5 important convertible buying tips

Here are 5 things that every buyer of a convertible should carefully consider before making a purchase

With the coming of spring comes robins, forsythia, tulips and crocuses, and the most beautiful sight of all, the convertibles. Here are some tips garnered by a long-time convertible owner.

What Type Of Convertible Do You Want
There are a lot of convertibles available, everything from the Nissan Murano Crosscarbriolet Sport Utility convertible to the tiny MINI Roadster. How are you going to be using this new car? Are you planning long road trips through the countryside antiquing? Or do you plan to lower it, add some go-fast bits and go to track days? Will the family be with you? If so, you need a four-seater, which narrows your choices. You should also give serious consideration to your tires and spare tire options. If you will be cruising 500 miles from home on holidays, what is your plan if you get a flat? Think hard about picking a model with a temporary spare, or at least run-flats. If you plan to auto-cross, it is not an issue. Buy the wrong one and you may end up with a car that doesn’t work for your lifestyle.

Livability
Think about your idea of using a convertible. Do you have in mind replicating the Fiat Spider, Lotus Elan experience of yesteryear? Will your rides be minimalist man-machine connecting as you sweep through turns on a warm summer’s day? If so, you are in luck because you simply need to buy a Miata and you will be complete. However, if you plan to use that car from late March through Early December there are some important things to look for. First, seats are the most important part of extending your season. Heated seats are a must because you will want to use your car on cool mornings and cool evenings in spring and fall. Seat heaters extend a convertible’s usability. If your budget puts you into the luxury car range, look for cooled seats as well. These help extend your days in the car during the heat of summer. If you are the nonconformist who plans to drive your convertible in the winter you may want to invest in dedicated snow tires. They may save your life, and since they preserve your mild season rubber, they don’t actually cost you much in the long run. If you opt for “all-season” tires you may find they work poorly much of the time.

Roof Type
An important consideration with any drop top is what type roof to get. Hard tops are better if you plan to drive in all weather and if you plan long highway rides. However, they add cost and weight. Conversely, soft tops are less expensive and lighter, but they are louder on the highway and are susceptible to vandalism. Some soft tops are manually operated and that can be a plus or a minus. It is a plus if you only use the car on nice days. Putting them down is a snap. However, you may need to get out and put the top up from outside. Automatic soft tops are convenient, but they come with the cost, and possible failure associated with a lot of moving parts.

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Interior Considerations
The interior of a convertible is much more important than that of a regular car. If you buy a dark color you are going to suffer a loss of warm driving days when the sun is shining. Buy a light color interior unless you live where it is cold the majority of the time. You should always get the optional wind deflector too. This item is sometimes separately sold and it is vital to happy driving on the highway and on cold days. These calm the wind down inside the car and they are much more effective than they look. Get one. Finally, get the best stereo possible in whatever model you buy. Top-down motoring mutes a stereo’s abilities, so get all the power you can and you won’t regret it.

New, Lease or Pre-owned
Unlike a daily driver, you will use your convertible very little. So leasing is a very good option. Leases work well in low-mile cars. Also, a pre-owned car might be perfect since the prior owner may have driven the car only a few thousand miles per year. If you generally only buy new, this is the one time to re-evaluate.

Choosing a convertible is like choosing a mate in that you need one that will match your lifestyle.

Photo by John Goreham