14 Pros And Cons Of A BMW 3 Series & Why (Not) To Buy One

14 Pros And Cons Of A BMW 3 Series & Why (Not) To Buy One

The BMW 3 Series has long been a benchmark in the luxury sedan segment.

But, just like any car, it has its own highs and lows.

I’ve spent some time around these cars, and I can tell you that they do stir up a mix of feelings.

Here are the 14 pros and cons of a BMW 3 Series:

  • Pros
    1. Superior handling and driving pleasure
    2. Luxurious and intuitive interior
    3. Powerful engine options
    4. User-friendly iDrive system
    5. Excellent outward visibility
    6. Compact yet practical
    7. Relatively good fuel economy
  • Cons
    1. High retail price
    2. Costly maintenance and insurance
    3. Potentially stiff ride
    4. Variable reliability in certain model years
    5. Requires premium gasoline
    6. Expensive optional features
    7. Limited rear legroom

By the end of this read, I hope that you’ll have a clearer picture of what owning this car is like.

So, let’s get started!

7 Pros of a BMW 3 Series

Here are the seven pros of a BMW 3 Series!

1. Superior handling and driving pleasure

Let’s start with one of the most celebrated aspects of the BMW 3 Series: its handling and driving pleasure.

If there’s one thing BMW has nailed with this model, it’s how it makes you feel behind the wheel.

In the BMW 3 Series, a winding road is a joy.

The steering is precise; it’s like the car knows exactly where you want to go.

BMW M340i dynamic driving

But it’s not just about sharp turns. The overall driving experience is balanced and smooth.

The car’s suspension system is designed to absorb bumps in the road, making your ride comfortable yet sporty.

I remember the first time I drove a 3 Series; it was like the car almost encouraged me to push it a bit more, to enjoy the drive a little more.

The BMW xDrive system is a four-wheel drive system, but you can feel it sends most of the power to the rear wheels.

Plus, the engine of most BMW 3 Series is placed longitudinally, and the car has a near-perfect fifty-fifty weight distribution.

All in all, the 3 Series is a car that brings that joy of driving to life!

2. Luxurious and intuitive interior

The first time I sat inside a BMW 3 Series at a dealership, I immediately noticed how luxurious the interior was.

BMW 3 Series G20 cream interior

When you slide into the driver’s seat, there’s a sense of entering a space that’s elegant, thoughtfully arranged, and spacious.

First off, the luxury aspect. The materials used in the 3 Series are top-notch.

We’re talking about soft-touch surfaces, plush leather seats (an absolute delight on long drives), and trim options that add a sophisticated look.

The craftsmanship here speaks of quality, and you can feel it whether you’re running your hand along the dashboard or settling into the seats.

Even the smallest details have been carefully considered, from the LED ambient lighting to the power-adjustable lumbar support!

Furthermore, the cockpit’s layout is driver-focused, meaning everything you need is within easy reach and right where you expect it to be.

Then there’s the iDrive system, which we’ll talk more about later. For now, let’s just say it’s one of the most user-friendly infotainment systems out there.

Another aspect that often gets praised is the cabin’s quietness. The 3 Series does a fantastic job of insulating you from outside noise, making your driving environment peaceful and calm.

This is especially noticeable on highways, where wind and road noise are kept impressively at bay.

3. Powerful engine options

Under the hood, the BMW 3 Series doesn’t just live up to expectations; it often exceeds them, thanks to its range of powerful engine options.

The 3 Series is available with various engines, starting from a turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine that gets up to 43 MPG (5.5 L/100 Km) all the way to the 3.0-liter inline six with 510 horsepower!

Even at the base level, you’re not left wanting for power. The turbocharged four-cylinder engines offer a great balance of energy and efficiency.

But if you crave more power, the six-cylinder variants are where the real thrill is.

I recall a test drive in a 3 Series with one of the more powerful engines. The way the car accelerated onto the freeway, smooth yet assertive, was an experience in itself.

A BMW M3 equipped with a manual transmission
A BMW M3 equipped with a manual transmission

4. User-friendly iDrive system

The iDrive system in the BMW 3 Series deserves a special mention.

Over the years, BMW has refined iDrive into an interface that’s both sophisticated and user-friendly, a combination that’s not always easy to achieve.

For starters, the system’s layout is intuitive. You don’t need to be a tech wizard to navigate through the menus.

In fact, I was impressed by how intuitive the iDrive system was.

BMW 3 Series G20 automatic gearbox and iDrive selector

The display itself is crisp and clear, which is a big plus, especially when you’re driving and need to quickly check information.

One aspect of iDrive that I particularly appreciate is the versatility of how you can control it.

You have the classic rotary dial, which is tactile and satisfying to use, but there are also touchpad and touchscreen options, along with voice commands.

The system’s responsiveness is also impressive. Inputs are registered quickly, and there’s minimal lag.

Hidden feature: Did you know that you can create many useful shortcuts in the iDrive system? Take a look at this article for more BMW 3 Series tips and hidden features!

5. Excellent outward visibility

Another significant advantage of the BMW 3 Series is its excellent outward visibility.

The 3 Series is designed with a generously sized windshield and well-proportioned side windows. This design choice minimizes blind spots and gives you a broad, unobstructed view of the road ahead and around you.

You’ll find it easier to check for other vehicles, pedestrians, or any potential hazards.

One thing I noticed during my time with a 3 Series was how confident I felt on the road, partly due to this aspect.

BMW M3 Competition in Tanzanite Blue II Metallic

Whether changing lanes on a busy freeway or making my way through a crowded parking lot, excellent visibility made these tasks less stressful.

6. Compact yet practical

The BMW 3 Series strikes an amazing balance between being compact and practical.

First, let’s talk about its compact nature.

The 3 Series is nimble enough for city driving, where streets are often narrow, and parking spaces are tight. Its size makes it less daunting to maneuver and park, especially compared to larger sedans or SUVs.

BMW 3 Series G20 dark blue side view M Sport

On the flip side, the 3 Series doesn’t compromise on practicality.

The interior space is smartly designed to maximize comfort. Front-seat occupants enjoy ample head and legroom, making the car airy and spacious.

The trunk space is another highlight. It’s surprisingly roomy for a car of its size and can comfortably handle your grocery runs, luggage for weekend trips, or even bulkier items.

Plus, the rear seats can usually be folded down, providing additional cargo space when you need it.

7. Relatively good fuel economy

In an age where fuel efficiency is increasingly important, the BMW 3 Series offers a pleasant surprise with its relatively good fuel economy.

The 3 Series, particularly in its four-cylinder variants, perfectly balances to provide ample power and maintain fuel efficiency.

Even with the more powerful six-cylinder engines, the 3 Series holds its own in terms of fuel economy when compared to competitors.

Hybrid models in the 3 Series lineup take this a step further. They are especially efficient in urban settings, where the regenerative braking system can recharge the battery, reducing fuel use even further.

BMW 3 Series G20 hybrid driving modes

7 Cons of a BMW 3 Series

So, does the BMW 3 Series have any cons at all?

Yes, it does!

Let’s check them out.

1. High retail price

While the BMW 3 Series offers a lot of positives, it’s important to consider the financial aspect, starting with its high retail price.

The 3 Series is, after all, a luxury vehicle, and its price tag reflects that status.

With a starting price of around $45,000 for a bare-bones model, it is a relatively costly car.

And depending on the model, features, and customization options you choose, the price can climb quite rapidly.

Additionally, the car’s value depreciation over time is an important consideration.

BMW 3 Series depreciation curve infographic

2. Costly maintenance and insurance

Not only is the initial purchase price higher than most other cars in its class, but the BMW 3 Series also has high maintenance and insurance costs.

The main reason for these high costs is the car’s features and performance. The 3 Series has a powerful engine that requires regular maintenance.

In addition, the car’s parts are expensive to replace, and repairs can be difficult to do yourself. For example, there’s always a chance that you’ll experience issues related to the timing chain.

To end on a good note, we found that the BMW 3 Series lasts at least 250,000 miles or 400,000 kilometers with regular maintenance in our research article here.

So, many drivers feel that the car’s performance and features are worth the extra cost. Plus, you can minimize any chances of reliability issues by researching which BMW 3 Series years to avoid or to buy.

3. Potentially stiff ride

Moving on to the driving experience itself, a point that often comes up with the BMW 3 Series is its potentially stiff ride.

This is especially relevant for M Sport trims of the BMW 3 Series, which often have lowered or stiffened suspension systems.

This characteristic can be a pro for some and a con for others.

In urban environments with well-maintained roads, this might not be a significant issue. But you may find the ride less comfortable if you frequently drive on roads with potholes, bumps, or other irregularities.

During my drives in various 3 Series models, I’ve certainly felt the difference this makes. The car performs beautifully on smooth highways, but on less forgiving city streets, the ride quality can be noticeably harsher.

BMW 3 Series G20 M Sport rims and brakes

4. Variable reliability in certain model years

When considering a BMW 3 Series, it’s important to know the variable reliability associated with certain model years.

Over the years, some model years of the 3 Series have been known to experience specific issues more frequently than others.

For example, try to avoid BMW 3 Series models from 2006, 2007, or 2013.

When looking for the best BMW 3 Series years to buy, look for a model from the year 2016 onward, from the F30 or G20 generations. These BMW 3 Series model years have surprisingly few issues and seem to do well on reliability overall.

BMW maintenance

Of course, it can also happen that your 3 Series won’t start, but there are always fixes you can try to solve the problem.

The most important thing is to check for the most common problems of a BMW 3 Series before you buy one!

5. Requires premium gasoline

A factor that often gets overlooked but is crucial to consider for the BMW 3 Series is its requirement for premium gasoline.

Using lower-octane fuel in a vehicle designed for premium can lead to reduced performance and possibly even engine damage over time.

The cost difference between premium and regular gasoline can be significant, depending on where you live. This means the ongoing fuel costs for a 3 Series will typically be higher than cars that run on regular unleaded.

BMW premium gas recommendation owner's manual

6. Expensive optional features

When customizing a BMW 3 Series, you’ll quickly find that while the base model is well-equipped, the cost of optional features can add up quickly.

From BMW Active Steering and Electronic Damper Control to Wireless Charging, BMW Ambient Air, or BMW Digital Key, the possibilities seem endless:

BMW Ambient Air package options list

However, each added feature comes with a price, and these can be quite steep.

7. Limited rear legroom

The final point of consideration is the limited rear legroom.

While the front of the cabin offers ample space, the back seat can be a bit more restrictive, particularly for taller passengers.

The legroom in the rear is sufficient for short journeys or for children and smaller adults, but taller passengers might find it less comfortable on longer trips.

For families with young children, the back seat space is generally adequate. However, for those who regularly carry adult passengers or have growing teenagers, this could be a limiting factor.

Additionally, the rear seating area’s space constraints can affect the ease of installing child car seats. While not impossible, it can require more effort compared to larger vehicles.

Three car seats fitted in a BMW 3 Series

Is buying a BMW 3 Series worth it?

With a starting price of around $45,000, the BMW 3 Series falls into the luxury car category.

But is it worth the money?

For many drivers, the answer is a resounding yes.

The 3 Series is an exceptionally well-built car. It’s made with high-quality materials, and its attention to detail is second to none.

The engine is also powerful and efficient, making it a joy to drive. Some models of the BMW 3 Series are also incredibly suited for tuning, which allows you to extract even more power out of the engine!

Plus, the 3-Series has cutting-edge features, from heated seats to a heads-up display.

In my experience, the decision often comes down to what you prioritize in a vehicle.

If you are passionate about driving and appreciate the finer details of a luxury car, the 3 Series could be a great fit. However, if you are more concerned about practicality, long-term costs, and passenger space, it might be worth considering other options.

BMW 3 Series G20 wagon M Sport

FAQs about the BMW 3 Series

If you have any more questions about the BMW 3 Series, take a look at the FAQs below:

Is the BMW 3 Series reliable?

The reliability of a BMW 3 Series highly depends on its model year and maintenance history. However, the BMW 3 Series, especially the G20 generation, is one of the most reliable BMW models.

Are BMW 3 Series expensive to maintain?

The BMW 3 Series is not the most expensive car to own or maintain, but it is certainly not the cheapest. So, those looking for a budget-friendly option may want to consider another brand.

How long does a BMW 3 Series last?

A BMW 3 Series is built to last. However, the key to longevity with any BMW is to keep up with regularly scheduled maintenance. The BMW 3 Series has been shown to last for at least 200,000 miles with proper maintenance and care.


The BMW 3 Series is a nice car; there is no doubt about it.

It has great features, options, and amenities that warrant its price tag.

But is it the right car for you?

Ultimately, that’s a decision that you can only make.

All things considered, the BMW 3 Series is a great car, but it’s not perfect. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your decision. Good luck!

Tip: Interested in some accessories for your BMW? You can find some of our favorites here!

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