If you are a hipster douche-bag with some money in the bank, the car to get is the BMW E30 M3. But, what if your used trucker hat was actually once used by a trucker, your ironic t-shirt is ironic because you bought it from an Armenian thrift store and you don’t realize it says douche-bag in Armenian on it, and those rips in your jeans are from wear/tear. If this is the case you might want to consider the E36 M3 because it offers the same blinker free driving experience at a fraction of the cost.
The E36 was first offered in the US market in 1995 in coupe and 5-speed manual transmission behind a 3.0 liter S50B30US inline-6 good for 240 horsepower and 225 ft-lbs of torque. It was a great combination (I should know, I owned drove one everyday for about 2 years) and slightly upgraded in 1996 with the introduction of the 3.2 liter S52B32US good for the same 240 horsepower, but a bump up in torque to 240 ft-lbs. You will be hard pressed to tell the difference behind the wheel, but
the S52 is an OBDII engine (1995 models are OBDI) and either version
will last well into the 200k mile range with basic basic maintenance. A few years later and BMW introduced a 4-door & convertible editions and an optional automatic transmission Today we are going to focus on the best examples we can find with 5-speed manual gearbox in sedan and coupe trim (no verts and no techno violent paint please!).
Up first is a real gem of an E36 M3. This 1995 BMW M3 is offered for $16,500 in Fallbrook, CA and has an amazingly low 36k miles on the odometer. They don’t get any more minty clean than this version and it is perfect with the exception of a slushbox automatic transmission. A 5-speed manual is a simple bolt in affair and with the price of salvage E36 chassis in the dirt, it could be done for next to nothing…but…do you lose the low mile clean value if you give it a tranny swap?
Speaking of donor parts, this next 1995 BMW M3 is offered for a bargain basement low price of $3,200 in San Diego, CA via craigslist. It looks pretty torn up, but the seller says it has a nice interior and 160k miles on the odometer.
In case you were concerned that the first 35k mile green example is just a few miles from catastrophic and expensive engine failure, here is another green M3, but a 1997 BMW M3 with 226k miles on the odometer offered for $5,200 in Denver, CO via craigslist. The S52 might sound like a broken sewing machine at idle, but with some revvs the oil pressure builds up and all of that lifter/vanos clicking will go away. Also, the seller of this one says; New water pump, thermostat & expansion tan. Get used to changing those cooling related components on the E36 about as often as you change oil on your Toyota or transmissions on your Honda.
Up next is a 1997 BMW M3, this time a 4-door example with 169k miles on the clock offered for $3,500 in Houston, TX. This one is going to need some work, AC doesn’t function (expect the price to drop as Texas summer arrives…) the seats bolsters are ripped and the clutch is gone…but…you won’t find a quicker more toss-able sedan for less.
This next 1997 BMW M3 has a much more reasonable 77k miles on the odometer and is offered for $11,450 in Laguna, CA via craigslist. Estoril blue on top of dove grey is a desirable condition and the low miles justify an asking price of double for a high mile ugly version.
This next 1997 BMW E36 M3 sedan is offered for $8,700 in Eagle Rock, CA via craigslist. It has a few miles on the clock (156k) but a list of aftermarket parts that make the price seem reasonable.
If you like white cars with garish red & blue stickers from the factory, look no further than the limited edition M3 lightweight. This 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight is currently bidding on ebay for $18,200 reserve-not-met with 1 day to go, located in Statham, GA. The lightweight offers a mildly improved driving experience via reduced weight because it came with no speakers, no air conditioning, no leather and no sunroof. Of course when new, you had to pay BMW a premium price to get less stuff…
Who could forget about Drew from Motoringconbrio’s E36 M3/4/5 that is currently offered for $9,000 without the second set of wheels in NYC?
One of the better deals in the sub $10k range is this 1999 BMW M3 offered for $8,500 in Miami, FL via craigslist. 1999 means it has traction control, staggered wheels and the bigger 3.2 liter inline-6 – and it usually pays to buy the newest example of a particular generation of vehicle to avoid teething problems with the model launch.
Last up is this 1995 BMW M3 offered for $13,000 in Culver City, CA via craigslist. It has a super low 60k miles on the clock and features a nice blue on dove color combo. There is an issue with a flooding reported on the carfax, but the seller says the title is clear and it could be a carfax error. Regardless it is one of the lower mile E36 5-speeds for sale and offered for less than the price of a new Kia.
The E36 M3 is currently about as cheap as it should ever get and DT gives it a two busted knuckles up. As a previous owner of the E36 M3 coupe, I can testify to the superb
handling, decent power and feeling of being better than everyone else
out on the road. If you can do your own wrenching, the E36 offers a refined and fun ride for a budget price. email@example.com