How Reliable Are BMW Cars? An Honest Assessment

Why Are BMW's Known For Being Unreliable?


BMW is one of the most sought-after premium brands in the world. Blending power and performance with sporty appeal, BMW are sophisticated, classy, and pretty much everything you would want in a car.

But, there is one mark against their reputation that they just can’t shake off; their reliability.

The question of reliability has haunted the prestigious brand for a while now, and one of the questions we get the most from customers when talking about BMW is ‘are they reliable?’

One of the biggest factors you should consider when getting a new car is whether it is reliable. If you can’t depend on your car, then it could cause you a major headache later on and end up costing you an eye-watering amount of money.

So is the “ultimate driving machine” a reliable car?

In this article, we’re going to look at whether BMW ‘s live up to their unreliable reputation and look at how they fare when compared to their competitors.


Is a BMW a Reliable Car?

Since 2007, BMW has not scored above average with Consumer Reports. In 2012, BMW 3 Series convertible topped a list of the five least reliable cars. The BMW 5 Series came third in that list. Not only that, but their research found that cars aged between four and eight years old are more likely than any other car to be off the road, with the 3 Series being the likeliest car to be so. Back in 2010, Consumer Reports Best Cars study placed BMW as one of the least reliable in most of the classes and categories.

So far, so unreliable.

But, that was a while ago, where does it rank now?

BMW 2 series convertible in sky blue parked on top of cliff with sunsetting in background

Well, according to J.D. Power, BMW is still…average. The only category it was classed as above average was Body and Interior Dependability. In J.D Power’s 2015 U.S Vehicle Dependability Study, BMW have 146 problems per 100 vehicles, putting them above average.

However, because J.D Power is based on consumer surveys, BMW have often been ranked lower for trivial reasons. For example, one of the points of dissatisfaction has been, in the past, down to BMW not having cup holders. So consumer surveys should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Why Are BMW’s Unreliable?

BMW 5 series in dark blue metallic speeding around a corner

We’ve established that BMW’s are pretty unreliable but, why?

Consumer Reports have said that BMW, as well as their fellow German brands, put all their focus on performance. This can come at a cost to reliability.

Gabriel Shenhar, automotive engineer at Consumer Reports, said that “They are susceptible to cost-cutting anywhere they can in the hope that the customer won’t know, they use suppliers that will deliver and sometimes they won’t.”

Shenhar points out that a common gripe people have with BMW is that they are sometimes guilty of using plastics instead of more durable materials. Another common complaint is that the complex electronics BMW implement in their models are prone to breaking down.

How Did BMW Rank In Other Areas?

The J.D. Power Ratings put BMW at the top for Quality Overall and above average for Performance and Design.

So, while their dependability can let them down, people are pretty pleased with the car itself.

BMW Vs. Audi Vs. Mercedes-Benz: Which One Is More Reliable?

So, how does the beloved BMW fare against its German counterparts, Audi and Mercedes?

Not very well, actually. In terms of dependability, both Audi and Mercedes scored higher than BMW, achieving above average. Though they all ranked the same in terms of overall performance and design.

However, it was in overall quality that the BMW shone, overshadowing both Audi and Mercedes with the highest ranking.

Mercedes SLc roadster in red parked front profile.

Which BMW’s Are the Most Reliable?

While BMW’s are generally average in terms of reliability, there are some that score higher than the rest.

It should be noted that the following list is based on ‘predicted reliability’, and the BMW’s that are predicted to be the most reliable are;

  • 2016 BMW X3
  • 2016 BMW X1
  • 2011 BMW X3

The 2011 BMW X3 actually scored five out of five, with J.D. Power classing it as ‘Among the Best’.

BMW M2 in light blue metallic parked outside white building

Which BMW’s Are the Least Reliable?

While there are above average BMW’s, there are also below average BMW’s. Again, this is based on predicted reliability, but the BMW’s that are predicted to be the least reliable are;

  • 2012 BMW 3 Series
  • 2016 BMW 3 Series
  • 2009 BMW 5 Series

Ultimately, BMW aren’t necessarily considered the most reliable car on the market. But they are still loved by many, and their overall score shows that the design, quality, and performance offsets the fact that they aren’t the most dependable car on the market.  You can check out our BMW page for the latest in depth reviews.

BMW 2 Series Coupe in red metallic
Andrew Kirkley

Andrew Kirkley

Director at OSV Ltd
Andrew enjoys: Movies and travelling to new cities to explore different cultures.

Andrew has been in the motor trade for over 20 years. What he enjoys most about his job is the team spirit and the dedication of his work colleagues. He also appreciates the teams input in the improvement of the company.
Andrew Kirkley

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  • Andrew guzman| 20th March 2018 at 7:56 pm Reply

    Bought a 2009 335i convertible in 2015 with 27000 miles on it. It has now 60000. Problems so far:
    . A/C stopped working (live in florida)
    . Had to replace the entire interior front light section as some areas were melted. Not designed for florida weather?
    .Oil leak
    . Trunk not closing/locking
    . It is automatic but the manual shift option stopped working
    . Had to towed on the road: water pump was out

    At least I bought an extended warranty at Carmax but still had to pay the $250 deductible for each time plus the hassle to bring and pick up the car and be without it for the time the repair takes place. For the A/C problem it took 1.5 weeks.
    No, not going with german cars anymore. Driving it 1 more year until extended warranty expires and going for an used Infiniti Q50 sport, maybe the red sport that has 400 HP.
    Done with the BMW

  • Todd Leach| 19th March 2018 at 1:47 pm Reply

    How is reliability separate from quality as a category? I think this represents the same thing. If its not reliable how is it high quality? Answer: It isn’t. I have a 2010 X5 that I purchased in 2016 and just spent $4,500 on it in repairs. Never again. I’ll go Nissan Murano next time. That car scores 4 out of 5 instead of 1 out of 5 in reliability/quality.

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 19th March 2018 at 2:44 pm Reply

      Great question, for us reliability is all around, all those moving and electronic parts demonstrating ongoing reliability in the actions or tasks they do, so a lot of this comes down to design and development. Quality for us is how it feels, the quality of the leather, dash or the sound of the doors closing for example. You are right the Nissan will probably be far more reliable. Thanks for your question, we appreciate it.

  • Andy T.| 18th March 2018 at 3:24 am Reply

    I have an 08 335xi sedan that I bought used in 2015 with 30k on the odometer. It’s been fairly reliable, but did have to change the ignition coils and plugs, and had the infamous water pump failure at 36k (this should have been a recall). As noted, cheaper materials were used in the pump, using a plastic shaft in place of a metal shaft. This aged and cracked.
    I chose this particular car because it has 300+ hp, a manual transmission, all wheel drive, 4 doors (for the family), and not owned by kids who beat the hell out of them. This is a rare combination. If the Ford Fusion Sport had a manual transmission or the Mustang GT had all wheel drive I’d probably be driving a Ford.

  • Diane| 9th March 2018 at 10:14 am Reply

    I bought a certified preowned 2008 in 2010. 528. I loved that car and cared for it and maintained it so I was certain to have for over 200,000 miles like my 240 Volvo (1992) that I kept for 19 years. But nope. One day it was running a but rough. Then it shut down in me. I had towed. The engine crankshaft had cracked and the motor mounts were cracked, alternator blown, overall needs new engine. After 111,000 miles? BMW is dead in my mind. They have lost it. Too bad it was great fun to drive and beautiful.

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 13th March 2018 at 8:50 am Reply

      Sorry to hear about the BMW, you are right they are lovely to drive, but often don’t have the legs of a Volvo or a Mercedes for example, what have you got now?

  • Michael| 3rd March 2018 at 8:49 pm Reply

    Hy all, i am a second owner of a bmw gran touring 2002 3 series e46, engine n42, 1.8 petrol, i did had until now few minor problems with small parts but not with the engine itself. Has already 304000 km. and i am seeing forward to bring it to 400.000km, its all about maintance and the driving skill. Have all a nice day !

    • Paul| 9th March 2018 at 5:50 am Reply

      And thus enter the obligatory comments from offended BMW fans about how whenever you keep fixing a car over and over again, it will keep running.. Well, that’s sort of a no brainer, you can keep a Yugo on the road with that sort of “maintenence”..

    • Abbie Rawcliffe| 6th March 2018 at 8:48 am Reply

      Yes, you are totally right, it is wise especially with higher mileage cars to increase the intervals of filter and oil changes. Thank you for your valuable feedback, and we hope you have a nice day 🙂

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