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What you need to know before buying a BMW

Without a doubt, BMW is well established among the car enthusiast crowd as a brand that caters to the "work hard, play hard" crowd. They aren't the cheapest cars to own and maintain, but offer a surprising amount of performance for the price and are a heck of a lot of fun to drive. If you're in the market for a beamer, read on below to find out about basic questions most potential buyers tend to struggle with.

Are they reliable?

Talk vehicle reliability to anyone on the street and BMW will probably be one of the first brands listed, and unfairly so. BMW vehicles have scored above average on the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study 12 times since 2000. 

As a premium performance car, they require maintenance in order to run well. Unlike a Honda or Toyota, failure to keep up with oil changes or come into the dealership for scheduled maintenance service can cost you down the road. As long as you keep your vehicle in good condition then you will have little to worry about.

How much will I pay?

BMWs are anything but cheap vehicles. Car prices start anywhere between $33,150 and $140,700 depending on the model, according to bmwusa.com. However, the BMW 3-Series, which is one of the brand's most popular models, is priced in line with cars like the Volkswagen CC, Subaru WRX, Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon. 

If you're more interested in the luxury options, you can get out the door for relatively cheap. A 320i sedan starts at $33,450 with just the basics, and for just under $40,000 you can get most of the bells and whistles, such as a moonroof and navigation system. For something a little more premium, the 7-Series starts off at $81,500.

If you're seeking performance then be prepared to fork over some more cash. A base 340i xDrive sedan will start at $50,895, which sports a TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder pushing 360 horsepower, is rear-wheel drive and will get you to 60 right around 4.4 seconds. 

Can I do my own maintenance? 

Buying the car is the easy part, it's the maintenance that can get to you, so be sure to check out available warranties. If you're buying used then search for certified pre-owned vehicles first. As stated above, maintenance will help you avoid bigger issues down the road, but it's the small, electrical things that tend to give way in newer BMWs. Basic maintenance can be done by nearly anyone. 

When looking ahead at your maintenance schedule, check and see what will be checked ahead of time. Some things, such as simple as a simple oil change, changing spark plugs and swapping brake pads can be done by the owner. Anything more serious will want to be taken to the dealership, however.

How fast are they?

Performance is where these cars really shine. The BMW M-Series has a badge that is sure to catch anyone's eye. These cars typically have modified engines, suspensions, transmissions, and just look plain meaner than their counterparts. 

The M-2, which is the smallest of the M-Series cars, features a turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve inline-6 that pushes the car 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, according to BMW, though reviewers have reached even lower times. 

You don't need to spend the $50k+ for an M-Series for great performance, though. The M235i can be had for around $40k, has 335 horsepower and gets to 60 in 4.3 seconds. Talk about a bang for your buck. 

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