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The BMW M3 is one of the world’s most legendary sports cars, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all perfect. In fact, the middle generations of M3 are among the least-reliable BMWs. Faced with high repair costs and frequent problems, real owners report that these are the three worst BMW M3 generations for reliability.

The E46 BMW M3 is the least reliable despite a legendary reputation

The E46 M3 is the least reliable BMW M3 model
E46 M3 | BMW

Sold from 2000 to 2006, the E46 M3 is one of the most iconic cars of the early millennium. It came with the S54 inline-six cylinder engine and delivered 338 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. In addition. A redline at 8,000 rpm makes this one of the best-sounding BMW engines of all time.

However, this generation of BMW M3 is also the least reliable. According to Vehicle History, the E46 M3 is rife with expensive problems relating to both the engine and suspension components. Some of the leading issues are rod bearing failure, which costs up to $2,500 in preventative maintenance. Unfortunately, if not done before failure, the resulting damage often means a complete engine replacement.

In addition, the least reliable M3 also faces rear subframe issues that hinder its structural integrity. Getting ahead of this issue means yet another four-figure repair bill. Finally, the BMW VANOS variable engine timing system is a known issue as well. Like the previous problems, this will also leave you with a four-figure repair, though there are preventative solutions that can increase durability.

Shop carefully to avoid these common E36 M3 problems

The E36 BMW M3
E36 BMW M3 | BMW

The second-generation BMW M3 is also the second least reliable model in the lineup. Notorious for burning oil, these cars often come with a host of issues on the secondary market. In the hands of an inexperienced owner, the oil burn can create internal engine problems if left uncorrected.

Worse yet, the cooling system is notoriously suspect, and can lead to overheating and further engine damage. On the other hand, well-kept E36 BMW M3 models don’t have nearly the liability as the E46 above. Suspension bushings, shorter oil change intervals, and a careful eye on the cooling system should keep you out of any major trouble.

The lone V8 M3 faces some costly repair problems

The E92 M3 in orange
The E92 M3 | BMW

It’s hard not to love the E92 BMW M3, even if it is one of the least reliable generations. The S65 V8 suffers from a host of costly problems, including the same rod bearing failure as the E46 above.

Throttle actuator problems also cost a chunk of change to remedy, but this model does avoid the suspension pitfalls of its previous siblings.

The least reliable BMW M3 years are still a pile of fun

As long as you know what you’re getting into, even the least reliable BMW M3 models are a joy to drive. Decades of engineering have created a lineage of sought-after enthusiast cars, from the original E30 to the modern twin-turbo six-cylinder track weapons. Use this as a guide to find well-kept BMW M3 models so you know what questions to ask before taking one home.

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