Q: I have an odd question. I'm looking to purchase a new older vehicle (03 or so BMW, 100,000 mi range) ~$3500

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I'm very torn between vehicles. And I figured who better to ask than someone who works on them for a living

My car has 100000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

There is nothing odd about your question at all. Indeed, you have posed an excellent question that suggests you are thinking ahead. In evaluating the wisdom of buying a particular model of car (used or new), consult the database of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA. The NHTSA database contains model specific consumer complaints, official recalls and factory service bulletins searchable by individual year, make, and model. I encourage you to go to the NHTSA website and enter "2003 BMW Series 3" into the search dialog box and simply review the existing reports. For the 2003 BMW Series 3, I see that there are 9 recalls, 3 investigations, 426 consumer complaints (that’s a relatively large number, by the way), and 56 Technical Service Bulletins (discussing post production problems unique to the vehicle). If you carefully review these reports you will gain an excellent overview of what has been experienced by other owners insofar as faults in the particular make, model and year you are interested in. I would post the text of the reports here, but they are detailed and voluminous so it will be more practical for you to view them online (it is free). An additional resource, "Consumer Reports", publishes system-by-system vehicle reliability data for all years, makes, and models. This data is available free in the library, or on-line if you are a paid subscriber. That reliability data will give you an excellent indication of the relative likelihood (probability) that key systems on the model (and year) of interest to you will fail at greater, or lesser, frequency compared to those rates reported for other vehicles. Obviously, what you want to be looking for in the "Consumer Reports" database is an indication that the vehicle "make and model year" of interest to you is NOT a "lemon" insofar as reliability. Finally, to protect yourself in any used car transaction, you should request a pre-purchase vehicle inspection. That inspection, carried out by a certified Mechanic, dispatched to your location by YourMechanic, will give you very specific data regarding any current problems with the actual car you want to buy. If you are unable to access any of these resources, or desire data of a different type, please do not hesitate for a moment to re-contact YourMechanic and we will assist you further in your attempts to make a wise used vehicle purchase.

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