Why Are BMWs So Expensive To Maintain?


If you own a boat, you’ve probably heard this saying before: Bust Out Another Thousand.

For those of you who aren’t innundated with boats like we are here in our sunny St. Petersburg, Florida office, let me say that boats are expensive as all hell the maintain.

As a rule of thumb, you should expect to spend 10% of your boat’s purchase price each year on maintaince. If you are buying a $30,000 dollar boat, you are looking at a bill of $3,000 a year, just on maintaince.

That’s not to mention all the other fees including insurance, winter upkeep, and the list goes on.

In a lot of ways, boats and BMWs are quite similar. Both are performance machines that are designed to look good, feel good, and as a result they come with a price tag.

As I’ll argue in just a second, BMWs CAN be more expensive, but that’s not an across the board statement. In a lot of cases, it’s the perception of expense that makes the difference. Most of it comes down to one key factor that we’ll talk about towards the end.


1: “Luxury” Brand Gatekeeping

BMW North America aptly calls itself “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and has done so since 1974.

A BMW is not designed to be just any mid-sized sedan. It’s designed to be the ULTIMATE DRIVIVNG MACHINE.

Ultimate = Expensive.

At the end of the day, BMW is designed to be a luxury brand, meant for people who like tight turns, fast acceleration and a refined ride. It’s not meant to be a daily driver for a ho-hum commute to and from work.

So let’s rip the band-aid off here: from a marketing standpoint, the price of a BMW is inflated because of the branding behind it. Unfortunately, this means higher costs for everything involved with a BMW. But this is okay to the type of people BMW is targeting.

Let’s pull the band-aid off and be clear here: BMW vehicles are designed to be sold to people that have disposable income. BMW has repeatedly tried to enter into the lower price segments of the market with offerings like the BMW 318ti – only for it to fail spectacularly when it was finally canceled in 2000.

My god, was it ugly. Credit: BMWBlog

BMW’s brand identity is built on the image of performance luxury. This high-end brand identity would be diluted from trying to offer a lower price on their vehicles. It’s for this reason why some automakers including Toyota (Toyota/Lexus), Honda (Honda/Acura), and Nissan (Nissan/Infiniti) among others, split their low-end and high-end offerings into different brands.

BMW only has one brand. Moving down a market segment has not worked for them – and considering they shipped over 2.5 million autos in 2017 alone – you shouldn’t expect this to change any time soon.

2: Proprietary Systems / Specialized Parts & Labor

Part of the “premium” brand image that BMW wants to cultivate comes back to performance. That includes a finely tuned driving performance with class-leading features both electronic and mechanical.

There are two schools of thought on this. BMW enthusiasts will tell you it’s not a big deal. And the truth is – if you know how to work on your own car I would agree with them.

It’s when you have to take your car to the dealership that things get pricey, fast. Once the bill comes back, the owner almost always ends up complaining. Trust me, I’ve seen our claims data. Having an extended car warranty really does help with BMWs. It’s not pretty if you don’t.

That said, I’ll let you make your own judgment on whether or not BMWs are expensive to repair. But regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, performance parts come with performance costs.

A standard BMW battery is a great example. If you leave the lights on one night and your car battery dies, no problem. Just run down to your local AutoZone, grab a decent battery for between $100-$120 bucks, and then open the hood and throw that bad boy in there.

Easy as that. You’re driving as soon as you turn the key. If you are a BMW owner you know where I’m going with this.

BMW of Gwinett Place does a great job of making the point for me, so I’m going to turn it over to them.

They describe the BMW battery as:

[…] responsible for everything from starting the engine to powering your entertainment features, making it one of the most important components in your vehicle. That’s why BMW of Gwinnett Place is proud to offer quick, easy, and affordable BMW battery service.

Please note, the emphasis is theirs.

BMW of Gwinett Place then goes on to say a bit further down the page:

How much does a BMW battery cost?

The cost of parts and installation will vary between models, but your BMW battery replacement cost will likely come in between $300 and $500 when you factor in parts and labor.

Holy cow batman. Between $300-$500 dollars for a new battery?

This is just one example – there are plenty more.

Richard Todd, a mechanic over at Classic BMW (and a good friend of mine) likes to repeat the old axiom: there’s a difference between being able to afford a BMW, and being able to afford TO OWN a BMW.

Based on our own internal numbers, you can expect to pay around $250 for basic service every 10,000 miles, while a major repair will set you back $2.1k on average.

3: Poor User Maintenance During The Car’s Lifecycle

The BMWs that are the most expensive to maintain are always the older ones. As it turns out, there’s a couple of reasons for this.

Believe it or not though, this starts when the cars are new. According to a 2017 report by Cartelligent.com, approximately 77% of BMWs bought through their website are leases. That’s the highest of any brand listed, beating out Audi (70%), Land Rover (69%), and Mercedes-Benz (66%).

So what the hell does a lease have to do with poor maintaince? Well, a couple of things.

Think about the last time you drove a rental car.

Did you carefully obey the speed limit while always checking the road for potholes, road debris, and anything else?

Or did you turn on the AC/DC, roll the windows down, and burn rubber out of the parking lot like a 2020 budget Steve McQueen?

Maybe you are a better driver than I. The last time I was behind the wheel of a rental I sure as shit turned on sport mode and maxed out the turbocharged V8 within 5 minutes of picking it up.

I didn’t care about how I drove it because I knew I would be giving it back at the end of the month. As long as I didn’t do any obscene damage to it, who would ever know if I went over a few potholes at 95mph?

Just Jesus and I (and probably the Government).

The average BMW lease is about 36 months with around 12,000 miles a year being built in. The original leasee generally speaking, doesn’t care about the car’s condition as long as he or she is able to turn the lease in with no penalties.

But a funny thing happens during those 3 years. Mr. Depreciation visits the leased BMW every year and steals some of its value. For example, the average BMW 3 series starts at around $41,250 for the base model and goes up to $46,550 for the 330e xDrive.

Unfortunately, the average 3 series BMW loses about 50% of it’s value during those 3 years.

This makes the BMW much more accessible than it was 3 years ago. We see it all the time here at Protect My Car where the second owner drives it like he/she stole it, and then neglects routine maintenance until it becomes too expensive.

BMWs need regular maintenance to last. These are finely tuned machines with a very small threshold for error. They can’t be beat up and abused. Unfortunately when the second owner learns that, it’s almost always too late.

Then the car gets dumped, and whoever buys it afterwards is usually in for a nice surprise…repair bill.

4: Too Much Car On Your Income

Because BMW is perceived as a luxury brand, it’s really easy to assume that whoever is behind the wheel is rolling in it deeper than Adele 9 years on.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. An Experian Automotive study found that 61% of wealthy people drive Toyotas, Hondas and Fords. So who’s really behind the wheel of a BMW?

Kids call it “clout chasing” and boomers call it “keeping up with the Jonses”. I’ll call it what it is: buying too much car for what your income is.

Thomas Stanley, the late author of Stop Acting Rich has argued that luxury brand automakers are largely supported by the pseudo-affluent – those who spend quite a bit of money but have very little REAL WEALTH to show for it.

Stanley also wrote that that the median price that millionaires pay for their cars is a meager $31,367.

Part of the reason people complain about BMWs being so expensive to repair is because they aren’t able to actually afford what they are driving in the first place!

Seeing that $20k price tag like I mentioned above, coupled with the the BMW luxury perception leads to some poor decisions. Then, when the car starts having problems after not being maintained, instead of it being the owner’s fault, it’s the car’s fault.

Part of this is because…

5: “Normal” Conditions Are Not Normal

Do you drive over 55 mph on the highway?

Do you live in an area with potholes? Snow? What about sand, humidity, or any of that?

I’m willing to bet you answered yes to at least one of these, because otherwise you’re living in Shangri-La.

If you look in your BMW’s owner manual, the maintaine schedule follows “normal” use. However, normal use means only driving 55mph on the highway, with no sand, no humidity, or any other BS thrown in.

When you operate your BMW outside of normal conditions, things will break faster than normal. That goes for any car, but doubly so for a car that can cost you $500 bucks for a new battery.

Keep that in mind if you are looking to buy a BMW. However, if you already own a BMW there is one way you can stop paying for expensive repairs right now…

Has Your BMW Warranty Expired? Get Protected With Protect My Car

So here’s the good news: if your BMW warranty has expired, you can get coverage the mirrors what you had for less than $2/day.

Take a look below at some of your options:

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As you can see, all of our vehicle service contract plans cover major repairs to your car, much like your BMW Warranty. You’ll also notice that our plans pay for things your BMW Warranty does not, including free oil changes and tire rotations.

When your BMW does break down, if you have a vehicle service contract we take care of the repair bill for you. It’s just like your BMW warranty. You pay a deductible (between $100-$200) and we pay the rest.

For example, if your transmission fails and you are quoted $2,900 for a repair but you have a Supreme policy with us, you would only pay $100 dollars as a deductible and then we step in and pay the rest of the repair bill for you.

A vehicle service contract with Protect My Car can cover:

  • Engine
  • Transmission
  • Transfer Case
  • Drive Axle
  • Front/Rear Suspension
  • Air Conditioning and Heating (you do NOT want to be without these)
  • Electrical
  • …and so much more.

This is in addition to free oil changes and tire rotations, plus a free rental while your car is in the shop AND your hotel and meals paid for if you are away from your house.

Not to mention the free 24/7 roadside assistance that always has your back whether you get locked out or you break down on the side of the road.

Don’t wait for your car to break down or for your transmission to fail. Fill out the form below and click the “Get Quote” button to see how easy it is to start saving thousands on your car repairs, including your transmission.

Because even though it sucks that your BMW is no longer under warranty, you don’t have to drive without protection. You don’t have to pay out of pocket if you don’t want to. Just click the get quote button before your car breaks down and we’ll be there when you need us.

About Protect My Car

Protect My Car is an extended auto warranty company. Our goal here at Protect My Car is to eliminate your worry of being financially responsible for an expensive mechanical breakdown. With our extended auto warranty, you don’t have to worry about being fully burdened with the cost of a covered repair.