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Car brand reviews

Should I buy a BMW?

By Oliver Trebilcock

Article 3 of 24

BMW is a prestigious German car brand that makes more than just luxury saloons: it builds hatchbacks, SUVs and hybrids, too. Is BMW worthy of your attention?

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BMW is one of the world's best-known makers of prestige cars, whose models have a reputation for focusing on the driver's enjoyment behind the wheel.  

Its range has expanded dramatically over the years. With a big tradition in coupés, convertibles and sports cars, BMW is increasingly embracing practicality.

For years, BMW has chosen to make its cars rear-wheel drive to keep them dynamically sharp. But it now makes front-wheel drive cars, too, because they free up extra interior space.

Its line-up now encompasses the popular VW Golf-sized 1 Series, 4x4 SUVs such as the X1, X2, X3, X4 and X5, and even MPVs such as the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer.

While the mainstay of its business is still large saloon and Touring estate cars, such as the 3 Series and 5 Series, it now offers several alternative body styles. This includes the Gran Turismo (hatchback) and Gran Coupé (fastback). Sporty models, such as the M2 and M4, remain popular, too.

BMW has also embraced electric cars with the i3 and i8. As well as hybrid models, such as the 330e and 2 Series Active Tourer Hybrid.

But are BMW cars reliable? Keep reading to find out what we discovered when we surveyed thousands of car owners.

To see how all BMW cars we've tested score, head straight to our BMW car reviews.

How reliable are BMW cars?

BMW cars are reliable - or so the company's reputation would have you believe. But does the reality live up to the expectation?

Every year, we run an annual car survey where tens of thousands of people tell us about their current car and how reliable it is. Based on feedback from current BMW owners, we have reliability data for new cars aged up to three years old, and also cars aged between three and eight years old. 

Which? members can login and use the table below to find out just how reliable BMW cars really are. Not yet a Which? member? Join Which? to unlock all of our reliability ratings and our online reviews.

BMW car reliability
  Ratings and review
0-3-year reliability
3-8-year reliability
Reliability description

Table notes
Results from the 2018 Which? Car Survey (results gathered from 43,027 owners, about 51,172 cars, between December 2017 and February 2018).


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Find out how BMW's reliability compares to its rivals - check our car brand reliability tool.

How much do BMW cars cost?

As one of the three main German prestige car makers, alongside Audi and Mercedes-Benz, it's no surprise to find that BMWs are priced to compete at the top end of the mainstream market.

The BMW 1 Series is BMW’s entry-level model – it’s priced from around £22,000.

BMWs are better equipped as standard then they used to be

BMWs are better equipped as standard than they used to be but you're very likely to want to tick a few boxes for optional extras - and BMW has a long list of very tempting ones. Typically the prices for options are on the high side, too.

UK customers are particularly drawn to M Sport packages, which make BMWs look and feel sportier - but you need to be aware of the impact this can have on ride comfort.

BMWs hold their value well, which also means that the brand can keep its monthly PCP (loan towards buying the car outright) and leasing costs at attractive prices.

BMW 3 series 2012 slide

BMW 5 Series 2017 slide

Choosing the best BMW car

Historically, BMW's most important model has been the BMW 3 Series saloon and BMW Touring estate. Arguably it still represents the heart of the BMW range, with its focus on driving dynamics, comfort, technology and safety. 

The larger BMW 5 Series offers the same sort of incisive driving experience but with more space and comfort, especially in GBMW 5 Series GT or BMW 5 Series Touring guise. 

Meanwhile the BMW X5 is a large 4x4 that offers high levels of driving enjoyment on the road.

As well as coupé and convertible models like the BMW 2 Series and BMW 4 Series, niche models have been making big inroads in recent years. So the BMW X4 is effectively a coupé version of the BMW X3, while the Gran Coupé badge in BMW's dictionary means a four-door coupé. 

Arguably, one of the most appealing BMWs is also its most accessible: the 1 Series, which brings BMW values to the medium hatchback class dominated by the VW Golf.

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