If you're interested in top-down summer cruising on a budget, you've come to the right place. We've compiled a list of our favorite convertibles available for under $25,000, allowing car shoppers to enjoy the summer sun without breaking the bank. Although we've included both new and used models on our list, all of our choices include a recent design, impressive standard equipment and-most important-a retractable roof.
2008 BMW 128i
Many car shoppers with a $25,000 budget may not think a BMW convertible is affordable, but we suggest they reconsider. More than 30 different 2008 1 Series models are currently available on AutoTrader.com for less than $25,000, and more than half are certified pre-owned examples offered by BMW dealers. Many of these sporty convertibles on offer include a fully comprehensive warranty that covers six years or 100,000 miles from the original date of sale. That means about two years of worry-free coverage for most 2008 models. Best of all, the 2008 128i offers BMW's highly praised 3.0-liter 6-cylinder powerplant, which produces a spry 230 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque.
FIAT 500 Cabrio
FIAT's cute 500 Cabrio may not meet many drivers' definition of a convertible because of its fixed roof rails, but we think the softtop subcompact offers a great top-down driving experience. It's also one of the least expensive convertibles available from new, with a base price around $20,000 even after destination. To us, that's a reasonable price considering that the 500 offers a brand-new design that will likely remain current for several years to come. Although many buyers won't feel energized by the standard 101-hp 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, the underpowered mill helps the 500 achieve stellar fuel economy ratings of nearly 40 mpg on the highway with its standard five-speed manual transmission.
2011 Ford Mustang
Yes, that's right: Ford's latest Mustang is available in convertible form for less than $25,000. In fact, nearly 700 different examples of the sporty 2011 model are currently available on AutoTrader.com, giving buyers a long list of colors and equipment to choose from. Although the sporty, V8-powered Mustang GT hasn't yet crept into our budget, we'd be perfectly content with the ragtop's latest V6, which produces more than 300 hp and propels the Mustang to 60 miles per hour from a standing stop in about six seconds. Concerned about fuel economy? Don't be. The Mustang's 6-cylinder also achieves an EPA-rated 30 mpg on the highway and nearly 20 mpg in city driving.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda's sporty MX-5 Miata is proof that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a cool new car that's a hoot to drive. The fact that it offers a convertible top at its base price of less than $24,000 including destination is a bonus. Some car shoppers may be dismayed by the MX-5 Miata's 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which produces 167 hp in manual guise or 158 hp when mated to an available 6-speed automatic-but we think the droptop shines brightest in the corners, where its steering and handling rival vehicles that cost twice as much.
2008 Toyota Solara
Car shoppers looking for a hassle-free convertible that doesn't need sporty flair will be easily wooed by the reliable Camry-based Toyota Solara. Featuring four full-size seats and a muscular V6, the 2008 Solara can easily be had for under $25,000, even in upscale SLE trim. That's good news for most shoppers, since the Solara SLE was generously equipped with a JBL sound system, Bluetooth, auto dimming mirrors, a power driver's seat and 17-inch alloy wheels. Many of the nearly 300 different 2008 Solara convertibles currently listed on AutoTrader.com also feature Toyota's certified pre-owned warranty, which offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for one year and a remarkable seven years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection.
What it means to you: Buyers interested in a convertible can find many of the latest models for under $25,000.