Buyer beware: The dangers of buying a used BMW hardtop

If you’re thinking about a used hardtop for your BMW Z3 or Z4, beware! I get to talk to a lot of people about their BMW roadsters and you wouldn’t believe some of the nightmare stories I have heard about buying a used hardtop.


The BMW roadster hardtops are great. They not only look great but they perform well too. They eliminate outside noise, make the interior warmer in cold weather and gives your roadster extra rigidity which may be why so many people are looking for hardtops.

The cost, if purchased new, is very high and a lot of people are looking for used hardtops to save some money. The BMW list price for a new Z4 hardtop is $2,575.00, the Z4 mounting hardware is another $180, the Z3 hardware (which is no longer available) was around $450, and the labor to install it is $250 to $500 depending on the labor rate and car. They are great but expensive.

Here are some things to consider if you’re looking to purchase a used hardtop. Hardtops are extremely large, heavy and hard to ship. When purchased new from your local BMW dealer they arrive at the dealership mounted on a metal rack on a pallet and a box is built around them. They come painted to match your car and are ready to mount. An item this large is difficult to ship and must be shipped as freight.

I spoke to one guy who purchased a used hardtop, sight unseen. It was located on the other side of the country and to save money he had it shipped via bus, in the luggage compartment underneath the bus. It still cost him several hundred dollars but was much less expensive than using a freight carrier. When he received the hardtop it was bent, twisted, and scratched. Now he is fighting with an insurance company and a bus company to get his money back and his hardtop repaired. How much money do you think he saved by purchasing a used hardtop? So far he’s spent more on this used one than he would have on a new one…and he still doesn’t have a hardtop on his car.

I spoke to another person who used a totally different approach. He installed the hardtop mounting kit on his car and drove to the place of purchase, put the hardtop on the car and drove it home. This sounds like a much better approach to me.

A good place to begin your search may be the parts counter of your local BMW dealer. They may have a hardtop lurking in the back corner collecting dust. One guy told me he got a great deal this way. My local dealer had one sitting around for a long time before someone took it home.


Here is a list of some things to think about before buying a hardtop, new or used:
*Initial cost.
*Transporting it; how are you going to get it home? On an item this size and weight, shipping is very expensive.
*Installation; this is not an easy install unless you are really handy.
*Cost and availability of the mounting hardware, needed before you can use the hardtop.
*Getting it painted, which could cost around $400.
*Removing it. How are you going to get the hardtop off the car? Two people can do it but you can’t do it yourself. A hoist can be a big help here.
*Storage. You’ll need a hoist or a cart to store your hardtop in.

A used hardtop will cost $1,000 to $1,500 and you still have to find and purchase the mounting hardware, have it installed, get it painted. You would be extremely lucky to find one in the color you need. Don’t spend this kind of money on a used hardtop and end up with something unusable. There’s a lot of opportunity here to waste your money. Do your research up front and you won’t get stuck.

For more info/advice on all your Z3/Z4 accessories, contact Dick at Roadster Solutions:

Dick Leinbach
Roadster Solutions (Z3Solutions)
P.O. Box 194, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania 19508 USA
1-877-862-0585 (toll free)
610-406-0597 (voice) / 610-406-0598 (fax)

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  1. I have a 2004 Z4 and would like to know if I buy and install a Hardtop, does it change the way my convertible top looks or works? And also how long does it take to remove and replace it, once it is installed?

  2. Kim, Please ask your question on the Z4 message forum. There are many knowledgeable folks over there that have a hardtop.

    Z4 Forum

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