It took me a year to sell my 1999 BMW 528i. No, I did not spend a year advertising it and dealing with no-shows and time wasters. It just took that long to work up the courage to actually list the car on eBay.
I bought my BMW in October 2015, with the idea of keeping it for a year before selling it on and buying something else. Owning a car for a year seemed to me a reasonable length of time – long enough to get to spend some time fettling with it, long enough to really get to know it, and long enough to enjoy a few adventures together. In 2016, I decided to keep the car for a second year, mostly because I was completely smitten with it (no surprise, given that some have called the E39 the best car ever made). 2017 brought another – this time, practical – reason to keep it, as I moved house and started a new job, and didn’t want the hassle of dealing with changing cars at the same time. Then we planned a road trip for the spring of this year, and since the BMW had proven so comfortable and reliable, it only seemed logical to use it to cruise the continent. It handled the job brilliantly, yet again making me question my resolve to sell it. All the while, I confess to quietly hoping that E39 values would creep up.
They didn’t (at least for pre-facelift, non-M Sport cars), but the list of cars I wanted to own did. So in June, after nearly three years and 25,000 miles with the E39, I finally took did something about it. Cue an old Friends reference: I needed the fear. So I bought another car. Now I really had to sell the BMW.
It was the prospect of dealing with the hordes of fools on eBay that I dreaded most, and that contributed to making it easy to keep finding reasons to keep the car. My Twitter account was filled with no end of stories of people finding their attempts to sell cars thwarted by other people that can only be described using words unsuitable for the public domain. That said, eBay still seemed the best option for selling the car, both because of its reach and exposure, and the ability to list the car as an auction, thus potentially getting more for it than I hoped to.
The best way to avoid trouble, I thought, was to put together a good advert. So I began by finding a nice spot on a local B-road for a good set of photos, which you see below. Not only would this ensure that everyone could clearly see the condition of the car, but it also meant I would have a nice collection of images to keep with me to help remember it down the line. Then I put together a thorough description, including my impressions of the car, a list of the work I did to it, and accurate information about its good and bad points. Finally, instead of 99p, I decided to start the auction at the absolute minimum I would take for the car, hoping that would eliminate anyone who wasn’t a least a little serious about buying it. I posted the advert, and sat back to see what would happen.
To my surprise, the advert garnered a lot of interest very quickly, thanks in no little part to Twitter friends who shared it far and wide. By the end of day two, there were sixty people watching it, and a couple of bids had already been placed. Predictably, I had a couple of messages asking what I’d take for it, but then all went quiet until the last five minutes of the auction. A few slightly increased bids came in, and then in the last thirty seconds, it jumped up by several hundred pounds, until the last bid came in right at the wire. To my great relief, the winning bidder contacted me shortly afterwards and arranged to collect the car the next day. I would like to think it was the quality of my advert that made the process so smooth, but all the evidence suggests it was more likely sheer luck.
Sadly, I think this was to be the end of the road for the E39, however; it has not been taxed or MOT’d again, and the new owner did hint at the possibility of just using the engine for another project. While that is a shame, it is his car now, and he is free to do as he pleases. When all is said and done, I’m left with the memories of many, many good drives with a wonderful car, and I can’t ask for much more than that.