Two years ago I made a video with this BMW 530D, talking about if you should buy a CAT N car. While I think my overall view hasn’t changed, we’ve lived with this for two years and have plenty of experience I think is worth sharing.
You can check out all the repairs we’ve had to make to this car on the site or over on Youtube, but the biggest repair by far was the rear subframe. The massive bushings that mount the subframe to the car had torn and we think were affecting the handling and tracking. So, we initially failed to replace them on the car, so bought a used subframe on ebay, bought a hydraulic press, and replaced every bushing – both the main bushings and the three diff bushes – then had the mammoth job of swapping the old frame out and the new one in.
Something we clearly missed when doing that was replacing the rear springs as the passenger side spring had actually snapped and was just rattling away for potentially months. We opted to replace the shocks and spring seats while we were at it, and since we broke one of the rear trailing arms we had to replace that too.
There have been more minor issues too, things like a water leak we assume was from the vapour barrier, a few vents were broken and needed replacing, and the EGR failed causing the engine to stall when it was plugged in. All of those were remedied fairly easily though. There are also a couple of issues still, like a cracked rear bumper, and a strange electrical issue with the front parking sensors which we are still trying to diagnose.
So, should you buy a CAT N car? Well… no.
…Unless… you get ALL the paperwork. You’ll want the receipts of what parts were replaced, any labour if it was repaired at a garage (which is preferred generally), and really you want evidence of whatever accident it was in to write it off. We don’t have anything for this BMW, we don’t know what accident damage it had, what’s been replaced, or what we should be keeping an eye on. For example, the rear spring that snapped? That has been replaced, clearly with the cheapest one they could find. The shock is OE, as is the driver’s side spring and shock.
On top of the paperwork, you’ll likely need to budget for extra repairs, downtime and problems. Some issues might not have been caught when it was repaired, issues can be hidden, and in some cases you can just have accelerated wear on things like suspension components or the engine – depending on the accident. As long as you understand what you are getting yourself into and are willing to deal with potential extra hassle and costs, then I’d say go for it. Save a car from the scrapper.