By on May 17, 2017

Chevrolet Corvette C7 convertible roof gif - Image: giphy

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet.

Perhaps Canada’s brief summer exacerbates this Canuck’s desire for a convertible.

Summer is short. I want to take advantage of every last second.

This also explains why Canadian homeowners landscape incessantly despite the fact that all of their work is for nought for six or seven months.

I want to put the top down. But not just any convertible will do. I’ve got a budget of about USD $10,000. Due to the smaller market, and the much smaller market for convertibles, pre-owned prices aren’t as favorable north of the border as they are in the United States. Cross-border shopping is a possibility, but life has never been busier, and the last thing I want is to have a car detained at the border over some inspection technicality.

My options thus fell into four categories. Here are some examples.

2001 Mazda MX-5 Miata Kijiji ad - Image: Kijiji

No.1: Mazda MX-5 Miata
I’ve always wanted one. Growing up, there was a Mazda dealer on Portland Street in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. We basically had to drive by the dealer if we were going anywhere, and my siblings and I were floored when the first Miatas arrived in 1989. Obviously the latest ND Miatas are too pricey. Unlike many Miata fans, I’m a fan of the NC’s styling, but getting one in the price bracket wasn’t going to be easy, and I’m not convinced it drives as sweetly as the others. Many NA Miatas appear quite rough around the edges, and I like the look of the NB best. There have been a handful in my price bracket, many with extremely low mileage; some with high mileage but lower prices.

Two seats aren’t ideal for a family of four, but even if it had more capacity, this second vehicle isn’t going to be the car we typically use for family outings. We’re moving to Prince Edward Island next month, and the twisty rural roads around our new home would be ideal for a Miata.

2007 Jeep Wrangler Kijiji ad - Image: Kijiji

No.2: Jeep Wrangler
So much for that fun twisty-road driving. But what the Miata lacks in terms of a rear seat and winter usefulness — the Mazda would be garaged all winter — the Jeep makes up for with genuine four-wheel-drive capability. No, you don’t need four driven wheels. (We’ll be acquiring a new set of winter tires for the Odyssey this year.) But we are moving to a place where winters can be, shall we say, harsh.

A rear seat, a removable top, and traditional Jeep qualities? I’ll put up with a fiddly soft top and find some hardtop storage in exchange for that.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though I can afford a post-2012 Pentastar, and I don’t want to go older than the current JK.

2006 BMW 325ci Kijiji ad - Image: Kijiji

No.3: Something German
The Audi TT, BMW Z3, and Mercedes-Benz SLK are all just a little too cute for me. But the E46 3 Series is my favourite BMW 3 Series generation, and a useable rear seat certainly enhances its appeal.

Finding one with a manual transmission isn’t easy. I also have long-term maintenance cost concerns. But these cars are gorgeous, drive like BMWs used to drive, and are shockingly affordable.

No.4: Off The Board
The problem with spending every spare moment scanning the automotive classifieds? You’ll find things.

You’ll find a Land Rover LR3 with 186,000 miles for USD $3,000. Anticipated annual maintenance: $3,000.

Then there are the Passat Wagons that would serve utterly no purpose as the second vehicle in a minivan-owning family. Passat Wagons do look good, though.

Kijiji car ad screenshots - Images: Kijiji

Keep scrolling and you’ll find hilariously inexpensive Mazda RX-8s that will likely drink more oil than my new furnace. I love Volkswagen Golf GTIs. Minis are fun. So too are those Acura RSXs you see advertised with all sorts of engine swap code names. “I took out the EA87#47b and installed a *III427c for better power and reliability.”

But wait a second. I said I wanted top down motoring. Am I really going to forsake my own wishlist?

My choice has already been made. But now you get to tell me, right to my face, how badly I screwed up.

Timothy Cain is the founder of and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

67 Comments on “What Car Did I Buy? Droptop Desires Got The Better Of Me, It’s Time To Supplement The Family Minivan...”

  • avatar

    Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet, right?

  • avatar

    You seem deviant enough to buy a Saab.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I enjoy knowing the answer to the inquiry.

    *Devious laughter*

    Tim didn’t buy what I had suggested.

  • avatar

    MR2 Spyder.

    Lighter than a Miata, tossable on a back road, Toyota reliability meets affordable mid-engine fun.

    Plenty of nice examples available (at least in the US) within a $10k budget, but rare enough you’re unlikely to see another one on the road.

    Non existent storage space is the biggest demerit but with a minivan in the garage that’s much less relevant.

  • avatar

    Pontiac solstice!

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      A Sky Red Line tempted me, just within budget. Then I remembered driving one at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds and thinking the structure wasn’t solid enough to make it through the day.

      I still think the Sky is stunning, however.

      • 0 avatar

        I would say S and S twins as well. The Solstice I drove seemed more solid then the last Miata I drove. (both Circa 2009)

      • 0 avatar

        Wise choice. I owned a Sky RL for a while. Other than the power bump and it being a very pretty car, there is not one single thing that car did better than than the MX-5 I traded it in on.

        That said, I’m guessing the answer, for you, was Miata, as it was for me.

  • avatar

    Leftover Eos? 500 convertible?

  • avatar

    Just pennies per serving

  • avatar

    PT Cruiser convertible with the 215hp turbo? Peak dork makes it an great sleeper, and I assume resale is abysmal.

  • avatar

    Seems like the obvious choice, not listed here, is some kind of Mustang convertible. Four seats, manuals should be easy to find, and there are always more Mustangs being built, so the older used ones lose value pretty quickly. Parts and maintenance should be cheaper than any German car, so the total cost of ownership isn’t going to be very high once you sell it.

    If you can live with two seats, the Miata is a great choice. I bought a 2000 SE a few weeks ago, and I’m enjoying it. It definitely doesn’t feel as fast as the ’09 I used to have, but it’s still fun and maneuverable. After looking at many NB Miatas over the past few months, I paid under $5K for a well-cared for car with under 85K miles on it. Most similarly used Miatas of that vintage, with that mileage, were going for $1,000 more. And I like that the SE has a 6-speed instead of the 5-speed. I’m also a big fan of the wooden steering wheel/shifter.

    • 0 avatar

      “so the older used [Mustangs] lose value pretty quickly.”

      It does if its a 6 cyl. I bet you could find a Fox body 5.0L that would be out of Tim’s budget. If it has eight cylinders, it’ll hold its value decently. Especially if you’re a “mature” owner (who presumably didn’t abuse it…too much).

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, definitely couldn’t get much V8 at these prices. Maybe something New Edge.

      • 0 avatar

        My Foxy ’91 GT Convert 5.0, 5-Speed is worth more now than when I bought it 5 years ago. I have been offered $6K more than my purchase price. Triple white with red accents, 30,000 original miles. Word at auctions and Fox Clubs is that the Fox Mustangs look like they will appreciate nicely over the next 10-20 years. There is growing interest in them.

        • 0 avatar

          Of course Fox bodies are appreciating. Now I nearly have the money to buy one at five years ago prices! Basketcases are cheap, decent ones are 8-12k depending on what trim it is. “Showroom leftovers” are 20k and up.

          There was an ’84 I had looked at, it was reasonable, as there’s less love for the “four-eyed” cars. But I like the 87-93 cars better for many reasons and I’ll find one yet at a price I want to afford. I’m partial to the cleaner style of the LX cars, but I’d get the right GT if it showed up.

          One of my formative car experiences was sitting in an 87 or 88 dark blue GT ‘vert with white interior while my Dad shopped for a new Ranger.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      I just couldn’t do a V6 Mustang. The newer ones are great. The very new ones are terrific. But on the desirability meter, which is 75% of this equation, they weren’t doing it for me. And the post-2004 V8s weren’t in the budget.

  • avatar

    C5 Corvette Z06 comes to mind. You can find them in the states for $10-15k pretty easily now. Last generation of pop-up headlights.

    Or you just go Miata. I would go NC hardtop because of your climate.

    • 0 avatar

      Beware of 10k and less vettes. My father bought a late c4 manual convert even after skipping over many other sub 10k cars he though he got a good one for 8k, ended up needing all kinds of fixes the previous owner hacked. Looks good thou.

  • avatar

    Some quirky JDM RHD vert?

  • avatar

    JEEP sounds like the most practical and fun….for what you listed.

    Why not trade the Honda in on a big sunroof Pacifica?

    Myself, I have a Grand Caravan (penstar) and a Consulier targa! Love both.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d go with a Jeep. Most are street queens anyway. A base Wrangler comes with pathetic street radials so if it looks like it is still on OEM rubber, you know that the thing has never seen anything more than a gravel driveway.

      The Jeep can easily be driven all year round. A Miata is a fair weather friend as are most convertibles.

  • avatar

    8K CAD is $5,874 USD. So 6K for an old ass Miata with a gajillion miles?

    Seller needs to cut back on the substance abuse.

    I thought 2K before checking, and as usual I was close:

    MY01 Mazda Miata MX5 CONV base

    5/10/17 $1,600 191,685 – – 4G/M Green Regular Midwest Milwaukee
    5/9/17 $1,500 109,925 – – 4G/A Red Regular Southeast Pensacola
    4/27/17 $2,000 116,515 2.7 4G/5 Silver Regular Northeast Fredericksburg
    4/13/17 $1,400 121,071 1.9 4G/5 White Regular Southeast Palm Beach
    4/6/17 $3,500 66,904 2.2 4G/5 Green Regular Northeast Fredericksburg
    4/5/17 $4,900 52,843 – – 4G/M Silver Regular Northeast New Jersey
    4/5/17 $1,600* 53,620 2.7 4G/5 Green Regular West Coast Seattle

    Buy a Miata? Sure, just don’t go over $3K USD for something seventeen years old. Buy it in States and drive home if you must, I cannot see how it will cost you the roughly 3K USD difference.

    Way I see it, when looking at cheaper convertibles you’re looking at C4 Corvette (C5 has weirdness), Mustang, Lex SC430, Miata, Chryco Sebring, and Pontiac G6 hardtop conv (this really is a good choice believe it or not). Anything else is asking for a headache.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought that was outrageous when I saw it. Even if the value wasn’t highly inflated, I can’t see paying that for something you’ll only use a very few months out of the year.

    • 0 avatar

      I am surprised the Sebring is on your list of decent examples. I see them all the time, neglected and broken down. The 2.7L is garbage, I don’t know if they had an I-4 on the converts, but it was not a pillar of smoothness and reliability in the other contemporary corporate crapbox they stuck it in. They don’t drive that well, either. Its more than just being a convertible really, I’ve driven other converables for reference. Its just junk.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m going to assume you sussed out a nice Wrangler and made the compromises.

    But to be fun I’ll say a US imported Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder

  • avatar

    S2000? I don’t fit but I like.
    Audi TT, no fan of VAG but the TT calls to me.
    Chrysler Crossfire cheap MB.
    Volvo C70

    Wrangler is likely the most reasonable choice.

  • avatar

    HA!!! What an amazing topic, it is near EXACTLY where i am at.

    Saab wagon has done family duty and is my DD, wife now drives X3 which does family duty. Will run the Saab into the ground but then will by something stupid, I did own an Alfa Giulia Coupe when i was 19 so I can do stupid as good as anyone.

    Details: Transplanted aussie in Toronto so the idea of a drop top appeals but damn, how crap is the weather. First desire is for power, ideally 400+HP, vert would be nice but must have a back seat. Budget closer to $30K Canadian.

    My initial idea was the old X1, which handles really well, looks good with some tyre profile to help with compliance and the 35i with a legit stage 2 mod will bring a mountain of torque and just over 400HP to the table whilst weighing in around 1500KG.

    But drop top.

    One automatically goes Mustang but … meh. Audi S5 vert? 2010ish M3 vert?

    Not sure.

  • avatar

    An old Porsche Boxster? Mid engined, convertible, German, and $10k theoretically possible.

    • 0 avatar

      There is a TTACer who just sold one too….

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah a 986 Boxster is definitely in this price range, at least here in California. I just looked at a bunch in the past month. Though a good majority of them seem have been trashed by their 3rd owner at this point.

      • 0 avatar

        a non-S 986 can probably be had closer to $5k now, I’ve been seeing S models in the $10k with ‘got driven’ mileage on them. I’d still be wary of anything that hadn’t had IMS surgery from that generation though.

  • avatar

    I thought S2000 too, but an S2k under $10k CDN would be rough. Prices are apparently rising for nice S2ks. NB Miata or Wrangler are both appealing for different reasons. The NB is the best looking Miata IMHO. Import from US may well be worth the extra effort. Hurry up and tell us what you pulled the trigger on…

  • avatar

    Because I owned several convertibles and realized that I don’t like convertibles, I say you bought something else. My off the wall guess – Audi TT Coupe!

  • avatar

    M-B W209 Cabriolet.

  • avatar

    Nobody yet has suggested Toyota Solara, so… there it is.

  • avatar

    Geo Metro Convertible? j/k

  • avatar

    Nissan Z convertible?

    Most people would buy the Wrangler, never venture further off pavement than a campground, and hate the on road manners of the Jeep the whole time.

  • avatar

    What’s wrong with “Dwayne”? I named my kid Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Smith and it suits her just fine.

  • avatar

    Lexus SC430 with a gajillion miles.

  • avatar

    04 to 07 MINI CooperS cabro put the JCW mods (the after market version ) on it for about 210HP of toss about the back roads fun with the top down…
    the early version with the Supercharged engine is great avoid the newer turbo model.

    • 0 avatar

      Mini Cooper S Cabrio is a great choice. A friend bought an earlier supercharged one and is very happy with it. Found it quite fun to drive when I got a chance to drive it.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m the one with the MCS that Kato mentioned above. Mine’s an ’07 and I’ve had it for about 2.5 years now.

        I have a set of Winter tires on rims and drive it year round – it’s fine in most Winter weather, but when it’s really nasty I use the Subaru.

        Although the trunk in the cabrio is minuscule, the back seat area can be used for extra luggage space. My wife and I did a week long camping trip in the MCS last Summer and weren’t short of space. I also managed to get my road bike in the MINI for a weekend trip, although I had to take the wheels off and pack carefully. It was worth the extra effort packing to be able to drive through the Rockies in the Summer with the top down.

        Although having a back seat wasn’t a consideration when I bought the car, I’m surprised how often I’ve used it – probably upwards of half a dozen times per year. I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to a long trip back there, but it has come in handy occasionally for short trips.

        So far I’ve been lucky with reliability – the only unscheduled repair has been a $12 relay that I bought for $34 at the local BMW dealer and swapped out myself. Other than that, it’s been only maintenance items like oil and filters. I was lucky enough to find a low mileage car that had been well kept which no doubt helps.

        Kato’s s2000 is a nicer car, but the MINI is a fun daily driver that’s surprisingly easy to live with year round.

  • avatar

    If anything, Tim seems to be a balanced guy, and the Miata and Odyssey maintains that dynamic.

    I also learned something here today: don’t name your Outlander Dwayne.

  • avatar

    Whatever you decide to buy, be sure and invest in good sunglasses, wear a hat, and use sunscreen.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    We have my Dad’s 2006 Mustang GT convertible. Red with the manual, natch. At his current gig of being dead he has little use for it. It used live at my brother’s house but since he tired of driving it his wife got mad about it taking up a spot in the car-hole – and now I have it. Foisted upon me, in truth. We have an Equinox; an F-150 Screw; and a CTS-V. The poor Mustang sits idle and unwanted for all of the months it should be driven. Go ahead and buy a ragtop: it will likely be your last convertible purchase and you shall rue it upon taking the guaranteed bath while selling the car you only put the roof down in thrice.

  • avatar

    I’ve been to PEI quite a few times but never in the winter. I’ve heard of the snow they get there. Most of the cars mentioned above will stay in the garage from mid November to May. In a perfect world with limitless funds and big climate controlled garages, sure those cars are nice. For PEI, Jeep Wrangler. Top down motoring at Cavendish Beach and survival driving in January.

  • avatar

    NC Miatas, Honda S2000, BMW Z4, TT Roadster Quattro, Volvo C70 would have been on my list.

  • avatar

    Since I own one, I’d go for the E46. It was a high point in BMW styling, build quality and driving dynamics, and as a result they hold their value if kept in good shape. All the weak points are known quantities and mostly easy to DIY. E46s are also bread and butter cars to any BMW specialist so if you don’t DIY it’s not hard to maintain either.

    I owned a Sebring convertible before the E46, not remotely comparable. The Sebring’s trunk is bigger and it was cheaper, in all other aspects the E46 is miles ahead (including the oft-overlooked aspect of top-up wind noise on the highway)

  • avatar

    FWIW I just helped my 78yr old father buy a 2005 CLK55 AMG convertible.
    60k miles, just needed new tires and refurbed rims (the spokes on the AMG front rims stick out WAY past the sidewall….) to be essentially cherry.
    $13k incl TT&L, plus another $1k for Sumitomo tires and new-looking rims.
    I don’t like the 5-sp transmission much (getting a TCU tune next week that should help) but it’s a hell of lot of car for the money. Plus the back seats are actually almost usable for 2 adults.
    Cost about $80k new.

    If you can’t find a CLK55, CLK500 or CLK550 is also a good choice.

  • avatar

    I’m also suffering from the nearing 40 and want a convertible syndrome. My Dad has a 2011 BMW 328 PRHT and it’s a very nice car. I’d have gone for the 335, but he found it 2 years ago with only 11k on it. White with I think every option, it’s an automatic. Very quiet on the highway, even with the runflats, the ride is fine. But maybe because my parents have one now, it’s too “old man’ for me. Maybe a 335 or M3 droptop?

    I want my next car to be “fun within reason”. It must have 4 seats to justify its existence. I was considering an SS, but my Cruze has soured me (again) to most anything GM offers, especially at 40k+. My budget, limited garage space and fiscal sanity will not allow for a garage queen at that price either, so I’ve dialed back what I want.

    My list right now:

    -Fiat 500 Abarth cabrio: New ones are still a bit dear considering the bath one will take on depreciation, but there would be a warranty to cover FCA’s ills for a few years. 2-3 year old cars can be found with less than 15k (many times less than 5k) miles for almost half the cost of new (especially before FCA hacked the prices.)

    There’s a ’17 in an interesting grey color with a grey roof that’s at a CJD dealer in a hillbilly/college town 3 hours from home that I’ve taken a liking too. It looks way out of place with all the lifted Jeeps and Rams, may have to check it out sooner than later.

    I drove a leftover GQ edition and liked it a lot, but an extended drive would be necessary to determine taking one home, new or used.

    – Mini Convertible(Clubman if I don’t do a convertible): I’ve always liked them, but mixed reviews on livability and reliability have kept me away. Plus the sticker prices are way inflated. But it would satisfy 4 seats and a droptop.

    – 1 or 2 series convertible. Low mile cars can be had for 15k or so, depending on age and miles of course.

    – Audi A4 or A5 convertible. A bit softer than the 1/2 series, but with much of the same desirability.

    – Fox Body Mustang convertible 88-93 in either LX or GT form. The new Mustangs are nice, but I just don’t see myself in one. Camaro has never interested me, especially in “mobile bunker” form now.

    An older “survivor” convertible. A ’92 Infiniti M30 showed up on CL near me for 3k with low miles. A purchase price under 5k would be inexpensive enough to buy and get a hardtop something for a daily driver, but that would mean lots of driveway/garage space I don’t have.

    • 0 avatar

      Test drive a CLK convertible, 2004-2008.
      See post above yours about the CLK55 my dad just bought.
      I was very impressed with the solidity and suspension balance, not so much the 5-sp auto trans but the newer ones have a 7-sp (CLK550 has as much power as the AMG as well) that should be better.
      As a long time BMW fan I was surprised how much I like the car.

      • 0 avatar

        Fits the four seats and interesting profile. Cheap enough now mostly to stash money for inevitable “part made from unobtanium” repair. I’ll have to lurk some owners forums. Thanks.

        • 0 avatar

          Another option I’ve kicked around: 996 (1999-2004) 911 Cabrio. There’s a few around me, one dealer (large dealer) and private owner. PO car is AWD, dealer car isn’t.

          It ticks all my boxes, I’ve always wanted one and prices are about what I’d pay for anything listed in my first post.

          Downfalls are that the 996 isn’t well regarded, the interior isn’t pretty and looks cheap. And that it’s still going to be a 12-15 year old car and one that was pricey when new, so parts/repairs are a factor.

  • avatar

    Smart Fortwo convertible?

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Aussie V8: Yes, correct. The Tri-matic was released in 1970 for the very last of the HTs. The 308 and 253 V8s could...
  • Aussie V8: I said that he didn’t mention GM usage outside of North America. Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Ferrari are...
  • ToolGuy: What you describe is exactly how my spouse’s 2010 RAV4 2.5L does it. 400-ish bucks for the front...
  • Tstag: A shortage of Lithium just means that ICE cars will go for longer and that many of the brands listed above...
  • nrd515: I live near several assisted living type places. Hell, I’m almost there the way I’m going...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber