Is a Convertible a Good First Car? Things to Consider Before Buying

Is a Convertible a Good First Car? Things to Consider Before Buying

A sleek, wind-in-your-hair convertible seems like the ultimate fun first car. But before new drivers get behind the wheel of an open-top two-seater, it’s important to consider the practicality and responsibilities that come with these flashy vehicles. This post will outline the main pros and cons of buying a convertible as your inaugural set of wheels. We’ll review the exciting aspects of convertible ownership along with the increased costs and precautions needed to safely operate these attention-grabbing cars. 

Yellow Mazda MX-5 Miata NC convertible car
Mazda MX-5 Miata NC convertible. Photo by Jacob Jensen

The Allure of Convertibles

Convertibles conjure images of cruising down sunny coastal highways, tops down, without a care in the world. And while they can absolutely deliver that kind of pure driving bliss, they also come with increased risks, expenses, and requirements compared to hardtop coupes and sedans.

Pros of a Convertible First Car

  • Fun, open-air driving experience, especially on sunny days
  • Sporty styling and performance
  • Tend to have high-end features and amenities
  • Make a statement and stand out from other first cars

Cons of a Convertible First Car

  • More expensive to insure, especially for new drivers
  • Offer less practicality like storage space and rear seats
  • Limited cargo space and seating
  • Require more maintenance like keeping the top working properly

Our goal is to spotlight the enjoyment convertibles can provide but also be transparent about their drawbacks to illustrate what responsible ownership demands.

Ford Capri convertible white open top
Ford Capri convertible. Photo by Christopher Windus

Insurance Costs and Requirements

As exciting as a convertible can be, many new drivers don’t take into account the increased insurance rates compared to standard coupes and sedans.

Car TypeAverage Annual Insurance Cost
Mainstream Convertible$1,450
Mainstream Coupe$1,250
Mainstream Sedan$1,150

On average, you can expect to pay 5-15% more per year to insure a convertible compared to a hardtop car. Rates also vary greatly depending on:

  • Age and driving record
  • Engine size and performance
  • Safety features and security
  • Where the vehicle is parked overnight
  • Amount of annual mileage

To save money on convertible insurance:

  • Ask about discounts for safety features like ABS brakes and alarm systems
  • Inquire about multi-policy or multi-car discounts if relevant
  • Shop quotes from several highly-rated insurers
  • Maintain stellar driving record with no violations or claims
  • Use secure overnight parking like a garage
Black BMW 1-series soft top convertible
Black BMW 1-series. Photo by Griffin Wooldridge

Safety Considerations and Precautions

While convertibles are undeniably fun vehicles, they do present some unique safety considerations due to their lack of a hardtop roof.

Vulnerability in Incidents

Without a rigid roof, convertible occupants can be ejected from vehicles in collisions. New drivers should proactively:

  • Always wear seatbelts even on short drives
  • Consider newer cars with additional side-impact airbags

Increased Risk of Theft

Soft tops can be easily slashed, allowing thieves to gain entry in seconds. New owners should:

  • Install an aftermarket alarm system and tracking device
  • Park in well-lit areas rather than dark side streets
  • Use a wheel lock or brake pedal lock as a visual deterrent

Weather Considerations

Convertible tops can leak, allow wind buffeting, and lead to weather-related issues. Be prepared to:

  • Perform regular top inspections and maintenance
  • Store the vehicle indoors as much as possible
  • Invest in seat and wheel covers for added insulation
Ford Mustang S550 convertible
Ford Mustang S550 convertible.

Key Takeaways

Convertible ConsiderationsImpact on New Drivers
Higher insurance ratesBudget 5-15% more for annual premium
Limited cargo spaceMay need to rent or borrow other vehicle
Added vulnerability to theftNeed heavy-duty security and deterrents
More frequent maintenanceCannot defer or skip recommended service

With maturity and precaution, convertibles can still be a memorable first car for new drivers ready to take on the responsibility. But it’s vital to educate yourself and take proactive steps to account for their unique requirements before purchase.

Advice for New Drivers

If after reviewing the pros, cons, costs, and precautions you still have your heart set on a convertible first car, here is some guidance to make the experience as smooth as possible:

Choose a Lower-Powered 4-Cylinder Model

Opt for a standard convertible with a smaller engine over temptation by a powerful V6 or V8 model. This will help lower insurance rates and be less likely to encourage speeding.

Invest in Comprehensive Insurance

Given the increased risks, purchasing maximum insurance coverage is highly advisable to buffer against incidents and weather damage. The last thing any new driver needs is an uninsured fender bender or slashed top.

Use Indoor Parking Whenever Possible

Minimize exposure to weather damage and deter theft attempts by storing the convertible in a locked garage whenever you’re not using it. Consider a car cover as well for outdoor parking.

Maintain Diligent Upkeep

Follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual religiously. Things like fluid flushes may seem tedious but will prevent major drivetrain issues down the road.

Mini Cooper Soft top convertible
Mini Cooper convertible. Photo by Martin Katler

Smart Convertible Models for New Drivers

If you still have your heart set on convertible ownership, opting for an affordable, lower-powered model is wise. Here are some solid choices that balance fun and responsibility:

Newer Models

CarDetails
Mazda MX-5 Miata– Affordable MSRP: $27,550
– 2.0L 4-cylinder engine
– Available with advanced safety features
Ford Mustang Convertible– Ecoboost model has decent power
– Rear-wheel drive takes getting used to
– Large community and aftermarket support
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible– Nostalgic, fun styling
– Front-wheel drive stability
– Fairly compact and maneuverable

Used Models

CarDetails
Chrysler Sebring (early 2000s)– Relative bargain used
– Hard tops add security
– Watch for transmission issues
BMW 3 Series (late 2000s)– Excellent performance and handling
– Higher mileage models in budget
– Maintenance is key
Mazda Miata (1990s)– The quintessential “fun car”
– Lightweight with great agility
– Limited safety features

Tips for Used Convertible Longevity

To maximize reliability and longevity with an older convertible:

  • Inspect the vehicle top and chassis for rust
  • Ensure proper top function and sealing
  • Flush all fluids (oil, transmission, brake, coolant)
  • Replace worn components like belts, hoses, seals
  • Upgrade critical parts of brake system
  • Install modern conveniences like Bluetooth radio
Ford Mustang GT convertible with a roll bar
Ford Mustang GT convertible.

Guidance for Convertible Parents

Allowing your new driver to pilot a flashy convertible can be anxiety-inducing. But with reasonable guidelines, it can be a safe and rewarding experience:

See Also

Have Blunt Safety Conversations

Don’t shy away from discussing possible ejection risks and the graphic results poor driving decisions in a convertible. Stress wearing seat belts religiously.

Enforce Secure Parking

Provide garage space or pay for an outdoor lot to minimize weather exposure and deter theft. Inspect the car yourself frequently for signs of damage or break-ins.

Lead by Example

Model safe habits yourself and ride along sometimes to coach good technique. Be a resource not just for discipline.

Reinforce Upkeep

Since maintenance lapses can be disastrous in a convertible, monitor your teen in planning for and completing all recommended service. Offer incentives here.

While not the right choice for all new drivers, a convertible can instill a lifelong sense of responsibility and pride with proper guidance. Focus on safety and enrichment instead of heavy-handed prohibitions if this is their dream car.

Expert Opinion

As a convertible driver for over 10 years, I can’t recommend these fun cars enough! Sure, there are definitely responsibilities that come with drop-top ownership, especially for new drivers. But in my experience, starting out with a convertible forced me to be a more diligent, careful motorist from day one. The open cabin means you always drive with caution, and the added vulnerability ensures you never skip maintenance or security precautions. It’s also just an unmatched thrill to cruise around town or hit the highway with the top down on a nice day. With reasonable preparation for insurance costs, safety risks, and upkeep demands, a convertible can be an incredible first car to create memories with. With the right level-headed mindset, new drivers can absolutely handle the duties of convertible ownership to unlock the pure joy these special vehicles bring. Just commit to accountability from the start and you’ll quickly adapt to the quirks of life behind the wheel of an awesome drop-top.

2014 Chevy Camaro SS convertible with a wind screen Yellow with black stripes
2014 Chevy Camaro SS convertible. Photo by Martin Zdrazil

Conclusion

A convertible first car comes with increased excitement and responsibilities compared to typical hardtops. While the costs, precautions, and maintenance can be intimidating for new drivers, a drop-top ride also builds accountability and rewards safe habits. If new motorists educate themselves on the unique quirks of convertible ownership and commit to proactive care, they can absolutely tap into these cars’ intoxicating open-air thrills. For more guidance from seasoned owners, be sure to explore the convertible maintenance and usage resources on our site as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are convertibles more dangerous for new drivers?

Yes, the lack of a roof does present increased risk of ejections in crashes if not buckled up.

What convertible models are best for new drivers?

The Mazda Miata, Ford Mustang (Ecoboost or older V6), and Volkswagen Beetle Convertible are affordable options with available safety features that make solid first cars.

Can older convertibles be reliable if well maintained?

Yes – with proper care, regular repairs, and proactive upgrades to wear items, used convertibles can serve new drivers well. Inspect thoroughly before purchase.

Should parents prohibit or encourage convertibles?

Rather than outright prohibition, have candid conversations about responsibility and implement initial restrictions that can relax over time as teens prove themselves safe.

View Comment (1)
  • Awesome! I’ve always wanted a convertible as my first car. This gets me even more excited about the freedom of having one.

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