Selling a MINI & the Search for a New Car (Part 1 of a Series)

Part One

As many of you know I sold my 2007 MCS (with every JCW accessory imaginable) a few months ago. There were lots of reasons I won ‘t go into here but I will say one of the over-riding factors was that I simply needed something a little larger and unfortunately a Clubman wouldn ‘t quite do.

So I was resigned to the fact that I would probably be MINI-less for at least a couple years with this move. But I still wanted to make the most of it and get something a truly enjoyed driving everyday. There were a few choices I immediately considered. While I could comfortably afford more than my previous MINI, I wanted to aim quite a bit lower due to new priorities. So with that decided, I zeroed in on a price range that was from $20,000 to $25,000. And besides, there ‘s something I ‘ve always found a bit charming in the search a great used car. So the idea was set, I ‘d find something interesting with four doors that would allow me to get something even more interesting and smaller (and presumably more fun).

The Search

So let ‘s see. Four doors, fun, relatively efficient and rare or at least interesting. There are several brands out there that I could consider. The new MazdaSpeed 3 fit within this category but it ‘s too small and not really what I ‘m looking for. And the size factor rules out things like four door GTI ‘s (not to mention the quality factor) and other like-sized hatches.

In the end there was only one brand that made sense. It ‘s the one that I ‘ve owned and driven for years; BMW. A lot of MF readers might not know this but my 2002 MC was my first front-wheel drive car. In fact it was only the second non-BMW I ‘ve ever owned. So stepping into a BMW just felt right. Now the hard part, which one.

I could go low-end and look or four door E30 ‘s (the 3 Series made from 1984 through 1991). I could also consider an E34 5 Series (early 90 ‘s 535i preferable) with the bulletproof 3.5L inline six. Then there ‘s always something more exotic. An E28 M5? Wait, what about an E39 M5? Both incredible cars with a purity that cannot be matches by any four door today. But even crazier, high-mileage E39 M5s (the ones made from 1999 through 2004) can be found in the mid-20 ‘s. Yes as crazy as it sounds an E39 M5 would be totally doable given my modest price range.

But as I started my search for that mythical $24K E39 M5 I started to realize a few things. For starters 400hp is probably insane for the kind of city driving I do every day. Not to mention the 12 mpg I ‘d surely get around town. Then there are the running costs. Insurance is one thing. But think of the repair bills should anything (God forbid) happen to that extraordinary high-reving 400hp V8. And then there ‘s the size. Tight Chicago streets are not kind to cars like an M5.

So my search continued with the M5 dream put on the shelf at least for now.

So I moved to the most recently 3 Series, the E90. The 335i and 328i were clearly out of the equation due to price (as was the 330i pictured above) but the 2006 325i held some promise. There were plenty of them available in that range but finding one in the spec I would want (sport package, manual and preferably Nav) is extremely hard to due given the price point. Then there ‘s the idea of buying what seemed like a commodity. Remember, I wanted something special, not something I ‘d see coming and going everyday.

To be continued Wednesday.

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  • I’ll be doing this myself soon (selling my MINI that is). But I have already ordered my replacement car. An MY09 Audi S3.


  • JonPD

    A fun read so far Gabe, I share the love of the search for solid used cars. The hunt is a blast, narrowing ones search down further and further.

    Not to surprised that your leaning towards a BMW. Generally speaking for something you don’t see coming and going every day that’s going to be more interesting. For where I live sad to say that just about every 3 and 5 series is well represented. I did see a couple nice BMWs over the last week however that would work for me. A good condition E10 and a E30M3 though both are only two doors so out of your criteria.

    You could find some really decent E36 M3 around for the price point but think you would be better off going after a E46 platform for a M3, while tougher to find in your price point it can be done to find a good example. Hands down has one of the best BMW engines ever the S54, this alone would sell me.

  • chaz

    The tension builds. I did a search similar to yours. I did an interesting detour with a nice 2000 Audi S4 as they were so cheap, but after replacing the turbos and transmission for what a normal used car would cost it wasn’t so cheap. The two VW/Audi products I have had are the worst quality cars I have ever owned. Never again (no matter how nicely designed the new ones looke). So I was off on a search for unique BMW (with manual and sports package). I bet you come up with something different than I did…

  • Kevin

    Gabe, I know exactly how you feel. I am selling my 2004 MCS loaded to the gills with everything except the JCW package. Fortunately I live in a true car city (Atlanta) and found an 2002 E39 M5 with just over 72K miles in great condition. Picked it up for <25,000 and am loving every minute of the 400hp.

    Good luck on your search, I hope parting with your MINI is/was not nearly as difficult a choice as mine was…

  • Thanks for the kind words everyone. It’ll be interesting to compare the reaction when this goes live on MotoringFile tomorrow.

  • JonPD

    I will be very interested in seeing which direction you go Gabe. As a fan of performance and a former Mini driver all I am guessing is something with a little bit of a kick and something that stands out.

    I have often thought of selling one of my Mini’s as of late to make room for a roundel in my garage. If I come across the right deal for a E86M I am very tempted to let my GP go. Its a fantastic little car, still a little lacking for pure performance. I have to say to any of you that have been able to let your Mini’s go that I can only imagine just how difficult of a choice that must have been.

  • Ryan

    Looks like an E46 ZHP is in the cards. I picked up my 05 ZHP sedan last May with under 30k miles for less than $24,000. From this article it looks like it will fit your needs perfectly. Right size, great performance, gets decent mileage and slots into your price range nicely. Amazing car, the lack of the S54 is the only thing stopping it from being an E46 M3 Sedan.

  • Mark
    Thanks for the kind words everyone. It’ll be interesting to compare the reaction when this goes live on MotoringFile tomorrow.

    Lynch mob? Honestly, I think most people understand peoples situations change and your needs evolve. I’m looking forward to seeing the new wheels Gabe.

  • AlanInZA

    I can empathise…. I had to sell my 2006 JCW with everything…… And I also went for a BMW – albeit a 2 wheeled one – an F800GS. That way I still get a lot of fun from it. Good hunting.