Convertible Buying Guide

Nothing embodies the freedom of the open road like driving a convertible with the top down and the wind blowing through your hair. Convertibles became widely popular in the U.S. during the 1950s. In fact, at the dawn of the automotive age, most cars were of the open-topped variety.

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About Convertible Cars

Convertibles differ from open cars in that they can convert from an open top vehicle into one that is fully enclosed. The convertible didn't really come into existence until 1935 when French automaker Peugeot introduced the first power-operated retractable hardtop vehicles. Cadillac introduced the first closed body car in the United States in 1910. Prior to that, open top cars reigned supreme.

During the 1950s and 1960s, U.S. auto manufacturers introduced a wide array of convertibles that were widely popular with drivers. The convertibles made in the U.S. during the 1950s ranged from economical compacts like the Rambler American to sport coupes such as the Ford T-Bird and Chevy Corvette. There were also a number of luxury convertibles such as the Packard Caribbean and the Chrysler Imperial. In Europe, cars such as the Jaguar E-Type and the Fiat 124 Spider embodied the youthfulness and sense of freedom that defined the 1960s.

The American auto industry's love affair with the convertible was tempered somewhat during the 1970s when new safety regulations led to a decrease in popularity and production. Still, elsewhere around the globe automakers continued to churn out new convertible models, including the E-Type, the sporty Mercedes SL, and the affordable VW Cabriolet. In the United States, convertibles didn't enjoy a significant revival until the 1980s, thanks in large part to cars such as the Chrysler LeBaron and the Saab 900.

Convertible Car Variations>

There have always been a number of variations on the convertible. Today, convertible cars are generally marketed as one of several different types. Contemporary convertibles are frequently described as drop-head coupes, cabriolets or cabrios. Open top two-seaters without wind-up windows may be known as spyders, spiders or roadsters. Retractable rigid roof cars are known as retractable hardtops Softtop convertibles with folding textile roofs are common.

The U.S. auto industry is fairly unique in that it manufactures four-door convertibles like the Jeep Wrangler. However most convertibles manufactured outside the U.S. are cabriolets or coupes, which only have two doors.

Popular Convertible Car Brands

Today, convertibles are popular once again, and many automakers have introduced convertible versions of vehicles already in production. Hence buyers may consider models such as the Mini Cooper Convertible, the Ford Mustang Convertible, and the Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, among others. Some of the more popular convertibles include the Audi TT, the BMW 6 Series, the Mazda Miata, and the Chrysler 200.The Mercedes SL remains one of the most popular luxury touring cars on the market.

Who Drives Convertible Cars?

Nothing says fun like driving a convertible. Therefore convertible cars can be ideal for anyone who enjoys feeling the wind in their hair and the sun on their face as they hit the open road. Convertibles can be well suited for male or female drivers of practically any age. However, it is important to note that there are certain drawbacks to convertible cars.

Despite manufacturers now making safer convertibles than ever before, the lack of a fixed rigid roof does reduce vehicle safety. Because of that, a convertible may not make the ideal first car for a teenager who is just learning to drive. Convertibles also offer below average protection against break-ins, so a convertible may not be the best car for drivers who live in the city or in high crime areas.

Convertible cars also cost more to manufacture than standard closed body cars. This means convertible models can be more expensive than closed body cars. If affordability is your first priority, a convertible may not be for you either. Sports model convertibles don't typically handle as well as closed body models do. If you're someone for whom maximum performance and handling are important, a convertible may not be for you. Convertibles are also notorious for having limited trunk space. This is due mainly to the amount of space the top takes up when it is retracted. So convertibles may not be the best option for drivers who need ample storage space.