I've always been in the camp you seem to be in, but having just started driving a BMW (not mine, my girlfriend's), I can say there's a lot more to it than just its looks. It's one of the sportier variants, and it is a significantly better driving machine than any of the japanese cars I've owned (I've only ever owned), to the point where it changes the way you drive. I think this is because you're much more confident in its abilities to handle things, and that it actually makes driving fun.
It's different from other cars I've driven like Macs are different from the windows boxes I've used.
I joke that getting a .com job and a bmw was my rebellion, hippie parents, you see. in '99 or '00 I bought a '92 bmw 325is. I'd rate it in my top 10 financial mistakes. You are right that the things handle significantly better, but the other guy is also right, saying they are significantly more expensive, especially to repair. I ended up getting rid of mine in favor of a Japanese car, mostly because I didn't want to limit myself to living places where I had a garage to work on the thing.
Actually, if I had the time and space for the auto repair hobby, I'd probably get another BMW and maintain it myself; The things aren't any harder to work on than a regular car. You do take a reliability hit, but eh, I could probably live with that. The parts are more expensive, but after market parts are a small fraction of the cost of dealer parts (or what a garage will charge you for parts,) so if you look around for deals, you don't end up paying that much more.
(the auto repair hobby has a lot to recommend itself; It's an easy $90/hr post-tax for doing something that is not very stressful at all.)
Still, in a situation where you are paying someone else to maintain the thing, if you aren't willing or able to pay for a new BMW, (which comes with free maintenance for a period) you probably should also avoid a used BMW. too. This is why used 7 series bmws go for so little.
I don't think I ever got the BMW out of the shop for under a grand. Part of that is the BMW has excellent breaks, and excellent breaks wear faster than mediocre breaks. (apparently the metal dust coming off the pads and rotors are actually an important way to vent heat.) and for some reason, replacing the pads and rotors on a bmw was north of a grand by itself. (It was $250 in parts to do it yourself, and maybe two hours of work.) so I think a lot of it is just "oh, he has a bmw, he must have money" Also, well, the BMW reliability just isn't up to the same standards as the Japanese cars, so you'd have little problems that sometimes required a tow.
>the auto repair hobby has a lot to recommend itself
I knew a guy who said "I like older cars because I can work on them". And he did. Every weekend. I vowed I would purposely never learn how to work on cars so that I would never be tempted get involved in such a tremendous time sink. The worst thing about the hobby is it tends to insert itself exactly when you don't want to do it.
eh, the old car issue aside (I fail to see how working on older cars is easier than newer cars... quite the opposite, really. the newer stuff is full of computerized diagnostics. I mean, the computer won't solve all your problems, but good god, have you ever tried to rebuild a carburetor? adjusting the 'richness' of your fuel air blend? oh yes I like the computer, and the OBD system.) it really is a straight time for money play. For the basic stuff, it's pretty easy to get to the point where it takes you as long as the mechanic will charge you for (most mechanics charge 'book rate' - e.g. how much time the book says a task will take rather than how much time it takes them. It's not too difficult to get up to that speed.)
So really, for any given car, if you work on it yourself, you shouldn't be spending much more time than what the shop would charge you for the same work, and, uh, like I said, $90/hr post-tax isn't something most of us sneeze at. (Of course, if you can sneeze at that, good for you!)
that said, right now I'm taking my vehicle to a professional. the thing is, sure, the car only needs something once every 6 months, if you don't count oil changes (which I usually take in, just 'cause it's worth twenty bucks to not deal with the oil) - the thing is, where I am now, maintaining a garage would cost me more than just paying to take my car in. So yeah, it doesn't always make sense.
I'm sure it is just as amazing an experience to drive as it is to look at. The problem is that owning a car is a money-losing proposition. If you buy it new you lose up to 40% of the value just driving it off the lot. Another strategy might be to just buy the vehicle and keep it until the wheels fall off. That wont save you from losing on the transaction but at least you wont have to lose money every 3 years like you might with a cheaper car. Except that wont work with BMW. According to all stats I've been able to find (and I really looked for this because I wanted it to be worth owning one) they don't last any longer than their cheap counter parts but they cost a lot more to fix. The warranty isn't any longer. So that means I'd still have to do the same "piss away thousands every 3-5 years" but with numbers 2 or 3 times larger.
Yeah, she bought it 2 years used, for about 60% of it's original sticker price. They may not last longer than their cheaper counterparts, but while they last, they're extremely different. It's not a great value except in the fun/$ category, in which case I would say a used one blows most cars out of the water. Driving time/$, not so much.
My solution to this problem wrt cars was to buy a low-mileage used BMW off lease and learn to replace my own brakes (highest cost routine maintenance task). I'm making use of someone else's wastefulness (the previous owner) to subsidize my fancy car ownership, and paying less for the car than I would have paid for a new Ford or Toyota.
That depends on the car. A low end Acura or BMW will only lose around 40% over the first 3 years and IMO knowing that you don't need to worry about repairs for 4 years is worth a fair amount by it's self.
It's different from other cars I've driven
like Macs are different from the windows
boxes I've used.
OT, but am I the only one who doesn't see the appeal of os x? I have had a mac with os x for over a year now (also had macs before it in the system/os 7.x-8.x generation) and I still prefer ubuntu or windows 7 (although not by much).
For me the appeal is that I don't have to mess with it. When I get a new windows machine it takes about 2 days to get every thing how I want it. Linux is much longer. I got my first Mac about 2 years ago and it took my a grand total of about 2.5 hours. Part of this might be that some things I wanted to change I couldn't, but a big part of it is just that Mac tends to pick the defaults I want so I don't have to mess with it.
The other thing is that on Mac if I install a new program I don't feel like I've just taken N number of months of the life of the OS install (Linux is even better here).
Basically, I'm older now and I don't have time to use a computer for anything other than what I have it for. Every second I have to spend doing administration is a wasted second.