With summer now in full force, you may find yourself dreaming of a new convertible. That said, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start your search. Are you interested in comfort or raw power? Two seats or four? A 4×4 perhaps? We’re here to help. Below, we’ve outlined a number of economical convertibles for buyers with a budget of under $40,000.
Overall, we think the Mustang, Camaro, Miata and Wrangler present the best values out of the eight vehicles mentioned on this list. Still, the others represent unique offerings that may be a great fit for a buyer looking for something that goes against the norm.
Refreshed for 2018, buyers can opt for the premium trim level of the EcoBoost Mustang Convertible while still ringing in well under the $40,000 mark. For $36,000, the EcoBoost Mustang Convertible comes with a potent turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-to-60 time of around 5.3 seconds. Additionally, the Mustang’s 2018 refresh brought on a bevy of new safety and driver assistance features, like pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Altogether, when considering the full array of convertibles on the market, it’s hard to look past the value offered by the 2018 Mustang.
Like the Mustang, the Camaro is a great high performance convertible option at a price point starting well below $40k. With starting prices in the low-to-mid $30,000 range, buyers have their choice of either the turbocharged 4-cylinder Camaro, which makes 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and gets from 0-to-60 in 5.4 seconds, or the V6, which puts out 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft, hustling the Camaro to 60 miles per hour in around 5.2 seconds. While the Camaro coupe is often criticized for its cramped interior and poor outward sight lines, this problem is rectified anytime the top is down on the convertible. One thing the Camaro lacks is the suite of driver safety features offered on the Mustang, which could give buyers some pause. Still, if the Camaro speaks to you, then the Camaro convertible presents a compelling value at the sub-$40,000 price point.
We bet you didn’t expect to see a 4×4 on this list, but if you’re looking for top-down fun and aren’t looking to take your convertible to the racetrack, a strong case can be made for the Wrangler. Fully redesigned for 2018, the all-new Wrangler offers endless utility, unlimited configurability and, for the first time, most of the creature comforts you’d expect from a modern vehicle. Additionally, thanks to the availability of the Unlimited model, the Wrangler is the only convertible on sale to offer the practicality of four doors, not to mention a legitimate, usable back seat with room for three people.
The base model 2-door Wrangler starts at just under $29,000. Keeping things under $40,000, buyers can opt for any trim level except for the off-road-focused Rubicon, which starts at around $42,500. Buyers also have a variety of convertible tops to choose from, including a soft top, a utilitarian black plastic hard top, a body-colored hard-top or, for the first time, a power-retractable hard top. Except for the power top, each of the available tops for the Wrangler can be re-configured easily, along with the Wrangler’s doors and foldable windshield. Want the doors off but the top up? How about the side windows removed, but the roof still intact for sun protection? Or the front of the roof removed like a sunroof? With the Wrangler, you can have it all.
Now in its fourth generation, the Miata has been Mazda’s halo car for almost three decades, and for good reason. This rear-wheel drive roadster has set the standard for handling and driving fun since it first came out in 1989, and it does so without the big power you typically find in performance cars today. 2018 Miatas make 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, although 2019 models will see a bump in horsepower to 181. Either way, this all means that behind the wheel of a Miata, you can drive hard without getting in trouble. Miata buyers have their choice of two roof styles. Starting at around $27,000 is the base roadster which offers a simple, traditional, manually-folding fabric soft top. Opt for the sleek Miata RF, which starts at $32,000, and you get a unique, power-folding targa-style hard top whose roof panel retracts into the rear decklid, but also enables the closed-cockpit feel of a sports coupe. A loaded Miata RF Grand Touring rings in at under $36,000.
Miata buyers should also consider the mechanically identical Fiat 124 Spyder, which is built on the same assembly line, using the same platform as the Miata. Since the 124 Spyder doesn’t have the brand-name recognition of the Miata, buyers should be able to get a better deal on a new example. On the same token, though, the 124 Spyder is expected to depreciate faster than the Miata for this same reason.
Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio
The Fiat 500 is a humble city car, but the high-performance Abarth trim level brings with it an excellent driving experience capped off by its delightful grumbly exhaust note. While the standard 500 Abarth starts at around $21,000, the Abarth Cabrio carries only a $1,500 premium over the cost of a fixed-roof version, starting at around $22,500. The 500’s convertible top is a bit different than a standard drop top. Instead of providing a completely open experience, the 500 features a rectangular fabric roof piece that slides backwards along the vehicle’s roof rails, providing an open top while also preserving a closed cabin feeling. Really only the roof and rear window retract, which can be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on your personal preference. Overall, the Fiat 500 doesn’t offer the best build quality or amenities, but if a fun convertible on a budget is your number one priority, a 500 Abarth will surely put a smile on your face.
Mini Cooper Convertible
Mini buyers have their choice of a number of convertible configurations at the sub-$40,000 price point. We recommend a sprightly Cooper S model, as it offers good value along with a potent 189 horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, making for a sporty, open top package. Cooper S buyers get their choice of either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Additionally, the Cooper S offers a good mix of driver safety features along with Apple CarPlay compatibility. The Mini offers a somewhat polarizing design — the retro cues aren’t for everyone. On top of that, reliability is average, but issues can develop over time. Still, if you love the Mini’s unique design and are looking for a fun convertible, the Cooper S is a great option.
Based on a front-wheel-drive platform and with a larger back seat than the Mustang or Camaro, the Cascada isn’t a performance machine but rather a comfortable, economical and slightly upscale boulevard cruiser. Pricing ranges from around $33,000 to $38,000. Its power-folding soft top can go from open to closed in 18 seconds. The Cascada makes 197 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine. It’s neither fast nor particularly fuel efficient, achieving only 23 miles per gallon combined. The Cascada does offer a few driver safety features, such as forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning, but it doesn’t offer the full suite that a new car buyer should expect in 2018, and the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility hurt its value proposition further. If the back seat isn’t especially important to you, we recommend opting for a more modern Mustang or Camaro.