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From soft-top to hard-top: how to buy the right convertible car

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September 26th 2022 info

Sure, the weather in the UK may mean that you’ll rarely have the roof down, but convertible cars are increasing in popularity. Their versatility is appealing to many drivers, and who doesn’t like having the wind in their hair on a warm, breezy day?

However, while you may know what to look for when buying a car, you have to consider several different factors when purchasing a convertible. From deciding between a hard top and a soft top to a manual or automatic roof, there are unique decisions a buyer has to make.

People are always full of questions before purchasing a car and this is especially true for a convertible. Are convertibles more expensive to insure? Are they safe? Do they break down more often? These are all questions would-be convertible drivers mull over.

Below, we explain how to make the right purchase and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of convertible cars in detail.

Soft-top or hard-top?

The biggest decision that is unique to a convertible car is its roof. Choosing between a hard-top or a soft-top car may seem small, but it’s a decision you’ll have to make early. It essentially dictates what options will be available to you.

While one isn’t better than the other, each type has its pros and cons. Let's compare the two:

Pros and cons: hard-top

The biggest advantage a hard-top convertible has is its safety and security. This applies more to theft than on-road accidents, with soft-top convertibles being easier to break into by slashing the roof. While this is unlikely to happen, an extra layer of peace of mind can be a major advantage.

Also (and this is a big deal for UK drivers), hard-top convertibles are more resistant to moisture and wet weather. They fare slightly better in colder weather, too, but you won’t be feeling freezing in a soft-top car once the heater is on.

As for cons, hard-tops tend to be more expensive. This applies to both the entry price and maintenance costs, due to the extra mechanisms, sensors and electronics that come with a hard-top roof.

Hard-top cars tend to be larger and heavier, too, which does impact acceleration and boot space.

Pros and cons: soft-top

As mentioned, soft-top cars come with slightly more risk when it comes to theft. However, this isn’t necessarily a massive deal as car owners can take measures to prevent theft from occurring – such as emptying out any valuables when the car is left unattended. Plus, a soft-top roof generally means a lower price point coupled with more manageable maintenance costs.

However, soft-top cars get cold in the winter and generally perform worse in troublesome conditions. Before the heater does eventually kick in, soft-top cars tend to get chilly.

That extra insulation that hard-tops have comes at a price, though. Soft-tops are generally faster and more economical to run as they are lightweight, plus their roofs are less likely to run into costly issues.

Another small advantage for some drivers is that a soft-top convertible always looks like one, with the roof down or up. Hard-top cars look like regular cars when the roof is up, but since soft-top convertibles are usually two-tone, drivers can show off a bit even on rainy, cold days.

Factors to consider when purchasing a convertible

Roof type

Your roof-based decisions don’t end with the decision of hard-tops and soft-tops. Next, you need to choose whether you want a manual or automatic roof.

Thankfully, the decision is rather easy if you have your heart set on a hard-top convertible. All hard-top cars have an automatic roof, so you don’t have much choice there. For soft-tops, most are automatic, but some are manual.

A manual roof, however, does come with some unique challenges. Each manual model has different methods for latching the roof, so be sure to ask about this before purchase. If it feels like a hassle or you struggle to do it, it’s better to opt for an automatic roof.


Source: Blakedown Car Company Ltd

So, are convertibles safe? The short answer is yes. The notion that convertible cars are unsafe isn’t backed up by science. Numerous studies, including one by the International Institute for Highway Safety, have concluded that convertible cars are just as safe as non-convertible models.

The common misconception comes from the notion that when these cars roll over, the adjustable roof becomes dangerous for the driver and passengers. However, automotive technology has improved to the level where convertible models – whether they’re hard-top or soft-top – behave like regular cars in this scenario.

However, you should apply your regular due diligence when buying a convertible car. Always check a car’s safety rating and research its history to stay safe.

The 2017 BMW 4 Series convertible (pictured) boasts the most up-to-date safety technology, making it an extremely safe and dependable convertible. It even has features like frontal collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind-spot detection, a 360-degree camera, and a number of parking assistance tools.

To learn how to find the history of a used car, read our in-depth blog: ‘Discover how to find the history of a used car with these top tips’.


Source: Furness Park Motor Group

“Are convertible cars more expensive?” is a common query. Generally, convertible cars are on the higher end of the market for their models. Since they are a little more niche and don’t have the mass-market appeal of regular cars, prices tend to be a little higher.

However, the initial car price is only half of the story. Maintenance costs can rack up with convertible cars, especially with the roof. It’s an extra factor you don’t have to consider with other cars. Due to possible complications, insurance costs can be higher too.

Overall, you’ll be paying a little more for a convertible car. However, if you want the experience, it’s worth paying that extra bit.

The Fiat 500c (pictured) is a great option for those with a limited budget but still want a convertible. The Fiat is not only on the cheaper side to buy, coming in at around £6,000-£7,000 for used, it is also fairly cheap to run. This is mainly because to the car's compact 1.2L engine, which despite its size still has enough power.

Is it fun to drive?

Test out the car before you buy. How much pleasure the car is to drive should also rank fairly high on your list of priorities. You can read all the reviews you want, but the only way to know for sure whether a convertible is enjoyable to drive is to actually try it out. If the car fails to accelerate smoothly or makes uncomfortable bends, you won't be able to enjoy that lovely summer breeze in your hair.

How practical does it need to be?

Source: Simpson Motors

Some drivers purchase a convertible as a back-up vehicle. They use their hatchback for daily commuting and reserve their convertible for weekends. In this situation, it makes little difference if the car has a large trunk because you can utilise your weekday vehicle on those occasions.

However, if you can't afford to have two cars and are thinking about getting a convertible to replace your current vehicle, this may restrict the models you can actually buy. If you frequently need to transport more than one person or use your car to help you carry your weekly groceries, you'll need a more practical convertible with adequate space.

If you’re looking for practicality, consider the Volkswagen Beetle (pictured). The convertible comes with 4 seats and a decent amount of room in the boot. A perfect mixture of style, fun and practicality.

Drive away with a quality used convertible

Hopefully, you’re now a little clearer on what buying a convertible is all about. While they have their own pros and cons, the feeling of winding the roof down on a warm day is unbeatable.

Whether you’re sold on a convertible car or second-guessing your open-roof dream, browse our full range of used cars today.

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