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I'm in the market for a new car and I was wondering whether or not to buy an E36 M3 or 540i they are both roughly around the same price used I am going to be going away for college soon and need a good reliable car which would be the overall better choice to own. I am a beginner autocrosser and would like to start going to more and more events, however this is not my main concern as both cars could be reasonably autox'd although the M3 would be better performance wise. Which car would be the best car overall as far as economical, insurance wise, comfort, etc, etc. Both cars would be manual although its very difficult to find a manual car nowadays. Any input would be much appreciated thanks in advance.
 

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I would opt for the 540i, as I love V8's, you also have the power and comfort, the M3 I would say will be higher insurance.
 

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If your primary goal is to have a fast auto-x car, buy an M3. While the 540 is as fast in the quarter and faster on the top end, around an auto-x course, the sheer weight and size let it down in comparison.

That said, I'd always go for a 540i w/ a manual tranny over the e36 M3.
 

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Agreed. The 540i is a beast, if you are not wanting the main use to be on the track then go with the 540i. If you are wanting a car to take you around the track and it's secondary purpose driving around, go with the M3. Good luck with your decision.
 

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^^^ +1

The M3 is very reactive in its performance and of course a much lighter car with far less practical application. The 540i on the other hand has lots of room and tons of power coupled with a silky smooth ride. If you are heading to college, don't you want the trunk space and passenger space a 540 offers instead of squeezing into a much smaller M3? I would also look at the other obvious factors - age, mileage, cndition, history, how many owners, etc. so you can get a handle on how reliable and how expensive to maintain one of these rides might be. Good luck. :)
 
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