Sale of the Week

This E39 BMW M5 is a perfect end-of-year heat check

by Conner Golden
24 December 2021 3 min read
Bring a Trailer | rjh6385

Here in the spreadsheet-lined halls of Hagerty Insider, we pride ourselves as being the purveyors of price, the mavens of the market, and the viceroys of value. If we see a new thread developing in the collector car market, we tug on it with the full-force of Hagerty’s tower of data behind us. Case in point—among many other collector car trends, 2021 was looking to be the BMW E39 M5’s year. March 2021 saw a wrapper-fresh E39 trade for a stunning $199,990, followed by a string of low-mileage E39 M5s top around the $75,000 mark. Hey, thread? Yeah, consider yourself yanked.

Well, this week saw someone lose roughly $11,000 on their E39 M5 between two Bring a Trailer sales of the same car. Rare color combo, too. Huh.

Back in January 2021, BaT user “rjh6385” clocked in a winning bid of $50,000 on a 2002 BMW M5 with 89,000 miles on the odo. The car was presented well in rare Oxford Green Metallic II paint over a handsome Caramel Heritage leather interior, making it one of just 71 examples equipped as such sold in the States. RJH—may we call you RJH?—appeared ecstatic in the comments at the time of their victory. Why not? It’s a desirable driver’s car wearing special paint. Plus, it’s part of a species that’s seen a trend of high-visibility big-money sales that show no sign of slowing down.

Bring a Trailer | rjh6385

Then just this week, RJH re-listed the Oxford Green M5 back on BaT, eventually selling for a winning bid of $39,000, some $11,000 off what it sold for almost a year prior. What the heck? Did we pull too hard? Did that thread unravel BMW’s ugly Christmas sweater?

Turns out, this sale is a perfect end-of-year reality check. First and foremost, it reminds us of the importance emotions can play in a big sale; “I was bidding against another guy and $42k was my top end, but I got swept away in the emotion of the deal and kept bidding,” RJH wrote in a comment on their own sale. “It’s a great car but hard to see, in my opinion, how it’s worth $50k with 90,000 miles.”

No victim blaming from us—we’ve all been there. As is oftentimes the case with offbeat color combinations, it’s sometimes just two people in the room bidding against each other. In this case, RJH’s opponent back in January was in the market for a well-kept BMW, with BaT user “Paul-Philip” going on to win a tidy 2002 BMW Z3 M Coupe just a month later. As we detailed earlier in the year, the format of online sales can fuel the gotta-have-it impulse and lead to outlier prices.

We’d have to agree with RJH’s assessment of his initial purchase being a bit, ah, overzealous. His bought-and-sold E39 was purchased in what we’d gauge from the photos and description to be in Hagerty Price Guide #3 (“driver”) condition, placing the average value right around the $38,800 mark, with Condition #4 falling to $19,700 and Condition #2 spiking to $73,500. Bought for a premium, sold for fair market value.

Bring a Trailer | rjh6385

“Honestly, I overpaid for it back in January, and I’m very pleased with this result,” RJH wrote in another comment. Again, you’re far from the only one; as we detailed in our recent year-end wrap-up, a significant portion of bored buyers with cash to burn are purchasing more with heart than mind, especially with up-and-coming collectibles like the E39. There are big pricing gaps between public transactions of emerging classics still floundering in what we call the “discovery period.”

It’s tempting, especially in a bull market, to believe a handful of stunning sale results for exceptionally nice examples are now the new rule. That’s especially true since so many of those big prices dominate headlines. Yet that ignores all the tamer sales that didn’t get attention. “Nice car sold for what you’d expect it to” doesn’t make a compelling headline but it still, even in here in inflationary, pandemic-addled December 2021, is what happens more often than not.

RJH seems to have a great attitude about it. “Life’s too short to take this stuff too seriously,” they wrote. “So I lost 11k; don’t love it, but I accomplished my goal of getting the car sold this year.”  Right on, our semi-anonymous friend. On the plus side, RJH’s already got the M5’s replacement on the way. On the sale page, they write of the 2022 Porsche Carrera 4S Cabriolet en route to their driveway. And the color?

Dark green over saddle-hued leather.


  • Bob Hilb says:

    Thanks for this awesome article!! People take this stuff too seriously, especially some on BAT. Cars are fun and are meant to be driven and enjoyed! Honored you wrote this article! Happy New Year! RJH

  • Bruce Howe says:

    If you bought a brand new M5 and drove it for a year, it would also depreciate about that much if you wanted to sell it.

  • Michael Cosgrove says:

    I seriously would’ve guessed it would ask you the other way, 11,000 more on the second bid. Glad to see there’s some measure of sanity still in the market.

  • arthur staloff says:

    Everyone has their own taste, a 19 year old 4 door 5 series BMW has little allure to me, a new 3 series now we are talking or an M-6 turbo V8 also hot, or some of the newer M4’s. he could have purchased a 2011 or newer Cadilac CTSV for a little more money and he would never sell it. He did good to unload at top dollar congrats are in order

  • Al Dawes says:

    Got burned at auction once. Would never buy at auction again.

  • Roger says:

    People get carried away bidding at auctions all the time. This is particularly true on BAT. So, there are probably several examples like this one.

  • Alan says:

    So where does that leave a year 2000 E39 BMW Alpina B10 V8 with 70k miles in value?
    Not as ‘raw’ in action as an M5 but a dream of a ride and power output.

  • Steve Lowen says:

    Who really cares? After many years having owned a myriad of very desirable, in retrospect, ‘Collector’ Cars, all used on a regular basis, instead of a sane, year old Mercedes 350, I am still astounded by empty suits who covet any rolling stock. This reminds me of those I dealt with in the Antiques and Limited Edition Trade. Invariably, they bought with the idea not of beauty, but of a ‘killing’ in the near future. P.S. My ‘funnest’ vehicle was a DeLorean. Almost undriveable, but a, to use Texan, a hoot….and, one proving profitable when unloaded on a True Believer with lots of crazy money.

  • Ralph Almerigi says:

    The hunt is always more exciting than the kill. Once in hand you will see it in a different light. You should buy what YOU like and not what may make you money. A the end it’s still only a used CAR.

  • Lar says:

    What is utterly amazing is that many of the buyers on BaT have not even inspected in person, let alone driven, the vehicles that they are buying. Further, one does get the impression that at least some of the buyers wouldn’t even know how to inspect a car. Someone should set up a website dedicated exclusively for buyers of vehicles on through BaT to post their post-transaction experience/feelings.

  • Jim says:

    The good aspect about BAT is that anyone can comment and anyone can see those comments. The terrible aspect of BAT is that 90% of the commenters have absolutely no clue about the vehicle (were they even alive when the car was new?) or its actual value. I am almost always astounded when I see comments about the car being well bought/stolen. Most cars there sell for very good money and if they don’t meet reserve, it is normally an unrealistic reserve.

    • allan k says:

      As Lar suggested, an after purchase website with buyers’ comments would be useful. However, most buyers of their “dream” vehicles will be hard to admit mistakes. Buyers on any auction site have to determine what the purchase limit is (and stick to it) and to prepare to invest another 10%-50% of purchase price to bring it up to reasonably acceptable standards. If buyers believe they will get a vehicle with no repairs/deferred maintenance or problems – I have this bridge in New York…

  • NW Terry says:

    At least in this case, the buyer didn’t whine about his loss, he took it like a man and moved on. Nobody likes taking a hit like that, but like he said, he got caught up in the moment and paid too much. Had he stuck to his 42K limit, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I bid on a 57 bird a few years ago, that looked pretty nice, so I went all the way up to what it should have been worth on the open market, at about 40K. There were two other bidders that thought the car was worth much more, a lot more, about 30K more! The successful bidder was very happy with himself and just went on and on about how he outbid everyone else, with cocktail in hand. I’ve followed the car for the past couple of years and it’s down to 40K and no takers. Congratulations, I guess, you won! No telling who the third bidder was, but he had a great big smile after the sale? I don’t do auctions anymore. I don’t like sitting through all the crap before the real stuff comes up and by then many potential bidders have been well lubricated and judgement is out the window.

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