Ask Bark: FWD Fun Or Depreciated Deutschland Delight?

Ask Bark is, for now, making its home here at Riverside Green. If you’d like me to tackle a question about car buying, or anything else, for that matter, shoot me an email at I’m always happy to help!

Let’s get to this installment, which comes from a gentleman with a bit of a quandary.

Paul writes:

I am 54 years old with two kids in college.  The 2012 focus titanium has hit 200K.   I am looking for a car.  I have potentially narrowed down my options to a new Golf GTI (~$27K) or a used 2015 BMW M235i xdrive ($29K).  The BMW would have one year certified BMW warranty.  I drive my cars until they die or until my kids hijack them.  Both are automatics (wife requirement).


Do you have an opinion?   Thanks.

Do I have an opinion??? As Liz Warren might say, do you know who you’re messing with?

First of all, it’s downright shocking that a 2015 BMW M235i can be had for under 30 grand now. In fact, it was so shocking that I had to look it up to make sure that Paul hadn’t been smoking the wacky tabacky. He hadn’t. Not at all. In fact, he’s right—there are even xDrive models in that range. Holy shit, man. That car was selling for about $52,000 just two years ago. That’s some steep depreciation, even for a Bimmer.

So that kinda makes it seem like a no-brainer, right? I mean, why not buy a $50k car for $30k? Not so fast, my friend.

I shopped the M235i heads up against the Focus RS when I made my purchase decision last year. The FoRS was just better in every sense—more fun to drive, more burbly sounds, even a better stereo. Also, it had useable rear seats for adults, a feature absolutely not found in the 2 Series.

I’ve spent significant time hooning the GTI around, and I love it. In fact, it’s one of the very, very few cars that I enjoy more with the automatic (in this case, a DSG) than the manual. Both the upshifts and downshifts are extra snappy and clean, and it makes the car a bit quicker in the sprints.

Finally, you mention that you are a gentleman who has reached middle age. Congratulations on such a fine life, sir. You deserve to ride in a car that will not make your spine suffer. The GTI has a softer suspension than the M235i, and is just generally more pleasant to drive on a daily basis. I didn’t see any desire to track or autocross your car, so while the extra kick of the BMW might be enjoyable every now and then, the GTI is plenty quick enough for most, and you won’t dread longer trips in it.

You also kinda have to assume that anybody who bought the M235i hooned it a bit. I wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable with a 50k mile Bimmer with only a one-year limited warranty.

So, despite the seemingly fantastic deal on the BMW, I’d go plaid, my friend. Get the Vee Dub.

16 Replies to “Ask Bark: FWD Fun Or Depreciated Deutschland Delight?”

    • Jeff Zekas

      When will the BMW cult give up their street corner evangelism? All BMW’s are reliable… for the first 50K miles or so… after 90K, plan on spending three to four grand a year on maintenance and repairs. But what do I know, having only owned four of them? I sold my last BMW two years ago, and have had ZERO drama with my Toyota Tacoma. Oh, and my brother sold his owned-from-new M3 (which must have thought is was a British car, being in the shop all the time) and bought a GTI

  1. Mark D. Stroyer

    People do remember dieselgate, yes? I would think that VW dealers are probably itching to move all they can and you would be able to knock off some money. (Then again, the Golf is the only model that isn’t insufferably boring and I’m sure has a different buyer demographic, so who knows.)

    Also, as the owner of a German car, don’t buy German. But if you have to, lean on all the warranty you can. The GTI doesn’t fit my Mazda sensibilities, but my word is it a fantastic car to drive!

    • phr3dly

      In my experience trying to buy a Golf R, the VW dealers think their shit is made of gold and refuse to budge on price. I bought a FoRS for under MSRP instead.

      • Ryan

        I had the R before my RS. I agree the Ford dealership experience was much better (but I’m friends with the salesman at the Ford). The VW people were very proud of the R. That said when I sold it back in a year it retained great value, so I can’t complain.

  2. phr3dly

    Re: BMW depreciation… I leased a BWW 428i xDrive, loaded. Sticker was something like $56K. Residual after 3 years is to be $31K, give or take. I paid all the lease payments up front (it was a necessary financial move, due to a divorce).

    I’m 18 months in, and decided I wanted out of the lease. Went to CarMax to see what they’d offer. $28,000. After 18 months. I’m not sure what the value will be when the lease is up, but it sure seems like it’ll be worth about $20K, with a residual of $31K.


  3. drrrex

    Don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in the DC Metro DSG equipped GTIs can be had for $18k new. I purchased my 2017 DSG GTI with the Performance Pack in January for $23k total.

  4. Paul M.

    Don’t buy the BMW. Ever. Lease if you want it. As a 5 series previous Bangle Butt owner I should know. At 45k miles active sterling out. 6k to replace (thank God for extended warranty). Run flat tires that will cost you big money. Wheels that bend. Transmission pans that leak. Price their headlights. Idiot lights and … I stop. Never ever buy a BMW, and certainly never ever buy a used BMW.

    • Birju

      I bought a 2014 328i new that stickered for 48k for about 44K otd 3.5 years ago (thought I got a great deal) that has 51k miles on it. Similar models sell at CarMax for 20k… god knows what I could get for it. So far no problems but it sucks knowing for the 700/month in depreciation I could have leased a 5 Series

  5. Opaddington

    My last 4 cars have been BMW’s. All of them three year leases. I keep going back so clearly I like the cars. German cars in general are just cooler than the competition in my opinion. With that said, no German car is a “drive it until it dies” candidate. They’re fragile. You’ll be paying for a lot of repairs post-warranty and when you do the cost will make your checking account weep.

    I have some limited family experience with VW’s. A few years back both my brother and my dad leased one. My dad got a Passat and my brother got a Jetta. They were comically unreliable. The driver side window on the Jetta dislodged from it’s mount and crashed down inside the door…twice. The turbo blew at around 20K miles and took weeks to repair. The brakes on the Passat appeared to be warped from day one and the dealership never figured out how to fix them. There were odd electrical gremlins in the car. Random components in the dashboard would fail and the check engine light was on semi-permanently. The headlights kept crapping out. When moving from park to drive, the transmission would randomly make a horrific crashing noise. I can’t imagine it lasted past 50K miles.

    Adding insult to injury, the service at the dealership was horrendous. The employees were rude and the techs were clueless. My dad was pretty confident that they hadn’t actually been trained in VW repair.

    Long term German car….don’t do it, man.

  6. -Nate

    1st. & formost :

    I’m a German Car mechanic who owns and loves me some German cars .

    Here in Los Angeles a BMW automobile looses 50% of it’s value in four or five years .

    Luxury cars of all stripes are cheap as dirt and in five ~ ten years rarely have 150,000 miles .

    Few have ever had their oil changed either so beware .

    I used to work with a Factory trained Mercedes mechanic who drove a Lexus and was always teasing me : “Nate, vy you drive cherman (German) car ?! peeze of SHEET ~ hood _ALVAYS_ open ! ” .

    I hate to admit if but he’s right .

    If you’re rich or just _gotta_ have that new Bimmer, _lease_ the thing and walk away happy when you’re done, there’s no denying German cars have that ‘something’ that grabs some folks .

    I’d never let SWMBO nor a close friend buy a Bimmer, my Sister wanted to buy a retirement convertible and after testing them all, bought a BMW she still has and loves very much .

    FESTINA LENTE here .


  7. don curton

    I think you are ignoring an important fact. He has a 5 to 6 year old car with 200k miles on it. That’s over twice the normal mileage for most American drivers. So the most important question is why? What are his driving needs? Also, a soon to be 6 year old car is hardly dead, even with high mileage. So why is he getting rid of it? If the 200k is mostly adult highway driving with good maintenance, it should easily last several more years.

    Also, at that level of yearly mileage, why even consider a used car? Of any make? Buy new, pick a proven engine-transmission combination, and forget any cost adders like trim upgrades or performance packages. Keep up with maintenance and hope for the best. At 33k+ a year mileage, your car is a tool, not a toy or status symbol or anything else.


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