By Suzanne Kane

Top down, wind riffling your hair, tunes blaring as you take corners with ease, supremely confident in your convertible’s sure-footedness, powerful engine, and fairly respectable fuel economy – what a picture! Trying to put you behind the wheel of a brand new convertible, however, might just be out of the picture. There is a solution. Consider buying used.

We’re not talking decrepit used. The key to buying used is to stick within the last few model years –  nothing more than 5 or 6. The closer you can buy to the latest model year, generally speaking, the better off you are. For the top 3 best used convertible cars listed here we’ve headed back to the experts: Consumer Reports, Edmunds, U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Guide and a few others. Sorting through the likes and dislikes, and trying to get past the under $25,000 or super-exotics costing $100,000 or more, here are our top 3 Best Used Convertible Cars:

  • Mazda gives the 2002-2007 Mazda Miata its top choice in its 2009 Used Car Best Bets list, and for mazda_miatagood reason. Consider Miata’s “ultraresponsive and communicative steering, an exuberant engine and a manual transmission with short, precise throws” and “great reliability” and “frugal fuel usage,” and you know right away why Edmunds says Miata has “affordable all-around automotive athleticism.” Cons for the 2009 model: snug for larger adults, no high-performance engine option and electronic stability control only available on high-end trim. The 2009 Mazda gets the U.S. News Best Car for the Money Award in the sports car class, with its “satisfying handling dynamics,” and “impressive build quality and value over time.” And Consumer Reports, in its 2009 Best of the Best list, rates Miata number one, touting its “slick shifter, nimble handling and good performance.”
  • Honda S2000U.S. News & World Report ranks the 2009 Honda S2000 #2 out of 8 Affordable Sports Cars due to its “visceral power and track-oriented handling.” That, and the fact that it’s great to look at. Cons include stiff suspension and cramped cabin but, guess what, it’s a convertible! Edmunds says the S2000 “holds its own with costlier German and American rivals on twisty roads,” but bemoans the convertible’s “dearth of amenities and aging design.” Consumer Reports places the S2000 in its “other good choices” for sports and sporty cars in its 2009 Best of the Best.
  • Ford MustangDear to the hearts of sports car aficionados – especially those who appreciate American muscle car heritage – the Ford Mustang makes it to the list of top 3 Best Used Convertible Cars. Consumer Reports tags the Mustang (with V-6 engine) as one of consumers’ “other good choices” in the sports and sporty cars category for 2009 Best of the Best. Edmunds hails the “retro-themed, All-American sports car” Ford Mustang as one of its 2009 Top Recommended Convertibles. Edmunds editors further say Mustang remains “one of the best bang-for-your-buck performance buys.” U.S. News & World Report praises Mustang’s “powerful engine, retro design and stellar crash results.” Pros include aggressive street performance, quality and cost of ownership, while cons include overall refinement.

Other used convertible cars worth a look include the BMW 1-Series and 3-Series, Porsche Boxster and 911, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, Pontiac SolsticeVolkswagen Eos and New Beetle, Nissan 350Z, Saturn Sky, Toyota Camry Solara, Lexus SC and Audi TT.

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