You’ve heard the expression “We live in a disposable society.” Whether it’s a TV, a refrigerator, a computer, or even durable goods (in the economic sense) like a car, it seems that few things are made to withstand the test of time. Think about it: At some point, someone signed a multi-year contract to go into serious debt for one of these vehicles, and after just a few short years, it’s essentially worthless. This is the age we live in—a world in which it’s simply cheaper and easier to toss things away and replace them, as opposed to repairing them for another season of use.
There are plenty of reasons for why, in our current era, very few things are built to last. It’s easy to see it with cars; just look at the Dagmar bumpers of yesteryear and the plastic pedestrian-safe designs of today, which seem designed to detach when you so much as look at them wrong. I’m not here to lament the current state of things; I do enough of that in my personal life. Instead, I’m here to present the rather unfortunate case study of just how easy it is for a relatively modern BMW to become essentially worthless after a handful of repairs pile up.
In February, I wrote an article for this website about a YouTuber buying an E65 Alpina B7 for the princely sum of $3,500. In the title, I sarcastically posed the rhetorical question, “What could go wrong?”
It didn’t take more than a few months for Tyler Hoover of Hoovies Garage and the rest of his 1,000,000 YouTube subscribers to find out.
As I noted in the article about Hoover purchasing his B7, he doesn’t have the best track record with BMWs. It’s safe to say that every BMW he’s bought and documented on his channel has ended up in financial loss and disappointment. These include such models as an E65 760Li, a neat Indianapolis Red E60 M5, and a V12 8 Series. The caveat is that Hoover’s cars are often the cheapest for sale in the country when he buys them, but we can’t forgive him for trying, as it’s worked out with at least a few other vehicles.
It didn’t take longer than a few months for Hoover to reach the point of giving up on his Alpina B7, after it proved more costly to fix than it would ever be worth. And in the time since his last video on that car, he’s already purchased—and junked—an E53 X5.
First, the Apina B7: Hoover’s third E65 (the previous one being the V12 760Li he also found to be too costly to fix), the Alpina had high mileage when he purchased it and was smoking (heavily) from one of the tailpipes. Even with the car already being close to the point where many would consider putting it out to pasture, Hoover went ahead and commissioned the incredibly expensive valve-seal replacement. A problem that plagues BMW V8s from the early to mid-2000s, the E65 Alpina B7’s H1 engine (based on the N62B44) is by no means immune. Nevertheless, even after Hoover sprung for the repair—which cost more than he paid for the B7 to begin with—the smoking tailpipe persisted.
Upon returning to the German-auto repair shop that Hoover works with, the decision was made to junk the car. Why? Further investigative diagnosis revealed that oil consumption was still affecting the engine, with cylinder-wall scoring being at least one culprit. However, the supercharger itself also couldn’t be ruled out, as a large amount of oil was also found in the charge-air ducting. Although the engine block alone mechanically totals a car, Hoover looked into the cost of a replacement Alpina supercharger and was quoted $11,000—once again, far more than he paid for the entire vehicle.
Clearly a glutton for punishment—why else would one buy three old E65 7 Series?—Hoover hasn’t given up on BMW just yet. His latest purchase—documented in a video he released last week—is another N62 V8-powered BMW, this time a first-generation X5.
We’re big fans of the X5, an incredibly important model for BMW, and the E53 is the original that blazed a trail many other automakers subsequently followed. BMW Group Plant Spartanburg, the home of the BMW X5 (and the rest of the X lineup) recently celebrated production of 5,000,000 units (in total, not just X5s) since its manufacturing commenced, and the latest generation (G05) may just be the best yet. It’s clear that BMW got something right with the hastily designed yet nicely-aged E53 X5, as more than a few BMW CCA members still own one, but there’s no getting around the fact that even the newest example has now reached advanced age for any modern vehicle—especially one of European origin.
That’s the thing; the E53 X5 doesn’t seem that old, perhaps because our culture doesn’t seem to have changed too much from when they were new on dealer lots, but today, we’re talking about four generations and more than twenty years of continuous improvement.
A closer look at Hoover’s X5 4.4i reveals that it’s falling apart in various ways. From the broken climate-control buttons to power-window and door-lock problems, and misfires, the X5 has it all when it comes to problems. But that’s not even the half of it: Before Hoover even arrives at the German-auto repair shop, the failed air suspension of the X5 makes itself known.
A full inspection follows, along with a repair quote of nearly $11,000. Hoover says he paid just over $1,000 for the 155,000-mile X5, which means that just one of the big issues is a death knell for the SAV. The air suspension alone totals the X5, while the valve-seal job tacks on another few thousand, and a pair of genuine BMW catalytic converters drives the final nail into the coffin at over $4,200.
For the X5’s final ride, Tyler has the cats pulled off and drives the now-straight-piped SAV to the junkyard.
What’s the big takeaway here? First off, don’t buy a cheap project car expecting to make it usable for less than the cost of something sorted—things almost never work out that way, although some of us may occasionally get lucky.
Second, although Tyler Hoover has had a tough time with BMWs, the brand is by no means alone in terms of problems. He previously buried a mechanically-totaled Range Rover which was simply too worthless to bother fixing, and I’ve actually been down this road myself. I once bought a relatively modern, rather high-performance vehicle (it wasn’t a BMW), only to find out a short time later that it needed a new V8 engine. Like Hoover, I had the cylinder-head valve seals and guides addressed, and the car still burned oil.
I still drive something with a V8, but it’s quite different, and the engine in question has a stellar reputation for reliability. Finally, if there’s anything I’ve learned about BMWs in particular, it’s that I like to stick with a six-cylinder for anything I plan to own out of warranty.—Alex Tock
[Photos and video courtesy BMW AG, Hoovies Garage on YouTube.]