02 or newer is better. It's the better years for the e46.
Plus, it's the facelifted sedans, which looks more current. The newer ones come with Bi-Xenon lights (big plus). With the newer models, you won't have to worry about rear subframe issues either.
Watch for known issues.
- Front Control Arms
- Vanos. I can't believe BMW is still having these issues.
- Window Regulators
- Master Cylinder
- Some 330's consume a lot of oil, even at lower mileage
- Stay away from Automatics
- Check the manual transmission. Make sure 2nd and 3rd gears are easy to get into.
- 02 Censors go pretty frequent, so make sure the car is Drive Clean recently. I wouldn't except anything less than 2-4 weeks from bill of sale.
All of the issues above actually occur when the car has lower mileage.
Overall, the 02+ E46 is more reliable than other BMW's.