2006 E46 M3 with ZCPMy Secret Tips and Insights from Buying Three BMW E46 M3 in One Year

2017 has ended and I had a very busy year in buying cars. I ended up buying 4x BMW M3s last year – three of BMW E46 M3 including two with the Competition Package option (ZCP). The other BMW M3 if you’re wondering is an E92 M3.

Now obviously my situation is probably different from most other people. First off, I have a large garage plus I have an offsite storage space to store my cars. 2nd, except for the E92 M3, all the cars were paid off in cash. I don’t usually suggest spending hard earned cash on 10-year-old cars, but again I’m different from most people. What I do find similar to others is enjoying the hunt of finding a car and getting it a great deal if possible.

And boy did I find some great deals.

How about an Alpine White/Cinnamon ZCP for $20k?

Yes, not only did I find a rare and desirable E46 M3 Alpine White with Cinnamon interior, 6-speed and with the ZCP package but I also bought it just north of $20,000.00. Are you interested in finding your own M3? Well, that’s why I’m here to share my thoughts and experience with you.

If you’re in the hunt for a 2001-2006 BMW E46 M3 or any other used BMW then this article is for you. What I want to show you is you can find and buy the car you desire as long as you have patience and you follow these simple steps. Not all of my tips will be applicable to you but I believe most will find them useful.

First Off, Why Three E46 M3s?

When the year started I wasn’t looking to buy three E46 M3. But what happened prior set me on my course. I use to own a 2006 BMW E46 M3 in Interlagos Blue, 6-speed and with the Competition Package. And the car came with other after-market pieces including a KW3 suspension, upgraded sway bars, camber plates and more. It had 80,000 miles on it and I got it for a song. This was before the E46 m3 really started getting noticed by more and more car enthusiasts and collectors. And because it was such a great driving car, I made it my daily track car. I got upgraded brake pads, rotors, APEX wheels, new tires and a new exhaust for my track events. It was a great car and I really enjoyed taking it out on the track. But 1 day, I lost the car due to a driving error on my part. The car was unfortunately totaled. Completely.

So the beginning of the year, I wanted to find another E46 M3 to replace it. But that’s when I noticed more of a buzz for the E46 M3 from the time I previously bought one. The car became more desired in some car enthusiast circles and especially the models with the Competition Package option (and in Interlagos Blue, which I had before).

So began my quest to buy an E46 m3.

The 1st E46 M3 I bought was a 2004 Imola Red on Imola Red with 88k miles. All cars I buy need a 6-speed manual – no SMG on my list. I bought the Imola Red from the BMW CCA classified section and I was lucky to find the car when the seller first posted it for sale. They also priced it way under market. Way under. I went to look at the car, liked it on the spot, bought the car and took it home. I thought I was set.

It was a good, solid car. Bought from the original owners and it was well taken cared for. But while I like Imola Red (I like all BMW reds and consider Imola Red my favorite after Hellrot), I still wanted a car with the Competition Package.

So shortly after I bought the 2004 Imola Red car, a 2005 Alpine White with Cinnamon interior ZCP car came up for sale on the M3 forums. Located down south, it was something I found very interesting. Especially it had the sought after color combination of Alpine White exterior and the Cinnamon color interior (the only thing that beats this is an Imola Red interior to go with the Alpine White). After talking to the owner, and doing a PPI, I pulled the trigger and bought the Alpine White ZCP car and had it transported back up to the northeast where I reside. Looking at the Carfax history the car was originally an NJ car and was maintained at several local shops near me. Talk about coincidences.

I love the Alpine White ZCP car. It naturally felt better to drive with the Alcantara steering wheel and the tighter steering wheel ratio from the standard E46 M3. ZCP cars sit a bit lower as well and come with upgraded brakes/rotors. It was worth getting. The car came with 100k miles and was in overall great condition. Oh, and I paid only a bit above $20,000.00 for the car. Not bad especially for a ZCP car.

So I decided to sell the Imola Red M3 since I had the Alpine White one now. No need for 2 E46 M3’s right? I listed the Imola Red M3 for sale and found a local buyer and sold it.

It was before the Holidays…

So that leads us to the final 3rd E46 M3. It happened over the winter holidays, it saw a listing from a fellow Porsche owner. They had an E46 M3 for sale. It was in Interlagos Blue. It was a 2006 model. It had a 6-speed. It was the Competiton Package – like the one I had before. But it had more. It had a sunroof delete option – also known as a ‘slicktop’. It also came with the M-texture fabric seats which are super rare. I had to have it.

E46 M3 ZCP with M-texture seats

So again I reached out to the owner. The holidays worked out in my favor since most people are busy buying gifts and traveling – not buying an E46 M3. The seller and I got along very well since we were both BMW and Porsche car guys. A PPI was done, a price was set, and a deal was done. Got my transporter to go down out-of-state again and get the car.

Finally, I obtained E46 M3 Nirvana. The 2006 Interlagos Blue E46 M3 was mine once more. Now that I’m done, how can you find the E46 m3 of your dreams? Its possible, even when it a car with very desired options or color scheme. This is how you get it done.

How to Begin Your Search for an E46 M3

So you tell yourself you’re ready to buy a BMW. But there are steps to get prepared before you even look. Here’s my steps broken down:

  • Ducks in a Row
  • Discipline Search
  • Pre-Sale Steps
  • Closing
  • Nirvana

I’ll go thru each one at a time.

Ducks in a Row

So you tell yourself you’re ready to buy a used BMW. Are you really? Part of your preparation is making sure you have the funds OR funding ready before you buy the car. Because in this game, it’s the first person who puts money down that gets the car. And I don’t mean actually putting the full asking price – but showing the seller you’re serious and ready to complete the deal immediately if they agree to your price.

If you are going to pay in cash, make sure your cash is instantly available to make a bank check or wire the funds to the seller’s bank account. Have it in your bank account ready to move.

If you are going to finance the car, then you need to make sure you are qualified for a car loan, know the terms of the loan you want, the interest the loan will be for and most importantly how much you want to finance. I personally like working with the credit unions and Pentagon Federal. They make it easy and are the friendliest people in the world. If you want an account with Pentagon Federal but do not have any family member that is in the military, email me and I’ll show you a hack to get a membership with them.

Don’t start looking until you know what your finances will be like. This will make it faster and easier to make a deal. Seller’s aren’t into stories or waiting.

Search with Discipline

So the search part is the fun or frustrating part of the process. It depends on how long it takes you to find your car. Here’s my secret to getting the cars I want, at great prices – you need to be first and you need to be ready to get the deal done. It’s all about timing.

So how do you become the first finding the car?

You got to be disciplined and look every day at the same resources. Everyday. 7 days a week. I usually check at night since that’s when most people would post up an ad. The resources are the different websites and forums you use to track your next car. What do I use? Here’s my list:

  • M3forum.net
  • BMWCCA.org
  • e46fantatics
  • M3Post.com
  • Craigslist (local or national search)
  • Ebay (but I tend to not like the cars on the sites)
  • Autotrader
  • Cars.com

There are others here and there but that’s my core go-to list. Every day I go to these sites and look if there’s a new car for sale posted. When you forget to look at one of these sites for even 1 day, that could be the day a seller just listed the car for sale. Your car!

Sellers are all different but most tend to honor the 1st-come, 1st serve model. Meaning if you were the first person to contact them, then they will give you the 1st right of purchase before moving on to the next potential buyer.

But you don’t always have to be 1st, sometimes Sellers just want the potential buyer who shows them the most ‘want’ and initiative. So even if you’re the 2nd or 3rd buyer, as long as you make a strong impression on the seller and communicate you are a serious buyer, you’re in good space.

But if you snooze you lose. Check the listings every day and get ready to pounce on a car that you like.

The Pre-Sale

So you reached out to the seller. You had a talk, either by email, text or phone. I don’t know how you can just communicate strictly via text or email. I have done deals with just digital communication but eventually, you got to talk to the seller and I recommend sooner than later as its really the best way to get a deal done.

1st show respect to the seller. Do upon them what you would want to be done upon to you. Remember all sellers are different and some may not be ‘people’ friendly. They just want to sell the car as fast and easily as possible. And if you show you’re that type of buyer (serious and fast), it helps you.

After you ask the basic questions, if you’re still interested then you should get the car inspected (PPI) by an independent mechanic or dealer shop. It’s a crap-shoot if you should use the same shop that the buyer uses. On the positive side, the mechanic knows a lot about the car and should have a history of the owner and the car. On the negative side, the shop may have a friendly or strong relationship with the owner and may ‘buffer’ some of the finer details about the car – to put it in a positive light. I’ve experienced this first-hand.

Always ask for a PPI in writing mailed or emailed to you. Remember you are paying for the PPI, so it should really only go to you. I know owners who also get a copy of the PPI from the mechanic, but it should always be in your possession as well.

The PPI will help determine what would be needed on the car immediately and effect final sales price. I personally do not agree with a final price until I see the PPI. I can agree to a parameter of a price with the owner, but also caveat it by saying it will depend on a ‘clean PPI’ report.

For instance, the Interlagos Blue E46 M3 had a faulty sensor which the owner took care of this before he sold the car to me. He paid out-of-pocket for it, and it was almost $900 when you factor in all parts and labor. It did not come out of the sales price since the owner understood it was a condition that needed to be fixed before it was sold. Other items to look out for or be aware of tire wear and age. Tires are expensive ad a good set of tires for the E46 m3 can easily run $800 and more when you consider shipping, installation, etc. Know what the condition of the rotors and pads as well before you buy.

Know your costs or be aware of them. If the car needs new tires, rotors, brakes then you are talking about additional costs in the thousands to add in addition to the price you are paying for the car. Also, many states require you to pay sales tax on used cars when you come in and register the vehicle. Keep that in mind as well the taxes you may have to pay.

Once you’re happy with the car condition THEN you make a deal on the price. 

What I tend to do is be fair. That usually helps both sides. I even offer the line – “I don’t want to insult you, so please tell me what the absolute best price you would do on the car”. 

This tells the seller two things – 1) I respect you and 2) I don’t want to haggle back and forth. Tell me what you can do as your best price – knowing I’m an honest and real buyer.

You negotiate the price and then settle the deal. If you’re not ready to complete the transaction at that particular day (i.e. you need a trailer or need time to figure out transport) then its common courtesy to leave a deposit. The deposit will show that you are serious AND creates a deal with money exchanged. If you don’t leave a deposit, its the seller’s word you will have to trust.

I personally like using Paypal, because if anything happens there’s a trail of the exchange plus Paypal has great customer tools to help retrieve the funds if the deal goes south.

The other thing I like to have ready is a Bill of Sale. A Bill of Sale is basically an invoice that states who is the buyer, who is the seller, the car for sale, info on the car including VIN#, miles and make of the car. You make two copies and have both of your signatures on it. You both keep 1 copy for your records. Again, this just confirms to the seller that a transaction is happening. If you need a free sample of a Bill of Sale, then click here for my Bill of Sale template.

Closing the Deal

It’s not a done deal till you hand over the cash or check and in return, you get the keys and the car. Closing usually the most pressure-filled part of the process and the more pre-prepared you are, the easier it will be.

First off you need to decide if its a cash deal or if you are going to finance. There are different rules for each.

Doing a deal in cash just makes the process faster. I have done both and cash deals are just easier deals.

If you are doing a local deal

You can do a bank check or a wire transfer. Note some sellers do not like bank checks because they may have had a bad experience in the past with them. Believe it or not, not all bank checks are 100% clear. Always make it clear to the seller, if you are going to do a bank check, that you will provide the bank and the bank check number BEFORE you come and do the deal (or mail out the check if its long distance). The seller then has time to call his bank to confirm that your bank check is legitimate and is funded. Also, bank checks take days to clear when deposited depending on the issuer’s bank and the seller’s bank.

Most cash deals are done with wire transfers. With the state of technology, it’s very easy to do a wire transfer. You just need the Seller’s name, account number, and bank router number. But I never do a wire till I’m at the site of the deal and ready to do a hand-off. When you wire from your online account, it takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour for the funds to transfer to the seller’s account. The seller themselves can check online or their mobile smartphone banking app to see the funds are ‘pending’ into their account. Full clearance (meaning the funds are no longer ‘pending’) usually takes 24 hours but once the funds are pending in the seller’s account there is no recourse by a sender to take it back.

If you are doing the deal with a financed check, then its going to be different. First off, it’s going to take more time. Most financed bank checks are co-signed, meaning your name and the seller’s name (a person who will receive the check) has to sign the check. Also, some banks now ask for both parties to come into a branch for the deposit so they can collect IDs. This has happened to me when a seller uses TD Bank. Make sure you tell the seller you are sending or providing a financed bank check, so they can ask the process with their particular bank.

If you are doing a long-distance deal…

When doing a long distance deal, there is a great level of trust that must happened. Even if we wish it, you can’t always trust a stranger 100% and always be wary on a long-distance deal. First off if you are buying a car sight-unseen (i.e. you’re buying from photos seen online), you need to make sure you have the following pieces when you are closing:

Signed Bill of Sale. The BofS is important then ever to have a original signed copy in your hand before you hand over any money. Have the seller FedEx or express mail a signed version for your records.

Driver’s License. It is safe and reasonable to ask for a copy of the seller’s Driver’s license. You want to make sure all info on the BofS and the title are in sync. If there’s anything off, then thats a warning.

Copy of the Title. Ask the owner for a scanned copy of the Title so you know they actually own the car out-right. Also make sure the owner listed on the title is the same person you are dealing with.

Once you have all of these pieces of information, then its safe to send the money or plan for a transporter who will pick the car.


BMW TransporterTransports are a necessary evil if you don’t have time to go out cross-country and bring your new BMW back on a road trip. The good thing about transporters is they will be very careful and report all the issues they see on the car before they load it up. This report is then checked when they dropped off the car to make sure there are no issues with the car during transport.

I personally will wire the funds once I know the transporter is at the pick-up spot and confirms on the phone they are there to pick up a car. As I said, it takes 15 minutes or so for the wires to transfer and it take at least 1/2 an hour for a transporter to properly load up a car. So by the time they are finished, the seller can be sure they got paid as they let go of the car.

Definitely, have an open line of communicating when you deal with transporters and wires with the seller. You want them to understand what you are doing at all times, so there’s no miscommunication or angst on the deal.

Car Nirvana.

So now you have your car and you’re ready to enjoy it. There are always things to do like register the car, clean the car (or detail it) and fix any issues that it may have (i.e. preventative or minor). Its time to enjoy the spoils of your time and labour by enjoying your new (used) BMW.

Wrapping Up

I hope this article was helpful in your search and process in buying a used BMW. Getting pre-prepared upfront and being disciplined on the search is really the hardest part. The rest will go like faster and easier as you work with the seller, and buy your car.

I wish you the best on your search and look forward to hearing YOUR stories as you successfully buy your car.