider these are 10-plus-year-old used German cars, I’m convinced a day will come when we say we remember when you could get those cars for that money — and oh, boy, if only we had actually done it.
Now when you make statements like this, people say you’re crazy. A 13-year-old BMW sedan is going to go up in value beyond $45,000? No chance. Well, when I was 15, I remember when the E30 M3 was a $15,000 car — and I remember thinking it was crazy when they started selling for $20,000. Now they’re routinely selling for $40,000 or more, with really nice ones reaching near the $100,000 mark. When you make a prediction, everyone thinks you’re crazy until it comes true.
And to me, there’s no doubt this one will come true the moment you step inside the E39 M5 or the E46 M3. Do it and you’re transported to another era; an era that no longer exists; an era with no-nonsense, uncluttered interiors that feature simple buttons, and easy-to-use controls, and a turn-signal lever that operates like a turn-signal lever should. Just sitting inside these things is heaven. New BMWs are loaded with technology, sure, and that’s great — but the rampant simplicity you get when you climb inside an old BMW is addicting. It’s amazing.
It’s the same thing when you get them out on the road. It’s been a few years since I’ve driven either of these cars, and — like many people — I like them more now than I did when I drove them years ago. BMWs of today are immensely fast, and highly comfortable, and very insulated from the road, and ultra-adjustable in virtually every way. Not these. These are just fast enough to have fun with; just fast enough to use the whole car — and the only “adjustment” you make in the M5 is pressing a button that says “SPORT.” There are no 57 settings of “M” mode designed to tailor the driving experience to every possible life event, such as “M mode for taking your kids to school” or “M mode for picking up the dry cleaning.”
And then we can discuss styling. New M cars are nice, sure, but they’re also loaded with all sorts of styling traits that put off people who liked the subtle look of the earlier cars. Forget a small body kit and some wheels; the new ones have orange brake calipers and giant exhausts and massive wheels and completely resculpted front and rear ends. The subtlety of the old stuff is completely lost in the new stuff.
Simply put, these old M cars offer an experience you just can’t get anymore. While the new ones are high-tech, and aggressive, and tremendously fast — three traits I think we all appreciate — the old ones have other traits we all like, such as subtlety, and simplicity, and an easy, fun driving experience. When you drive an older M car, you realize the cliche is very much true: They don’t make them like this anymore. If you’re looking for an investment, that’s a good thing. Find a used BMW for sale
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.