Car Buying

Buying a Car: The Drawbacks of Convertibles

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2016

If you're thinking about buying a car, it's easy to shift your attention to convertibles. They're sleek. They're exciting. They're fun. They're cool. In fact ... why wouldn't you want a convertible? Actually, there are a few reasons we can think of -- and we're listing them so you know what you're getting into before signing the papers on a new drop-top.

The Drawbacks

Believe it or not, convertibles suffer from more drawbacks than you might imagine at first glance. One is obvious: They tend to be more expensive than regular cars with traditional fixed roofs. This is largely because convertible tops tend to be more complex to design, engineer and create -- a cost that's passed on to shoppers who buy convertibles.

Another drawback: Convertibles are less practical than most normal vehicles. This is because they have smaller back seats and smaller trunks than most models, which means less room for passengers and cargo. Usually, convertibles even have smaller back seats and trunks than coupes, as the stowable top steals trunk space, and structural reinforcements (to compensate for a missing roof) tend to steal passenger space in back.

Then there's visibility: Although it's easy to see out of a convertible when the top is down, it's a whole different story when the top is up and you're surrounded by huge fabric or metal strips where a small pillar or a window would usually be. In fact, visibility can be such a challenge that we think you should try parallel parking with the top up before you buy any convertible -- just to see if you can live with the visibility.

Another potential drawback is the top itself, which is a complicated part that could potentially break and cost a lot of money to fix. To understand what we mean, just watch a convertible raise or lower its top the next time you're around one. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of small motors that help ensure a convertible top's successful operation -- and they add a lot of complexity (and, potentially, a lot of cost) if something breaks.

The final drawback is unique to vehicles with canvas tops, rather than convertible hardtops: Even with the top in place, the vehicle is a lot more exposed to the elements than a standard car, as it'll get colder faster and take longer to warm up. There's also always the very real possibility that a thief will break into the vehicle through the convertible soft-top, even when it's up.

Our Take

Of course, our long list of drawbacks doesn't mention the obvious: There are some benefits to convertibles, too. The top-down, wind-in-your-hair joy just can't be equaled by any other vehicle -- and that's why many drivers put up with the issues. We just want you to know what you're getting into before you go buying a car with a removable roof.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: The Drawbacks of Convertibles - Autotrader