Convertible cars have long held a special allure for drivers seeking fun, freedom, and that wind-in-your-hair feeling. But beyond the sheer joy of top-down driving, what do we really know about these unique vehicles?
Recent studies and surveys have uncovered fascinating insights into the safety, performance, owners, and trends surrounding convertibles. For example, crash data analysis has shown today’s convertibles can be just as safe as hardtop cars.
There are some researches and case studies that show interesting information about modern convertibles regarding their ownership costs and impact on driver’s wellbeing. Market research indicates convertible owners tend to be more affluent despite potentially higher insurance costs. And scientific studies have demonstrated measurable benefits of driving a convertible on drivers’ moods.
This article delves into the intriguing details, statistics, and ownership experiences that give us a fuller picture of today’s convertible world.
- Modern convertible safety is on par with standard hardtop vehicles according to government and industry crash data.
- Driving a convertible can boost drivers’ happiness by nearly 20% while lowering stress and increasing alertness based on physiological studies.
- Convertible owners tend to be older, wealthier, and more educated compared to average new car buyers according to market research.
- The convertible segment has declined in recent years but remains steady at 1-2% of the total vehicle market.
- Outdoor parking provides challenges for convertible owners but with proper care can still be a workable storage solution.
U.S. Department of Transportation and IHS Markit
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and IHS Markit compared the crash experience of recent convertibles with nonconvertible versions of the same cars using the most recent crash data from 2014-2018. The study found that convertibles had lower driver death rates and police-reported crash involvement rates. However, the differences in driver death rates were not statistically significant. The study concluded that safety concerns associated with convertibles’ retractable roof structures were not supported by the results of this study
Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS)
Another study by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) also found that modern convertibles are no more perilous in crashes than ordinary passenger vehicles.
Study conducted by Fiat in partnership with Dr. Lisa Dorn
A study conducted by Fiat in partnership with Dr. Lisa Dorn, associate professor of driver behavior at Cranfield University, found that driving a convertible increases happiness by up to 19%, reduces stress by up to 32%, and improves alertness by up to 15%. The study used chest band ECGs to measure the heart rates of 23 participants before, during, and after their drives. They also filled in mood questionnaires to ascertain measures such as alertness, happiness, stress, and anger.
Cambridge University Study Noise exposure in convertible automobiles
A study conducted by researchers from Missouri and Texas measured the sound pressure levels in convertibles traveling at highway speeds. The study found that cruising down the highway with nothing above you but sky means you’re also being exposed to noise, potentially lots of it.
Car insurance companies warn shoppers that the more expensive the car, the higher the premium will be — and convertibles are usually more expensive than their roofed counterparts. For example, while a hardtop 2022 Mustang Coupe starts at $28,865, the same trim-level Mustang convertible starts at $34,365 — a $5,500 difference. In addition, many insurers see convertibles as a greater risk for repairs, so premiums can be 17 to 19 percent higher for a ragtop.
What Car? Magazine Reliability Survey
The 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey rates the dependability of cars aged up to five years old, based on the experiences of nearly 25,000 owners. However, the specific results for convertibles are not provided in the search results
Sales and Trends
Automotive Convertible Hardtop Market Size
The global automotive convertible hardtop market is projected to grow at a significant rate from 2023 to 2030. This growth is driven by various factors such as the increasing demand for luxury and premium vehicles, advancements in technology, and the rising disposable income of consumers. The market is segmented by type (PVC Material, Carbon Fiber Material, Aluminum Material) and application (Passenger Car). The report also provides a comprehensive analysis of the market’s leading players, strategies, and products, offering insights into the regional market ecosystems and helping stakeholders make informed decisions
What has happened to the convertible market?
However, the convertible market has seen a decline in recent years. Convertible volumes traditionally have hovered between 1.8% to 2.0% of the market, but during the automotive downturn, the convertible segment fell to 1.4 to 1.2% of the market. In 2011, there was a slight uptick in convertible volumes, but this still lagged behind the overall recovery of the automotive market. Despite this, some new convertible models like the Camaro convertible and the Mercedes E Class have been doing well in the market
Study by Experian Automotive
Convertible car owners are typically older, more educated, and more affluent than the average new-car buyers. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of convertible buyers were older than the age of 45, and more than 50 percent of convertible consumers had a bachelor’s degree. Nearly 19 percent of consumers purchasing a convertible had an average household income exceeding $175,000, and 11.7 percent owned a home valued at more than $1 million.
Performance and Handling
Study conducted by Fiat in partnership with Dr. Lisa Dorn
Convertible cars are often seen as less practical due to their limited passenger and cargo space. However, they are highly appreciated for their performance and the unique driving experience they offer. Convertible driving can lead to safer driving, as drivers showed up to 15% increased alertness and 20% lower levels of negative emotions such as frustration or anger. Positive mood is associated with improved driving performance, visual attention, and faster hazard response
According to our survey that we conducted on our Instagram page, 38% of convertible owners said they primarily store their car in a garage especially in winter. Meanwhile, 62% rely on driveway or outdoor parking. The poll included responses from over 100 convertible drivers regarding their parking and storage habits.
When queried on storage challenges, the top problems cited by convertible owners without garage access were:
- Accumulation of dust/dirt – 65%
- Fading of exterior surfaces – 42%
- Water leaks into interior – 21%
- Concerns over theft – 48%
- Dealing with bird droppings, tree sap – 19%
Nearly 70% said outdoor storage made them wash their cars much more frequently. And 42% admitted to having a convertible top or exterior paint damage issue caused by sun exposure or moisture.
This poll confirms the consensus among experts that garage storage provides significant advantages for protecting convertibles. But it also shows that with proper precautions, outdoor parking is a workable solution for most owners.
While convertible sales have waxed and waned, their enduring popularity proves these unique cars occupy a beloved niche in the automotive world. Recent insights show convertibles provide not just thrills but also tangible benefits for drivers seeking safety, reliability, and improved mood behind the wheel. For the community of existing and prospective convertible owners, the future remains bright and open-topped.
In-house writer and editor at CabrioNation. I've been a lifelong fan of convertibles ever since my first car, a well-worn Bimmer convertible that I learned to maintain from the ground up. Since then I've owned many soft and hard top models, becoming an experienced DIY mechanic and care taker. I also run a small repair shop and rental service in Montpellier, where I get to share the wind-in-your-hair feeling with customers while also helping fellow cabrio enthusiasts on maintenance and top repairs.