The Least Reliable Used BMW 3 Series Model Years According to Consumer Reports

  • The 2012 BMW 3 Series is horribly unreliable
  • Don’t buy a 3 Series from 2007-2011
  • We reccomend buying a certified pre-owned BMW if possible

Today, we’re leaning into German used car stereotypes and talking reliability. More specifically, BMW reliability. Or, more specifically, used BMW 3 Series reliability. If you’re in the market for one, these are the worst 3 Series model years you can buy from BMW.

A white 2011 BMW 3 Series coupe shot from the front 3/4
The E92 series BMW is particularly prone to breaking | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

The E92 BMW 3 Series is not reliable in any way

The sourcing for this information comes to us courtesy of Consumer Reports. We’ll start with, well, an entire generation of used BMW 3 Series models. Enthusiasts refer to the 2006-2011 3 Series as the E9X generation. The “X” here stands in as a substitute for the numbers 0, 2, and 3. Those stand for coupe, sedan, and convertible body styles, respectively, all of which were offered in this run of 3 Series.

In short, they’re all pretty crap. This era of BMW isn’t the most reliable. Consumer Reports scores reliability on a 1-5 scale, and nearly all of them have a 1/5 for reliability. If that’s not enough to get you to steer clear of the E9X generation of BMW 3 Series, perhaps the poor owner satisfaction scores are. It’s rare to find a car from these model years with more than a 1 or 2/5 in this category. However, the notable exception here is the 2006 BMW 3 Series, which scored a 4/5 for reliability and a 3/5 for owner satisfaction.

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Never buy a 2012 BMW 3 Series

A white 2012 BMW 3 Series, one of the least reliable BMW 3 Series models ever
The 2012 3 Series is particularly prone to high shop bills | GASPA via Getty Images

Unfortunately, simply gunning for a slightly newer used BMW 3 Series isn’t going to help. There’s plenty of trouble spots in the model range. Remember, these were high-end luxury cars owned and maintained by people with money and armed to the teeth with warranties. More than likely, these people also had second cars, so reliability wasn’t much of a concern.

For the 2012-2018 run, the 3 Series’ reliability began to improve somewhat. However, we still don’t recommend most cars in this run. In particular, you ought to steer clear of the 2012 BMW 3 Series, which scores 1/5 for reliability and a 2/5 for owner satisfaction. Notably, there were significant engine issues in the 2012 MY that severely hampered this 3’s reliability.

The best used BMW is the newest one you can afford

A mechanic works on a BMW 3 Series sedan in a shop
This one is a common sight for certain BMW models | Miguel Villagran via Getty Images

So, if you want a 3 Series and can’t afford a new one, are you totally screwed? Not really. Generally, the more recent crop of 2019+ 3’s is considered to be fairly reliable. If it helps, a general rule here is to always buy the nicest, newest 3 Series you can afford. If you’re having to stretch to swing one, it’s best to come back when you’ve got a bit more cash. Happy hunting.

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