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Vehicle buying guide - Convertibles

June 10, 2005 10:56 PM EST | Consumer Info , Convertibles | Email to Friend

View large imageA Convertible is a car with a soft folding top or a hard removable or retractable top.

Size/Market Segment: Convertibles range in size from two-seat roadsters to larger four-seat luxury models. The majority of convertibles on the market are luxury-brand vehicles, although there are still several affordable drop tops on the market.

Price: The cheapest convertible runs in the low-$20,000s while the most expensive luxury models can run well over $100,000. There are several convertibles that cost less than $35,000, but the most populated segment resides in the $35,000-$80,000 price range.

Engine/Fuel Economy: Most midsize models use four- and six-cylinder engines, while more expensive luxury-branded convertibles generally use V6 or V8 engines. Four- and six-cylinder models can get good mileage in the mid-20-mpg range, but most eight-cylinder drop tops turn in less than 20 mpg.

Safety: Newer convertibles generally offer some kind of roll bar that will pop up to protect passengers in the event of a rollover accident. Side airbags that deploy from the seats are also becoming popular in higher-end models.

Luxury Features/Convenience: A couple of the more inexpensive convertibles are sparsely appointed, but most drop tops provide a long list of standard amenities. Upper-level luxury models often feature the latest in electronic gadgetry and amenities.

Passenger Capacity/Interior Space: "Roadster" generally identifies a convertible as a two-seater only, while others have small rear seats to seat a total of four. A few models offer legitimate room for four adults but the majority have only enough room for small children in back.

Cargo Space: Most convertibles have limited trunk space when the top is folded down. With the top in place, however, most models offer as much cargo capacity as their coupe counterparts.

Top Operation: Manual vs. Automatic -- Less expensive models generally use less complicated top mechanisms that require you to unlatch and/or snap a buckle or two to get them open and closed. Most models, however, feature fully automatic tops that raise and lower at the touch of a button. A few models offer retractable hardtops and are thus well suited to year-round use.

Top-Down Driving: Many new convertibles now provide windscreens that are placed behind the front seats that help keep turbulence down to a minimum while driving with the top down.

Operating Costs: Convertibles generally don't cost any more to operate than their coupe or sedan siblings. In the past, owners often had to replace soft tops, but with the advent of glass rear windows and more durable top construction methods, today's convertible tops last much longer.

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