Topless fun: How to buy a convertible on a budget

couple in convertible

Related Stories

Just as Britons are the fastest to expose their flesh when the thermometer touches 20C, so they are among the greatest enthusiasts for convertible cars.

It seems they are even more likely to buy a convertible than the fashion-conscious French, or the car-crazy Italians, even though both countries have a far better claim on sunshine.

Nevertheless, the popularity of convertible cars, or soft-tops, has been falling in the UK since new purchases peaked in 2004.

Yet gone are the days of damp seats, excessive wind noise and a heavy insurance premium.

So is now the time to "slip in to something more convertible", as one advertisement suggestively invites us?

Tips when buying a convertible

couple in convertible car in 1950s
  • Buy in the autumn or winter, when prices are lower
  • Buy a standard colour, such as white
  • Buy a car that has low depreciation
  • Consider a classic car too

And more to the point, can anyone on a modest income actually afford one?

'Head and heart'

Now is the time of year when the urge to feel the wind and the sun on your face begins to insinuate itself.

You imagine motoring through glorious British countryside, pausing only to picnic in fields of bright yellow rapeseed, or by a flowing mountain stream.

And it is for that reason that now is precisely the wrong time of year to buy a convertible.

On the basis of supply and demand, soft-tops are now at their most expensive.

Even new ones are likely to be cheaper around Christmas, when dealers will often have a sale to get rid of stock.

"I wouldn't buy a convertible now," says Philip Nothard of the car data provider CAP.

"I'd wait until October. It's head and heart," he says.

Most customers do the opposite, of course, buying in the spring and selling in the autumn.

The true costs of convertible motoring

Model Price (£) Fuel cost(£) Service costs (£) Depreciation (£) Total cost per month (£)

Fiat 500C






Smart Fortwo Cabrio






Citroen DS3 Cabrio






Mini Convertible






VW Beetle Cabriolet






Audi A3 Cabriolet






VW Golf Cabriolet






Mazda MX-5 Convertible






Vauxhall Cascada Convertible






BMW Z4 Roadster






Source: CAP. Based on three years' ownership, 12,000 miles a year


Start Quote

couple in sports car

If you like that wind in your hair stuff, why not just turn on the air conditioning?”

End Quote Motor industry expert

CAP has worked out the 10 cheapest convertibles to run on a monthly basis, taking depreciation, servicing, maintenance and fuel economy into account.

Their calculations are based on three years' ownership, doing 12,000 miles a year, and excludes diesel versions.

They found the key expense is not just the purchase price, but how much you get back when you come to sell it: the depreciation.

For that reason, buyers are also advised to choose a standard colour, such as white, which is more popular in the second-hand market.

And the cheapest new convertible to buy is not necessarily the cheapest car to drive.

So the Fiat 500C is the second cheapest on the list, but it is the most economical to run.

Furthermore, insurance costs may not be as high as you think.

Using the example of a teacher living in North London, insuring a Fiat 500C can cost as little as £19 a year more than a conventional car.

Insurance companies do not penalise soft-top owners specifically, unless a particular model is prone to theft.

"In many cases, a convertible car may cost less to insure than a regular vehicle," said a spokesman for Admiral insurance.

Ben Speak in 1966 E type Jaguar Ben Speak says many convertibles, like this 1966 E Type, do not depreciate
Air con

An alternative to buying a new soft-top is to go for a classic, old-fashioned model.

And while classic cars are likely to cost more in terms of maintenance and servicing, they can be just as economical overall.

While new cars always depreciate over time, classic cars can often do the opposite.

Ten years ago, a Mercedes SL Pagoda would have sold for about £40,000. Now it is worth up to £100,000.

"You're not going to make loads of money, but you're not going to lose money," says Ben Speak, sales director for the restoration company Hilton and Moss.

For those on a budget, he recommends an MGB Roadster, which can cost as little as £10,000 and is relatively cheap to service.

"It's not the preserve of city boys and bankers," he says.

But convertibles do not suit everyone of course, especially if you like your comforts.

As one motor industry expert put it: "If you like that wind in your hair stuff, why not just turn on the air conditioning?"

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories


BBC Business Live

    NINTENDO LOSS 09:20:
    Nintendo characters

    Videogames giant Nintendo reports a £57m net loss for the April-June quarter. Higher costs are to blame. Sales were down by 8.4%.


    Barclays Bank is currently top of the risers on the FTSE 100. Its share price is up 3.3% at 226.30p, so it looks like investors are responding positively to its half year results. They've a way to make up though. Shares are about 30% down compared with last year. Earlier, boss Antony Jenkins told Today: "We are ahead of the targets we have set and in the next few quarters the market will reflect this in the share price." It's made a start.

    PETS PROFITS 08:50:
    People and pets

    Stock market debutant Pets at Home has released its first trading update. It covers the 12 weeks to 17 July. Like-for-like sales are up 4.1%. Total revenue is 10.4% higher at £210.8m, driven, it says, by new store openings and strong food, accessories and services trade.


    The markets aren't up to much this morning - seems to be the Russia sanctions issue that's weighing things down. Currently:

    • The FTSE 100 is up 4 at 6811.36
    • Germany's Dax is up 9 at 9663.02
    • France's Cac 40 is down 6 at 4359.61
    • The Pound is down a touch at $1.693 and at 1 euro 26.3.
    ANA PROFITS 08:31:
    Japan scene

    Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) has reported a return to profits in the three months to June. The better result was thanks to expansion at a Tokyo airport and changes to its pension plan. Net profit came in at 3.5bn yen (£20m) against a loss of 6.6bn yen. Sales were 10% higher.

    BANKER BONUSES 08:24: Radio 5 live

    Shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, says the previous Labour government should have been tougher on bankers' bonuses. "Most of the criticism of the Labour government from the banking sector and the Conservative party was that we were much too tough on the banks. Now in retrospect, those criticisms were wrong because we should have been tougher," he tells 5 live. He points out that no one at the time was pressing them to crack down further.

    AMAZON INDIA Via Email Simon Atkinson Editor, India Business Report

    The editor of India Business Report in Mumbai emails: "Online shopping is still in its infancy in India but growing fast. The market's led by local players but Amazon is upping its presence - and today said it's investing $2bn in its India operations. But restrictions on e-commerce here mean it can't hold its own stock like it does in the UK and US. - for now at least it is only a 'platform' for others to sell through."

    BAT PROFITS 08:07:
    A pile of cigarettes

    Tobacco giant British American Tobacco reports a fall in profits to £2.6bn in the six months to 301 June from £2.9bn a year earlier. It blames the strength of the pound but revenue is also lower, down 10% to £6.8bn in the period. Volume - which measures the number of actual cigarettes sold - fell 0.4%.

    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:55: BBC Radio 4

    Back to Barclays profits for a moment as Antony Jenkins also tells Today that staff at his bank are changing their ways: "Staff at Barclays are fully behind what we're trying to do with our culture change programme." He says staff know this is not only "the right thing to do" but also the way to better profits.


    Regulator Ofgem has announced a cut in distribution charges that will mean a £12 a year average reduction in electricity bills. And, incidentally, offers us the opportunity to publish a nice picture of pylons.

    BANKER BONUSES 07:32: BBC Radio 4

    Barclays boss Antony Jenkins tells the Today programme his bank can already take action against mis-behaving bankers: "If someone has done something wrong and performed badly we have the right too claw the bonus back today."

    BARCLAYS PROFITS 07:27: BBC Radio 4

    Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays is on the Today programme: "These are an encouraging set of results... Our capital position has never been stronger."

    ITV PROFITS 07:27:

    ITV boss Adam Crozier says the broadcaster's "share of viewing" improved during its second quarter helped by the World Cup. He says he is confident of ITV's Autumn schedule of both new and returning drama and entertainment will help keep audience figures high. Meanwhile, ITV has benefitted from the economic recovery - specifically an improved advertising market.


    Investment bank income at Barclays fell 18%, reflecting a fall in customers. This follows allegations about malpractice in "dark pool" trading. Essentially, these are private stock markets and are the latest area of banking to be probed by regulators.

    ITV PROFITS 07:19:

    ITV says total external revenues rose 7% to £1.2bn in the six months to 30 June, while revenue from its online, pay and interactive TV unit was up 20% to £67m.

    Barclays logo

    More on Barclays: Statutory pre-tax profit was £2.5bn (2013: £1.7bn), reflecting the fact bank had to set aside another £900m for PPI redress Read the full release here.

    ITV PROFITS 07:10:
    ITV logo

    A strong set of numbers from broadcaster ITV this morning. Annual pre-tax profits are up 40% to £250m in the six months to 30 June compared with £179m for the same period last year.


    Barclays profit before tax is down 10% at £3.84bn.

    Iain Conn

    In all the excitement over bankers' bonuses we nearly forgot this. British Gas owner Centrica has succeeded in its pursuit of Iain Conn, confirming he will become its new chief executive from January 2015, succeeding Sam Laidlaw who is retiring. Mr Conn joins from BP where he has been chief executive, of BP's refining and marketing division,for the past seven years.

    BARCLAYS PROFITS 06:52: BBC Radio 4
    Pedestrians pass a branch of Barclays Bank in the rain in London

    Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets is talking to the Today programme about Barclays interim results - coming up imminently. He says the investment banking arm of Barclays is "not listening" to new boss Antony Jenkins who has been trying to clean up the bank's reputation and practices.

    Nissan car

    It's going to be a bank-heavy day today let's face it, but just to provide a break from all that, the government will be announcing changes in the law that will pave the way for driverless cars to take to Britain's roads next year. The government wants the UK to become a leader in developing the technology. In December, the Treasury said it would create a £10m prize to fund a town or city to become a testing ground for the cars.


    HSBC has told three Muslim organisations it will close their bank accounts. These are the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, a think-tank on Islamic issues called the Cordoba Foundation based in West London, and a Muslim charity in Bolton called the Ummah Welfare Trust, which works in 20 countries giving aid. HSBC says the decisions were "absolutely not based on race and religion".

    BANKER BONUSES 06:30: Radio 5 live

    More from Ms Mangwana on Wake Up to Money. She says the proposed seven year rule may be more about changing culture in banking and the way in which bankers view their bonuses. But she also points out bonuses are generally paid in tranches that vest over a number of years, already (commonly anything between three and five years). "That's the current formula and there are [already] mechanisms to reclaim those bonuses," she says.


    In case this happened too late for you, Twitter shares rocketed 30% on stronger-than-expected financial results. Revenue more than doubled in the second quarter. Shares rose to $50 in after hours trading. Still down on its high of $74.73, hit in December.

    BANKER BONUSES 06:10: Radio 5 live

    Samantha Mangwana, employment lawyer at Slater Gordon told Wake Up to Money seven years is a long time to hold a bonus and regulators may well find it difficult to reclaim money. It is highly likely bankers will have gone and spent the money already, she says, and have nothing that the Bank of England can reclaim.

    BANKER BONUSES 06:07: BBC World News
    Tom Stephenson

    Those new rules on bankers' bonuses are expected to recommend a claw-back period of seven years. Tom Stephenson from Fidelity Worldwide on BBC World News says they could have been tougher: "One of the suggestions was that bankers could be jailed for a significant fall in profits - that's quite something isn't it. Even so, being able to claw back bonuses for seven years is pretty draconian."

    06:02: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Good morning folks. It's looking like a busy day today. We also have trading updates from ITV and house builder Taylor Wimpey. As always you can get in touch via email at and on twitter @bbcbusiness

    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Welcome again to the Live page. We're going to be banking heavy. There's Barclays results - in about an hour - and later this morning the Bank of England will release new restrictions on bankers' bonuses, said to be the toughest in the world. We'll see.



From BBC Capital


  • A digger operated via an Oculus Rift and a controllerClick Watch

    Why controlling a heavy digger with a virtual reality helmet might improve safety

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.