Everything you need to know when buying your next convertible
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There’s nothing like cruising along in a convertible on a hot summer’s day with the wind in your hair.
However, modern convertibles shouldn’t be thought of as just seasonal vehicles.
Improvements in components and design mean they’re now more robust. It’s worth considering them as good all-round vehicles for buyers looking for a similarly sized car.
Types of convertibles
Soft tops: Fabric hoods are the lightweight option, and normally sport a flexible plastic screen instead of a glass rear window. But these covers can deteriorate over time. Always inspect these types of hoods thoroughly on any used vehicle.
Fabric hoods are great for smaller cars as they maximise the storage on offer by folding into small spaces.
Also, they’re often cheaper to construct than hard tops and have a lower maintenance cost because of their less-complicated folding systems. The system frequently is manual, but the more expensive manufacturers tend to opt for power-operated soft tops.
Hard tops: Hard tops use ridged panels that fold and retract into the boot, or even a separate compartment just in front the boot. These offer better protection from the elements and use a more complex retraction system controlled through electrics or hydraulics.
Vehicles with hard top roofs can usually only be operated when the car is either stationary with the handbrake on, or at low speeds. These systems tend to be more complex, so they can be more costly to repair if anything goes wrong.
If you’re buying a used car with a hard top roof, test the system a few times, especially those on older models.
Convertibles need to have more rigidity built into their floor pans to be able to minimise body flex. Their structure doesn’t have the additional support of a roof or pillars, like a typical car, and this can change the driving characteristics of convertibles.
There are normally losses in cabin and boot storage as these areas are required to stow the roof.
The temporary roof of convertibles means they are less efficient at blocking road noise and they provide less insulation, meaning car heaters might be used more often.
Before deciding to buy a convertible, take it for test drive to get used to the difference. By driving on the motorway with the hood up and then down, both driving experiences can be compared to help decide if a convertible is the right choice.
Generally convertibles are now more reasonably priced by their manufacturers. For example, the economical Mazda MX-5, available in soft and hard tops, is in the affordable price bracket for many buyers. Of course, there are many models that are guaranteed to ‘turn heads” for those with a larger budget.
Convertibles can be great, everyday cars and the biggest budget isn’t necessary to give the liberating experience of dropping the top while out driving on the open road.
If buyers have dreamed of owning a convertible but are unsure whether it would suit their lifestyle, the only way to find out is to take one for a test drive on a fine day. That way, the decision can be made whether the lure of open-top cruising overcomes some of the practicality issues a convertible may possess.
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