One of the primary reasons I drive an older BMW and not a new model is affordability. Driving a used car that is paid in full offers so many financial advantages over financing a new model that rapidly depreciates. One notable downside of driving these older models is working around the dated electronics when all you want to do is connect your music and drive.
Fortunately, there are many affordable radio upgrade options for older generation BMW models such as the E39, E46 and E53. Complete radio upgrades require removing the old factory radio and installing a new unit such as an Alpine bluetooth stereo. However, many enthusiasts – myself included- prefer to maintain the factory appearance of the dashboard over the aftermarket radios. My E39 530i factory business radio is pictured below.
BMW makes auxiliary audio kits available for the E39, E46 and E53 at a very affordable price under $40. The only caveat is that these audio kits are only compatible with radios dating from September 2002 and on; that means my 2001 530i radio is not compatible with this kit. I would first need to find a used radio from a late 2002 or later model car on the forums or eBay, and pair that radio with the $40 audio kit. Those of you with model years from late 2002-2006 would be fine with just purchasing the kit.
Installing the kit will take an hour or two to complete, depending upon your experience with installing electronics. Overall the job is relatively easy if you follow the steps I’ve outlined in the tutorial video and take your time between steps. The video below demonstrates installation of the factory audio input kit in a 2005 E53 X5 but is applicable to the E39 and E46 kits as well.
Find the E39/E46/E53 kit for models without navigation here.
Find the E39/E46/E53 kit for models with navigation here.