BMW E34 5 Series Buyer’s Guide

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Looking for a classic BMW of your own? Know when to buy, when to walk away, and, of course, when to run.

The BMW E34 suffers from middle child syndrome. Slotted between the legendary E28 and E39 models, the excellent E34 often seems ignored. But lately, enthusiast interest in the E34 has renewed. Its “grown-up E30” styling, impressive build quality, and tremendous driving dynamics have endeared themselves to an ever-growing group of BMW enthusiasts.

BMW E34 5 Series Touring

If you’re someone looking to consummate their newfound love of the E34 with one of your own, BMW has released this helpful video. With the oldest examples of the breed approaching 30 years old, there’s a long list of things that you should look for before parting with your hard-earned cash. We’ll chime in with our tips as well.

Underneath, it’s important to check the condition of the front control arms and the rear subframe bushings. These are often worn and can be costly to replace. Upgrades are available, however: E31 8 Series aluminum control arms up front and polyurethane subframe bushings out back work too.

While you’re underneath the car, check the power steering lines for leaks, and if you happen to be looking at a Touring model with self-leveling rear suspension, check the hydraulic lines running from the power steering pump to the rear shocks for leaks as well.

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Speaking of Touring models, the rear hatch should be checked for rust. While structural rust is rare on E34s, even many well-cared-for examples show rot on the bottoms of the doors, which are known to retain water. The same goes for front fenders and rocker panels. While replacement fenders and rockers are available, replacement doors are not. Either way, repairing rust is expensive, so take that into account.

The M60 V8 gets a bad reputation, especially in the US. High-sulphur fuels literally dissolve these engines, resulting in a smoking, leaking, sputtering mess. Most were replaced under warranty, so many V8 cars have low miles on their engines. Check the service history whenever possible.

The truth is, the M60 is far less troublesome than BMW’s later V8s, but check the valley pan for coolant leaks. That said, M50, M30, or even M20 cars are tremendously reliable. Best of all, the E34 M5 was the last hurrah for the legendary S38.

Inside, look for sagging headliners, peeling door card inserts, cracked dashboards, and wood trim. Pay close attention to the seats, as broken seat cables can result in an uncomfortably twisted seating position. Check the sunroof for leaks and verify its operation – especially Touring models with panoramic sunroofs.

If you manage to find a car without most of these issues at a good price, snap it up and take care of it – you’ve got a future collectible on your hands.


Cam Vanderhorst is a contributor to Harley-Davidson Forums, Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and MB World. He is also a co-host of the Cammed & Tubbed podcast.

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