What to look for when buying a used MINI Cooper?
The term "Mini Cooper" now refers to many vehicles. Originally, it referenced a line of iconic little British cars made from 1959 to 2000 by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and its successive ownership (BMH, Leyland). The company produced vehicles under the Mini, Morris, Austin, and other labels. Originally, the "Cooper" moniker referred to performance-oriented versions of the factory models, so named for John Cooper, a racing legend, who created tuning sets for the cars. These eventually became known as John Cooper Works models under the company's marketing.
When German automaker BMW bought the MINI name and technologies in 2000, major changes to the marque and its offerings began. Today's Mini Cooper is much different than were the original econo-box versions of the car that became so well known for winning races. Today, most BMW MINI models are referred to as Cooper editions (ala BMW MINI Cooper) with a model designation afterwards (Hatch/Hardtop, Clubman, Convertible, etc).
In today's used car market in the United States, the most common models found are the Mini Cooper Hatch or Hardtop, the Mini Cooper Convertible, the Mini Cooper Clubman, the Mini Cooper Countryman, and Mini Cooper Roadster, the Mini Cooper Paceman, and any of these under the "S" model (sport) designation. The "John Cooper Works" editions have become trim levels rather than sport model upgrades.
Mini models from the pre-2000 era are considered collectibles by most buyers and those in pristine condition can fetch high prices. These include the Mark I-VII models made from 1959 to 2000. The BMW-designed MINI Cooper models entered the market in 2001 with most Hatch and Hardtop variants being two-door vehicles and those with Clubman and Countryman model names being four-door vehicles.
The BMW MINI line is no stranger to customer complaints, but in sheer numbers per vehicle, the MINI line has a better reputation than many. The most common complaints are transmission failures and loss of engine power, usually due to high mileage or faulty smog equipment. Shorting electrical from accessories was common in early BMW-made models.