How do I 1st Gen Buying a Used Gen1 MINI

Discussion in '1st Generation: 2002–06 R50, R53 & 2004–08 R52' started by Whine not Walnuts, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. Whine not Walnuts

    Whine not Walnuts Active Member

    Mar 14, 2017
    waitin for my check
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    +268 / 0 / -0
    #1 Whine not Walnuts, Oct 8, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
    You thinking about buying a used MINI Cooper? Well if you are looking at an older model this thread may be of some help as we are going to discuss the 1st Generation, Gen1, of MINIs that offered both non-aspirated and aspirated (forced induction) engines along with both hardtops and convertibles.


    There are three models of Gen1 MINIs. In 1994 BMW purchased the Rover Group and with that the Mini name. In 2001 BMW introduced the MINI to the European market with the American debut in 2002. You will note that I use MINI and not Mini here in our discussions. Gen1 MINIs have a Tritec engines that was produced in Brazil through a development agreement by both BMW and Daimler Chrysler. Some Chrysler vehicles in Europe, the Neon and the PT Cruiser, used the Tritec engine. The MINI is assembled in Oxford, England.

    In America the three Gen1 models of MINI are;

    1.) The R50 has a non-supercharged (naturally aspirated) engine, production years were 2002 to 2006. You may sometimes see this car called a “Justa.” The R50 has a 1598 cc engine (approximately 114 HP and 110 P/F Torque) with a curb weight of approximately 2293 pounds. Transmissions are either a 5-speed manual or a CVT (continuously variable transmission).

    2.) The R53 has a supercharged (forced induction) engine and is marked with an “S” on both sides as well as the rear trunk area. Production years were 2002 through 2006. The R53 has a 1598 cc engine (approximately 161 HP, 155 P/F Torque) with a curb weight of approximately 2513 pounds. Transmissions are either a 6-speed manual or an Aisen automatic transmission. One option for the R53 was the JCW* option. JCW stands for John Cooper Works. John Cooper was English and involved with Formula 1. Cooper modified the British Motor Corporation’s Mini model to great success, the Mini Cooper was born. The JCW option package offered more horsepower (approximately 40 HP) at first and then later added some suspension changes.

    3.) The R52 is the MINI Convertible model has comes in both “Justa” trim (naturally aspirated) and the “S” supercharged (forced induction). Transmissions were similar to those of the R50 and R53 (see above). Production years were 2005 through 2008. The “Justa” trim had a curb weight of approximately 2568 pounds and the “S” of 2848 pounds. The “S” also offered the JCW option package.

    In 2005 MINI modified styling for both the interior and exterior of the R50 and R53. The 2005 and 2006 models and all of the R52 cars are known as “facelift” models. These model years also had minor changes/upgrades made to gear ratios, motor mounts, and other mechanical parts.


    It is now 18 years since the MINI debuted here in the US. Below we have provided links to four articles written about the car through the years. The first two were prepared when the car was released back in 2002 with the third and fourth being written in retrospect. The last two do offer perspectives on some common issues these cars have.

    Car & Driver -

    Top Gear -

    Road and Track -

    Motoring File -

    If you take the time to read through the last two articles you will note there are common issues with the Gen1 cars, many due to the age. Over time seals dry out and two in particular are the crank seal next to the belt pulley and the crank sensor o-ring. For the R50, the CVT automatic has had many issues and the replacement cost will put you "up side down" in what the car is worth versus the cost you have in it. For all models, the plastic engine coolant tank is prone to split.


    Most find a used car through either word of mouth or through some type of advertising medium. Websites advertising cars are such as:

    Cars Direct -

    Craigslist -

    Autotrader - -

    When looking for a used MINI, and any type of car, many say to look for the newest car that fits within your budget. Why? Manufacturers release a new model and all the research and testing do not always turn up all the issues. In an above link, Road and Track states “Same as what used to be the rule with Porsches, the R53 Cooper S you want is the newest one your budget can support. Each model year comes with minor improvements to both power and reliability.” For the Gen1 MINI this means the 2005 to 2006 R50s and R53s along with all of the R52s (05-08) benefited from these improvements. I cannot stress the importance of becoming informed on the issues involved with any car, and in the case of a MINI this is why I included the links to both Road & Track and Motoring File above.

    Your local MINI Dealer may also be a source but due to the age of the Gen1 cars, a trade-in would be have to be a low mileage car with documented records in order for them to keep the car in their inventory. There are also issues with obtaining loans for a car over six years in age from most lending institutions.

    Several of the links above offer the ability, either free or for a cost, of seeing the history of a car. How many owners has the car had, was the car ever in a reported accident, are there any recalls, where was the car used (I used to live in the Northeast and know firsthand what road salt does to a car) and are there any service records? The more you know, the better chance you have of not buying a lemon.


    My first brand new car cost me around $3,500 back in 1973 (yes, I am old). Since that time I have had more than a few cars but I do not buy a car every other day and I am not in the business of buying/selling cars. I relay upon others to inform me what cars are worth. NADA, , and Kelly Blue Book (KBB), , are two companies that provide automobile pricing to both buyers and sellers. NOTE: I have no affiliations with either of these companies. Both of these sites will provide information for pricing relative to an individual sale or by a dealer. The KBB values are normally less than what NADA projects. It should be noted that most lending institutions go by NADA values for car loans. There are posts in this forum noting that when you sell a car, you ask the NADA price but when you buy a car, you want to pay only the KBB price.

    After-market modifications may be involved with a Gen1 MINI. These modifications can include body panels, body trim, interior trim, suspension and the motor. The pricing provided by NADA and KBB are based upon non-modified vehicles and it is difficult to judge the price a modification may add or detract to the sale price of a car. This is another reason to be well informed about the car but also if modifications are involved, the pros and cons of the modification.


    There are two basic types of sellers; the first is the person down the street, the second is a car dealer.

    The person down the street may be selling the car because; 1.) They do not require the car anymore, 2.) They have bought another car and instead of accepting the “trade-in” offer they are trying to sell it themselves, or, 3.) They know something is wrong with the car and do not want to put more money into it. The question is whether they are going to tell you the real reason why they are selling.

    On the dealer side you have the full service dealer with both a sales staff and a repair shop. Many times these types of dealers will offer a “limited” warranty on a used car whereas if something breaks, that they have specifically noted as being covered by their warranty, they fix it. It could be expected that with this type of overhead the sale price is higher and that the types of cars are in better overall shape. Then there are the dealers that have cars on a lot but nothing relative to a repair shop. Many times these dealers are a "Sold-as-Is" (no warranty) type place and the sales price may reflect costs lower than the full service places.

    NOTE: It is important to know how the State that you are buying the car in addresses a sale from a business. I strongly suggest you familiarize yourself with the car selling laws in your state.

    Remember that a phrase used by the ancient Romans still applies today; caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.


    So you have found a MINI and the car has interested you enough that you nave decided to go look at it. The question I have for you is how good of a mechanic are you and even if you are a mechanic are you able to get the car into a position to really check it out? There are those that will say buying a car is close to gambling. To minimize the odds a Pre-Purchase Inspection or PPI can help. The buyer pays for a PPI to be performed at an auto shop. Any issues noted during the inspection can be used in the negotiation of the final price if you decide to proceed. It is suggested that a PPI be performed by a shop that knows MINIs. If such a shop cannot be found nearby, at a minimum the inspection should check mechanical, safety, and appearance aspects, such as the vehicle's:
    • Tires.
    • Frame.
    • Suspension.
    • Glass.
    • Lights.
    • Brakes.
    • Radiator.
    • Hoses.
    • Belts.
    • Fluids.
    • Battery.
    • Body condition.
    • Exterior surface.
    The best inspections include a road test and a computerized engine analysis. Some comprehensive examinations also evaluate the condition of the instrument controls, pedals, seats, and sound system.

    I reached out to Nick at Detroit Tuned, , about what they do when a person asks them to inspect a car and whether there was a “check list” that they used. He told me; “Having a set PPI schedule doesn't make sense when different cars have different failures, have lived in different environments, are owned by different drivers and have different mileage. All of that comes into play when you look at any car, so having a set checklist is not something that always works. We look the cars over front to back and top to bottom. Everything short of pulling the oil pan, valve cover, and starting to pull the car apart to see if there is any shoddy body repair.

    OK, so as you don’t take everything apart during a PPI but are there other issues that a buyer should be aware of? His replay brings me back to the Roman's caveat emptor; Ask for any and all proof of maintenance or work done, and ask all the questions you can. Unfortunately there is a fair amount of situations that you can't look at during a PPI, such as; the timing cassette, clutch, engine internals, oil consumption, etc. So there is no way of knowing if you're buying into a problem. If you can't prove the car has been maintained you cannot gain the buyers trust. Proof of work is always going to make the sale.

    In other words, a well maintained higher mileage vehicle with service records may be worth more than a car will fewer miles but no records.

    Another important item to remember before buying any car is whether the options the seller is telling you the car has are true. This applies to both dealers and individuals. For this you take the Vehicle Identification Number or VIN and type/paste the number into several on-line “decoders”, one of which I have provided a link:


    First of all, extended warranties aren’t really extended warranties. They DO NOT extend the new car warranty coverage. They are insurance products that will cover some repairs and are limited in many ways.

    Once a car is more than a decade old, or has more than 100,000 miles on the odometer, purchasing coverage for major mechanical repairs is challenging and, if available, can be expensive. One has to ask, is it worth paying 10 or 15 percent of the purchase price of the car, or more, just to get the limited available coverage?


    Well hopefully you have done your research, kicked some tires and beat lady luck. Now it is time to enjoy the car, correct? Well you did ask and so I say, “Maybe." First I would make sure that some simple maintenance items as oil, brake fluid etc are all up to snuff. Ask us some questions as there are some good members here that will help you take care of your "New Ride."

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