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Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 05/18/2023

  • The 2016 and 2018 3 Series are the most reliable of the bunch
  • Getting a quality used BMW is the best way to save money on maintenance
  • Buy the newest, nicest example you can afford

We all know BMW can make great sports cars and sedans. The BMW 3 Series is a great example of that talent the brand has worked so hard to aquire over the years. But is the brand’s most prominent model worth it as a used car? In some ways yes, and in others, no. We took a look at the most reliable used BMW 3 Series models out there.

A white BMW 3 Series shot from the front 3/4
The 2020 and 2021 3 Series seriously improved reliability | BMW

Which BMW 3 Series is the best?

It turns out the previous-generation 3 Series is the best option to buy. At least in terms of reliability. J.D. Power scores reliability on a scale from 0-100, and generally speaking, the newer the Beamer, the less time it’ll spend at a dealer. That’s doubly true for the 2016 3 Series. That version scored an impressive 83/100 for reliability, and the same for owner satisfaction.

While those aren’t Toyota Camry scores in either category, they do buck the popular theory that BMW cars are unreliable. While the M3s are uniquely problematic, the more pedestrian 3 Series is a much easier choice.

In addition to the 2016 and 2018 models, both the 2019 and 2022 versions offer 80 or higher reliability scores as well.

Is a CPO BMW worth it?

A blue 2019 BMW 3 Series shot from the front 3/4 on a cliffside
Some 2019 BMWs can still be had under CPO | BMW

Now, let’s talk about how to turn that reliability score into a non-issue. The answer here could lie in CPO cars, or Certified Pre-Owned cars. And, as luck would have it, there’s plenty of 2021 and 2019 used BMW 3 Series out there under CPO. So, what is CPO? In short, it gives you a manufacturer-backed warranty on a used car. And we all know how useful a warranty can be.

However, there’s another benefit to a certified pre-owned car (or specifically, a used BMW 3 Series). Generally, manufacturers and dealers will repair and refurbish any used car they consider to be worth turning to CPO. Obviously, the hitch is that you pay for it up front. CPO cars, especially one like a used BMW 3 Series, command a premium because of that additional repair work and warranty. So, if you’ve got the coin up front, a CPO BMW is absolutely worth the peace of mind you’ll get out of it.

The best used 3 Series is the newest one you can afford

A blue 2019 BMW 3 Series sedan shot from the front on a Scottish B road
The most reliable used car is a used car with a warranty | BMW

Top 5 Things You Have to Know Before Buying the E92 BMW M3

Really, that strategy applies to buying any used BMW. Buy the newest, nicest BMW 3 Series you can get. Otherwise, you’ll end up spending far more money than you want to. And, if possible, try to swing for a CPO 3’er. If you can’t, the most reliable BMW 3 Series models are the 2019 and 2021 model years.