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Unreliable Vehicles to Avoid: BMW X3

BY: Chris Brown
Black car driving down a two lane highway at sunset

Owning a luxury car is a dream for many. For the lucky few who manage to get their hands on one, however, chances are it isn’t always smooth sailing. It turns out that, when it comes to matters like fuel economy and dependability, a luxury car isn’t usually the best car. While their beautiful design and top-tier performance make luxury vehicles a joy to drive, they often fall short in the exact same category: reliability.

You might be surprised to hear it, but the coveted BMW X3 is one such unreliable vehicle. Although the German automaker is known around the world for its cutting-edge cars and outstanding driving experience, the 2023 BMW X3 — and plenty of model years before it — have a number of reported issues that can be extremely expensive to repair.

If you’re considering your next vehicle purchase and need a helping hand, we’ve put together this comprehensive BMW X3 guide to help you make an informed decision. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

The Importance of Reliable Transportation

Purchasing a sporty vehicle like a BMW can be a thrilling experience. You spend hours, days, maybe even weeks researching and putting together a shortlist. You compare each of your favorites and judge them on a whole number of stats like horsepower and handling, but these are only one (arguably small) part of the picture.

Reliability is an often overlooked factor that should really be a priority. If any of the cars you’re considering can’t be relied upon to get you from A to B without breaking down, owning them is sure to be a struggle. Not only will breakdowns be more frequent, but so will the repair bills, causing you a heap of inconvenience, stress, and unnecessary expenditure.

History of Other BMW Models’ Unreliability

Many of us are BMW enthusiasts, but despite the brand’s fantastic reputation, the BMW X3 isn’t the only vehicle in their roster to be considered unreliable. Overall, RepairPal gives BMW vehicles a score of 2.5/5 for their reliability, which isn’t a particularly promising outlook.

Take the BMW X5, for example, which only has a 2/5 reliability score. The average annual repair cost for a BMW X5 is an eye-watering $1,166, which is considered poor. Both the frequency and severity of repairs are much higher than normal, so the X5 is more likely to require major repairs when compared with other vehicles. In particular, the 2011 BMW X5 has the most complaints lodged against it, with the majority of those falling into the most expensive repair category: engine problems.

Researching and Understanding Recalls

With notoriously unreliable vehicles, recalls aren’t uncommon. If you’re concerned your vehicle might have been affected, you can visit the NHTSA website and type in your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see any relevant recalls. For example, a quick search shows that the 2011 BMW X3 XDRIVE28I was recalled for:

  • Camshaft timing bolts may loosen, causing a stall
  • PCV heater may short circuit
  • Possible damage to lower child seat anchor bars
  • Electric power-steering unit may experience sudden loss of power

By reading the NHTSA’s report for each, you can get a better understanding of the issue and why it triggered a recall (usually because of the increased likelihood of a crash). Within 60 days of your manufacturer notifying the NHTSA of a recall, they will also notify affected owners by mail. When you receive this, follow any interim safety guidance provided and contact your local dealership to fix the recalled part for free.

Common Issues Reported by X3 Owners

Data on Car Complaints shows that there are a number of common issues reported by BMW X3 owners over the years. For example, unfortunate owners of the problematic 2013 model have said that they experienced:

  • Engine problems: Issues range from a broken timing chain guide to the engine shutting down while driving to total engine failure.
  • Drivetrain problems: A defective differential appears to be the main issue here.
  • Brakes problems: Users report that the engine races when the brakes are applied.

The Impact of Maintenance on Vehicle Longevity

Whenever you hit the road, your vehicle’s components are put under a ton of strain. Over time, they begin to function less efficiently, which accelerates their decline and leads to failure faster. To make matters worse, a part that isn’t functioning as well as it should causes the parts around it to work even harder than they would need to normally, putting them at risk of failure too. By following a strict regular maintenance schedule and dealing with the maintenance costs, however, your vehicle’s components will be at optimum efficiency, extending their lifespan and leading to fewer breakdowns.

There are some DIY tasks you can easily carry out yourself, or you can seek the help of a professional. Whatever you do, don’t carry out any work unless you’re absolutely certain you can do it correctly. Any issues caused by sub-par maintenance will not be covered by any extended warranty coverage you might have and could void your protection altogether.

What Is an Extended Warranty, and Why Should I Get One?

If you’ve never had an extended car warranty before, you’ve probably at least heard of one. In the simplest possible terms, having one looking out for you can save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars per year on the cost of car ownership. But to give you the full picture, let’s go back to the beginning.

Whether they’re luxury or not, every new car rolls off the production line with a factory warranty in place (also known as a manufacturer warranty). This is effectively the automaker’s promise to repair or replace any components that fail within a predetermined number of years or miles traveled (whichever comes first). While some manufacturers are much more generous than others, whatever the case, there’s one thing you can be certain of: the second it expires, you, as the owner, are fully responsible for any future repair bills.

If you don’t like the idea of being out on your own, there are two ways you can continue to enjoy the kind of protection you’re used to. The first is what’s commonly referred to as a traditional extended warranty, which you can usually purchase via your dealership or directly from your manufacturer. These do exactly what their name suggests: extending your factory warranty beyond the expiry date.

This might sound great, but unfortunately, there are some pretty significant drawbacks to this type of coverage. Contract prices are usually sky-high, plus you can only have repairs carried out at an authorized dealership — not ideal if you break down hundreds of miles from one. To make things even more difficult, an extended warranty must be purchased while your factory warranty is still active. Try any later, and you’ll no longer qualify.

Because of this, the universally preferred alternative is a vehicle service contract from a third-party provider like Endurance. Third-party providers are incentivized to offer almost like-for-like coverage for an even better price, throwing in some added perks to give you more value for money. Better yet, with these auto protection plans, work can be carried out at the certified repair shop of your choice, plus you don’t need an active factory warranty to be able to purchase coverage. Great news for used car owners!

AAA released that the average annual cost of car ownership reached over the $12,000 mark, so driving a luxury vehicle just got a whole lot more expensive. Some repairs can cost a surprising amount of money to fix, but with a vehicle service contract looking out for you, your hard-earned money doesn’t need to leave your wallet. If you experience a breakdown, all you need to do is show the mechanic proof of your contract, and your provider will do the rest.

With that in mind, it’s crucially important that you do your research and choose a provider you can rely on. Read customer reviews, ask all of the questions you need to, and only sign up when you’re certain they can be trusted to come through on their promises.


Still have questions about the BMW X3? You should find the answers right here.

Is BMW X3 reliable?

Experts don’t consider the BMW X3 to be particularly reliable. Our friends at RepairPal give the car a low 2.5/5 for reliability, placing it second to last out of 11 luxury compact SUVs.

Is the BMW X3 a good car?

While the BMW X3 isn’t rated as a reliable vehicle, experts still rate it highly overall. Car and Driver gave the 2024 iteration a 9/10 in their recent review, praising it for its handling, effortless power, and smartly integrated technology.

Which BMW X3 years should I avoid when buying used?

According to Car Complaints, owners of the 2013 BMW X3 experienced the most issues by far, with over 349 complaints logged. The vast majority of these are about engine problems — with a broken timing chain making the top of the list.

What are the common problems to look out for when buying a used BMW X3?

According to experts, the most common issues to look out for when buying a used BMW include problems with the water pump, starter motor, alternator, ignition coil, power door lock actuators, and AC compressor.

Auto Protection You Can Count On

Even if your car is the most reliable in the world, component failure will strike at some point. When it does, you can bet it will be at the worst possible moment, leaving you stranded at the roadside hundreds of miles from home and faced with an eye-watering repair bill. To protect yourself against unwanted auto costs, it’s highly recommended you invest in a vehicle service contract — more commonly referred to as an extended auto warranty — and Endurance is the country’s most trusted provider.

Since 2006, Endurance has had one mission in mind: to help drivers save on the cost of car ownership. We pride ourselves on our unrivaled eligibility, offering a wide range of plans aimed at an even wider range of drivers, with something to suit everyday commuters, avid roadtrippers, luxury car owners, hybrid and electric vehicles, and even high-mileage ones. We’re always willing to be flexible, so if none of the base plans quite meet your needs and budget, we will help you customize coverage that does.

As well as top quality coverage, we also throw in some of the best added benefits in the business. For example, every Endurance plan comes with 24/7 roadside assistance (including towing, fuel delivery, and lockout services), rental car reimbursement, and trip interruption costs as standard. If that wasn’t enough, all new Endurance customers get a year’s free access to our Elite Benefits package, which adds up to four tire repairs or replacements annually, key fob replacement, up to $500 in collision discounts, and up to $1,000 in total loss protection.*

On top of that, we’re the direct administrator of all our plans — cutting out the pesky middlemen when you want to make a claim. Our award-winning customer service team is always on hand to answer any questions via email, phone, or download the helpful Endurance app to put all of the most important information in the palm of your hand. Endurance plans are also fully transferable to future owners should you come to sell your vehicle, giving you more selling power and potentially increasing your vehicle’s value.

Wherever you look online, auto experts agree that Endurance is the best auto coverage money can buy. Give our team a call at (800) 253-8203 to request a FREE quote. You can also shop online to see your coverage and pricing options now.

If you’d like to read more informative articles, our extended warranty blog has plenty of other helpful topics, including recall news for airbags and other safety features, vehicle comparisons of Mercedes and Acura models, auto expert tips, and much more.

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