The i3 has been in production for six years now. With a polarizing look and a couple of especially unique offerings, BMW’s first foray into mass-production electric cars is still popular among a particular crowd today. And with some of the fastest depreciation in the market, a used i3 can be found for a screaming deal–if you know what to look for.
Let’s Talk Range
Firstly, let’s get this straight. BMW i3s do not boast high ranges, not even close. If you regularly take 150+ mile road trips, the i3 is probably not the car for you. The first year the car was made, 2014, offered two ranges. 81 mi (130 km) of range, or 150 mi (240 km) if you have the range extender model. As recently as 2019 the i3 got an updated range, now offering 153 mi (246 km) or 200 mi (320 km) with the range extender.
Avoid 2014 Models
As with any first-model-year car, there will be issues that crop up. Countless anecdotal reddit posts may convince you, or maybe consumer reports, or maybe you’re just willing to risk it for a good deal. If you’re not the risk-seeking type, filtering by 2015 and newer for your used i3 will give you some peace of mind. And hey, we’re still talking about a sub-$15,000 car in a lot of cases, still a great deal.
i3 vs i3s
You can think of the i3s as the “sport” i3, it delivers more horsepower with some unique additions like dampers and anti-roll bars to keep the car more grounded. It has the exact same battery pack and motor as the regular i3.
What’s a Range Extender?
There are two main versions of the BMW i3. These are the all-electric version and the range-extender version, otherwise known as the i3 REx. The range-extender is a small two-cylinder gasoline-powered engine that charges the batteries of the i3. The 2019 i3 offers a 2.4 gallon (9.1 liter) gas tank to power the range extender.
The range extender is just that, if you’re in a pinch you have the peace of mind that you can extend your range with the help of your little engine that could. It is not meant to be used regularly. In fact, relying on the range extender in cold weather at highway speeds can lead to surprise slow-downs to 45 mph (72 kph).
If you’re in the market for a used i3 REx, make sure to check the REx engine runs properly before making an offer. You can manually start the REx engine by following the instructions in the video below.
Check the Speakers
If you love good sound in your car, make sure to look for the Harmon Kardon sound package when you inspect an i3. Just look for the HK logo on the tweeter to the left of the steering wheel. If it’s not there, that car has the base speaker package.
You should know that the tires on the i3 are unique. The i3’s tire sizes only apply to the i3. This is because BMW collaborated with Bridgestone to create range-friendly tires for this car. While these tires are more expensive than mass-produced tire sizes, the prices aren’t insane. Before buying tires for your i3, make sure you check your model’s required sizes. The front and rear are different.
Apple Carplay Support
If you have an iPhone and you care about this kind of thing, it’s worth knowing that 2014-2017 i3s don’t natively support Apple Carplay in their entertainment systems. Also, for Apple Carplay support on supported vehicles, you have to pay a one-time fee to BMW for setup. This is better than their previous subscription model for access to Carplay, but still a bad experience for the end-user.
For unsupported model years, you may be able to retrofit the functionality, but do so at your own risk.
The BMW i3 can be a great option for someone looking to spend less than $15k for a used electric car, but wants something a little more stylish than an old Nissan Leaf. Looking out for the things above should help you feel more comfortable in your search.
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