RAC Cars News


Time to take the top down?

By raccars Published

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Summer is almost upon us. Temperatures are rising and the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds of spring. It is at this time that we Brits like to dust down the barbecue and get our shorts on. It’s also the time when motorists start to dream about the joys of open top motoring. British drivers have had a long love affair with the convertible.

More soft tops per head are sold in Britain than in far more sunny countries, such as Italy or Spain. We also buy more convertibles than the French. Strangely, however, sales are falling. The modern convertible may have far better roofs, body stiffening and insulation than older models but sales actually peaked in 2004. With so many models on offer, does this mean that there are bargains to be had?

Sadly, this is exactly the wrong time of year to buy a convertible. You will not be the only driver who is beginning to think about cruising down winding country lanes with the wind in their hair, so the simple laws of supply and demand mean that prices will rise. It is far better to buy your convertible as we head into the winter months and many dealers will discount convertible stock deeply around Christmas time. That said, it is still possible to enjoy convertible motoring on a budget. Car market research firm, CAP, has published details of the cheapest rag tops to buy and run and the list contains some exceptional motors at affordable prices. The costs are worked out by including purchase price, servicing, fuel and depreciation, based on three years of ownership and driving 12,000 miles a year.

Top of the list is the Fiat 500C, an excellent little retro-styled city car. Next on the list is the tiny Smart Fortwo Cabrio, a clever car but perhaps a little small for some. The Citroen DS3 Cabrio is in third place and offers substantially more space. The pretty Mini Convertible is in fourth place and VW’s Beetle Cabriolet is fifth.

It is interesting to see how many retro cars are in the list, with the Mini, Beetle and 500C all recalling earlier models. This, of course, leads us to a second way of enjoying budget top down motoring. There are loads of classic convertibles for sale, where prices are holding well and further depreciation is unlikely. You may even see some increase in value. An MGB or Triumph Spitfire could be an excellent investment and even the humble Mazda MX5 offers great value.

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