Yeah Mate, You can bag a Good M3 for £8,000. Really?

Don’t you just love people who claim you can own an object of desire for a pittance?  That the world is wrong and they just don’t know where to look?  This certainly seemed to be the case for me and my search of a car I have wanted for quite some time ; the BMW E46 M3.

With its individual throttle bodies, great looks and lovely handling it had me written over it.  Sure there is the question of image but who cares when you are having so much fun?

So, the budget.  What would it be?  If eBay is to be believed and other people down the pub this should have been dead easy  Oh, and the internet is always right, right?.  After all, back in 2014 M3s had dropped to an all time low in value!  So off I went in my search in May 2016, with a budget of £9,000 but hoping to stay around the £6,000.  After all I don’t mind getting my hands too dirty but I also hate a money pit!  We all know have a £6,000 car can quickly become an £11,000+ car, still with its faults.  But we all cannot resist a bargain:

I don’t think that I was too picky with my specification.  I wanted the following if I could help it:

Any car except Titan Silver
Preferably a manual
Evidence of good maintenance over the years, be it specialists or simply receipts to show what work the car has had done
Good service history from when it was new
New Discs ; I was wise enough to check the price of these!
New but good Tyres ; I was also wise enough to check the price up!
A half decent drive
With the latter two my jaw almost hit the floor when I saw the prices of them

With me previously owning a Clio 172 and a Mondeo V6 with 250,000 miles I thought the above should have been easy.

I had a few contenders to go and see.  These included the following:

  1. A Titan Silver Car with a black leather interior.  It was a manual coupe with 128,000 miles on the clock.  Oddly it was the only one I saw being sold by a trader and also it was the cheapest.  £6750 to be exact.
  2. A Mystic Blue with Grey Leather SMG model.  This would be the first SMG coupe car I saw.  It had 112,000 miles on the clock, a new clutch and only 2 owners.  This car? £8,100
  3. A Laguna Seca Blue and black leather M3.  Also a manual this had 111,000 miles.  It did have many new parts including discs and an exhaust put on.  This was on for £8,000.  It was however in Northern Ireland
  4. A Phoenix Yellow and black leather Cabrio.  As another manual this had 75,000 miles on the clock and was owned by a retired BMW technician.  The price?  £9,000.
  5. A Carbon Black and red leather Cabrio.  This was another SMG.  It had a bit of work done to it including new lower arms etc. and so on.  This was one of the cheaper cars for sale at £7,000.
  6. Another Titan Silver and Black manual entered the scene.  This was an 84,000 mile car being sold by a dealer.  It had 12 months MOT and was ready to go.  This one was £8,900.
  7. This is almost like Deja vu!  I found an almost identical car to the above!  Another Mystic Blue car with Grey leather!  It had more miles on at 122,000 miles and also had been owned for just over a year with plenty of MOT left.

All were claimed to be in great condition upon the first glance of the advert and the pictures.  After all a picture can speak 1,000 words.  So with that respect, surely 8 pictures can speak 8,000 words combined together?

While I did not expect perfection I wanted a clean and tidy car.  I figured with my then 2003 Clio 172 being very tidy for its age this should have been a walk in the park.  With plenty of tools at my disposal like My Car Buying Guide it should have given me an idea of what I was about to see!  Surely they would pass the mark with flying colours.

Little did I know, I had no idea what I was about to let myself in for.


Car buying


No Timewasters, Dreamers or Test Pilots

Car buying
TV Shopping.  No one really likes shopping but we do it anyway.  Your current TV is OK but it is getting a bit long in the tooth.  Or you’ve moved house and now the TV that was OK for your flat looks a little lost in your more spacious house.  So begins the journey of getting a TV.


You do your research, look into what the TVs do and then you are set to go and get one.  At this point you walk into an electronics shop like Currys or Richer Sounds and see what is about.  After all, reviews and comments are all good and well but the reality can be different for all of us.  After all, we see things in different ways and interpret comments differently too.  As you stand over the TV that is in your shortlist to buy a salesman comes over.  While you are committed to buying the TV you wonder if the salesman is trying to push you into wanting to buy the TV right here and right now.  Suddenly you almost feel like a bit of a timewaster, and are willing to not buy the TV you wanted.  Maybe it wasn’t what you expected, or another one caught your eye there.  Did the reviews not pick up on a horrendously awkward menu structure on the TV?  And so I come onto car adverts.

“No timewasters, canvassers or test pilots”  It is a common sight on many adverts out there.  Reading such adverts you would think that car buyers have nothing better to do than just aimlessy wonder over to a car and never buy it.  Or do they?
Of course, such people exist but over the many cars I have sold I would beg to differ.  Is it the buyers who are at fault or is it the sellers?  The truth?  It’s a bit of both.
Take Exhibit A.  Roughly a year ago when I realised that owning two cars as near enough dailies on the go would not work I decided to buy a car which do hopefully do all that I wanted for the price point.  In this case it was a BMW M3, of the E46 shape for the nerds wondering which one.  This according to many sources out there should have been an absolute doddle.  “Yeah, £7k will get you a good ‘un mate, innit”?  Looking at a variety of adverts and their descriptions this certainly appeared to be the case.
It looked so good in the pictures. I guess a photo can only speak a thousand words
With a list of 4 or 5 cars identified around the area I decided to go M3 hunting.  That’s looking to buy, not trying to race them.
“When your 250,000 mile Mondeo V6 looks better than an Audi with a third of the mileage you know that you are looking at a pup”
In short, many of the cars were tired out wrecks.  Despite all having no crash damage or finance history most looked like war victims, with rust brewing from wheelarches, brakes which would require replacement as well as patchy service history.  Oh, with them dashboards that illuminated the tatty interiors like a Christmas tree.  Of course, the sellers were more than happy to point out the faults once you got to the car and omit some obvious ones prior to you arrived.  A good car?  These were money pits that would cost thousands, not hundreds to get right!
It the same story two years ago when I was looking to buy an Audi TT.  I got sick of looking at so many wrecks I eventually decided to call off the search.  When your 250,000 mile Mondeo V6 looks and drives better than an Audi with a third of that mileage you know that you are looking at a pup, not a car which is in “very good condition, and taken car of”.
I did eventually find the right car, but it took almost 5 cars to get to it.  Whether that made me a timewaster or not I don’t know.  That is not to say that I have ever sold a perfect car either!
That said, I have been on the receiving end of it when I have sold cars.
With my Triumph Stag it had become a bit of a moneypit after being a bad purchase.  And so I tentatively put it up for a price for quite a bit less than what it owed me.  It was strong was the pricing, make no mistake.  Suffice to say I had my share of “timewasters” too.  I have glossed over a few bits because I was just getting sick of the car.  Every month I was putting hundreds into fixing the car.  I guess I was running out of steam with the venture.  That said, the car was a massive improvement from when I bought it.
The first bloke who came to see it wasn’t too impressed.  To be honest some of the offers were dreamworthy ; £3500 for a Stag with MOT and Tax from an asking price of £7000 is taking the Michael a little.  Eventually a good buyer, or fool depending on your outlook, took the car off my hands.  It’s fair to say it’s a better car now than it was before.
But with the above I guess I was partly to blame.  If I had been a little more honest maybe the buyers would have been more forthcoming.  But on the otherhand how many honestly described cars have you seen?  I know for me it is not that many.
The issue for both the buyers and sellers is interpretation of things.  If someone says a car has worn well for its age and mileage they are referring to if they had a car that they kept, not me.  Of course that creates an issue, naturally.  I will tend to change things as they wear out, not relying on an MOT to make me aware of it.  Many others don’t follow that philosophy it would seem.
This naturally leaves the car buyers and sellers of the world with a final question.  Throughout all of the searching are we simply human in having different expectations, or are we timewasters?

Car Buying : How not to Buy a Nail


Car buying
If only we could be as happy as this shot


Buying a car is often the fun part of buying a car. There is excitement of discovery, as you go looking at the cars, the feeling of trying something else as well as generally trying something new, or at least new to you.


However, let’s be honest. If you need a car quickly be that it is your only means of viable transportation or that you simply are too impatient the buying process is also one of the biggest chores of car ownership. Taking time out to travel can be stressful, in some instances the discovery of a new car also can put a question mark on how good the car is, or whether it is the little gem the owner said it is cracked up to be, or worse, have finance owing on it or it simply not being the car it claims to be. Then if you buy the car you have to hope that you can actually get somewhere!


But in recent times I seem to be doing something right and in the instances I follow these rules it seems to work well. If it were me I would check any car on the following 5 things:


-MOT History Check

-HPI Check

-Check Everything Works in the Car, Everything!

-Drive It!



  • MOT History Check

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 20.03.54

This example is where technology really can be used to your advantage. Best of all it is now free and easier to obtain!


The best part? All you need for this check is a registration number and make of the vehicle.

Now to the fun bit. Take a look through the previous MOTs and try to get a photo of what you are looking at.  While a few minor advisories shouldn’t worry you, keep eye out on some that should.  Likewise, see if the condition of the car reflects whether the car is worthy of zero advisories…

It has been rumoured that people have been removing from MOT paperwork, so this is a great way to see what the seller is hiding.


2) HPI Check

A sample report of an HPI check

This is a tricky one for sure. Yes I know the checks are around £20 a go, but it could also save you a lot of grief. If you are that worried buy a few and sell a few to your friends; they will benefit from the discount also.


While I do not mind a written off CAT D car under certain conditions (mainly if it is old and where new parts with labour times would render repairing the car uneconomic to repair) I can appreciate that this is not for everyone. Some CAT D cars I have bought have been in better condition than unrecorded cars, so it can serve as a helpful tool as well.  A number plate transfer shouldn’t also scare you either.


What would concern me more is a stolen register where the car had not been recovered in addition to outstanding finance ; this could leave you in trouble.


On another note, ensure the check comes only from HPI, Experian or the RAC ; there are reports of other mobile services either not giving the full information or in some cases outdated data.


  • Check Number correlation between the V5 (Logbook) and the Car

V5 Info

If nothing else is taken away from this article I do hope that this is! It is a paramount that this point is considered. While engine numbers may not be a cause for concern if the Vehicle Identification No.) VIN of the car does not match the logbook then I’d walk away.


  • Check everything electrical inside the car
This may seem idiotic but it could save you a world of pain

This can be taken in many ways, but you would be surprised how many cars I have come across where it has been described as being in perfect working order, only for this not to be the case. Even if it is a hot summer’s day check that the heater works in every possible position ; failure to do so could cost you.


4) Drive the car

Now this can also be a tricky and for the purposes of the article I will state a couple of things

-Ensure you have insurance on the car

-Be prepared to put down cash for the cash – After all if you bend it you mend it.

To me it doesn’t matter who is trying to sell the car. I have had friends lie to me about how bad a car really is, as well as punters.

It really does surprise me just how many people fail to do this and go with faith that the car will be fine.

With all of these checks done hopefully this will build on the foundations of buying a good car and not look like this guy: