BMW 5 Series E39 (1995-2004) - Used Car Review

BMW 5 Series E39 (1995-2004)


I’ve had many cars over the years. Most of which I have been entirely happy with, but none of which I loved more than my black BMW 5 Series E39. It’s still the best car I’ve ever had, and I still pine for it. Why did I sell it then? Well although the E39 is a big machine sadly the boot didn’t have the desired height I needed for our Quinny buggy, the Moses basket, the suit cases and anything else we needed to pack when the nipper came along.


Inside the E39 is pure luxury. The interior of the one I owned had black leather seats, a mahogany centre console and the feeling of pure comfort inside. Leg space and head-height were perfect and if you manage to get your hands on one were the aircon still works you’re in luck!


One of the few problems I had with my 2.0litre petrol engines BMW 5 Series E39 was the fuel economy. This is a heavy car and unless you’re on a motorway the fuel economy is not great. Apart from that I suffered no real problems with the E39. I have to say I found it a lot more reliable than the 3 Series Estate E46 I purchased after selling the machine. I found the E46 to be wrought with niggly problems and unreliability. I even found the fuel economy in the E39 was better than the E46.


This particular 5 Series was in my opinion the best looking five series until BMW released the F10 in 2010 – I think the current design will stand the test of time.

Common problems on this machine include coolant system and radiator issues. Thankfully (oddly enough) my radiator came apart after a week of owning the car and the dealer who sold it to me honoured the warranty and fixed it for me which meant that I had zero issues with my own machine to this regard. In terms of a fix it was easy enough for the garage. Because the E39 was such a popular machine there were and still are plenty of them around, so the mechanic got a second hand radiator and coolant system from a breakers yard. The fix we got came from a car with low mileage.


Another problem with this particular machine is that it can be very expensive in terms of maintenance. If something does go wrong it will cost you a lot of well-earned money.

When I was searching for my E39 – and at the time it was this model or nothing for me – I also found it extremely difficult to find one with functional cup holders. They break very easily. The good news on this is that these particular cup holders are very easily found on eBay and are inexpensive and it’s an easy DIY job to fit them in.

From searching various forums and from talking to garages we’ve been informed that issues have arisen with some of the following;

  • The fan control has been reported to have gone haywire in some of them.
  • The front shocks have in the past failed prematurely.
  • The electric windows have failed. The alternator has prematurely given up.
  • The wood trim cracks.


I have to say that, as a previous owner of one of these vehicles, if you get a good E39 it will be a favourite for life. At the end of each one of these used car reports I recommend that you bring a mechanic with you to check out a used car before you make that purchase. My advice doesn’t change for this car. If you get a good one you’ll be extremely pleased, but if you get one that needs work it will cost you.






1999 BMW 520
Reviewed 30 Nov 2016

I bought on of these second hand a few years back. Best car ever. It let me down once on the day I bought it, but dealer took care of it straight away. Broke my heart to sell it on.

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1999 BMW 520
Reviewed 13 May 2008

Aside from suspension problems and main dealer service charges this is a great car to drive. A good long distance cruise help to forget the problems. MPG could be better. Would consider a diesel next time.

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1999 BMW 520
Reviewed 01 Jan 2008

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