Car Buying

Buying a Convertible: Should You Worry About the Roof?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're interested in buying a convertible, you might want to first consider the roof, especially if you're buying a used model. What do we mean? Well, convertibles don't exactly have normal roofs: They come off at the press of a button or the pull of a latch, and that means your new drop-top has some added complexity -- and some other issues -- that you may not have considered. That's why we suggest putting a little thought into your potential purchase's roof before signing the papers.

Leaks?

When you're buying a drop-top (especially a used model), leaks are an important thing to consider. After all, a convertible's roof is something that comes off by design, and it may not be quite as watertight as a coupe's fixed roof.

As a result, we suggest checking for leaks before you buy -- or you might end up with a nasty surprise the first time it rains. And how do you do this? Believe it or not, we'd spray down the car with water on a test drive. While some dealers and private sellers may not like this practice, it's the easiest way to check for leaks, and most sellers should allow you to do it if you're a serious buyer who really may purchase the vehicle.

Here's another tip: Don't think a hardtop is immune to leaks. Since hardtop roofs are often designed to fold in several places so they can fit in a car's trunk, hardtop convertibles can be just as leak-prone as soft-top models.

Complexity and Replacement

Another factor you need to consider is the complexity of the top mechanism -- and just how often it's known to fail. While this may not be a common occurrence with a new car, we especially recommend that drivers interested in a used convertible spend some time searching the Internet, talking to owners and asking mechanics about top failures before buying a vehicle. You should also be sure to check the operation of the top several times on the test drive to make certain it's working properly.

We say this because convertible tops are often very expensive, and the mechanisms that raise and lower these tops are usually pretty pricey, too. If you have a manual-folding top, this won't be as much of a concern, but for drivers with power retractable tops, replacing a top or a mechanism to raise and lower the top can be complex, difficult and expensive work -- especially if your car is out of warranty. That's especially true for folding hardtops, which contain parts and panels that add extra expense to the cost of any major repair work.

Our Take

Despite what we've said above, you shouldn't have too much anxiety about your top. After all, they are usually designed to last the life of the car, but if yours happens to break or leak, fixing it can be an expensive process. As a result, we suggest checking for leaks and trying to determine reliability before you sign the papers on a new or used convertible. If you don't hear many horror stories and the top seems to be watertight, we say go for it. Few cars offer as much driving pleasure as a convertible.

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 Convertible: Should You Worry About the Roof? - Autotrader