Skip to main content
Updated date:

The Pros and Cons of Owning a MINI Cooper

David has had a variety of life experiences, which he loves to share with his readers.

A highly customized MINI Countryman in the showroom of a dealership.

A highly customized MINI Countryman in the showroom of a dealership.

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.

This MINI has options added after it was purchased from the dealership.

This MINI has options added after it was purchased from the dealership.

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.
Example of one of the older MINI models, which isn't for sale, but is nice to look at.

Example of one of the older MINI models, which isn't for sale, but is nice to look at.

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

MINI Convertible

  • Cooper: $27,400
  • Cooper S: $31,400
  • John Cooper Works: $38,400
Some of the drawbacks of MINIs are that there isn't much leg room or trunk space.

Some of the drawbacks of MINIs are that there isn't much leg room or trunk space.

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.

Read More from AxleAddict

  • 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 Mini Cooper S, which I have owned for four years.

My Mini Cooper S, which I have owned for four years.

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.

*UPDATE #1*

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.

*UPDATE #2*

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: 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.

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: 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: Does the Mini Countryman model come with a sunroof/moonroof?

Answer: Yup!

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

© 2014 David Livermore

Related Articles