Study: People Who Own Convertibles Are More Educated & More Affluent Than Most Of Us

July 22, 2014

As with many professions, writing about cars has busy seasons and slow ones. Fall, winter, and spring are fast and furious, with countless auto shows demanding coverage and new models rolling into showrooms every day. In summer, on the other hand, we usually see a steep drop in the number and quality of press releases that cross our virtual desks.

Based on the missives filling our inbox right now, we appear to have hit rock bottom.

READ: Death List 2015: The Cars That Won't Be Back Next Year

As proof, consider the latest release from Experian Automotive, which claims to show that convertible owners are more educated and more affluent than the average American car buyer. While that may seem outrageous, parts of Experian's argument are also obvious enough to make you say, "Well, duh". (If you're prone to saying such things.)

To gather its information, survey organizers studies sales statistics from January - March 2014. Here are some of their findings, matched with a bit of our always-thoughtful analysis.

1. Convertible buyers are wealthier than the average new-car buyer. Almost 19 percent of folks buying drop-tops in Q1 had a household income above $175,000, and 11.7 had homes valued at over $1 million. Among new car buyers as a whole, however, just 10.7 percent met the $175,000 income benchmark, and 4.4 percent had million-dollar homes. OUR TAKE: Not surprising. Experian thinks that this may be because more luxury brands offer convertible options (though see #4 below). To us, however, it's a matter of practicality. Sure, convertibles are better insulated and quieter than they once were, and rear-seat headroom has been improved, but they're still not especially good as daily drivers, often serving as second cars. It stands to reason that the sort of people who might buy them are the kind of folks who can spend extra dough on a car that's mostly for fun and recreation.

2. Convertible buyers are better educated than the average new-car buyer. On the whole, just 38.2 percent of new-car buyers in Q1 held bachelor's degrees, but over 50 percent of convertible buyers had 'em. OUR TAKE: The link between education level and income is fairly well established, with those who hold college degrees earning significantly more than those who stopped their education at the high school level. So, again, it's not too surprising that convertible buyers more frequently hold college degrees, because those degrees give them the earning power to purchase convertibles.

3. Twenty-three percent of all convertibles were registered in California (13.4 percent) and Florida (9.6 percent). Meanwhile, the market with the lowest number of convertible sales was Glendive, Montana. This doesn't even warrant a "Well, duh".

4. The most popular convertible sold during Q1 was the Ford Mustang, followed by the Chrysler Sebring and Mazda Miata. OUR TAKE: So much for the "luxury" theory mentioned above -- though the BMW 3-Series and Chevrolet Corvette did come in at #4 and #5, respectively.

5. Roughly 60 percent of new car buyers in Q1 were over 45. Among convertible buyers, however, that figure was 72 percent. OUR TAKE: There's a strong correlation between (a) age and earning power and between (b) earning power and convertible ownership. So basically, another "duh" moment. (See item #1.)

6. In Q1, 58 percent of all new car buyers had a child living at home. Among convertible buyers, however, 52 percent were either childless or empty-nesters. OUR TAKE: As we said above, for a range of reasons, convertibles aren't practical daily drivers or family cars. Is it that surprising that fewer convertible owners have families to cart around?

Convertible owners and admirers: do these stats surprise you at all? Do you fit the average convertible-owner profile? Do you care to refute any of these claims? Sound off in the comments below.


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