BMW 3 Series 2002 Problems
No car is perfect, but we've gathered everything relating to the BMW 3 Series 2002 reliability here to help you decide if it's a smart buy.
Will a '02 BMW 318i have low maintence costs?
My best advice to you is to not buy an old used BMW; they will only soak up whatever money you might have saved up. An ageing BMW with high mileage is a money pit; it will cost plenty to service and keep on the road, whether you use a dealer, which I would not recommend, or an independent mechanic. Buy a well-respected Japanese brand, such as a Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer, or Mazda 3.
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2002 BMW 318i good for highway travel?
As a trade-in a 2002/3 318i would be worth $3000-$5000, if it was sold privately it would be worth $5000-$7000, so the cars you're looking at are in the right price range, and the mileage is about average. The 2.0-litre motor is perfectly fine for highway travel; it will happily cruise on the speed limit and have some left over for comfortable overtaking when needed.
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Ask Smithy Xtra BMW 318 thirsty for oil
The PCV valve and the vacuum pump are the most likely causes of the high oil consumption, and although you say they have been done I would strongly suggest you recheck them. The pump in particular is a well-documented cause of oil leaks. I doubt changing oil would fix your problem.
Which small car to buy
LIKE you, I prefer rear-wheel-drive cars for the way they drive and feel on the road. I'm also in favour of buying used BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes because you get to drive a better car than you might otherwise be able to afford, but they can be expensive to service and repair. For that reason I am loathe to recommend them. But I also agree that some of the cars coming from Japan look good, and I particularly like the new Lancer. I wouldn't be concerned about front-wheel drive at all, there's nothing wrong with the way they drive, handle, steer or brake.
No doubt the Rodeo delivers adequate brake performance -- it has to, to meet ADRs and customer expectations. But I'm sure you'd agree it doesn't brake as effectively as your BMW. The Rodeo doesn't have the high performance of the BMW so it doesn't need the same level of braking performance. German cars (including the Opel-sourced Holden) do tend to use a pad/rotor combination that gives good pedal feel and stopping performance, but higher wear. But all car companies are striving for greater braking performance and even homegrown models now chew up pads and discs in less than 60,000km.