Entry-Level E36: 1998 BMW 318ti – SOLD!

Dec 2021 | Classifinds, Free For All Friday

January 7, 2022 Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

December 2, 2021 Update – We just came across a fresh listing posted by the seller replacing their expiring original ad. The pictures, description, and asking price all remain the same.

The BMW E36 chassis is a modern classic in the eyes of many BMW enthusiasts, even if the construction of these models was noticeably lower quality than previous generations. Still, they were tough cars and generally cheap to repair, and this 1998 BMW 318ti hatchback originally listed in November 2021 on Craigslist in Piscataway, New Jersey is the less frequently seen three-door variant that runs and drives but has a few issues and is priced at $5,000. Comparing this price against the NADA Price Guide confirms this private seller has his 318ti priced above the “High” estimate of $3,500.

The E36 M3 is obviously the model that gets all the glory, but there were several solid drivers across the lineup. The 328i sedan, the 325is coupe, and the Europe-only station wagon all proved to be an ideal combination of familiar BMW DNA and generally straightforward maintenance, with the usual BMW foibles of cooling systems and window regulators being the biggest sins that most E36s are affected by at least once. The chassis itself was a competent handler right out of the box, especially when equipped with a limited slip. They make great track cars, especially since the cosmetic faults that can make daily driving one of these cars occasionally annoying are eliminated when you rip out the door panels and do away with the bulk of the convenience and comfort features. Still, keep the cooling system happy and stash some regulators in the glove box and you’re generally good to go.

The MototrWeek YouTube Channel features this road test video of the BMW 318ti,

The 318ti was an interesting offering from BMW, and one of the last times the brand actively tried to market an entry-level model. Sadly, BMW has moved in the opposite direction, showing little interest in providing a tossable, light-weight chassis for entry-level money. The 318ti could even be dressed up with a legitimate “M” package featuring lower and stiffer suspension and sharp aerodynamic enhancements. This 318ti is not one of those models, but the seller paints a clear picture of its pros and cons. It runs and drives and benefits from new tires along with pads and rotors. The color is somewhat rare, known as Ascot Green, and the interior has also been enhanced with a European-spec three-spoke steering wheel. The seller notes a coolant leak and unknown cooling system integrity, although a previous owner claimed to have gone through the entire system – sadly, no receipts for this work exist. The seller will sell a set of sharp BBS wheels separately, and I’d definitely grab those to make this rarely-seen hatchback stand out even more. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1998 BMW 318ti
Ascot Green
Clean title in my name
Runs and drives

The good:
-Tires are practically new
-New pads and rotors all around
-Oil changed less than 500 miles ago
-Rare: as of searching there’s no more than a handful of these available in the country
93k original miles
-Manual transmission (good, IMO)
-Interior is very clean for a 1998 car
-AC works
-Sunroof works with no issues

The bad:
It’s a 20+ year old BMW E36. If you’re familiar with these cars, that means:
-The window regulators will frustrate you to no end. I’ve replaced the passenger side window AND regulator and it will still come off track. It works, but needs hand guiding the last few inches. This did not work when I purchased it. Driver’s side works fine
-I noticed some coolant leaking after driving once. A dye test makes it seem like it is coming from bottom of expansion tank O-Ring. I replaced the cap with a lower pressure cap (common fix) and hasn’t happened since. Still, I have a new Mahle Behr radiator included with the car
-it was previously an NY car – it has dents and scratches all over but minimal rust spots (hood and trunk lid where the rear wiper malfunctioned apparently)
-random BMW-esque electric issues. Sometimes one of the doors will not unlock with the remote and needs to be opened by the key. Never change, BMW
-Brake light is on because I cut the brake pad wear sensor doing the pads and rotors
-Cooling system will need to be gone over – I have a parts list from a previous owner and it looks like major work was done but apparently the guy did it all himself. As such, I can’t prove that it was done. The two common plastic connectors that fail around 100k are listed on the parts list, but again next owner should confirm that these were replaced.
-Needs inspection. Doubtful it passes emissions with current catalytic converter. I will include a magnaflow catalytic converter with sale that members on 318ti.org have had success using to pass emissions as opposed to $1,000 OEM cats.
-Headliner is sagging in rear

I am in zero rush to sell but as there are 3 other cars in the household, it doesn’t make sense to keep. I’m already thinking of how to park four cars in a two car driveway when it begins to snow. I hardly drive it now as I have a work vehicle and a daily driver. I’d ideally like this to go to someone who can get it back close to 100% as I‘ve had a soft spot for these cars ever since I worked at BMW. I will entertain reasonable offers. I also have a set of BBS rims (no tires) that I purchased for it that are also for sale should buyer want those as well. Thanks for looking and feel free to reach out with any questions..

Do you have a BMW 318ti story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

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