How much BMW can $20,000 buy? That was the question I posed last week, and you resourceful lot answered in a resounding "A hell of a lot." With selections like these, you'd be crazy not to at least consider these gems in your search for your own ultimate driving machine.
10. 320i w/E36 M3 Drivetrain
This thing is so damn cool that I don't even care that it's not on eBay. This guy took a clapped-out BMW 320i, gave it a major overhaul in the form of an S52 3.2 liter engine from an E36, with the matching manual 5-speed, in addition to countless other subtle modifications. Since the asking price is $12k, there's plenty of room left in the budget for more go-fast bits. Did someone say turbo?
(Suggested by jbh)
9. E46 M3
This model is near and dear to my heart (and wallet) because I just bought and sold one, which I'll be writing about soon. If you want a yardstick to measure performance, look no further. This car has the added benefit of being a later model, having a 6spd manual transmission, with it looking like it was taken care of pretty well by its previous owners. A great value for your BMW buck.
(Suggested by MikeofLA)
8. E38 750iL
I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a huge fan of giant German luxo-liners. That's why this one was a no brainer. It's the V12, long wheelbase version of arguably the best 7-series ever made. This example boasts 2-owners since new, with low miles and a tape player! What's not to love?
(Suggested by Land_Yacht_225)
7. 2000 Tii Neue Klasse Sedan
Wanna make the guy that just bought an E30 M3 jealous? Buy something that costs less, is way more practical, and looks just as quirky. Also, it's older, which means better. There's no reason not to get it if you're in the market for something truly special.
(Suggested by TotallyThatStupid)
6. E39 540i Supercharged Wagon
Here's a 540i M-Sport wagon, which is a lot like an M5 without sport mode. Now you add the practicality of a wagon and the insanity of a supercharger and you have something is half show, half go, and 100 percent pretty cool. It doesn't have a manual transmission, but then again, neither does the space shuttle, and that thing is still awesome.
(Suggested by Nathan)
This car is small, cute, and a totally unadulterated sleeper. I'll let TheCrudMan explain:
Was looking for a 128i for the added reliability and cheapness but couldn't find one in a manual...so...135i, manual, 79,000 miles, $16,500. Pretty good way to get into 300HP, turbo, I6, RWD, sporty little coupe. I saw auto 128i's with lower miles going listed for like $13,000. Buying used, non CPO, cheap, from Ebay I would be inclined to go 128i because more reliable potentially, cheaper, less high strung, and still a fun I6 BMW.
(Suggested by TheCrudMan)
4. Isetta 300
Are you the kind of proto-hipster that complains about corporate greed but buys his daily Starbucks indulgences using Apple Pay and needs a car that represents this cognitive dissonance? Are you an up-and-coming traveling circus clown that just isn't being taken seriously? Are you a professional Steve Urkel impersonator? Well, do I have a car for you!
(Suggested by Spaceman Spiff)
3. Z3M Clown Shoe
If you buy this car, you'll own a shiny red clown shoe, which is a reason in itself to own this great performer. Its proportions are crazy, the performance is surprising, and the whole car just works on a dimension that proves that Germans do in fact have an amazing sense of humor.
(Suggested by PresidentAndrewJackson)
2. E39 M5
It's illegal to write BMW "best of" lists without including this amazing car. I owned one for a short while and quickly understood that this car was the one that set the bar for driving experiences. The one shown here is in Le Mans blue, has relatively low miles, and will likely appreciate in the coming years. It's a definite keeper.
1. E36 M3
This one surprised me, as this car isn't the most loved of BMW's used lineup, and it's well below the budget. This one is in great shape, and comes in at less than half of the budget, while having an amazingly responsive chassis and lots of room for modification. It's the best starter BMW, since it's easy to repair, the parts don't cost the life of your first born, and it's quintessentially German, so build quality will be on-par with anything new today, and pretty much every E36 M3 in existence is under the $20k mark, so the sky is the limit.
Want more car values that will make you question your allegiance to car dealers? Check these out:
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.