BMW inline-six turbo engine

A 2023 Study on BMW’s Reliability: Are They Good Cars?

Are BMWs reliable cars?

It’s a question that has been asked for decades, and it’s a valid one!

With BMW claiming to produce luxury vehicles that make driving enjoyable, the reliability of their cars is often questioned.

Now, in 2023, we have more information than ever on this matter – so let’s look at what data tells us!

Keep reading to discover how BMW fares regarding reliability – you might discover something new!

At a Glance: How reliable are BMWs?

So, you’ve got one burning question: ‘Is BMW reliable?’

Well, let’s cut to the chase:

BMW’s reliability is a little like a box of chocolates – you never quite know what you’ll get.

While some industry rankings give it a thumbs up, others aren’t as generous. For example, J.D. Power’s report shows BMW sitting pretty close to the industry average, with 184 problems per 100 vehicles.

Meanwhile, RepairPal gives it a modest 2.5/5.0, and iSeeCars rates it a solid 7.5/10. The WarrantyWise ranking places BMW slightly lower, at 29th out of 36 car brands, with a score of 69/100.

However, when we look at surveys from actual BMW owners, the brand’s reliability score sees a sharp uptick. Consumer Reports ranks BMW as the third most reliable car brand, just behind Lexus:

BMW's reliability score according to Consumer Reports

What’s the bottom line?

BMW’s reliability is subjective. It might not be the poster child for bulletproof dependability, but it’s by no means a lemon.

Its real-world reliability depends mainly on factors like maintenance, driving habits, and the quality of parts used.

If you’re willing to look after it, a BMW can be as reliable as any other car!

If you want to learn more, stick around as we dive deeper into the specifics!

BMW’s Reliability In Industry Rankings And Consumer Reports

BMW – these three letters represent luxury, precision engineering, and high quality.

But the question is: does that charm last? Or does it fade away quicker than our New Year’s resolutions?

When assessing a car’s reliability, there are few better sources than industry rankings and consumer reports.

So, how does BMW stack up in these studies?

Let’s investigate!

Industry reliability rankings

First, let’s check BMW’s industry reliability rankings.

Below is an overview of four well-known industry ranking reports. And for a better understanding of BMW’s reliability, we’ve compared BMW’s scores with those of Audi, Mercedes, and Lexus (a brand that’s typically known for its reliability).

RankingBMW Reliability ScoreAudi Reliability ScoreMercedes Reliability ScoreLexus Reliability Score
J.D. Power184 (problems per 100 vehicles)252 (problems per 100 vehicles)240 (problems per 100 vehicles)133 (problems per 100 vehicles)
RepairPal2.5/5.03.0/5.03.0/5.04.0/5.0
iSeeCars7.5/107.8/107.2/108.2/10
WarrantyWise69/10074/10074/10082/100
Sources: J.D. Power, RepairPal, iSeeCars, WarrantyWise

Tip: Are you interested in a study of Audi’s reliability too? If so, we did a deep dive into the reliability of Audi in this article!

Let’s take a closer look at this data:

J.D. Power recorded 184 problems per 100 vehicles for BMW, almost equal to the industry average.

It’s also significantly less than Audi and Mercedes’ 252 and 240 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively. At the same time, Lexus’ score matches its reputation for excellent reliability and is much better than BMW’s reliability score.

BMW's reliability compared to other car brands: Is BMW reliable?

RepairPal shows different results, giving BMW a reliability score of 2.5/5.0. Audi and Mercedes have slightly better results, scoring 3.0/5.0.

Next up, we have iSeeCars, which gives BMW a 7.5/10 score for reliability. For reference, Lexus gets a score of 8.2/10.

Lastly, WarrantyWise’s reliability ranking gives BMW a 69/100. This ranks BMW 29th out of 36 for all car brands.

So, what can we conclude from this data?

Comparing BMW’s reliability to Audi’s, Mercedes’, and Lexus’ reliability, one dependability study ranks BMW as best, one ranks BMW as average, and two rank BMW as worst.

To conclude, the results of BMW reliability studies are mixed. In general, the reliability of BMW is average. BMW is not the least reliable car brand, but also not the most reliable.

Remember that these rankings are compiled based on research of analytics companies.

So, what if we look at reports based on direct feedback from BMW owners?

Let’s check whether the results are any different!

Consumer reports

In this section, we will assess BMW’s reliability based on trusted publications that conduct surveys with real BMW owners.

Here is an overview of what owners have reported about their vehicle’s reliability:

ReportBMW Reliability ScoreAudi Reliability ScoreMercedes Reliability ScoreLexus Reliability Score
Consumer Reports65/10060/10026/10072/100
CarComplaints.com1,009 complaints1,040 complaints1,191 complaints877 complaints
Sources: Consumer Reports, CarComplaints.com

Of these two reports, the one from Consumer Reports contains the most input data and can therefore be considered the most accurate.

Here is an infographic of the results:

Ranking the most and least reliable cars - BMW compared to other brands

BMW scores 65 out of 100 for reliability. It’s an excellent score, placing BMW in third among all car brands, right after Lexus!

Fun fact: WarrantyWise also did a 750-people survey on the most reliable manufacturers, and Audi, BMW, and Mercedes were all placed in the top ten most reliable car brands.

Based on the results of consumer surveys, the perceived reliability of BMW is very good.

BMW is placed in the top three most reliable car brands in the study of Consumer Reports, showing that BMW owners don’t experience the reliability to be as bad as some industry rankings indicate.

BMW’s common reliability issues (Real owner’s experiences)

When it comes to BMW’s reliability, who better to tell the story than the owners themselves?

So, before we dive into BMW’s common reliability issues, let’s hear the perspectives of a few real BMW owners:

The ones who parrot that Bimmers are reliable simply have the money to sustain ownership costs, or these individuals have a garage of tools and diy all repairs. If you diy, then expect the car to cost $500 yearly at the minimum, provided you never visit a mechanic. Engine matters the most. Go 6 cylinder and avoid every other engine.

Realistic BMW mechanic (source)

Some models and more specifically engines require a lot of preventative and continuous maintenance (n54 eg).

Some engines are just built like shit with poor components (n20 timing chain)

Then there’s others that with basic maintenance do just fine for many many years (n52)

The unreliable label is 50% people buying cheap poorly maintained cars (and doing no maintenance on them) and 50% just not great engine and supporting items (water pumps, thermostat, fuel pump etc).

BMW Z4 owner (source)

I’ve been driving Bimmers for 15 years – every car purchased used from original owner – never had a warranty; I do some of my own service/repairs. I drove two 18 y/o 5 Series sedans to over 225K miles and never any major issues – engine and driveline are generally VERY solid; it’s often the smaller stuff that gives owners fits, like the eco soybean gaskets used on the motors…. they have somewhat short lifespan, thus valve cover, oil filter and some pan gaskets need replacement at/near 75K or so miles.

Be diligent regards service and preventative maintenance and you’ll get reliable performance from the car.

BMW X3 owner (source)

The common consensus seems to be that BMWs are reliable, under the condition that they’ve been well maintained.

But when reliability issues arise, what problems are you most likely to face?

Here are the most common reliability complaints of BMW owners:

  • Oil leaks from worn-out engine seals or gaskets
  • Worn timing chain mechanism
  • Plastic charge pipes cracking
  • Failed thermostat or water pump
  • Rough shifts on automatic gearboxes
  • Clogged water drains in the engine bay
  • Corrosion on the alloy wheels

Let’s quickly discuss them one by one!

Oil leaks from worn-out engine seals or gaskets

First on the list are oil leaks, often caused by worn-out engine seals or gaskets.

As your BMW ages, engine seals can harden and shrink, leading to oil seeping out.

Typical places where you will first notice oil leaks include the valve cover gasket, timing cover gasket, front & rear crankshaft seal, or oil pan gasket.

Here’s an example of an oil leak problem from a BMW owner:

If left unaddressed, oil leaks can cause further damage. Plus, nobody likes those oil spots on their driveway, so don’t wait too long with the repair!

Worn timing chain mechanism

Some BMW models, particularly those with N47 engines, have had issues with the timing chain mechanism.

When the timing chain wears out, it can slacken and start to make noise, potentially leading to engine failure if not addressed.

Here is an image of how it looks when your timing chain guides crack:

It’s like a bad game of dominoes in there – one thing goes wrong, and it could all come tumbling down!

Plastic charge pipes cracking

Then, there’s the plastic charge pipe issue.

These pipes are part of the turbocharger system and have been known to crack under the pressure of stock boost levels:

When this happens, your turbocharger loses pressure, and your BMW might lose its pep.

Failed thermostat or water pump

Another common BMW problem is a failed thermostat or water pump, although a failed thermostat seems to be more prevalent.

If the thermostat fails, it opens up all the way.

This causes the fan on your BMW to keep running and the engine to be cooled continuously, which means it won’t warm up to the correct operating temperature.

Rough shifts on automatic gearboxes

The automatic gearbox has become common in many modern cars, including BMWs.

BMW 3 Series gearbox

However, if you experience any weird, slow, or rough shifts on the automatic transmission of a BMW, it may be a sign that an (expensive) repair is coming up.

A BMW should change gears quickly and smoothly without noise or hesitation.

BMW will tell you the automatic transmission is ‘sealed for life.’ However, it’s advisable to flush your transmission oil every 60,000 to 80,000 miles, especially if you want it to last 300,000+ miles.

After flushing the gearbox, you will likely notice that the car shifts much smoother!

Clogged water drains in the engine bay

If you notice water pooling around certain places in your engine bay, it’s more than likely due to clogged water drains.

If the water can’t drain, it can seep into areas it shouldn’t, like your car’s interior or electrical systems. This can lead to mold, mildew, and even electrical failures.

Often, clogs are caused by leaves and other muck that builds up in the system over time:

BMW clogged water drain

Corrosion on the alloy wheels

Last is corrosion on the alloy wheels.

BMW alloy wheels are susceptible to corrosion due to road salt and winter grime, causing issues such as oxidation, pitting, and uneven coloring.

Here’s an example, and we bet you’ve seen something like this before!

BMW alloy wheel with oxidation/corrosion

Related article: BMW 3 Series: 16 Most Common Problems To Check Before Buying

The 10 Most (& Least) Reliable BMW Models

There’s no doubt that BMW has earned its place as one of the most popular car brands in the world.

But with so many different models, how can you know which are the most reliable and which you should avoid?

To help answer this question, we’ve scoured reviews, customer feedback, and reliability ratings to list the most and least reliable BMWs.

5 Most Reliable BMW Models

Let’s start by discussing the most reliable BMW models!

1. BMW Z4

BMW Z4 Red - One of the most reliable BMWs

The BMW Z4 is a star in the reliability department!

This sleek roadster is more than just a pretty face. It scores an impressive 9.2/10 on iSeeCars’ Reliability Rating and is as dependable as a golden retriever.

Reliability and style? Now that’s a dreamy combo!

Learn more: 6 Best BMW Z4 Models (+ Most Reliable & Years To Avoid!)

2. BMW 3 Series

BMW 3 Series 320i black

With a robust 8.7/10 on iSeeCars’ Reliability Rating, the BMW 3 Series is as steadfast as they come.

But wait, there’s more! According to J.D. Power, the 3 Series is also in the top three most dependable compact premium cars.

But hey, no car is perfect, right?

If you want to know more about its ups and downs, we’ve got a whole article dedicated to the pros and cons of the BMW 3 Series.

Curious about how many birthdays the 3 Series will celebrate with you? We’ve explored the longevity of the 3 Series in this piece.

And lastly, for those who believe in being fully informed, we’ve curated a list of the most common problems you might encounter with a BMW 3 Series!

Learn more: BMW 3 Series: Which Years To Avoid & To Buy? (2023 Guide)

3. BMW 5 Series

BMW 5 Series G30 touring white

Welcome to the BMW 5 Series, where reliability and luxury coexist in perfect harmony.

The 5 Series has an 8.7/10 Reliability Rating from iSeeCars.

So, if you want to bring one into your life, look at our comprehensive guide to finding the best value when buying a used BMW 5 Series!

4. BMW 7 Series

BMW 7 Series black

Next in line is the magnificent BMW 7 Series.

Sporting an impressive 8.6/10 on iSeeCars’ Reliability Rating, the 7 Series is both reliable and luxurious!

5. BMW M5

BMW F90 M5 CS grey

Rolling up next is the speedy BMW M5.

With an 8.4/10 on iSeeCars’ Reliability Rating, the M5 is like that cool kid on the block who always has your back. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s reliable – a triple threat!

5 Least reliable BMW models

Not all BMWs score high in reliability rankings.

So, let’s look at some of the least dependable BMWs:

1. BMW X5 (plug-in hybrid)

BMW X5 40i dark blue

Let’s talk about the BMW X5 Plug-in hybrid.

You see, not all BMWs score high on reliability. The X5 Plug-in hybrid checks in with a modest 6.5/10 on iSeeCars’ Reliability Rating.

Additionally, it has the dubious honor of having the most complaints on CarComplaints.com among all BMW models.

So, if you’re considering the X5 Plug-in Hybrid, just remember – it’s a bit of a wildcard in the BMW reliability deck!

2. BMW X2

BMW X2 black

We’re all about keeping things real here, and the X2’s 5.8/10 on iSeeCars’ Reliability Rating is, let’s just say, a bit of a speed bump.

So, if you’re drawn to the X2’s charm, just keep in mind it might need a bit more attention than average.

3. BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe white

Next on our reliability list, or perhaps lack thereof, is the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.

This little car rolls in with a reliability rating of 5.8/10 on iSeeCars, sharing the same score as the X2.

4. BMW 4 Series

BMW 4 Series coupe black

Now, let’s turn our attention to the BMW 4 Series.

Its sporty aesthetics are undeniable, but its reliability score of 5.8/10 on iSeeCars might raise some eyebrows.

This puts it on par with the X2 and the 2 Series Gran Coupe regarding dependability.

5. BMW X3

BMW X3 M Sport dark blue

Lastly, let’s talk about the BMW X3.

With a reliability score of 7.1/10 on iSeeCars, the X3 is like that middle-of-the-road friend who’s neither your go-to problem solver nor the one who always forgets your birthday.

It’s somewhere in between – not quite the top of the class, but not at the bottom either!

3 Factors Affecting The Reliability Of A BMW

Even though BMW doesn’t get the best reputation regarding reliability, we’re convinced that if you treat it well, it will treat you nicely in return.

Here are some of the factors that will help to maintain your BMW’s reliability:

1. Maintenance

First up is maintenance. Who would’ve guessed?

As with any car, how you care for your BMW can significantly impact its reliability.

Regular oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine maintenance tasks are essential to keep your car running smoothly.

Tip: The 3 Best Motor Oil Choices For A BMW (+ How To Pick One)

Also, if you notice any strange noises, unusual vibrations, or warning lights on your dashboard, it’s vital to get your car checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

Catching potential issues early can help prevent more serious and expensive problems.

And when performing repairs or modifying your BMW, make sure to use high-quality parts.

Lower-quality parts may save you money in the short term, but it could cost you more in the long run if they cause further damage to your vehicle.

In addition to regular maintenance and paying attention to warning signs, taking care of your BMW’s exterior and interior is essential.

Keeping your car clean and well-maintained can help prevent rust and other issues affecting your car’s reliability.

A great brand to look at if you would like to get some car care products for your BMW is Chemical Guys:

Chemical Guys homepage

Their website offers a variety of high-quality, proven car cleaning products for both your exterior and interior.

2. Age

Another factor that can affect BMW’s reliability is age.

Like any other machine, cars inevitably break down over time.

While BMWs are built to last, older models may experience more frequent issues related to worn parts, brittle plastics, or even rust.

BMW 3 Series rusted seat rails
BMW 3 Series rusted seat rails

3. Usage

Usage is another critical factor to consider.

If you put a lot of miles on their car, you may find that your BMW starts to experience more issues over time.

Also, driving in extreme weather conditions or rough terrain can take a toll on your car, potentially causing damage that could impact its reliability.

Of course, if you’re someone who only drives their car occasionally, you may get away with less maintenance and upkeep.

FAQs about BMW reliability

Do you have any more questions about the reliability of BMWs? If so, take a look at our FAQs below:

Are BMWs long-lasting cars?

BMWs are long-lasting cars. Many BMW owners have reported their cars clocking up at least 250,000 miles. With proper care and regular maintenance, a BMW can accompany you on many adventures for years.

Are BMWs expensive to maintain?

Relatively speaking, BMWs are expensive to maintain. According to RepairPal, BMW owners can expect to shell out around $968 annually for maintenance costs.

Are used BMWs reliable?

Used BMWs can be just as reliable as their newer siblings, given one crucial factor – they’ve been appropriately maintained. A well-looked-after used BMW can be an excellent investment, offering the same sheer driving pleasure without the hefty price tag of a brand-new model.

Final verdict

We’ve crunched the numbers, heard the stories, and investigated BMW’s reliability.

So, what’s the final verdict?

Final verdict: BMW is a reliable-enough brand, with a few caveats. It may not top the charts in every reliability study, but it’s held in high esteem by those who drive them.

When we look at industry rankings, BMW’s reliability is a bit of a mixed bag. In some studies, it outshines its German counterparts, Audi and Mercedes, but falls behind in others.

But then, when we turn to real BMW owners, the picture changes.

BMW’s reliability score soars, and suddenly it’s up there rubbing shoulders with the top dogs. This shows that while analytics companies have their place, nothing beats real-world experience.

Remember, all cars have their quirks, and BMW is no exception. But with regular maintenance, considerate driving habits, and high-quality parts, a BMW can be as reliable as any other car!

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