David has had a variety of life experiences, which he loves to share with his readers.
What Is a MINI?
So what is a MINI? It's basically a small economy car that is known for its speed, extreme drifting, and unique look. There have been various types of MINI cars over the last several decades, but their popularity has surged because of their availability almost all over the world, their unique look, and their race car-like quality.
MINI, which is owned by BMW, is recognized at making some of the most popular small cars. While the Cooper is the most recognized model, there are other cars from MINI to choose from.
I have owned a MINI Cooper for four years. I thoroughly researched the brand before buying it, and I did not want to write an article until I felt experienced and knowledgeable about what the vehicle had to offer. This article will cover my experience owning this car. I will go over its pros and cons as well as go over the current models offered by MINI.
The Pros of Buying a MINI
I'll start with the positives as to why you should own a MINI brand vehicle.
- Fun to drive. The main reason I wanted a MINI was because they looked so fun to drive. Once I got behind the wheel, I knew it was a good choice. They can quickly go fast, make turns without a problem, and can practically park anywhere. A don't really care to drive, but when I do, I want it to be in a fun car. You can see how maneuverable they are in The Italian Job. Of all of the vehicles I have owned, the MINI has been the most fun.
- Customization. When I was first shopping around for a MINI, I went to their website to play with the various options I could have on the car. A cool thing about this car is that you can customize it almost anyway you want. Not only does the MINI stand out among other cars, you can make your own MINI stand out among identical models.
- Relatively affordable. If you choose not to get any options, this can be a very affordable car to buy. Granted, having some of the neater options are nice, they are not required.
- Surprisingly spacious cabin: Despite their small size, these cars were designed to have spacious interiors, particularly in the front seats. These cars can comfortably fit tall drivers.
- Easy to park: The small size of these vehicles make them easier to park in cramped spaces. This is something to keep in mind if you live in a city where parking is a problem.
- Less frequent maintenance. A MINI doesn't need an oil change or regular maintenance done every few months like other cars. Instead, you can go two years before having the car checked out. With the standard three-year warranty, you can take it to a MINI dealership for its first maintenance. However, I like to get my oil changed sooner somewhere else just so it can have clean oil.
- Great gas mileage. Even though these cars use premium gas, it does offer decent gas mileage. I only have to fill up my tank once a month, and that is driving to and from work as well as other places around town. I can do about six to seven hours of solid freeway driving before needing a fill-up.
- High resale value. A MINI brand car has a pretty good resale value, assuming the car is in great shape and has no problems with it. If and when you decide to get rid of your car, you will earn more back than what you would with other vehicles. I tend to change cars every five years, and while I may not with my MINI, having a high trade-in value is definitely a bonus.
How Much Is a Mini Cooper?
Here are the starting MSRPs of the 2022 models of MINI Coopers, as well as the prices for the various other models offered by the brand. Keep in mind that these prices will increase with the addition of various options.
MINI Hardtop 2 Door
- Cooper: $22,400
- Cooper S: $26,400
- Cooper SE: $29,900
- John Cooper Works: $32,400
MINI Hardtop 4 Door
- Cooper: $23,400
- Cooper S: $27,900
MINI Cooper Clubman
- Cooper S: $29,900
- Cooper S ALL4: $32,900
- John Cooper Works ALL4: $39,500
MINI Cooper Countryman
- Cooper: $29,100
- Cooper ALL4: $31,100
- Cooper S: $31,900
- Cooper S ALL4: $33,900
- Cooper Countryman SE ALL4: $41,500
- John Cooper Works ALL4: $41,500
- Cooper: $27,400
- Cooper S: $31,400
- John Cooper Works: $38,400
The Cons of Buying a MINI
Unfortunately, there are cons to buying and owning a MINI as well, some of which I have experienced personally.
- MINI knows you want one. When people shop around for a car, they can bounce from dealership to dealership without really expressing they want a particular type of car. Unfortunately, when shopping for a MINI, most dealers will know that you want one of those in particular. If you express you drove a long way, loved them for years, etc., then they can turn that against you.
- Can be expensive. If you want to get multiple options, then the price of this car can skyrocket. With all of the options I wanted, the price of my vehicle jumped by over 30%! Granted, it was worth it, but it made it the most expensive car I have ever owned. So be prepared to spend a lot of money if you want various options to make your car unique.
- Dealerships aren't everywhere. In my case, the closest dealership is about an hour and a half away. It is certainly a pain to drive to. I am lucky that I have one that close. Other people may have to travel hours to get to a MINI dealership. If you do buy a car, then ensure that you learn about your warranty. The flatbed service they offer to pickup your MINI is only for a limited area, and even getting a rental while your car is being repaired can be limited in how far you can drive it.
- Repairs can be expensive. Once your car is out of warranty, all repairs will need to be covered by you. There are extended warranty options, but those are expensive as well. Despite MINI brand cars becoming more common, the repairs can be very expensive. So if you purchase one, be prepared for that if your car starts to have issues.
- It's a small car. I went from a sports car to a MINI, which to me was a big jump in size. A lot of people complain that these cars have very little storage space. It's not meant to be a family car, it's meant to be a fun car that can barely fit four people. Folks in the back seat will certainly feel cramped. I can hold a lot in my car, it just requires a bit of effort. However, the more expensive models have more space.
- Uses the most expensive fuel. Despite the decent fuel economy, the MINI does require premium fuel. You can use the cheaper types of gas, but it won't be great for your vehicle, and it will require more fill-ups, so it's strongly discouraged that you do that.
- Non-MINI dealerships won't do a good job servicing your vehicle. I took my car in to a local repair shop to deal with a couple small issues, as well as get an oil change. They couldn't fix the issues I had with my car, and missed a very critical issue that my dealership found months later. So don't rely on a non-MINI dealership/repair shop to take good car of your vehicle.
Secret Compartment in the MINI Cooper
Common MINI Cooper Problems
The MINI Cooper is a fairly reliable vehicle, but it does have its share of common issues. Here are some that can be frequently seen.
- Clutch Failure: This was a fairly common problem with first and second generation MINI Coopers. The usual cause was hard driving, and it could occur as early as under 20,000 miles.
- Transmission Failure: The first generation vehicles were notorious for an automatic transmission that would routinely fail. A lawsuit actually forced BMW to offer a warranty specifically for the transmission. The coverage was for eight years or 150,000 miles, whichever came first.
- Water Pump and Thermostat Housing Leak: The water pump leaking on the first two generations of MINIs was a fairly common occurrence. They often had to be replaced at over 50,000 miles. The thermostat housing in the second generation models were made of plastic. This would naturally break down over time.
- Radiator Support Problems: The radiator support is made of plastic and is located in a low spot on the front of the car. It is very delicate and can be damaged by hitting a low curb when parking.
- Electric Power Steering Pump Problems: The electric power steering pumps were prone to failure, enough so that BMW ordered a recall. The main cause of the issue was either low power steering fluid or the malfunction of the electric cooling fan.
My Personal Experience Buying a MINI
I'd like to offer some of my own experience buying a MINI, just to give you a taste of what I had to go through.
I had wanted this car for years. I did a lot of research before deciding to buy one. I actually had to go to three dealerships before I finally purchased my car. I will cover each experience with each dealership.
- Dealership #1 - I was on vacation one week and decided to make the two-hour drive to test drive a MINI. I arrived at the dealership and felt like I was more of a pain since I wasn't buying at that time. I was given a short test drive and was sent on my way. That thoroughly discouraged me and I stopped looking for awhile.
- Dealership #2 - I decided I would buy a MINI, despite my negative experience, but it took months for me to get to that point. I made an appointment with this dealership to test drive a vehicle. When I arrived, I was advised there were no automatics to test drive, as they were all still "wrapped up." They had a lot full of cars, but none of them were automatics. The salesman had the gall to state I could still make a down payment on a car, even though I hadn't test driven the one I wanted yet. I walked out as I was very upset.
- Dealership #3 - Even though I was upset, I was close to another dealership. I made the short drive to that one. The salesman was very nice; I was able to find the car I wanted, and I purchased it that day. It was a great experience, it was just a shame that it took three attempts to find a good dealership.
So now I owned a MINI. I had a couple small issues with it. It was nothing too bad and nothing that warranted taking it back to the dealership. I did take it in to a local place after a couple years to have the oil changed and to look at a minor issue. Unfortunately, they couldn't fix it.
I recently took it in to my dealership to get full maintenance done on it, as well as have some issues looked at. Unfortunately, it was going to take more than a day, so I was given a rental and would have to go back the next day. By the time I arrived the next day, it still wasn't done. I basically wasted two days on getting the car maintained, but it was worth it.
There was an oil leak, which is apparently common in MINIs, but for whatever reason they don't tell people that or do a recall. Had it been ignored, especially since the local repair shop didn't find it, it would have crippled the vehicle. There were some recalls as well, but for whatever reason, I was never notified.
Despite all of that, I was pleased with the service. They talked to me throughout the process, and for the first time ever, I was taken back to my vehicle where the mechanic explained some of the repairs to me. Even the mechanic was friendly. So despite the issues I had having to take two days off work to get this done, I was happy overall with the experience.
I love my MINI, it's the best car I have owned. I am concerned about any future repair costs, but I think if you take care of your car and have a Mini dealership look at it directly, then there shouldn't be many issues. I recommend this car for anyone who wants something fun and exciting to drive.
I eventually traded in my MINI. Once the warranty expired, I didn't feel comfortable owning it since I did not have a local dealership close by to service the vehicle. I do miss the vehicle and will probably pick one up again if a dealership ends up in the same city I live in.
Still no MINI dealership in my area, but I know I still want another MINI in my lifetime. I still have concerns about reliability, so I need a dealership close by if I ever were to consider one again.
Frequently Asked Questions About MINI Coopers
Here are some common questions that people often ask about these cars.
Are MINI Coopers Reliable?
The reliability of these vehicles is slightly checkered. This mostly relates to the common problems that older models had. These problems were typically related to the transmission and front radiator support. The more recent models of this car have seen redesigns that have fixed these major issues.
Why Is the MINI so Expensive?
The high-end build and design of these cars mean that they are a bit more expensive than other small cars on the market. These cars were built to perform, and you will feel that in how they handle. You also have to consider the fact that these cars are made in Europe, so these are imported vehicles. Some models are more affordable than others, but what will really drive the price up is the addition of options.
Is MINI a Luxury Car?
While the MINI may not be up there with Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Benz, it can be seen as a luxury car that is within a more modest price range. These cars have designer looks and feature powerful engines. Some of the nicer options available for MINIs include panorama roofs, automatic climate control, and heated seats.
Are MINIs Safe to Drive?
Small cars have a reputation of not being sturdy in a collision. The MINI Cooper, through testing from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, has been proven to offer great protection in front and side collisions.
Are MINIs Good First Cars?
It would be pretty awesome to say your first car was a MINI. These are essentially luxury cars that will get attention. The major issue to keep in mind is cost. Some people may be hesitant to give a high-end car to a first-time driver. The cost of maintenance can be pricey, and these cars require premium fuel. The chances of a young driver being able to afford this vehicle is pretty slim. If you are considering older models, you have to keep the reliability issues in mind.
Does MINI Make a Hybrid?
Yes, a model of the Countryman does come as a hybrid. You should look into that model if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint.
What year MINIs should I avoid?
You should probably avoid models from the first and second generation of MINIs. These range from the years 2000 to 2012. As noted above, these models had frequent issues with the transmission, power steering, and water pump leaking. The third generation of MINIs, introduced in 2013, have made revisions that fixed these issues.
Still Want a MINI?
Great MINI Video
The Vehicle Models Offered by MINI
These are the models that have been offered by MINI.
- Cooper - This is the hardtop MINI, and it's the most recognized model. It's considered the basic, and cheapest, model. This is the model that started the craze for the brand.
- Clubman - This is basically a longer version of the Cooper, allowing for more legroom. It has a different method to open the trunk. If you want more space, this is the way to go.
- Convertible - If you live in a nice place, then the convertible version is the way to go. The top goes down nicely, and it seems to be a popular model among celebrities.
- Countryman - This could be considered an SUV. This is the first model to have doors for the front and backseat passengers. It can also have four-wheel drive.
- Coupe - This is the fastest of the models. Unlike the other models, this one has quite a distinct look. Expect this one to be a tight fit. This model was discontinued in 2015.
- Roadster - This is basically the convertible version of the Coupe. This model was discontinued alongside the Coupe.
- Paceman - Another cross-model, this is the two-door version of the Countryman. Production for this model ended in 2016.
- John Cooper Works - You can choose to upgrade to the John Coopers Works edition of most of the MINI models, but it comes with a high price tag. If you want the best engine, you can go with this.
Alternatives to the MINI Cooper
If the MINI isn't quite what you are looking for, you should consider these cars for your next purchase.
- Honda Civic: This compact car is a bit more on the affordable side, although you can add some nice options if you have extra spending money. There are also performance models that offer more horsepower.
- Kia Soul: This car has a similar size and appearance to the MINI. It has a spacious interior and carries a budget price. It's not as fast as a MINI, but its performance is not bad considering the cost.
- Mazda MX-5 Miata: This sports car makes up for its lack of space with a stylish look. It doesn't really offer anything special, but it drives very well for its affordable price.
- Volkwagen Golf: This is a compact hatchback that offers stellar handling with its turbocharged engine. There is a pricier performance model that offers more horsepower.
- Honda Fit: This subcompact car offers a roomy interior that is similar to the MINI. It is also very easy to park this vehicle in a crowded city. While it may not look as sophisticated as the MINI, it is hard to beat the low price on this one.
- BMW X1: This subcompact SUV is pricier than a MINI, but you will get a spacier interior for passengers and cargo. It features sharp handling and should be considered if you have a bit more to spend.
Who Owns MINI?
The MINI brand is currently owned by BMW; they have owned the brand since 2000. MINI was originally introduced by the British Motor Corporation in 1959. They were initially marketed under the Austin and Morris line of cars before they eventually became their own brand in 1969.
What Model MINI do You Want?
MINI Cooper S
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is it worth it to buy a second-hand MINI rather than new?
Answer: That's hard to say. I know one person who has a MINI that has lasted for a long time, while mine was having recall issues. It depends on the price. Get a report on the vehicle as well.
Question: How does a mini handle in the snow?
Answer: Deep snow may cause an issue because of the low clearance. There is also a concern about those tough up hills.
However, it will greatly depend on your choice of tires. If you live or plan to go someplace snowy, finding tires good for that will be your best bet.
Since they are great at turning, you'll want to be careful you don't turn yourself into a spin either.
Question: Could I bring a Mini to a BMW dealership for maintenance and repairs?
Answer: Call a BMW dealership up and check if they will service a MINI. My local BMW dealership could not service my MINI. Even if they say they will verify that they will accept your warranty just in case it's a warranty issue. Just because they can service it, doesn't mean they will accept the warranty.
Question: So what kind of car did you get after you were done with your Mini?
Answer: A Nissan Juke, which was a complete mistake. It broke down within two years, the dealership treated me poorly, and the car lacked the power I wanted. So I switched to a Chevy Camaro after that, which I have to do this day. It's a 2018, and is a great car. Dealership has treated me well, the car runs like a dream, etc. I love it.
Question: I recently thought about getting a new car and started looking. I care about how pretty it is, gas mileage, repair costs, and prefer two doors. I fell in love with a 2010 Mayfair MINI being sold by a private seller. Does it sound like the car for me?
Answer: That's a 10 year old car, so you are buying a used car that could end up having a lot of problems, just like other used cars have. If it's in your price range, then you could go for it. But do you have a place that could repair it locally? Do you know what repairs had to be done? Does it have high mileage?
I'd recommend a new MINI, and only if you have a local dealership that could service it.
Question: Any problems with a 2001 MINI Copper S?
Answer: All cars eventually have problems, and considering it's almost 20 years old, I'm sure there have been some problems reported that you could find about elsewhere online. If you are buying used, you may want to go with a newer model, unless that one has something you like about it.
Question: How important is the AWD vs the FWD?
Answer: I really don't know, sorry. I just purchased a MINI for the look and feel, I don't know much about AWD or FWD.
Question: Does the Mini Countryman model come with a sunroof/moonroof?
Question: I love a good hot hatch, had a GT PT, and a GTI, currently looking at AWD options lime an A3 and a 4 door clubman 2010 and newer. Curious if any of these have the major engine issues. I've heard horror stories with previous models?
Answer: My Mini never had a breakdown, but there was a recall for some issue in the engine that would eventually have had a broken-down engine. It was caught and fixed, but I was never notified of the recall until I went in for a different issue.
It's hit or miss. Mine had issues but knew someone who had a model a few years older than mine who had no issues at all. It's a gamble with Minis.
Question: Do you know if the 2018/19 Cooper burns oil as fast as the older models? I've seen reports that the older models need oil every 2,000 mi. I don't see any reference to 2018 or 2019.
Answer: No idea, as I didn't get that much mileage on my vehicle due to my low commute and other driving. That being said, I didn't go more than six months without an oil change.
Question: What type of gas should I use in my Mini?
Answer: Consult the owner's manual, but I believe I used premium gas in the vehicle as it was required. The cost difference isn't that bad and it is good for the engine.
Question: What year was your Mini?
Answer: 2009 or 2010, I don't recall since I don't own it anymore, but it was around that time-frame. I traded it in after about five years due to the warranty running out and not having a local dealership to service it.
Question: I’m on the fence with the MINI as well as the VW or any other German car because of reliability issues and maintenance costs. Are German cars, but made in Mexico for the U.S. market as reliable as the Asian brands overall?
Answer: I really don't know how to answer that. I've only owned six or so cars, and they all had issues eventually. I will say the recalls on my MINI were severe, and if I didn't address them, the car may have broken down at one point.
Question: Do Mini Coopers have backup cameras?
Answer: Starting around the 2018 model, yes, they do have a backup camera. However, there are aftermarket options you can get as well depending on the model you have.
Question: I’m on the fence about buying a Mini, don’t get me wrong a Mini Cooper is my dream car but the only thing holding me back is the fact that I’m scared about the problems that regularly occur with them. Is it worth the risk?
Answer: I felt it was at the time because I enjoyed the look of the car, driving it, etc. It was a great car. I only traded it in when the warranty expired and I had to drive an hour out of town to get it serviced at a dealership. If you have a dealership in your city that can service it, then I think it would be worth the risk. Besides, mine didn't outwardly have problems with it, it just had some recalls that needed to be resolved. Had it broken down due to those recalls though, I wouldn't have had it fixed so easily because of the distance to my dealership.
Question: How is the reliability of the convertible model?
Answer: Probably the same as the other models, as I believe they all use similar parts for the engine and other systems. The only difference is the mechanism for the convertible model, and I don't know much about that. They are actually pretty rare, as most MINIs I see are not the convertible model.
Question: Would a Mini Cooper be good for a first car?
Answer: If you have a solid warranty and a local dealership who can service the car, yes, I think so. Again, it's the roll of the dice. Mine had issues, but others haven't had issues, so I can't say either way.
I do know if there was a local dealership in my city, I'd be more inclined to get one again so it could be serviced locally.
© 2014 David Livermore
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 03, 2020:
First off, courtesy cars can be a bit of a gamble since you have no idea how they are treated. Sure, it's only 5,000 miles, but that's still a lot of driving. My current vehicle is considered used, but only had about 30 miles on it, and it had a $2,000 discount. I'd ask for a bigger discount if you can.
I have never purchased protective coating, but I've only most of my cars for five years or less. If you own it for longer, it may be worth getting.
The warranty is another gamble. The consensus is that you shouldn't get it since it could be a waste, but my MINI had issues even during my standard warranty. It really depends on the cost. Considering they are used vehicles, it may be worth it.
Purple Shark on August 02, 2020:
Hi, David. Thank you for this thoughtful, well-written article. I've learned so much!
I'm looking at 2019 and 2020 Cooper S models at a dealership near me. They were both dealer courtesy cars and have about 5,000 to 6,000 miles on them. The 2019 has a better sound system, which is important to me. With the "discount" of it being a courtesy car the price of the 2019 is $26k. The 2020 price is $28.6k.
First, I was wondering if you think $3k is enough of a discount with the mileage. Second, do you feel it would be worth it to pay for the extra "protective coating" on the paint since in Philadelphia we get some intense summer and winter weather. The one car is green so I worry about it fading, etc.
I was told by MINI owner/addicts to be sure to get the extra warranty on brakes and wipers and the tire warranty for sure. I would be grateful for your perspective.
Thank you! :)
EmilyT1 on June 15, 2020:
My experience owning a Mini wasn’t a good one either. All of the common problems you mentioned happened to me. I had an 02 hardtop base model. I was cursed with overheating issues one after the other. The radiator broke and starting leaking anti freeze after pulling into a parking space and lightly tapping the cement block in front of the parking space. Another time it was the thermostat. both engine cooling fans in my car went. I spent over 2,000$ trying to fix it and the cooling system, which after all that the AC still didn’t work. just for the transmission to fail at 86,000 miles. I found out later about the class action lawsuit brought against them for faulty transmissions in that model. You really do have to bring the car to the dealer for maintenance if you want to make sure the problem gets solved. Do not buy one any earlier than a 2013 model, a sales dealer at Mini literally told me that. It’s sad because they really are SO much fun to drive and have great handling... only way I’d own one again is when I am extremely financially stable and able to blow money on this car as necessary. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went to, so I felt the need to share. Good luck!
Emma on May 07, 2020:
Mini’s are great cars, super fun to drive! Finding the right mechanic is important especially if you’re not going to the dealership. My local mechanic is BMW certified and a mini guy, which has saved me some money in the long run. We live in a cold wintery place that uses a lot of salt in the roads so rust, brakes, and rotor replacements are the biggest issue. Be careful of the older models with the Peugeot engines, there can be a lot of turbo, oil burn, and timing belt issues. But I can say this is our third mini S hardtop and we are never going back.
Michael Evans on January 28, 2020:
I also had a terrible time buying my first one, took two years by which time the one I wanted was no longer sold. I ended up with a manual salt volcanic orange which everyone seems to like. I decided to sell it the moment I felt it was going to begin having problems, as a retired mechanic I've always had this feeling with cars just before things get bad. My wife didn't want to sell and claimed I imagined problems. It's a year later after having had all the brakes, engine mounts, battery, complete clutch and tyres changed. ( They go hard here in Mexico, because of the extreme heat ) I meantime have bought a clubman which has a lot of room ) I meantime have bought a clubman, the other one despite being small, I still managed to carry two passengers and a full size scissors type step ladder. I still want to sell the old car but have paid out a lot and people here rarely tend to take into consideration the fact that it has had new parts. So I would lose a lot, it's done less than 30,000 kilometres, and is 2015. Have you any knowledge of potential problems with the clubman, it's just the basic automatic version, 2019, there is one thing I don't like, it only came with runflats which are no good here because of the roads in fact I have already changed one which was split after being run off the road.and driving over raised markers on the roadside. Overall I love both cars, but it would be handy to be prepared for any potential problems. Thanks. Michael Merida Yucatan.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 12, 2020:
Sorry to hear that. The potential problems with mine is why I traded it in, including a recall that I wasn't told about that could have stopped my car dead.
firstname.lastname@example.org on January 11, 2020:
Disappointed with Mini Cooper S. Recently the timing chain broke and the car only covered 48000km. Very expensive repairs. The dealer doesnt want to know about it when i called to ask why the chain should break with low mileage and regular servicing. I live in Perth, Western Australia.
Alan Cohen on December 03, 2019:
MY Mini Cooper 2015 drove hard as a rock and the AC unit blew semi cold air which really sucks in Florida. Besides that it drove like a rocket
and handled impressively and it was easy on gas. Now taking all that in consideration you have a overpriced.car that might lead you to other choices
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 12, 2019:
It's hard to say. Mine had issues while someone else I knew didn't have issues. It should be checked out fully before you make the purchase.
Ken F on September 09, 2019:
Although I owned a brand new Mini Cooper S back in 2008 and I loved the car in many ways I would still not really recommend buying a used one to anyone. The new Mini Cooper has been around for more than 15 years now, which means we have a lot of repair data on it and that data clearly shows that yearly repair cost are much higher for the Mini than for other subcompacts or even for midsize cars.
Also I have to say that the torque steer is HORENDOUS on the Mini. Most front wheel drive car manufacturers had managed to pretty much completely eliminate torque steer in their cars by the mid 90’s, yet my 2008 Mini had much worse torque steer than even early 80’s cars.
I also had a problem with the 1st/2nd synchromesh from day one on my Mini. Basically when first driving the car each day the transmission would bite a bit when shifting from first to second gear, although the problem would go away after just a few minutes of driving (once the gear oil circulated and heated up a bit). Long story short, the dealership refused to do anything about it.
The other thing I hated is that the car will not allow any engine braking in first gear (and maybe not second either). I remember getting a big surprise the first time I had to make a left turn across heavy traffic and into a parking lot. I punched it as soon as I had an opening and then immediately let off the gas expecting the engine to instantly slow me down to a crawl right before entering the lot. But the car just kept going at full speed and I had to quickly slam on the brakes. Basically the ECU overrides your own throttle input and chooses to reduce the throttle very gradually rather than suddenly. I cannot remember if this is still the case with the stability control turned off but it doesn’t really matter because if you want the stability control off you have to remember to turn it off each and every time you start the car up (you cannot change the default to “off”).
Anyway, while the Mini Cooper (especially the “S”) can be a very fun and fuel efficient car, if you are buying an older one that is out of warranty it is probably going to cost you a lot of money in repairs over the years, and it might even occasionally leave you stranded somewhere.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 02, 2019:
Really it's your call. It's hit or miss on the reliability. If you can get a good warranty on it near a place that can service properly, I'd say go for it.
Chloe on September 01, 2019:
I’m looking to buy a mini one 2016 from a mini dealership.
What are your thoughts?
I have had a Clio & Fiat 500 both with a lot of problems
I want something reliable but have always loved minis
I have always Hurd good and bad things about them
Ken K on August 24, 2019:
I'm the original owner of a 2005 MINI Cooper S (R53) and still love driving it everyday. The handling on a MINI is amazing including in snow (I live in Canada).
I do find that my MINI requires a little more TLC compared to say a Toyota. I doubt MINI would ever win any reliability awards. That being said, I haven't had any catastrophic issues with my MINI, after almost 15 years, driving everyday, in Canada (snow, extreme temps, salt on roads).
The major downside of a MINI are repair costs. MINI dealerships can be VERY expensive. Parts are really expensive and then marked up on top of that by MINI dealerships by 200% or more. I've found that independant garages, while a bit less expensive, are not particularly good at diagnosing or troubleshooting MINIs.
I've dealt with a relatively constant flow of repairs, replacements, and fixes for any number and variety of "minor" components. My MINI does burn oil. Not at an alarming rate, but enough that it needs a top-up midway between oil change intervals. Yes, it can be a little bit annoying at times, but I just tell myself it's a part of the "quaint charm" of owning a MINI Cooper S. If reliability is your top priority though, MINI may not be a great choice.
That being said, nothing "major" has ever failed (knock on wood). For example, I've never had a problem with the supercharger, engine, transmission, drive train. I'm still driving with the original clutch, exhaust, and suspension (after 15 years and 125K miles) which could even be described as, dare I say, quite reliable.
I don't doubt that one day, my supercharger will blow up on me, perhaps forcing me to put my R53 out to pasture, but until that time there really isn't any other car I'd rather be driving.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 13, 2019:
Well just the standard Cooper version is the cheapest one for the most part. Granted used prices can affect that, as well as the resale market of the MINI brand. But the Cooper tends to be the no frills version.
Nikos Warren on August 12, 2019:
Which Mini Cooper year would be the best? I want a cheaper version and i was going to buy a used version
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 12, 2019:
First gen was in 2000, second generation 2006.
I don't think any generation is considered bad, just depends on the vehicle. Mine had issues, but someone else I know who had the same generation as mine had no issues.
I love the car, I'd still have one if I could get it serviced at a dealership close by. It's your call if you want to risk it. If you have a good warranty and a place to get it serviced, go for it.
Eroomk on August 11, 2019:
I found this thread very informative! I owned a 2003 Mini when I lived in Hawaii and loved it. I bought it used and immediately had it serviced. Never had issues with it, and especially loved how I could always find parking in tight places! I’m now back on mainland and commute. The parking and gas mileage considerations have brought me back to looking at Mini Coopers. What years are considered 1st and 2nd generation cars? Was there a period where they were bad? I ask because I had a great experience with mine, and will be buying used. Looking at a mini 2 door S. Any advice?
colleen fraser on May 12, 2019:
Just sold my 2012 Mini hardtop (bought new) three weeks ago. Why did I sell it? When it reaches the point where you're on a first name basis with the tow truck driver it's time to let it go. At 5K miles the Mini spun a rod---covered under warranty at the dealership. At 42K it needed new ignition coils. At 48K it needed a new water pump. At 51K it needed a new head gasket. At 63K it needed another new head gasket. At 63.9K it needed a new engine temperature sensor. I got mechanical breakdown coverage through my insurance co. when I bought the car new, so my co-pay for these repairs was only $250.00. The M.B. coverage is only good for 100K or 7 years. No way was I going to keep the Mini without M.B. coverage. In 64K miles I had more problems with the Mini then I had with all of the other cars I've owned combined. Definitely a blast to drive---but I'll never buy another one!
MJcjr on April 01, 2019:
The comment of long oil life is a contributing factor to many engine problems with the N14 engine. The N14 engine uses a lot of oil and requires a weekly oil check and fill depending on the mileage. You may likely survive low oil levels with other cars, not the 2007 through - 2010 Mini Copper S, and a few other Mini models, that mistake will cause your timing chain tensioner to fail as well as other problems and most likely a ruined engine. Don't wait a year between oil changes!
Gary h. Watanabe on March 26, 2019:
I owned 3 mini's from 2001 to 2014.
If u want a fun car to drive get the mini coupe SS. It drives like a "go cart", quick n with great handling. The next best thing to n actual race car.
I got older (now 77) so I got i to a Beemer.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on March 25, 2019:
I know nothing about BMWs, so I can't compare their maintenance to the MINI's. I had a poor experience due to the recalls being issued and distance to get it repaired. If you have someone local, great. I knew someone who purchased a used MINI and it's ran great. It's all luck of the draw.
Reneim on March 24, 2019:
Do you know how the maintenance and repairs compare to the 3 series or 5 series BMW? I have owned 3 of them (used) over the past 15 years and I have loved every one. They have been solid, reliable cars that have required little work. However, when they do need routine work or replacement parts, it is costly.
I need a new car and am considering a Mini, but wonder how they compare in this respect,I would be buying a used one and have a fantastic mechanic that only works on BMWs, Minis and Mercedes. Any thoughts on this?
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on March 21, 2019:
I don't know enough about the A250 to offer input on it's engine and systems, however, based on looks alone I don't like it. Plus the cost seems high, as I expected it would be.
However, if you are going for reliability, the A250 may be the better choice.
acc on March 21, 2019:
i am torn between A250 and mini countryman all 4....would appreciate your thoughts...
Fin from Barstow on February 17, 2019:
It looks like a nice car, and I've always been curious. But with a track record like you mentioned and the expensive maintenance costs, it doesn't seem to be worth it.
Glad I came across this article.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 15, 2019:
Yup, despite the issues I had with my vehicle, the dealership was pretty good about explaining everything to me. My last vehicle, a Nissan, the dealership did a bad job explaining things to me and treated me badly.
Ana on January 12, 2019:
Just curious and had to ask, is this true? This was the first time you had ever been back into a shop and had a mechanic show you what he was doing?
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 10, 2019:
It almost sounds too good to be true. MINI is a great car if the reliability is there. You better check the fine print.
Joann on January 10, 2019:
Looking into purchasing a used mini countryman. Happy to say there is a dealer not far from me. They offer a life time warranty on the engine & transmission. Was wondering if that sounded like a good deal?
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on December 01, 2018:
I think the Paceman is great. The one you are considering is used, so hopefully you'll be able to find out if it had any issues.
Oddly enough, I considered a Mustang once, but made the switch to a Camaro.
Manuel on November 30, 2018:
I am considering a Paceman JCW all4 2013 with only 39k miles. it looks and drives likes new.
After owned several Mustangs 1989, 1990, 1992 five .0 liters and 2000, 2001 and 2002 GTs 4.6 litters.
I was looking for another mustang and then decide that it will be my 7th and start looking for another fun car. after some months of looking and test I made a click with this Mini. some friends has told me to go mini cooper S hard top. that paceman model is ugly and is not rerally a " MIni" but I still like it. The JCW upgrade makes it a rare animal. However I still 50/50 if go with it or still with Mustang Mach1 2004 that is also like new- from a collector
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 20, 2018:
Yes, as it's a great car, but only if you have a dealership nearby who can service it.
alli on November 20, 2018:
would you recommend a mini as a first car?
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on October 19, 2018:
No idea if that's a good price or not. Some have good experiences with used vehicles, some don't. All depends on how the car was treated and what's been done to it. Try to find out the service/recall history on the vehicle.
Catherine on October 19, 2018:
I am looking at purchasing a 2010 Mini convertible. It is for $16K and has 22K miles with brand new tires. It has had only one owner all of this time and no accidents. Is this a good price? I'm a bit concerned about what you said concerning expensive parts/labor. Should I be worried?
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on October 17, 2018:
Nope it's not.
rex on October 17, 2018:
is Mini a clean/green vehicle
David on August 01, 2018:
I have had an 02 Cooper, 06 Cooper S Convertible and now drive a 2011 Countryman S. These are great cars. I have just reviewed all of my repair/maintenance activities for the Countryman. I had a lot of work done for the first 4 years under warranty. Since then it has just been oil, brakes, tires and a battery plus one oil sensor. I have a mechanic in AZ that used to work at the Mini dealer and he is awesome. The car runs great and I am itching to buy #4 so I can pass it on to my son. Take care of your Mini and it will take care of you. Buy a manual and you can't help but smile every time you walk towards your car! Having so much fun driving should be illegal.
Yvonne P. Rivera on May 30, 2018:
My keys don't work. Can't gas up door won't open. Running on empty.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on March 06, 2018:
It is, but you could get lucky. I know someone who owns a Mini and it's been running perfectly for years. However, mine did not in a shorter period of time. So it's a roll of the dice.
kai on March 05, 2018:
What a disappointment on this Mini vehicle. I was thinking of getting a new Cooper but after researching this car on various Mini forums I decided not to get one. To me, this is a problematic car and coming from BMW is a joke!
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 08, 2018:
I had to take mine to the dealership I purchased it from, then another dealership that was a bit closer. Still, it was a long trip and make it a difficult process.
Apple Grace on February 08, 2018:
They say if you love your Mini you should also love your Mini repairs.
How do you ensure that your Mini ends up in the hands of experienced technicians though?
Love your idea in here sir!
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 02, 2018:
I don't think anything is wrong with it, per se, just it's a style I don't think fits the Mini brand. But I know it's a popular model none the less.
If you like it, get it!
Keithbushing@aol.com on February 01, 2018:
I am looking at a Mini Convertible! What is wrong with the this style?
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 29, 2018:
Agreed, which is why I turned mine in. It was hard to maintain it since there was no local dealership and the local auto shops didn't quite understand the vehicle.
Matt F. on January 29, 2018:
These are great cars but they must be treated as what they are - European cars that require a high level of routine maintenance. If your follow the MINI maintenance schedule or Condition Based Maintenance indicator your car will be destined to have many very expensive repairs. Oil changes should be at 5K, brake fluid every 2 years, coolant every 3 years, gearbox or transmission fluid every 30K, spark plugs at 60K for S models, and air filters as needed. This doesn't sound like a lot, but even routine maintenance is very expensive on these cars. About 2x what an American or Japanese car costs.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on December 03, 2016:
@Viki No information on the newer models, though I know they tend to be more reliable than the older models. They learned from their mistakes (though mine I did have issues).
@kevin I'd be more worried about mechanical issues. 2007 is a fairly old model, so you can expect some issues to crop up within a few years I bet. So it's a risky buy depending on the price you are being offered.
kevin on December 03, 2016:
Im looking to buy a mini. Its a 2007 cooper with 62,000 miles. the car fax says there are have been no issues with previous buyers and it only comes with a corrosion warranty. It seems to not have any rust from the pictures ,but is this something I should be worried about?
Viki on November 07, 2016:
I'm in the market for a Cooper Countryman S. Found a 2015 model with low mileage. Any information on the 2015 Countryman S out there? Thank you
Jing on September 20, 2016:
i own a mini cooper S 2012 the clutch failed with only 54000 kilometers and cost me 2500 to fix , still fun to drive but i wouldnt recommend it
Kitty on September 11, 2016:
Loved this review. Being a person who knows nothing about cars and wanting to get mini cooper, you increased my confidence. Thank you.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 03, 2016:
I am the author of this article, and as much as I love the look and feel of a Mini, I can't recommend them.
Mine started to have issues fairly quickly, and with the 1.5 hour drive to the closest dealership, it wasn't cost effective. Plus, I was never advised of a recall on a part that could have lead to serious problems with my car.
If you want to risk it, then go for it, but buyer beware.
Jamen on August 02, 2016:
I am about to purchase countryman model but still thinking of it as worried about the long term cost of maintenance as this will be costly affair. Is there anyone can let me know an honest answer of this issue? to own or not to own?
Kimmy on July 06, 2016:
Are mini's reliable? I've read up on ConsumerAffairs and the list of issues on reliability and cost of maintenance and repairs is astounding... kinda puts me off getting one although I really want a 2016 model of the Clubman...
Val on June 20, 2016:
i bought a Mini Cooper 6 months ago. The dealership wasn't local so they bought the car over to test drive and took my Mazda mx5 to value. I was allowed to go to the Lake District for the weekend..over 2 hours drive each way, but fell in love with it within 30 mins. When they came to collect the mini and bought mine back I was unhappy...so when the salesman asked me if I wanted to buy one I asked to buy the one I drove. Very happy with the vehicle...I had it checked today for the ambient lighting...it was me messing that had caused the problem...but they sent me a video showing they had checked the tyres and brakes as standard and Even valeted the vehicle...didn't cost me anything. Very pleased.
PoggyDobby from Probably Earth on January 09, 2016:
A very interesting article. I certainly liked the structure and how certain capsules were placed.
Although I enjoyed reading, it didn't persuade me at all into believing that owning a Mini is beneficial. I mean, at that price you can get a faster, easier to take care of and probably more reliable car (e.g. Volkswagen GTI). No offence to Mini Cooper drivers but paying extra thousands of dollars to add some "unique" aspects to it is absolutely ridiculous, a rip-off to be accurate. Apart from that, I haven't seen any "extreme drifting" or high performance Mini cars "known for their speed". Correct me if I'm wrong.
Penelope on October 05, 2015:
Like so many others, I also have been desiring a Mini for quite some tyme. I am also trying to wait til I pay off my student loan b4 purchasing one. But thanks for the stellar review & the Mini is definitely my choice
peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 19, 2015:
thanks, I was thinking of buying a second hand mini because new one is imported and very expensive. Your reviews are very useful to me
Mark Shulkosky from Pennsylvania on May 19, 2015:
I bought a Mini in Nov., 2002, a Green 2003 CooperS. I bought it because I had just paid off my student loans. I enjoy driving mine. It handles like a very peppy gokart. I only drive it in the summer and store it in the winter (live in northwestern PA with a ton of snow). I still enjoy driving it and usually can get another person to ride with me without any problem. It is tough to get a 3rd or 4th person to join us because no adult wants to sit in the small back seat. As the car has aged, I have noticed that the ride had gotten a little harsher and noisier. While the car is fun to drive, it is not much fun to ride in on long trips. My goal is to keep it until I can put antique or classic plates on. Drive on.
The Gutter Monkey on May 19, 2015:
Didn't Kevin Arnold use to ride one of these in The Wonder Years?
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 19, 2015:
Great hub, David. I didn't know there were different kinds of mini coopers out there. Thanks for sharing this hub on this expensive car. Voted up for interesting! Congrats on HOTD!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on May 19, 2015:
I see Mini Coopers on the road fairly often around here and I think they're adorable. I had no idea that MINIs were available in the various models that you described. Glad you're enjoying yours. Congratulations on HOTD!
Nico from Ottawa, ON on May 19, 2015:
I have own my Mini Cooper for 4 years now and still love it. It has become our main car.
Susie Lehto from Minnesota on May 19, 2015:
Minis sure are fun to drive, that's the part I like. Really, this is a great review on these little cars. Congrats on HOTD!
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 24, 2015:
Oil problems I haven't heard about, but there seems to be consistent technical issues. I would expect the check engine light to go on, but I would take it in for yearly maintenance for them to solve issues like that.
Don't trust what they tell you either. They may say that issues like that have been resolved, but that isn't true. It's a gamble.
Nathaniel on February 24, 2015:
Hi David, this is a great and honest write up. I am still looking to own my first Mini Cooper and really worried about the after warranty cost. I am eyeing 2014 models because of the technology it has. However, the resale value is still up there. I can't wait for my bucket list to happen.
Any feedback on 2014 models like oil problems and check engine lights which are difficult to being unable to be repaired like the 08 and lower models?
Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on May 14, 2014:
You know, if dealerships are really friendly and establish relationships with you, then they're likely to keep you as a customer. It's amazing how many don't get that. I started shopping for a New Beetle (this was back in 2000) about six months before I wanted to get one. I went to the VW dealership and test-drove a turbo. I had a great rapport with the salesman and when I was ready, I had promised him that I would buy the car from him. All these years later I still remember all that.
I might have to look at a Mini for my next car...I'm into smaller fast cars that can still drive in the mountains and snow. :)
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 14, 2014:
The Mini is certainly an iconic car. I have been somewhat perturbed by Mini's recent insistence in making larger vehicles. It gets a way from the core concept, which is "Mini":) Wonderful overview on a very interesting vehicle.
Tolovaj on March 12, 2014:
With all the pros and cons it looks being an owner of Mini still shows class. It's obviously not a car, it's part of the lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on February 23, 2014:
Exceptional review of this car! It's always good to hear from a real buyer. Enjoyed and voted up.