What You Need to Know Before Purchasing a Used Convertible. If you’re looking for a used convertible, you should go above and beyond what you’d do for a closed-roof vehicle during the pre-purchase inspection process. Convertible tops can be difficult and expensive to fix, so doing your homework before purchasing can help ensure that you don’t drive home in a car that will cause you problems later on.
Here are some things to think about when shopping for softtop and hardtop convertibles to help you get the most out of your ownership experience.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A SOFTTOP CONVERTIBLE?
The great majority of pre-owned convertibles are softtops. In most cases, this implies that they have a fabric top that folds back out of the way when opened. When not in use, certain specialist versions have snap-on toppers that must be stored in the trunk or garage.
Soft convertible tops are available in a variety of materials, including polyester, canvas, and vinyl. Depending on the vehicle’s age, the top may have a plastic rear window. Most newer convertibles, on the other hand, include a glass panel that allows for the addition of a rear window defroster.
A few soft roofs are multistage. The roofs of off-road SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco can open partially like a huge sunroof, but most others are either open or closed.
Softtop convertibles can be driven either manually or with a power system. Sometimes it’s a mix of the two, requiring you to unclip the roof from the top of the windshield before allowing the motors to take over.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A HARDTOP CONVERTIBLE?
There are two types of hardtop convertibles. The first is a power-retractable hardtop, which works similarly to a powered soft top by folding a steel or fiberglass roof into the space behind the passenger compartment at the push of a button. This style of retractable top can also incorporate a sunroof in rare situations, such as the Volkswagen Eos.
Hardtops may also demand you to remove the top and store it while traveling in the open air. Many classic SUVs, such the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Bronco, have this type of roof construction, which can be heavy and difficult to remove and reinstall even with help.
Modern vehicles, such as the Jeep Wrangler, provide a more lightweight variant of this hardtop design. Some sports cars, such as the Porsche 911 Targa from 1967 to 1994, have a small removable roof panel that can be kept on a road trip. These removable panels, like the contemporary Mazda Miata RF, are sometimes automated.
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A CONVERTIBLE TO HAVE BOTH SOFT AND HARD TOPS?
As an option, some softtop convertibles include a lift-off hard top. This popular feature can be found on antique vehicles such as the Mazda Miata or directly from the factory on current models like as the Jeep Gladiator pickup. Some automobiles, such as the Mercedes-Benz SL, came standard with both a lift-off hard top and a folding soft top that could be used interchangeably.
Photographed at Good Vibes Breakfast Club at Newcomb’s Ranch on Angeles Crest Highway in Southern California, a first-generation (NA) Mazda MX-5 Miata in yellow, front-nose view with popup headlights revealed.III Manuel Carrillo
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN TESTING A CONVERTIBLE
Before taking a test drive, it’s critical to visually inspect the convertible top. Look for tears or excessive wear, especially along the seams, door glass, and rear glass on softtops. Check to see if the color of the top has faded. Look for cracks in the fiberglass and rust on metal panels or locking hardware on a hardtop.
Following that, regardless of the sort of convertible roof you inspect, check the interior for any evidence of dampness, which could suggest that the top isn’t completely watertight. Mildew odors and water stains on seats and door panels are the key indicators that something is wrong. Check the carpets and doorsill panels for water infiltration caused by clogged drains. Sun damage is another factor to consider, as thousands of miles of open-top driving can fracture and fade unprotected leather and dash panels.
During the inspection, make sure the top opens and closes smoothly in each mode. Stop halfway up the roof to evaluate the wiring and other components for wear. Check the moonroof to determine if it’s functional. Check that all latches open and close smoothly and that there is no corrosion on lift-off hard tops. While you’re at it, keep an ear out for rattles and squeaks that could indicate wear on the top mechanism.
It’s also a good idea to question the current owner if the top is original or if it’s been replaced. If the latter, inquire whether it was a factory replacement or aftermarket.
DURING THE TEST DRIVE OF THE CONVERTIBLE
Even with the roof up, most convertibles are louder than closed vehicles. Excessive road noise while driving, on the other hand, could signal that the roof insulation (both hard and soft) is no longer doing its job. Listen for rattles that indicate loose components in the top mechanism or loose latches in hardtop designs. Also, see how the roof handles at highway speeds.
Taking a convertible to a car wash is also a fantastic method to see how waterproof its top is firsthand. High-pressure water jets can detect old or ill-fitting seals, as well as invisible tears or cracks in a roof.
CONSIDERING HIDDEN CONVERTIBLE COSTS
Owning a convertible can be a lot of fun, but adding a top that opens and shuts might increase the insurance expenses. You may also need to pay for maintenance to the mechanicals of a retractable soft or hard top, as well as cope with unexpected damage to a soft top caused by weather or vandalism, which you would not have to worry about with a standard closed car.