Purchased a Lemon - 2004 BMW

My daughters partner purchased a second hand 2004 BMW in December from a car yard for $9000.

Problems started within 3 months and it’s been on going. He finally got them to agree on warranty cover that he paid $1000 extra for. They were 3 major oil leaks. They occurred a couple of weeks later along with something else (can’t remember what). They paid the oil leaks even though they said they weren’t covered as the other issue was covered so they fixed both however this was at a mechanics of their choice, not of his choice and it took weeks. Apparently They admitted in email that there were issues with the car when it was sold.

Now the electrics have gone. Another phone call made and they will cover as it’s included in the warranty.

However the problems have been one after the other. They clearly sold a dodgy car and he just waits for the next issue, which is completely unacceptable. The whole circle of waiting days to see if they’ll cover and then getting it fixed which also takes ages and the cost of hiring a car or Uber’s…

Is there anything he can do?

Any advice appreciated.


  • -2

    What do you expect. A fifteen (15) year old vehicle. What do you expect to buy for 9k?

    You expect to sink in another 10k to get it up to scratch. And this is the mindset you should have harboured in the first place.

    Fancy expecting a 9k fifteen (15) year old vehicle to be A1.

    Now you are going to be without the vehicle for "months" whilst they rectify the leaks. Months without the vehicle, when all you had to do (and suspect they are going to do) is use "no leak/ seal conditioner" in the oils.

    This is what you could have done yourself!

  • +1

    My 2006 Honda Accord Euro is going strong, third owner and for four years.

    Other than the ABS pump faulting the only issues have been what you would expect for a car this old - like the original starter motor dying.

  • +1

    OP, maybe your question should really be whether or not that kid is awake enough to be your future son-in-law. 2004 euro, for $9000,… Ouch.

    My mother bought a near 10yo Merc -TWICE- it cost me almost as much as it cost her to get rid of the junk, would have disowned her if she wasn't my mother.

    • You must just be the perfect partner 🙄

      • +1

        Because I wouldn't let my partner buy a piece of junk?

        • Well you didn’t stop your mother…

          • +1

            @smartazz104: If you'd met my mother you wouldn't bother asking. Parent/child relationships aren't exactly a choice either.

  • +1

    OP: Suggest the current owner does their research regarding relevant Australian Consumer Law (ACL) in relation to a sale of a motor vehicle in the applicable state they purchased this car (as its not provided in the post?). https://consumerlaw.gov.au/

    In no way legal advice, this is a forum, but an avenue available might (key word) be to seek a resolution with the seller (as a dealer, assuming from your thread its not a private sale of motor vehicle - changes the context greatly) if the buyer thinks the product is not fit for purpose or suffering major fault/defect/issue, and whether they were evident at the time of sale etc.

    Vehicles are not quite as straight forward as consumer electronics, say a blu-ray player suffering electronic issues for example, though any "express warranty" as stipulated in the sale, may be different from a "statutory warranty" that may be existent, with a resolution from the seller OR manufacturer.

    Long story short, do your research before buying a product as to its fit for your purpose, and do your research on experiencing problems as to what the law may provide you. Good luck.

    • Thank you, I’ll pass this comment on.

  • Is there anything he can do ?
    Get rid of it as soon as possible !

    • To who though ?

      • If you put a price low enough, someone will buy it.

        You don’t have to trick people into buying a lemon. You put in the ad, “this car has these issues, this is my asking price - negotiable”.

  • +3

    I purchased a 2005 750i with 220kms from gumtree 3 years ago. Been one of the nicest cars I have ever driven. $12,000. Only the boot latch broke, got one from ebay $50

    • +1

      I’m sort of thinking you were lucky.

      • -1

        A 750i is a baller car, the previous owner probably had it serviced regularly and never drove it, it sat in a garage all week while the owner went to their inner city job by train. Its a very different scenario from buying a used real estate agents car from a yard.

        These are actually very good buys, but most people wont look at them because the badge gets a bad reputation from all the clapped out South African built 4cyl cars people buy.

        • +4

          previous owner probably had it serviced regularly and never drove it, it sat in a garage all week while the owner went to their inner city job by train

          And the car somehow magically did 220,000 kilometres

          • @spaceflight: need to try Ferris Bueller's trick and drive backwards to fix that :P

  • +2

    Most the times.. Electrics are a write off. Getting that diagnosed and fixed may cost more than the car itself given the wiring is that old and will have degraded to a point where it needs rewiring.

    Nah.. scrap it and move on. Expensive lesson.

  • i'm sorry this happened to you
    they are lemons

    • Thank you 🙏

      • I had a tribute, kept throwing issue after issue. Eventually just decided to pay my mechanic so I knew it was fixed proper

  • +4

    The cost of letting vanity dictate what car you buy.

  • +1

    Did the oil leaks start after you changed the oil? The seller probably used an engine oil stop leak additive to temporarily halt the oil leaks to make it roadworthy but changing the oil flushes the additive away causing it to leak again. There should be a test kit out there somewhere to test whether engine oil in a car has been treated with stop leak products before you buy it…

    • That depends if the engine had a full engine flush as well as basic oil change. Simply changing the oil doesn’t just flush away Stop Leak. Also they only had the car for 3 months so possible they didn’t even get to an oil change interval (6 months/10000 km).

      Stop Leak would break down over time mind you (3 month duration would be long enough for the leak to become apparent again depending on size of the leak).

      • On mine it does require another bottle of stop leak otherwise it starts leaking again. On the bottle I get (nulon) it says to to put another bottle in on every oil change too…

        • I’ve used Nulon Stop Leak before in one of my vehicles as well (Subaru Liberty head gasket-era) before I permanently fixed it. It acts as a coagulant to clot the cavities in the gaskets. The residue of the Stop Leak solidifies and builds up in the cavities to stop the oil leaking/seeping out. Obviously not a long term solution if you plan on keeping the car as clogging your engine with Stop Leak residue reduces lubrication efficiency and eventually leads to overheating.

  • +2

    Court of law gives no f’s about you. Been down that road. Judge told me buyer beware. Clean it up and sell on for the same price you bought it.

  • +2

    Thanks for posting OP. It highlights to those who don’t know the potential perils of purchasing a 2nd hand BMW (specifically Euros, or any car for that matter) without doing prior research to common faults given the model and the vintage.

    Also Car dealers, unscrupulous or not, are businesses whose purpose is to make a profit, so ultimately have their own best interests at heart. The one you bought from seems like they are trying to do right by you, but rest assured they’ll only do enough to make you go away (or buy another vehicle from them). They won’t endlessly keep repairing the vehicle.

    • +4

      I don’t think it’s highlighted anything on here though as most have less than helpful know it all comments.

  • +2

    My next door neighbour bought a 2004 Ford Territory, after spending around $1200 on new radiator, brake pads and odds, it's now perfect, great condition. Goes great. Paid $1,600 for it + rego a year ago.
    My old French boss sat in my newer 2012 Ford Territory a few years back, asked how many Kms it had done. When I told him it was around 46,000 kms he asked me how much a new engine was. When I asked why, he said many Euro-Cars were worn out at 90,000 kms, and needed replacing. You can't have, small cars with small engines, relatively high performance and fuel economy with long life.
    Point Taken. !!!!!

    • True.

    • Your old boss is an idiot.

      French cars have one of the worst reputations for reliability, but 'many Euro-Cars were worn out at 90,000 kms, and needed replacing' is a hyperbole.

      • +1

        I think the "old boss" is mis-informed, or didn't drill down to define what a "Euro-Car" is.
        I have had Peugeot and Citroen cars, and all have done big distances on the clock (one >300k.). No major problems with any of them.

        • +1

          Is Lada considered European? In that case he may be correct.. lol

  • Welcome to the world of high yield investment cars.

    May I interest you into some Bitcoin?

  • +2

    I agree with the majority here but doesn't mean I wouldn't consider a 17yr old euro car. People have this perception of Euro being German, luxury and anything along the lines of Audi, BMW and Merc. I've had friends and family who have owned Citroen, Peugeot and Renault which have treated them well.

    I bought a 2010 Audi A3 for $10k ($46k brand new), single owner, perfect service history from Audi and it's been good apart from one this, piston ring issue which resulted in $10-15k engine rebuild (but I got for free as goodwill). And while engine was open I changed clutch, VAC pump, timing chain and all sorts of other stuff (I paid $5k for $25k of work done via Audi). Even though my car is labelled as a "euro" car, it's different to BMW 3 or 5 series. More simple, no heated or electric seats, no hydraulic suspension, manual transmission, physical handbrake, no sunroof, no adaptive Cruise control, no HID lights etc…

    So in saying all that, it depends on car, its common issues and service history. Make sure to always do your research. There's a reason why BMW is >$50k or $80k brand new. The less features and less components you have in a car, less points of failure. If you give me $30k, I won't go and spend it on a 2003 Mercedes S class but instead I'll buy an $18k Mazda 6 which is more economically viable and reliable.

    • Absolutely. We have a 2008 Mazda and touch wood….it’s never given us an issue.
      My daughter has a 1975 Kombi and touch wood, that’s been good to her too.

    • +2

      Not comparable, since you have got it rebuild for free with additional work carried out. End result, $15k for a car with alot of critical components replaced.

      Otherwise it would have been a $10k car + $35k for work carried out had it not for the goodwill provided, that is cost of a new car. You got very lucky.

      Well, Lexus cars come with everything that European cars have to offer, and more reliable (including the electronic controllers).

  • +1

    A Honda twice as old with no engine oil would last longer than 2004 BMW.

    • Sold a 2005 camry in 2020.

      Only issues were:
      - window switch not working from rain water (forgot to close driver's side from time to time) and found cheap used replacement on ebay for $30.
      - slight drive shaft leak that can be fixed for under $1k, or continue topping up on fluid.
      - engine mounts $150 for parts and likely a cheap fix.

      Otherwise a solid car and cheap to service $200/pop.

  • +1

    Basically tried to buy the BMW ‘prestige’ for cheap… this what you get..

  • All completely normal for a BMW .. nothing to see here

  • +7

    Thank you to all that made helpful comments.
    I’m a bit surprised at all the perfects out there that had less than helpful comments.
    I rarely comment on this forum and now I know why.
    Clearly the one solution you all gave was to sell it…..but you didn’t suggest to who.
    Another poor soul that didn’t do his homework…..hmmmm.

    Probably don’t need any more comments now.

    • +5

      You asked for opinions and you are surprised you got honest ones? Sell it back to a car yard. Your daughters boyfriend made an expensive mistake, sell it and move on, it isn't going to get better as these are not unusual problems from that brand of car at that age.

    • +2

      I made the same mistake before… twice. Bought 5-7 year old BMWs for the 'prestige' and badge. It had oil leaks and electrical gremlins within a couple of years. I wasn't suprised at this and got it repaired for around 1k ish. Few months later, more issues surfaced, requiring more $$. Decided to sell the thing off and buy cars with factory warranty.

      Nowadays I just buy brand new Euros and sell it off once warranty period expires. No more headaches.

      Main thing about 2nd hand Euros out of warranty, is to have money set aside for expected repairs. No point complaining
      as being Forearmed is forewarned.

    • +2

      Clearly the one solution you all gave was to sell it…..but you didn’t suggest to who.
      Another poor soul that didn’t do his homework…..hmmmm.

      There are more options and types of people out there, it's not just the "wise enough not to touch it" and "foolish enough not to do their homework and buy a lemon".

      There are car enthusiast who are more mechanically minded and can work through the problems. They love grabbing a bargain and then fixing up the problems that the general public can't fix.

      My advice is to get him to join up to a few forums(or facebook pages), not ozbargain or whirlpool, but BMW specific.
      If he loves this car and has dreamt of owning it since he was 10yrs old, then he can search the forums on how to fix the issues, or even post and ask for help from the experienced members.

      If he isn't a car guy and doesn't love the car, and only just got it for the badge and is "waiting" for problems to come up, then just post it up for sale on the forum for half the price and be done with it. Someone on the forums will find value in it, either something that they can see themselves fixing, or use as a parts car for their beloved bmw.

      Do you think the owners of all those classic cars still on the road are just lucky their car has been trouble free? they've just put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, time, and money into it. I just googled "2004 bmw" and the E46 3 series popped up, there is a cult following for that particular model, mainly because of the M3, but I don't know which one your future son in law has.

      • +2

        100% agree with you. But the problem with the enthusiast crowd is that they will spot the common faults or do PPI. And will haggle it down to where the risk suits the price.

        Honestly if the warrenty company/dealer has been good. And they are repairing pretty much all faults, you could end up with a pretty tidy car in the end. With a lot of documented maintenance to help sell to a future owner. I say wait it out and deal with it. The warrenty wont be transferable.

      • +1

        Agree with this 100%. OP you seem worried about selling a lemon but as long as you are honest and tell the buyer what has happened and what has been done, there will always be a buyer for it. Unfortunately he probably isn't going to get back what he has put in but this is actually a good life lesson and he should look at it at least he only sank in 9k I have known people who have made this same mistake but sunk in 50k plus.

    • It's easy who you sell to: at auction. No one can test drive the vehicle or spot its flaws. There is no warranty, so everyone knows it's 'buyer beware' at auctions. It's not your business nor responsibility to care who ends up with the lemon.

      You have also commented that anyone who commented was "perfect". See my comments below. I was burned by a bad Euro car and decided to cut my losses and sell as quickly as I could. I advise you do the same.

    • +1

      Take heart, OP, I agree that many replies were a little aggressive and unhelpful. You asked for practical tips and most people just took it as a laugh. Unfortunately, it's the nature of online forums. (Never really understood why lots of people always bag out bad deals posted online instead of providing healthy and constructive feedback to encourage the poster to post again)

      It's always sad to see an OzBargainer discouraged from participating in the community (because it may prevent good deals from being posted in the future!) Please just take it in good stride and hope to see you back in the action soon.

  • Never buy a Euro car unless its new or your prepared to fix it yourself. If unable to fix yourself you will be better off getting rid of it and getting a Japanese something car.

  • I always smile when I see a P plater driving around in a 20 yr old bmw, thinking their the shit. They have no idea what’s coming

    • What if they are mechanically minded and can perform their own maintenance and repairs?

      • +2

        then they wouldn't buy a 20 year old BMW

        • +3

          Not true a lot of people love working on there cars. I actually get a bit excited when something breaks on my car because I get to fix it and also get a chance to upgrade the part. Everyone is different.

          • +1

            @Lvl1pro: screwing on a pod filter is completely different than tearing down and rebuilding an engine

            • @DiscoJango: I didn't say it was the same thing. But there is a lot of things in between that you can do and you also always have the option of going to a mechanic if something comes up that you don't feel comfortable with doing or if you don't have the tools for it. FYI as well I would never install a pod filter.

    • let them have their fun…
      I think the same when i see kids or grown adults on sport bikes, i used to be the first to zoom off on one (but that was the day of lax police forces)

      i'd smile more at guys having their midlife crisis but getting old isnt great, let them have their fun too

  • +3

    I used to own a 2000 built Mercedes from near new, and it was the biggest pile of garbage I ever owned. Fit and finish was below any Toyota or Mazda at the time (for far less money), and mechanically the car was a complete lemon. It looked good though.

    It's important to note that all Euro luxury manufacturers greatly expanded their product ranges and brought in new entry level models in the late 90s and early 2000s. This was also the era where quality took a dive across the board, from Mercedes, to BMW, to Audi, as cost cutting set in.

    Mercedes had runts like the A-Class and M-Class, BMW brought out abominations like the X5 and 1 series.

    There are two vital things to remember: No one is impressed by a 17 year old BMW, except people who have little knowledge about cars. The other is that a $100k car from the period retains $100k car parts costs. They don't go down as the car ages.

    My advice: Get the car running as well as possible, clean it, and send it off to auction. Do it now while people are paying insane prices for old cars, as this period is about to end. Cut your losses and chalk up the few thousand you'll lose on the vehicle as a learning experience. It worked for me. I never bought a luxury car again, saved a pack of money and am very happy.

  • +2

    If they want a luxury vehicle get a Lexus. It will cost less in the long run.

  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

  • Anyone who purchases a used luxury car needs to be prepared for very expensive repair and maintenance bills. It's no good buying one and subsequently complaining.

  • buy another BMW same colour same shape same model that works and stick the number plate on.

  • +1

    2004!! That's pretty impressive it got that far.

    $9000… What crazy COVID times a car that old can fetch that much.

    Off load it to someone that can manage the upkeep.

    At least it was only $9000, and not $30,000.

    And don't even think it's better with a new one….$10k's(that's tens of thousands per year, especially as you approach end of warranty) of depreciation per year, countless times in for warranty repairs, nothing major, but little things breaking or not working. And then offered a low trade in amount.

    I guess marble floors and in dealer catering don't pay for themselves.

    Great technology and pretty impressive specs, but engineered for longevity they are not, even if you over service the car beyond what the service manual specifies (e.g ATF changes)

    Live and learn I guess :-(

  • Should have bought a Suzuki swift or Corolla

    I've had my 07 swift for 4+ years and put over 150k kms and not 1 issue other than regular maintenance

  • +2

    2004 BMW = Lemon. I wouldn’t have gone near that lemon let alone paying a good price for it.

  • It's a 2004 car.

  • +1

    That BMW is almost old enough to drink legally.

  • +2

    2006 I bought a new Lexus IS250. I am still driving the IS250, no issue and the car seems to be able to do another 10 years. Every electronic work like it was when new. Only issue I had was coolant leak which the mechanic fixed with no drama.

    I have nothing to contribute to this thread. I am just boasting.

    • +1

      Yeah but that's not EuRoPeAn LuXuRy.

  • +1

    He should just get rid of it as soon as it's roadworthy before something else goes on it.

    He can be honest about the problems with any prospective buyer but be prepared to accept less than $9k by a margin.

    He can trade it back to the dealer, who will probably offer $4k for it.

    Just an expensive lesson and really nothing you can do about it given the age of the vehicle and buyer beware mantra that would apply to a 17 year old car. I don't think you can blame the dealer, I'm surprised they offered any form of warranty outside of the statutory minimum. The warranty and any misrepresentations may be the only thing you can rely upon but it's probably not going to be worth fighting.

  • OP for a BMW of that age (well pretty much any BMW Designed/built from the very late 90s) I’m surprised the electronics didn’t give way first.

  • May i know what BMW series? I was thinking to buy 325i or 335i 2004. BMW is known as oil leak every BMW will leak. Just take it as project car learn how to fix. But some are easy to fix, others will require special tool and engine drop which is impossible to do without shop facility

    • +1

      2004 will be the E46. 6 cylinder is more reliable than the 4 cylinder.

      BMW released the new E90 series in 2005.

      335i (E90) was released in 2006.

      Overall, the older E46 models were much more reliable than the newer E90 series…

      335i twin turbo was a lemon even from new.. issues galore. Time has not improved reliability.

      Have a friend who was a BMW mechanic, he bought a 335i.. even he traded it in rather than try to continually fix it.. lol

  • +3

    My recommendation would be to sell it while its running without a major show-stopping problem. Just advertise it honestly and take a hit on the price. The upfront pain of selling it a loss might save long term maintenance costs. Selling it for half the price limits your loss to $4500 whereas it could easily cost more in repairs if something major happens or ongoing costs over the next couple of years.

    I had a similar experience. Picked up a cheap twin cam Corolla that ended up being a bucket of problems. Sold it honestly for a cheap price to a fella who bought it for motorkhana.

  • WTF, who would by a 20 year old BMW or Euro car or anything for that reason that isn't classified extremely rare, or collector??

  • That's a lot of money for a 17yo car.

  • +2

    Wow some of the comments are savage.

    OP, very sorry to hear of this. I have heard of many such stories. One of my friends actually got a decently working Merc for about 10k but the guy had only 3rd party insurance on it and it was stolen from his apartment's parking lot! That was his 10k lesson.

    In any case this can happen to anyone of us. Such things make us wise. In any case I also agree that it is best to sell after fixing what can be done easily and price it accordingly + being honest abt it to the next buyer. It may be a great buy for someone who knows how to fix such stuff. There will be losses for your daughter's partner but a good lesson to learn and he should be careful going forward.

    Also as a former Lexus owner, I can vouch that Lexus is a very reliable car with the same luxury offerings. I drove a Lexus for 6 years in the US and moved to Aus in 2016. I now drive a used 2012 Hyundai Elantra which has been so reliable (touch wood). Infiniti has left our shores but I think those cars are reliable too but then again it depends on the how the owner maintained them and whether they were services reliably etc.

    • it was stolen from his apartment's parking lot

      how did it happen even with an immobiliser?

      • No idea mate. Maybe it was an older model? The dude was devastated for a long time!

  • +1
    1. never trust a dealership. they're scammers.
    2. its an old car, it will need maintenance regardless of what make it is
    3. bmw's are a good car if taken care of well, which many people don't because they kept them for 4-5 years & traded up.
  • +4

    Never buy a car older than 15 years in Sydney AU, there is a major traffic issue here that the ministers and other morons in power have failed to act upon.

    Anywhere you drive within the Sydney district outside of the hours of 1am-5am you will hit traffic.

    Whilst the German BMW is known to run 300,000kms+ this does NOT include in Sydney, in Sydney a car with 100,000 Kms is like a car in Germany that has 240,000 in terms of engine condition. The car here is most likely stuck in some tunnel for thousands of hours, bumper to bumper, short trips, shitty roads, humps on every corner, traffic lights every 10 meters, you name it.

    • +1

      Finally someone else that knows this! When looking for cars in the past, i always skip those from nsw.

      Constant stop start driving + some of the worst roads possible, the cars there have a very hard life.

      • 200k highway driving is a lot better than 100k pfcity driving for engines.

  • +1

    Sell it for whatever you can get and internalise the lesson.

    Don’t buy shitty cars you cannot afford to fix.

  • theres no reason to buy a 16 y.o bmw unless its an m3 or m5 or something rich people pour money into

  • +1

    Has happened to me. Bought a $3,500k audi and spent another couple grand fixing it until I gave up and got someone to come and get it

  • Get a Toyota

  • Its just about knowing your market, when i first moved to aus, i bought a small mercedes going cheap. Back in Europe, they are cheap to run, parts easy to find and not insanely cheap.

    Everything was fine, practical zippy car

    Then comes australian climate and age, german plasturgy is no match for either let alone the combo.

    After a few very costly repairs, it was time to say lets cut the losses - like the OP i didnt want to make it another persons problem so i spent a little more making it right.
    Even with perfect cosmetics, running like new and a price not covering the repairs nobody wanted it.

    it eventually went but i felt sorry for the guy buying it nonetheless.

    since then got an old prius runs like a tank and people get out of my way

  • Sell the lemon, I'll give him a good deal on my Leyland P76, he can fit a 44 gallon drum in the boot. Perfect for when they have kids.