10 most reliable BMW models

Aivaras Grigelevičius

Aivaras Grigelevičius

BMW cars are known for their sporty handling and dynamic abilities. Even the most basic BMWs drive better than similarly priced rivals and this trend has been going for several decades.

While BMW knows how to make the ultimate driving machine, we’ve inspected BMWs from another point of view – reliability.

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How we made the list

Every used vehicle buyer wants to drive a reliable car. Unfortunately, it can be hard to determine a dependable car from a brittle one. Due to this reason, we looked through dependability studies done by Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and other sources to create this list.

Do BMWs have reliability issues?

BMW engine bay
Source: Wakanmuri / Flickr

While there are few BMW-related horror stories, longtime owners would tell you that sometimes complex German engineering can have issues.

Several durability studies have given BMW average scores, suggesting that it’s not the most reliable manufacturer. The widely popular magazine Which? gave BMW a reliability rating of 177 out of 200, placing it 31st out of 40.

Meanwhile, Repairpal gave BMW a score of 2.5 out of 5.0, ranking the company 30th out of 32 car brands. This may give the impression that reliable BMWs don't exist, but like every other German vehicle, BMWs need proper and regular maintenance.

10. BMW X7

The new BMW X7 in a showroom
Source: Autobilder Gratis / Flickr

It's not very hard to create a luxury 7-seat SUV, such as the Range Rover or the Mercedes-Benz GLS. However, with its aggressive design language, BMW has ensured that no one will forget the X7. The X7’s performance also puts to shame several traditional sedans.

Theoretically, the bigger the vehicle’s price, the better the reliability rating. This is sadly not the case. Consumer Reports gives the BMW X7 an average reliability score of 45 out of 100. Also, it has earned a predicted reliability score of 3 out of 5.

The biggest culprit behind the poor reliability of the X7 is the electrical system, which causes many problems: from the sudden acceleration and glitching infotainment system to malfunctioning seats.

The BMW X7 also has issues with the automatic transmission. Some cars have an additional bolt in the starter motor, which can fall into the transmission and cause various problems.

9. BMW 7-series

BMW 7 Series G11 in a city
Source: Crash71100 / Flickr

Compared with the latest generation of the 7-series, the G11 is not as rude and obnoxious. While the facelifted version got a massive radiator grille, which sucks in every leaf or cat that comes its way, the G11 is the last conservatively-designed BMW luxury sedan.

A few decades ago, the 7-series was one of the few reliable German luxury cars, showing huge leaps in comfort and technology. However, the modern 7-series is not as reliable as it used to be.

7-series owners usually face two problems – issues with the air-suspension system and the V8 engine. There are also problems with the ignition coils, excessive oil consumption, and stretching timing chains. Despite public opinion, the 6-cylinder diesel is the most reliable BMW engine in this model.

8. BMW X5

Dark blue BMW X5 on grass
Source: Charles / Flickr

Designed in Germany and built in the US, the X5 is a global superstar. In 2021, BMW produced 165,704 X5 SUVs. Considering how well thought-out the BMW X5’s interior is and the impressive capabilities it offers, production numbers are not surprising.

When it works flawlessly, this wildly popular luxury SUV is incredible. However, BMW X5 owners complain about the factory paint quality, the poor functionality of the ventilated seats, and other electrical faults that affect the operation of several comfort options. The good news is that technical faults are rare and don't affect the overall reliability rating too much.

Over the past few years, the BMW X5 has scored an average durability rating of 75 out of 100 in the J.D. Power reliability study. It’s not a class-leading result, but it’s certainly not terrible.

7. BMW Z4

White BMW Z4 convertible in a parking lot
Source: Hugh Llewelyn / Flickr

Die-hard car enthusiasts were pleased when BMW decided to create another Z4 generation. While the popularity of this roadster slumps down every year, BMW has found a way to produce an agile, fast, and comfortable car.

From the mechanical point of view, the sporty BMW Z4 roadster is a dependable BMW. However, the Z4, like most current BMWs, has several issues with its electrical system. Owners have reported problems with the infotainment system, defective sensors, and key-fob battery consumption.

BMW has also issued a recall because the gasoline tank wasn’t built according to specifications. In case of an accident, fuel may leak from the tank and the welded seam may crack, increasing fire risk.

6. BMW X1

BMW x1
Source: Rutger van der Maar / Flickr

One of the cheapest BMW crossoversuses the front-wheel-driven platform, commonly shared with the Mini Countryman and the BMW 2-series Active Tourer MPV.

While adopting a platform with front-wheel drive was sensible, it could be a considerable drawback for die-hard BMW enthusiasts. Previous generations were based on the 3-series platform, making it more tail-happy than any other compact crossover.

Although BMW has switched to a less complex platform, the X1 still retains higher maintenance costs than several rivals. The average annual repair cost for the X1 is $915, according to RepairPal. The X1 repair expenses are 6.3% greater than the typical luxury compact SUV and 33% higher than the industry standard.

Owners complain of premature wear of brake pads and the lower control arm. However, the current generation of turbocharged engines appears free of the oil consumption and timing-chain troubles that plagued previous generations, so it’s not all bad.

5. BMW 3-series

White BMW 3 Series in a showroom
Source: Rutger van der Maar / Flickr

The iconic 3-series is a symbol of the BMW. The car's near-perfect dimensions hide one of the world's best sports sedans. BMW has perfected the formula to such an extent that other rivals have a hard time outshining the overall abilities of the 3-series.

So far, the latest generation of the 3-series BMW shows promising signs of improved reliability. Especially when compared with the troublesome F30 generation model. In the What Car? reliability study, the G20 generation model scored a reliability rating of 97.3%, while the older model had 92.6%. However, this doesn't mean the 3-series is trouble-free.

There were several cases of oil leaks from the rear differential. Other common problems are related to iDrive infotainment glitches and the Cross Traffic Alert system.

4. BMW X3

Metallic blue BMW X3 parked in a showroom
Source: Autobilder Gratis / Flickr

The 3rd-generation of the BMW X3 is a bigger brother of the 3-series. These models share the same architecture, technology, engines, and transmissions. Even their price is similar. While the 3-series is sleek and looks purposeful, the X3 is meant to lure buyers, seeking for a luxury SUV with a pinch of sportiness.

The latest generation of the sporty SUV also offers a better reliability rating than many rivals. German motoring association ADAC analyzed 3.386 million vehicle breakdowns and concluded that the BMW X3 had the lowest failure index.

Although the X3 breaks down less than most modern cars, this SUV suffers from minor problems. While electronic issues may become annoying, most of them can be resolved by updating the software. Also, vehicles with B58 engines suffer from coolant loss because of leaks from the gasket or a faulty water pump. It’s recommended to inspect the coolant tank occasionally to prevent damage to the engine.

3. BMW i3

Brown BMW i3 parked in on the street
Source: Mario Duran-Ortiz / Flickr

The first mainstream BMW electric vehicle became a huge success. A futuristic exterior design and sustainable interior materials helped create the image of a reliable, eco-friendly commuter. Furthermore, the i3 has a good reliability rating. In the recent What Car? reliability study, the i3 scored a 94.1% dependability rating, surpassing the Tesla Model 3, the Nissan Leaf, and the Jaguar I-Pace.

A higher dependability rating was not possible due to the range extender and printed circuit board issues. A faulty range extender system forces cars into limp mode. Sometimes, a vehicle may even become undrivable.

A printed circuit board failure, which is a part of the EME module, could also lead to power loss. When there’s a lack of electrical contact, the EME module is forced to shut down high voltage electrical power.

2. BMW 1-series

Dark blue BMW 1 Series on the street
Source: crash71100 / Flickr

Another model transformed from a rear-wheel-drive powerhouse to a mild-mannered, front-wheel-drive hatchback. For cost-effectiveness reasons, BMW removed the unique selling point of the 1-series, but it shouldn't hurt the BMW model's popularity, as most buyers prioritize fuel efficiency and the car’s easy-to-drive manner.

BMW 1-series owners should be worried only about one thing – the automatic transmission. The 1-series uses the same Aisin automatic 8-speed gearbox as several other Citroen, Mini, and Volkswagen models. Due to problems with this gearbox in Volkswagen cars, a class action lawsuit was filed in the US.

While they offers a good combination of comfort and efficiency, these automatic transmissions are known for complete failures caused by broken seals and oil leaks. These issues usually occur when owners don't change the oil in the automatic transmission or change it less often than they should.

1. BMW 5-series

Green BMW 5 Series G30

The 5-series, like the smaller 3-series, is an icon of sporty sedans. It’s the most underrated model BMW makes. Because of the growing popularity of SUVs, the excellence of the 5-series has been overshadowed. However, the 5-series will always be the BMW you want to own.

5-series models suffer from minor issues like a clicking/rattling noise from the front or back seats and audio streaming issues. However, these flaws were addressed in the facelifted version, which debuted in 2020, making the 5-series one of the most reliable expensive cars on the market.

In a research on vehicle dependability conducted by What Car?, the German model received an amazing 96.9% reliability rating, outperforming the Volvo S90, the E-Class Mercedes-Benz, and the Audi A6.

However, every prospective 5-series owner should keep an eye on the cooling system. Water pumps and thermostats tend to be problematic, so closely monitor your engine temperature gauge and coolant reservoir to reduce the risk of a breakdown.

How often should you service a BMW?

Green BMW coupe in a showroom

BMW has never been a cheap vehicle manufacturer and it never will be. BMW cars use more expensive components than cheaper and less complex cars like the Toyota Corolla, making them a little bit more costly to maintain.

If you don’t want to get a steep repair bill, use these two essential tips to reduce maintenance costs in the future.

Change the engine oil more frequently

BMW will tell you to change engine oil every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. However, ignore this recommendation and instead change engine oil every 7,500 to 8,000 miles. Changing the engine oil more frequently will ensure better lubrication and reduce wear.

Check the rubber hoses and gaskets

Older BMWs are known for issues with the cooling system and overheating. While newer models have a more effective cooling system, it’s recommended to inspect the health of the rubber hoses and examine if there are oil leaks through the head gasket every time you change the engine oil.

Avoid unreliable BMWs with a vehicle history report

Don't forget that every vehicle has a history that car owners and sellers sometimes want to hide. Very attractively priced BMWs may have a falsified mileage. That gorgeous 3-series could have been in the accident or even possibly stolen.

If you're looking to buy a used BMW, do yourself a favor and get a history check to learn the truth about the vehicle's history.

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Aivaras Grigelevičius

Article by

Aivaras Grigelevičius

Aivaras has been excited about cars since he was a little kid. Later, this passion for drivable objects (and everything that surrounds them) grew into work as an automotive journalist. Since then, Aivaras has written for several different magazines, covering anything with an accelerator pedal. He has a soft spot for cars with an Alfa Romeo badge.