Convertible Buying Guide – Everything You Need To Know

Convertible Buying Guide

If you’re ready to throw the top down and cruise through the fresh summer air, you’ve come to the right place.  To celebrate Convertible Week at Carsforsale.com, we’ve written a comprehensive convertible buying guide to help you pick the perfect convertible. Convertible buying presents a few different challenges and choices compared to traditional car buying. From types of tops to FAQs, you’ll be prepared to buy a convertible in no time.

Types of Tops

The “Top” of a convertible is the section that can be hidden or removed. There two primary types of tops: Hardtop and Soft-Top.

Hardtop Convertibles

Hardtops are best for protection from the elements. They usually provide superior insulation and protection from leaks. Harp tops are also more secure, as they can’t simply be slashed by a potential thief. On the downside, they are more expensive to buy and fix. They are also heavier, which can affect fuel efficiency. When a hardtop is closed, the vehicle can often resemble a regular coupe, eliminating the convertible look.

Hardtop

Hardtop

Soft-Top Convertibles

Soft-Tops are usually the least expensive to buy and fix. Many convertible buyers love the look of the soft-top because it’s possesses the convertible look whether the top is up or down. While automakers and constantly improving the all-weather capabilities of soft-tops, they tend to provide less insulation and are more prone to leaks.

Soft-Top

Soft-Top

Other Types of Convertibles

The Targa Top was first used on the 1966 Porsche 911 Targa. The term is still a registered trademark of Porsche. This semi-convertible body style has a removable roof section and a car-width roll bar behind the seats.

Targa Top Porsche

Targa Top

Roadster, also known as spider or spyder, is a term used to define an open two-seat car that focuses on sporty appearance or character. They can be either hardtop or soft-top.

Miata Roadster

Roadster

What To Look For When Buying a Convertible

There are a variety of things you should look for when buying a car, and all of these hold true when buying a convertible, with a few additions.

The primary area of concern is the convertible top. Repairing or replacing a convertible top can be quite expensive, so make sure it’s in good shape. Checking for leaks is a good practice. The best way to check for leaks is literally putting water on the top. Some sellers may balk at the idea, but if you present yourself as a serious buyer, the seller may allow it. Don’t forget to double and triple check the functionality of the convertible top.

Convertible Buying Guide – FAQs

Are convertibles safe?

The majority of modern convertibles achieve respectable, if not great safety ratings. Convertibles, in general, will be slightly less safe than a solid-roofed counterpart. While convertibles are less likely to be crash tested, automakers have dramatically improved safety technology and design of convertibles. According to the IIHS, convertibles don’t have more fatalities than hardtop cars.  When convertibles were first introduced, they were found to be much more dangerous than a non-convertible counterpart. For the most part, this is no longer true.

Are convertibles expensive?

In general, a convertible will be more expensive than a non-convertible counterpart. However, for many, the thrill of top down driving is worth the price. Keep in mind, the resale value of your convertible is very dependent upon climate and season. Selling during the warm months will produce a higher sale price, as will selling in a state with a warmer climate.

Do convertibles get worse gas mileage?

Convertibles are less efficient with the top down. The difference will vary significantly between models. Carmakers are constantly improving convertible efficiency, but you may experience anything from a 5 – 20% decrease in fuel efficiency with the top down.

Is a convertible okay in the winter?

With proper maintenance and care, a convertible is just fine during all seasons. Before winter, double check your top for leaks. Know that even a well-sealed convertible will probably provide less insulation than a regular car. Always brush excess snow and ice off a soft-top, as the extra weight could damage the top’s frame.

Can a convertible go through an automatic car wash?

Especially for soft-top convertibles, avoid traditional (non-touchless) automatic carwashes. Many touchless automatic car washes claim to be convertible safe, but if you wash your vehicle frequently, this could still cause your soft-top to weaken. Your safest bet is handwashing, as you can manually handle the top with care.

Is a convertible safe for a baby?

There are a variety of factors to consider if you want to transport a child or infant in a convertible. A child is always more protected in the back seat, making 2-door convertibles a less safe option for kids. Remember that top-down driving will expose passengers to the elements like the wind and sun, which an infant may not handle well. Look at the rollover rating for your convertible, as rollovers may pose the biggest potential danger for a child riding in a car seat in a convertible.

In short, babies and young children can ride in convertibles, but there are additional risks that parents should consider.

Convertible Buying Guide

©General Motors

Now that you’ve read our convertible buying guide, what are you waiting for? The warm weather won’t stick around forever! Take a look at convertibles for sale near you.

  • Darrek Olson

    Convertibles give a great experience! It is not quite as exhilarating as riding a motorcycle, but that trade off comes with more safety and year-round practicality. Great article! Go buy an MX-5 Miata.