If your preferred driving experience includes drop-top styling and wind in your hair, a convertible might be the ideal car for you. While all convertibles share the ability to retract their roofs, there are a lot of variables to consider before choosing the best convertible for you. For example, you could have a hardtop, soft-top, or targa-style roof. You could pick a foreign “spyder” or “cabriolet” (common European terms for convertibles) or stick with a domestic model, sporting either a mainstream or luxury nameplate based on your budget.
You might want front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, depending on your local climate. And while automatic transmissions have become dominant in today’s new car market, even in the convertible segment, you can still get a manual transmission in several convertible versions of popular new and used models. Engine choices range from fuel-efficient four-cylinders to turbo (or even twin-turbo) powertrains with supercar-like performance. With regard to space and seating capacity, your convertible preferences can span from an intimate two-seater sports car (or roadster) to a more spacious cabin with a back seat and room for four.
Be certain to consider all of these factors when identifying the right convertible for your motoring needs. Because this list focuses on mainstream open-top cars, with mainstream price ranges, you won’t find luxury convertibles from brands like Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Porsche on this list. Check out our Best Luxury Convertibles list to view those models.
Finally, we haven’t rated exotic or supercar models from companies like Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or McLaren, but you can find those brands in our vehicle listings.
Soft-Top Vs. Hardtop Vs. Targa:
While most aspects of choosing a convertible are self-explanatory, whether you should choose a soft, hardtop, or targa might not be as clear. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of each to help you decide which open-air system is best for you:
Soft-top convertibles take up less room when they are folded down, which allows for more cargo space. They also typically take less time to retract and offer a lower center of gravity and lighter weight. Because hardtops have more mechanical and electrical components, they are often more expensive than their soft-top counterparts.
Hardtop convertibles, also called “retractable hardtops”, are both quieter at high speeds and more weather-resistant, which is important to keep in mind if you don’t have a garage or if you reside in a colder climate. With a roofline nearly identical to their coupe counterparts, they are also safer in the event of an accident and are less prone to requiring a replacement top as they age, though their complex roof mechanisms can require expensive repair work if a problem develops.
While not technically a convertible, target roofs offer nearly the same open-air effect by providing a large roof panel that can be removed while the rear roof pillar (or “b-pillar”) remains in place. These panels can often be stored in a pre-determined location within the cabin or cargo area. Unlike most modern convertibles with a power-operated top, this is usually a manual process that may require two people.