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Friday Mailbag: Saving an F10 5 Series

This week, it’s some sad news: an F10 5 Series was hit and totaled. What’s the owner to do? Let’s see if I can help. If you’d like to participate, drop me a question at As always, you’ll remain anonymous. Question Hey Mike. Recently, my beloved F10 5 Series 550i was T-boned. The car…


This week, it’s some sad news: an F10 5 Series was hit and totaled. What’s the owner to do? Let’s see if I can help.

If you’d like to participate, drop me a question at As always, you’ll remain anonymous.


Hey Mike. Recently, my beloved F10 5 Series 550i was T-boned. The car had close to 100,000 miles on it, but was in mint condition considering its age. But the insurance company still ended up totaling it.

With the market the way it is, should I try to salvage the car? Or look for a new one? Appreciate your help.

– Tony

The damage was catastrophic to the car.
The damage was catastrophic to the car.


This week, “Tony” is a real name – I shot his beautiful Carbon Black Metallic 5 Series a few years ago, and I wanted to help him and anyone else in a similar situation. First, let’s talk about the modern car predicament.

The F10 5 Series is still a great and capable car

BMW 550i
I think the F10 still looks great today.

Why is Tony so reluctant to let go of the F10 5 Series? Because it was amazing. Similar to what the M550i is now, the 550i for the F10 was 85% of the M5, with all-wheel drive no less.

I had a 2015 F10 myself (a 528i), and I loved it, only selling it once it became too small for the family. It’s possibly one of their best-looking cars within the last 20 years. And of course, the 550i had the N63 with 400 horses.

I have no doubt a newer G30 5er would be nicer, but it’s nothing that will make you get in and go “wow!”. Especially when you consider the price difference, because second-hand 5 Series take a huge depreciation hit. The sticker on Tony’s  car when new was close to $90,000. When he purchased it, the car was less than $25k. But that was then.

The current car market

BMW 550i
It’s not easy to find the kind of good deal a used 550i was a few years ago.

A new car (be it new or used and new-to-you) was fairly easy to obtain as recently as two years ago. Finance rates were cheap. Deals were easy to be had. Selection was plentiful.

The world has changed. BMW doesn’t even say what their current APR is online. Assume it’s closer to 5% now, when back then it was 1.9%, or even 0.9%. And the lease on a new M550i? $1,029 as of this writing, with $7,500 down. You don’t have to put that much down, but BMW (or anyone) isn’t really budging on price right now.

Checking used F10s and G30s doesn’t yield results that are much better. Here’s about as good as it gets, a 2014 550i with decent mileage, but it’s not M Sport. And even the best cared-for N63s require love, so getting one with unknown history can be a risk.

But we can’t go downmarket to a 528 or 535. Or can we?

Other options

Take away the attachment to the Roundel for a moment, and we can find things to replace speed, if not the refinement. A new Subaru WRX like this one is listed at almost $40,000, a significant amount over sticker.

Even a compact car like tbe WRX commands a premium right now.

A Volkswagen Golf GTI is always an excellent choice that might not be as fast but can be more fun. Hyundai makes nice cars that can also be nice to drive, but I’d never recommend one after the Stinger.

Please don’t mention an M235i Gran Coupe. Overall, it seems like there is no free lunch. Either pay more for what you had, or pay less and get way less.

Salvaging the current F10 5 Series

BMW 550i
Saving a damaged car may not be possible, or safe.

Tony’s only other option is to salvage the car. After the damage is assessed, your insurance decides the fate of your car. And if they say totaled, then that’s that. They then offer you a set price for the carcass, based on comparable cars sold in the area.

With that check in hand you can decide to buy back the car’s remains from the insurance company and fix it on your own dime. BMWs have expensive parts, and a headlight unit alone for the 5 Series is over $2,000. Add in labor to put it all back together, and you can easily spend more than the car is worth.

And it’s worth very little. Once the insurance company totals the car, it receives a salvage title. This is essentially the mark of doom. There is no resale value for the car anymore – who’s going to want it anyway? This is also done for safety purposes. If there is significant damage to the frame itself or something that compromises structural rigidity, that car shouldn’t be on the road anymore. It can hurt you and someone you hit.

And while there are many reputable body shops around, it’s still a bit Humpty Dumpty – all the kings men couldn’t put it back exactly how it was before.

Unless the car is really special, and you really trust the shop, it’s best to just let it die in peace.

So what would I do?

If I had all the money back that I’ve “wasted” on cars over the years, I could purchase a small island. Maybe not, but it feels like it.

But I’d also be extremely unhappy. Look what happened with the aforementioned Stinger. Even the 335i, for all its charm, was no M3. It just plain sucks to get in a car you don’t love every day.

But financial considerations do matter. If it were me, I’d stick with a BMW, and either select a non-perfect 550i (no M Sport, etc), or maybe sit inside a 3 Series to see how I like it. And if Tony has the time, then expand the search nationally. There’s bound to be another 550i out there that matches his favorite specs.

Remember that no car or situation is permanent. There will always be others. Tony, may your 550i rest in peace, and your new ride provide many miles of driving enjoyment.

BMW 550i
There will always be other cars.

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