What to Look for When Buying a Used BMW X1


The BMW X1 is a subcompact luxury crossover SUV and the smallest SUV in the company’s lineup. It’s been in production since 2009 but has only been on sale here in the US market since the 2013 model year, so what do you need to look out for when you’re looking to buy a used BMW X1?

2017 BMW X1 (second-generation)
  • First-generation BMW X1
  • Second-generation BMW X1
  • How much should you pay for a used BMW X1?
  • What’s special about the BMW X1?
  • Potential issues to look out for
  • The competition
  • Should you buy a used BMW X1

First-generation BMW X1 (2009-2015)

2013 BMW X1

BMW and BMW enthusiasts like to use code numbers to differentiate between generations, so you may see first-generation versions of the X1 referred to sometimes as E84 models. Although the first-generation E84 version of the X1 went into production in 2009 it didn’t arrive in the states until the 2013 model year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the X1 is based built on the same platform as the BMW 3 Series Touring and is a similar size to its wagon cousin. Back in 2012, it was a good time for the X1 to be introduced to the North American market as it had just been through a mid-cycle facelift, which means you don’t have to worry about facelift and pre-facelift first-generation models when you’re looking to buy a used BMW X1.

More than 800,000 first-generation X1 models were produced by BMW between 2009 and 2015, and over 72,000 of them were sold in the US between 2013 and 2015. First-gen X1s are not exactly scarce then, but they’re certainly not everywhere you look either.

In true BMW fashion, first-generation X1 models were standard rear-wheel-drive in entry-level form, but all-wheel-drive was also available. The base engine was a lively 2.0-liter turbo-four that put out a healthy 240 horsepower, but there was also the highly desirable option of a 3.0-liter inline-6 turbo that upped the power ante to an impressive 300 horsepower.    

All models feature an excellent Steptronic eight-speed automatic transmission, so you won’t have to worry about anyone trying to sell you into a manual version for a cheap price.

There were three trim levels of the 2013 model year BMW X1, which were the base 28i, the mid-range xDrive28i and the top-of-the-range xDrive35i. The 28i models were the ones with the 2.0-liter turbo-four under the hood, while the xDrive35i was the one with the inline-six. You may have worked out then that if you want a used X1 with the bigger engine you don’t have the option of a rear-wheel-drive version.

For the 2014 and 2015 model years, BMW left the X1 unchanged, but an all-new version of the popular little luxury SUV was soon to arrive.

Second-generation BMW X1 (2015-onwards)

2018 BMW X1

Although it had only been on sale in the US for three model years, the first-generation was looking a little dated in the BMW SUV family by 2015 as it had been around elsewhere in the world since 2009. The all-new second-generation arrived in the US as a 2016 model year and it was a notable update that made it fit in better with the rest of the BMW lineup.

Despite its compact proportions, the (F48) second-generation BMW X1 has a decent amount of room inside for up to five people, and the redesign was kind to the look of both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. A common complaint about the first-generation X1 was that it looked more like a hatchback than an SUV, but the F48 version pushed the little Beemer firmly back towards SUV styling territory.

Some of the interior trim isn’t quite what we’ve come to expect from BMW, but you have to keep in mind that this is one of the company’s more affordable models and some cost-cutting measures have to be accepted.

If the original buyer raided the options list heavily they’ll have ordered a nice little luxury SUV, but you as the used buyer will be getting the better deal as much of the money they spent on options will have been lost. I can stress strongly enough what a bad idea it is to buy a base model of a vehicle like this and then pile on with the options to make it the vehicle you want.

When it comes to resale value the trim level, age, mileage and condition are what matters. Options added above and beyond the standard spec will make your X1 a more attractive buy than an identical model without them, but you won’t really be able to ask a higher price. As a used buyer, you can’t lose. If you find a used X1 that has got optional extras you’ll be getting even more for your money and the original buyer is the one who took the pain.

In its first model year on sale, the 2016 BMW X1 was only available in a single trim level anyway, which was the xDrive 28i. This is an all-wheel-drive model with a 2.0-liter inline-four that develops 225 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, and it comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2015 BMW X1 interior

If you want front-wheel-drive, second-generation X1 you’ll have to look to the 2017 model year onwards as that’s when a second trim level was added to the range in the shape of the sDrive28i. A year later, the 2018 model year was split into two trim levels based solely on appearance, which were the X1 xLine and the X1 M Sport.   

How much should you pay for a used BMW X1?

Unless you’re prepared to go for an example with above-average miles, you’re not going to get a really good used BMW X1 in the US just yet for less than $10,000. Even so, a 2013 model with an average price of $11,384 is quite a bit of car for your money, especially is the original owner was generous with the options.

Below is a table showing the average used price the various model years are going for, according to thecarconnection.com.

Model yearAverage used price Minimum – Maximum
2013$ 6,995 – $17,995
2014$ 7,950 – $18,998
2015$10,681 – $19,998
2016$13,998 – $25,550
2017$16,592 – $33,990
2018$17,999 – $36,991
2019$26,750 – $43,395

What’s special about the BMW X1?

For a lot of potential buyers, the blue and white badge and the BMW name are what will make the X1 special and a preferred option to some more affordable non-luxury rivals. For a subcompact crossover, there’s a decent amount of room inside the X1, especially for those relegated to sitting in the rear seats of second-generation models.

Base models can be a little sparse on standard features, especially in the early model years, but the dealers and customers who ordered them originally from the factory will usually have configured them to at least an acceptable level.

Potential issues to look out for

Perhaps a little surprising for such a revered brand, the main issues you have to look for when buying a used BMW X1 are mostly to do with the engine. When you go to view one, look for smoke coming from the tailpipe. A little puff of black smoke during heavy acceleration is probably acceptable, but any other sort of smoke coming from the exhaust could be a cause for concern.

There’s some good news here though for US buyers, and that’s because the majority of engine problems with the X1 were with the diesel versions that were sold in Europe. However, the overall reliability record for the X1 is a little below average, with electrical problems being most common, followed by engine issues and then transmission problems a pretty distant third.

Just as when buying any used vehicle, but especially a prestige brand that can be expensive to maintain, look for a full main dealer service history and you shouldn’t go too far wrong with a used BMW X1.

The competition

There are plenty of alternatives to the BMW X1 that are worth considering, and not all of them are from what are considered prestige brands either. Luxury rivals include the Audi Q3, Cadillac XT4, Infiniti QX30, Jaguar E-Pace, Range Rover Evoque, Lexus UX and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Non-luxury models you might want to consider include the Mazda CX-3 or high-spec versions of the likes of the Buick Encore. The styling of the BMW X1 is far from being the most exciting in the segment, so you must really want that particular badge to overlook some of the pretty fierce competition.

Should you buy a used BMW X1?

For me, I’d rather spend the money it will cost to get into a decent used BMW X1 on something a little more exciting. There simply isn’t anything about the X1 that makes it stand out, and $14k upwards for a 2016 second-gen model could be better spent elsewhere.

For the same or less than a used X1, you’ll be able to find some very generously equipped non-luxury models that represent much better value for money, and some that will also be a lot more fun in the performance stakes.

Of course, if you have to have a BMW then the X1 is an affordable way into the brand, especially a used example. Personally, I’d rather have something like a high-spec 2017 Kia Sportage than an X1 of the same price unless it’s a first-gen 3.0-liter X1, but that’s just my opinion.  

Sean Cooper

Former retail auto industry professional for almost a decade and now an automotive writer and journalist for the last 7 years

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