If you've ever owned and enjoyed a convertible—or even just rented one—understand that open-top models are about more than just feeling the wind in your hair. They're also about the freedom you show and feel, in driving a vehicle that might not hit all the marks for practicality.
Not all convertibles are low and lean sports cars, either. There's even a truly off-road-capable truck (the Jeep Wrangler) offered in convertible form, as well as the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, a convertible that still has us at once scratching our heads, laughing, and yet admiring, perhaps a little bit. You don't need to spend a lot of money, either: For under $20,000, you could quite easily find a three-year-old Ford Mustang V-6 Convertible—one of our Best Used Convertible picks.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster deserves an honorary mention here, because back in 1989 (as a 1990 model) it kicked off a resurgence of interest in convertibles, and a generation of new drop-top models that might not have existed without its success and charming sports-car simplicity. Yet as much as we wax poetic about our time in Miatas, they're objectively missing some of the features and comforts that would make them a high-rated vehicle at The Car Connection.
And that's the inherent conflict, in having our editors assign numerical ratings to models, as we do here at The Car Connection, in six different areas: Styling, Performance, Comfort and Quality, Safety, Features, and Fuel Economy. Convertibles, perhaps more than any other kind of vehicle, are subject to personal aesthetic and passing fancy. But to appeal to the sensible shopper in you, we've honed on all those practical factors, as well as occupant protection and reliability, To place on our Best Used Convertible 2013 list, each model must score:
- at least an 8.0 rating on The Car Connection's full reviews from three years ago--in this case, the 2011 model year
- at least four circles on J.D. Power's predicted-dependability rankings, or at least average reliability on Consumer Reports
- no reported score lower than four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
You'll also find convertibles diverging into two groups: those with retractable hardtops (like the Mercedes-Benz SL or Volvo C70), and those with more traditional fabric soft tops (the Porsche Boxster or Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, for instance). The power retractable hardtops aren't typically relegated to the top or bottom of the market, and while the hardtops do tend to be a little quieter, it's not a matter of safety or staying dry—and more a matter of personal preference in this era.
Although there are no crash-test ratings for most high-end convertible models and many mainstream ones, we've given models that hit all the other marks and also have an impressive set of safety features—like the SL—an extra nudge onto the list. Likewise, we've kept several particularly high-scoring models, like the Porsche Boxster (9.0) and Chevrolet Corvette (8.9) on the list even though they have no test results.
Considering all that, we've arrived at a list of vehicle that should span a surprisingly wide range of prices, styles, and performance levels—all while having sunny-day thrills in common. Here are the 2011-model-year used convertibles that made the cut—along with their full review's Bottom Line take:Ford Mustang Convertible
2011 NIssan 370Z RoadsterEnlarge Photo