Car Buying

Convertible or Coupe: Which Is Right for You?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2014

If you're interested in a sporty car, you've probably ruled out practicality and narrowed your search down to something with two doors. But we know that doesn't necessarily mean you're ready to buy. In fact, the question you're likely to ask next is a challenging one: Should you choose a convertible or a coupe? It's an age-old debate that can be difficult to answer, so we've prepared a few benefits and drawbacks of each body style to help you make up your mind.

Coupe Pros and Cons

For many shoppers interested in the best possible driving experience, a coupe is the way to go. Coupes are usually more rigid than convertibles, owing to the fact that they have a full-on metal roof rather than a huge hole behind the top of the windshield where a convertible soft-top goes. The result of the extra rigidity is better handling, which is especially noticeable at a racetrack.

Coupes are also the preferred choice of performance-car enthusiasts because they're lighter than convertibles. Even though a convertible often replaces a coupe's hardtop with a soft folding top, the mechanisms required to move the soft-top almost always add back all the weight saved -- and then some. And while a convertible's top may look soft, it's actually very heavy thanks to insulation and reinforcement materials inside.

Another coupe benefit is styling. While many modern convertibles look great with the top down, they can look a little odd with the top in place, which is their usual resting position. Coupes, on the other hand, boast especially clean lines, largely because a car is usually designed as a coupe first and a convertible second. Finally, coupes also tend to be cheaper than their convertible counterparts, with few exceptions.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to coupes. The biggest one is obvious: You won't get the top-down, wind-in-your-hair feeling or pure joy that you'll experience with a convertible. You also won't enjoy the same roaring engine note. In other words, the logical side of your brain probably tells you to stick with a coupe, while the fun side pushes for a convertible.

Convertible Pros and Cons

The biggest benefit of choosing a convertible over a couple is simple: enjoying beautiful summer days with the top down, the wind in your hair, and a relaxing ride without the encumbrances of a fixed roof to limit your visibility -- or your fun. By the same token, convertibles also give you a better chance to hear your car's engine note, and they're more exciting for your friends and other passengers.

Additionally, most convertibles don't pose a threat to performance like enthusiasts often suggest that they do. Yes, it's true that convertibles are usually less rigid than coupes -- but not by much. And we think you'll rarely feel the difference on a regular road. It's the same thing with weight: Most convertibles only add a few hundred pounds over a coupe, which translates to the same weight gain as one or two passengers.

But there are a few drawbacks to convertibles. Styling and pricing are two, as mentioned above. But there's also an issue with complexity: Convertible tops aren't known for their simple operation, and you could be looking at a big bill if yours breaks when you're out of warranty. Admittedly, such failures are rare, but if it happens, it won't be a cheap fix.

What to Do?

By listing the pros and cons of both convertibles and coupes, we probably haven't made your decision for you. But we hope we've given you a few important points to consider as you think about what car to choose next.

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.
Convertible or Coupe: Which Is Right for You? - Autotrader