If you have $25,000 to spend on a car you have tons of quality choices, but it can be awfully hard to beat a gently used BMW 3 Series. And right now is a great time to pick up a “Jalopnik Special” 3 Series for a reasonable price and plenty of warranty left.
There is no such thing as a “bad” BMW 3 Series—even the unloved E36 from the 1990s is worth buying for the right price, and that one’s better than most people give it credit for. While the current F31 chassis deviated quite a bit from the excellent E90 that came before it, today’s 3 is still a joy to drive and worth owning despite some serious competition.
We mentioned a while back that the best value in the modern 3 Series is the 320i with Sport Package, or ZMT order code if you want to get fancy about it. Base model 2.0-liter turbo four with 180 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual, high performance summer tires, M sport suspension, increased speed limiter, 18-inch alloys. In 2017, BMW changed the packages a little bit so that a brand new 320i has a starting price of $34,445 before you start adding any options.
Even though the base model is a fine base to start with, most enthusiasts would at least check the Track Handling package that brings the price to just under $38,000. That’s a lot of coin for not much in the way of luxury and only 180 horsepower.
But of course, depreciation is magical, and if you are determined to get the Jalop Spec version you can for under 25 grand. That is, if you’re willing to dig for it.
Luckily for you, I did you the favor of finding the handful of three-pedal, 320i Sport Package equipped models currently for sale.
North Carolina - 2014 320i with 21,500 miles for $23,500
Pennsylvania - 2015 320i with 23,402 miles for $22,995
If you don’t need to have the Sport Package your selection grows, and if you insist on going with the more powerful 328i, you’ll find plenty of inventory as well, but those cars will probably have more miles on the clock than the 320i.
Now here is where some of you jump into the comments and tell me about all the other “better” and “faster” cars you can get for the same money. My friends, if you’re only concerned about spec sheets and numbers, this car is not for you.
However, the F3o has the advantage of actually seating four adults comfortably, has a badge worthy of respect and is still damn fun to drive. If you pick the 320i with three pedals and a sport package you will get what may be the closest “old-school” 3 Series experience in a modern car and still have a warranty.
The best part: the numbers on the back of your BMW will actually make sense.