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If your looking for an 01-04 that will be the E46 3 Series. Price wise, its not an issue to find one for less then $10,000 depending on the model.
With the E46 theirs a couple things to look for. Personally I would not get one unless it was an 03-04 model. The 99-02 models had subframe issues. Unless the owner can show you receipts that the re-enforcement was completed I would avoid them. For the 2003 model year this was fixed and is not an issue.
The cooling system can be a bit of a weak point due to the plastic used. Plastic breaks down over time and becomes brittle. If the vehicle has never had any of the system replaced (thermostat, water pump, thermostat cover, expansion tank, upper/lower hoses) and the car is pushing over 100,000 miles then its something you will need to look into replacing at some point. However you can get overhaul kits from retailers for around or less then $500. This will give you peace of mind for another 150,000 miles.
The M54 engine found in the E46 is exceptionally well built and is quite durable overall. Ensure that the previous owner has documentation for maintenace over the life of the car. Always, always have the car inspected by a licensed shop prior to purchase. But that applies to any car.
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