The BMW 3 Series is as storied as they come. Spanning seven generations, from the E21 of the 1970s to the G20 of today, it boasts a legendary combination of athleticism, style, and livability. In fact, Car and Driver has named the 3 Series to its annual 10Best list a record 22 times in a row (from 1992 to 2014). No wonder it’s BMW’s best selling model, accounting for about a third of its worldwide sales.
The sixth generation, dubbed F30 for sedans and F31 for wagons (or “Touring” in BMW speak), carries the 3 Series mantle quite well, despite some notable departures from prior versions (which we’ll discuss below). And now that most are at least five years old, the F30 generation has gotten quite affordable, too, with excellent examples available for as little as $15,000.
So if you’re looking for a great used car that excels at almost everything — from commutes, to road trips, to backroad blasts — an F30 generation 3 Series should definitely be on your list. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know to find and buy the perfect one for you.
Originally the Pontiac Trans Am was a flop. Launched in 1969, just 697 were sold that year.
But the highly stylized and high-performance version of the Pontiac Firebird would soon become the automotive icon of the following decade and a bona fide favorite of car collectors all over the world.
Named for the Sports Car Club of America’s popular “Trans Am” racing series, the model cost Pontiac a $5.00 royalty for every Trans Am it sold. It didn’t add up to much at first, but in 1970, Pontiac redesigned the Firebird, along with the Trans Am, and its second generation would go on to sell in huge numbers.
Best known for its massive “Screaming Chicken” hood decal, the second gen Trans Am was produced for more than a decade, making it one of the most successful American muscle cars ever. And today, after several decades of middling interest, their values are on the rise.
Here’s everything you need to know before you buy yours.
Suppose you’re looking for one car that’ll do it all. Slip into compact spaces with ease. Accelerate and handle with grace. Fit four adults and their luggage in a well-appointed interior with little apparent cost-cutting. Command the road at highway speeds. Let’s throw in 30 MPG fuel economy for good measure.
Now suppose you’re looking to spend $15k or so, and the cheaper the better. If you’re thinking about new cars, don’t waste your time. Even the cheapest new car on the lot will likely surpass the $15k threshold, and the only boxes it’ll check are the ones pertaining to parking and fuel economy.
Long a favorite of driving enthusiasts, BMW’s 3 Series has nonetheless gotten bigger, heavier and less engaging with each successive generation. Nowadays, even a car buff could easily mistake a newer 3 Series sedan for a 5 Series.
Make no mistake, the 3er’s performance is still impressive, but for many who relish time behind the wheel, the less quantifiable “fun to drive” factor has dropped off. Indeed, many enthusiasts feel that the E46 generation marks the last time the 3 Series was truly engaging and true to its roots — a spry athlete of a car that offered not only quick reflexes but communication through the steering wheel and seat of one’s pants that let you know in no uncertain terms what the tires were doing.