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1997 BMW 525tds Touring


We’re raised in the US to think that all BMWs are all full-leather, optioned-out, powerful luxury machines. Then we ‘Mericans set one foot in Europe and see BMW cabs and dented city cars running around on steel wheels and get thoroughly confused. Unfortunately for us, BMWs standard of engineering and handling extends much further than just catering to yuppies. Fortunately for us, some zealous souls bring these oddities over, like today’s diesel E39 wagon. Sure, I’d love a 540iT or even a 528iT, but wouldn’t it be sweet to get Prius gas mileage with the good looks and handling of the E39 longroof? Today’s your chance with this double-import, first to Canada and then officially to the US. Cloth seats and celsius temperature readings mean this is no American Bimmer, and that makes it an interesting proposition indeed.

Click for details: 1997 BMW 525tds Touring on eBay


Year: 1997
Model: 525tds
Engine: 2.5 liter turbocharged inline-6 diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 114,400 mi
Price: $13,999 Buy It Now


Selling a very rare in the USA 1997 BMW 525tds with about 113k miles. This car was exported to Canada from Germany and again exported from Canada to United States. I bought the car already in the US and so therefore comes with a US title easily transferable to any state, including California due to a exemption on diesels of this year and older. The car is mechanically in perfect condition. Clutch is near perfect. Engine does not leak fluids or smoke. AC blows cold. I would not hesitate to drive the car cross country on a moments notice. Absolutely nothing needs to be done.

Cosmetically, the car looks to be in excellent condition and the pics do a wonderful job of displaying this. While no car is completely rust free, this one is as good as it gets. A couple unique extra’s…… this car does have the euro OEM trailer hitch installed under rear bumper. The car also has 4 winter tires mounted on steel rims in addition to the all season’s currently on the vehicle. Also, this car does have the rear backup warning chime indicating when the car is about to hit an object behind it.

I have dual residency in Ohio and Seattle. Buyer will receive a clear Ohio title without any restrictions. I bought the car already in the US, so I do not have any import paperwork. Finally, I do drive the vehicle somewhat, so mileage may increase slightly during the auction.

I’m a collector of rare, exotic, and unique cars and have sold many on eBay but to clarify, I’m not a dealer. The car is located on Mercer Island, WA. I will show the car and allow test drives but please contact me first. I travel extensively and need a couple days notice if coming over. Can provide free airport transportation from SEA.


The unique nature and low miles are definite draws, though you could probably get a 540iT for a few grand less and enjoy spending that leftover cash at the gas station. It’d be pretty hard to row your own gears though, and lord knows diesel fanatics love wagons – just ask Volkswagen. Some style 32s would make this a very attractive and pragmatic car, the best of both worlds. I just don’t think I could spend $14k on it.



  1. David
    David November 15, 2014

    This seller is selling another car with questionable import status. There is a posting about the Fiat on Bring a Trailer.

  2. Ry
    Ry November 15, 2014

    Agreed @David…just cause he managed to get it titled doesn’t mean it’s on the up and up.

    Tip off there is funny business is that it had to go from Canada and then to US and he has “dual state residency” so it’s titled thousands of miles away from where the car is located?!? It takes 5 min of googling to determine this car isn’t legally drivable here per EPA & NHTSA. In fact if it was imported and federalized it should have a metal stamped new VIN tag on it (it doesn’t replace original VIN, it’s an amendment to it).

    I love this site more than any other car blog out there (as seen by the # of my enthusiastic comments!), but @Paul (as editor) – if you are trying to be conservative from a liability standpoint by not publishing the VINs of any auction posting (even if they are listed in the auction posting details), I think posting blatant grey/black market cars without any suggestion of due dilligence being needed seems to be a bit contrary to the philosophy. This isn’t a rant against this site at all, and I don’t mean to tell you how to run your business or your great site. I just hate shady sellers who skirt laws that I’m familiar with taking advantage of optimistic gear heads who take their word for it.

    That said, caveat emptor @Nate, it’s certainly a cool find! :). Also you can toggle from F to C on both the HVAC display and outside temp in 5 sec, it’s in the manual.

    Note to self, establish “dual residency” in Ohio to register future grey market cars with ease. Lol

  3. Paul Martin
    Paul Martin November 15, 2014

    car virtually identical to this one was on Craigslist in Vancouver last week – approx. $8700 CAN. Yellow sticker visible in rear license plate is similar to 2015 BC registration sticker. Previous owner may have driven it across the border. Would explain no import paperwork.

  4. Ry
    Ry November 15, 2014

    Great sleuthing Paul Martin! Indeed you’re correct. . .the Craigslist ad has been taken down but I can see this snippet from the Google cache:

    “1997 BMW Euro Diesel Touring – Craigslist
    Oct 12, 2014 – 1997 BMW 525 TDS Euro model turbo diesel touring. 5 speed manual … 1997 BMW Euro Diesel Touring – $10900 (vancouver bc). . image 1 …”

    [note, that’s $9656.87 US 30 days ago asking price, and $12,999 asking price today]

    Out of curiosity I googled the VIN wbadg71030bw79932 (wasn’t in the ebay text but it was pictured on the front strut tower), and up popped some import/export filings showing that it passed through from Panama (originally in Europe though) to California (and probably onward to Canada via ship or over land) on 11/26/12. It was carried over on the freighter MSC FABIENNE (google image search that beast!).

    It was imported by “TANTALUS AUTO SALES JOE MAIKA” in Whistler, BC (who has imported what are *probably* but not definitely 13 other vehicles since 2007) and Tantalus auto sales is adjacent to/part of SMD Automotive, obviously also in Whistler.

    Today it is now being sold by ebay seller “smartsellerRob” who’s name is Rob Frey and claims to have “bought, sold, traded” over 45 not legal for sale diesel Smart cars on the Smart owners forum. Explaining in one post “some States have loose restrictions on Canadian cars. Just depends on the State.” Hmm, that’s interesting! lol

    At the end of the day, just get yourself a couple year old Jetta Diesel wagon, with slightly better MPG and 80% of the HP & torque that the BMW diesel has. . .and leather! 🙂

  5. Audifan
    Audifan November 16, 2014

    Obviously the last poster has never driven a BMW 525 TDS Touring since he is comparing it to a Jetta TDI. I love VW’s TDI engines, but compared to the silky smooth 6 Cyl. In the BMW they are small rattle-boxes. Size wise it might also make more sense to compare it to a Passat Wagon. Some people, like myself, actually prefer cloth over leather.
    I give kudos to somebody who has the creativity to get these unusual cars imported and titled in the USA. Once it’s titled in one state and you have insurance with the correct VIN, it’s all good.
    It’s very tiring to hear “questionable legality” stories and even warning this site owner about possible liabilities. Come on, nobody is forcing these overly concerned people to buy this car. Period.
    A friend of mine had a T5 TDI in the Pacific Northwest for a few years now. Unfortunately he was involved in a small accident and his insurance company settled it without ANY problems. It came from the SE, was shipped to the PNW and titled without any problem whatsoever.

  6. Ry
    Ry November 16, 2014

    @Audifan – your first sentence is bizarrely rhetorical, of course I haven’t driven one. I was suggesting the Jetta TDI wagon as a legal alternative that’s fun and super easy to find. I clearly wasn’t trying to compare the cars on anything other than their availability.

    Your example of a friend getting into a crash is an excellent one (though I’m unclear if it was grey market as well…assuming you’re implying it was) if anyone was injured in such an accident guess which car I wouldn’t want to be driving? The one that doesn’t conform to US safety laws and was illegally registered on the road.

    There are few commenters that think as highly of this site or its contributors/owners as I do. They like to play semi-conservative and I don’t blame them considering what a litigious culture we have. I’m perhaps “ultra legally conservative/defensive” coming from a background in a profession that required it. You can understand why a person, a business or a website night be reluctant to use language such as “won’t have ANY problems?”

    Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion (even in regards to interpretation or compliance with law) and an ability to share that opinion – I whole heartedly embrace those beliefs. I also appreciate you sharing another point of view. I don’t want to belabor my opinions any more for I have already monopolized this post with my suggestions of cautiousness and background on the vehicle. I just don’t want any well meaning gear head to end up like the Land Rover Defender owners (40 of them) who had their cars seized earlier this year, or the like the hundreds of vehicles that CARB brings an end to in California every year.

    Thank you for balancing out the conversation.

  7. audifan
    audifan November 16, 2014

    Quote: “The one that doesn’t conform to US safety laws and was ILLEGALLY registered on the road.”

    I can appreciate your comment and it looks like you might be working in the legal field.

    What I absolutely don’t understand, is your statement about this Volkswagen T5 TDI “legal” status?
    Let me get this straight: The Dept. of Licensing in the US Southwest and the Department of Licensing in the Pacific Northwest and a big US Insurance company are all involved in some “illegal” business by issuing titles and insurance for this vehicle?

    Like so many others, you are quoting the crushed Landrover Defender issue. These were clearly
    Re-VINed vehicles which is a totally different story. Also, most everybody knows that CARB can prevent you from registering a car in California, but there are still 49 other states gladly to take your money.

    Now back to our regular lives. I really like this BMW Wagon and I don’t think the seller will have a problem finding an excited buyer appreciating a rare car. So far, he made quite a few Smart owners happy by selling them a Diesel version which is not “legally” available in the States.
    P.S. I think very highly of this site too.

  8. Stephen
    Stephen November 16, 2014

    Sorry, audifan, but you are mistaken. The car has been illegally imported into the US, because it is a non-US model less than 21 years old. It could therefore be seized and destroyed. The fact that a state government issued paperwork on the car is irrelevant because federal law trumps state law.

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