What to look for when buying the first generation BMW X5 SUV
In 2020, even the newest E53 X5 is 14 years old. The E53 production ended in 2006 which makes BMW’s first generation SUV almost a classic. This is the SUV or “SAV” as BMW likes to call it, “Sport Activity Vehicle” that started all of BMW’s US manufacturing of SUV trucks that dominate the roads today.
In 2019, SUV’s outsold cars 2:1; meaning that for every one car sold, two SUV’s were sold. BMW is no exception as buyers have chosen to abandon cars and wagons in favor for gas-guzzling high-riding safe trucks for their commutes. BMW now makes an X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6 and recently launched an even larger X7 to satisfy every demand of the global consumer today.
So where does that leave BMW’s original SAV that started it all? Well, these cars still provide a great value relatively speaking, if you can handle the maintenance and repairs yourself. The 3.0i with straight six cylinder M54 engine is the best option for reliability, as the 4.4 liter V8 models are problematic and expensive to repair.
In this video I outline some of the things to look for when inspecting a potential candidate for your next family hauler. The 3.0i M54 powered car is predictable and relatively easy to work on compared to V8 models and the more modern BMW motors. Parts are also much cheaper for the M54, many maintenance items are a fraction of the cost for the same item on a more modern X5. For example, the water pump. The E53’s 6-cylinder M54 water pump is $47 where the later E70 X5’s 6-cylinder N52 water pump is $275!
In fact, to get a better picture of what it takes financially to take an older X5 from 120k miles to 180k miles, check out my 5-year cost of ownership video here. This video details with spreadsheets how much repairs cost even when doing the majority of repairs myself at home for my BMW repair channel Bimmerzeit on YouTube.
Keeping your classic E53 X5 on the road
If you’re considering buying one of these first gen X5’s you’re going to need a few specific tools to keep it going. At minimum, you’ll need to buy the following to DIY repairs at home:
First, you’ll need to buy a BMW specific OBD-II scan tool so you can access fault codes and diagnostics in all of the modules and computers. Generic scan tools won’t cut it. I recommend buying the Creator C310 for BMW here.
You’ll also need to purchase a set of fan clutch tools for about $40 USD here. The fan clutch wrenches allow you to remove the viscous coupling clutch from the water pump so you can then access a myriad of other repairs that require its removal. To see how to remove a BMW viscous fan clutch, see my video here.
Apart from those tools, you’ll also need a good set of Torx bits and sockets. I recommend the Lisle brand here. Lisle stuff is so good I’ve been using the same set I bought 16 years ago. They’re made of heat-treated alloy steel and made in the USA.
Should you buy an E53 X5 as your next car? If you’re looking at an X5 for sale, send me an email here with a link to the listing and I’ll take a look at it for you and share my opinion.