Cars & Bids Bargain of the Week: 2003 E39 BMW 530i

Over the last few years, some older BMWs have gone from forgotten fringe rides to enthusiast-appreciated gems. Case in point is the E36 M3. But there are still plenty of affordable used BMWs out there—and reliable ones to boot. And the 2003 E39 BMW 530i listed this week on Cars & Bids is one of them.  

It’s not an M5, but the E39 BMW 530i is a true modern classic luxury sports sedan

A silver 2002 BMW 530i in front of an office building
2002 BMW 530i | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
2001-2003 ‘E39’ BMW 530i
Engine3.0-liter ‘M54’ inline-six
Horsepower225 hp
Torque214 lb-ft
TransmissionsFive-speed manual
Five-speed automatic
Curb weight3494 lbs
0-60 mph time6.6 seconds

The E39 M5 is often considered one of the best distillations of BMW’s classic strengths. However, while the standard E39 5 Series isn’t quite as fast, the M5 rides on its platform. And each model, including the base one, “offers superb handling, a responsive engine, and confident braking,” MotorTrend says.

The 2001-2003 BMW 530i isn’t quite the base E39; that’s the 525i. It doesn’t have the contemporary 540i’s V8 or its six-speed manual option. But its M54 inline-six is smooth in nature and power delivery. And let’s not forget that the first two M5s had inline-six engines.

In addition, the E39 530i still has a near 50:50 weight distribution and aluminum suspension components. And it rides as well as it handles. Back in the day, MT claimed the E39 BMW had “one of the best all-around suspensions of any street car ever.” That’s on top of a roomy, comfortable, quiet interior and steering that’s still praise-worthy today. One veteran BMW mechanic and Hagerty writer called it “the best daily driver [they’ve] ever owned.”

True, the E39 isn’t as tech-heavy as the latest BMW 5 Series. But it’s still decently equipped by modern standards. The 530i came standard with traction control, four-wheel discs brakes, automatic climate control, and keyless entry. Also, it offered up to 10 airbags. And then there was the Sport Package.

There’s a 2003 530i up for grabs on Cars & Bids and it’s got the Sport Package

A black 2003 E39 BMW 530i with Sport Package on a parking garage roof
2003 E39 BMW 530i with Sport Package | Cars & Bids

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Like the contemporary 540i, the E39 BMW 530i had an optional Sport Package. It wasn’t as extensive as the 540i’s version, but it still added power-adjustable sport seats, M Sport suspension, 17” wheels, an M Sport steering wheel, and some blacked-out trim. The Sport Package doesn’t transform the 530i, but it does make it handle even better. And the 2003 530i currently listed on Cars & Bids has it.

In addition, this 2003 BMW 530i also has the Cold Weather and Premium Packages. So, it has heated front seats, heated rain-sensing wipers, headlight washers, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wood interior trim, a power sunroof, and a universal garage-door opener. That’s on top of xenon headlights, navigation, a six-disc CD changer, stability control, and fog lights. Also, the selling dealer installed JBL Grand Touring and Power Series amplifiers as well as a 1000-watt JBL subwoofer.

The black-leather interior of a black 2003 E39 BMW 530i with Sport Package
2003 E39 BMW 530i with Sport Package interior | Cars & Bids

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Given its age, this E39 BMW 530i is in solid shape. Apart from some scattered dings, scratches, and wear, the biggest issues are some dead gauge-cluster pixels and a ‘Check Brake Light’ warning light. But it has a zero-accident history and less than 41,600 miles on the clock. Plus, the selling dealer replaced the transmission and differential fluids as well as all the engine fluids. And a 2019 service saw the owner replace the radiator, radiator hoses, coolant reservoir, cooling-fan clutch, thermostat, and thermostat gasket.

A well-kept E39 BMW 530i Sport is a reliable bargain of a sports sedan

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As of this writing, this 2003 BMW 530i is listed at $6000 with four days left in the auction. Considering it cost almost seven times that much back in 2003, that’s a significant discount. And looking on Autotrader, examples with similar mileage are about 50% pricier.

Given that the 5 Series doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended. However, when it comes to old BMWs, the non-M E39s are fairly solid, especially the six-cylinder models. The M54 isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the most reliable modern used BMW engines. And the previous owner already addressed the thermostat, which is a known failure point. They also replaced the coolant reservoir, radiator, and hoses with their plastic components, which often fail, too, Hagerty notes.

Apart from that, the only real issues are worn DISA intake valves, VANOS degradation, leaking valve cover gaskets, and loose oil pump nuts. But the first three are age-related problems, while the latter has likely already been addressed. And as for that ‘Check Brake Light’ warning, it’s likely due to a bulb or electrical socket failure. Both are easy and affordable to fix.

In short, this E39 BMW 530i has all the marks of a solid, near-classic luxury sports sedan bargain.

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