Nothing on the open road quite matches the thrill of the wind rushing through your hair as you cruise down the highway in your spiffy, ultra-cool convertible.
Though a little heat in that chilly cabin wouldn't hurt once in a while. And … uh oh, is that rain on the horizon? Wait. Why is that bird hovering around?
Oh, man, how do you get this roof up again?
Convertibles are the wheels of summertime. But as awesome as top-down driving sounds — and, yeah, it can be pretty awesome when the conditions are right — drop-top drivers will tell you that there are some costs that come with the coolness.
So if you're looking to slip into a convertible, know what to expect.
1. Road noise
It stands to reason that, without the cocoon of a roof and windows, it's going to be louder in a convertible. It's the dark side of all that wind in your hair. In a 2011 study, researchers at the Department of Otolaryngology at St Louis University School of Medicine determined that speeds over about 55 mph "may result in noise exposure levels exceeding recommended limits, especially when driving with the convertible top open for prolonged periods."
Many convertibles are smaller cars with trunks that are practically nonexistent. Fit in a bag of golf clubs or two? A couple of suitcases? Forget about it in slick two-seat roadsters like, say, the Mercedes SL400, one of many luxury drop-tops whose trunk is almost filled when its hard-top is down. If you need a convertible with storage rather than studliness, look around. They often look more staid than sporty, but they're out there.
Improved body construction has made convertibles safer than ever, but they're still inherently more dangerous with the top down. Rollovers — though they account for less than 3 percent of all accidents, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — are a concern. Roll bars can protect occupants, and certainly with a hard-top up, convertibles are safer. But with the top down, there's nothing to hold in riders but seat belts. So wear 'em.
4. The elements
Maybe the best thing about going car topless is that feeling of freedom, that open-air euphoria. But that also means you get the wind, the cold, the sometimes unrelenting sun, the occasional surprise shower and the unwelcome present from that bird that's been following you. Add to that the usual grit and road grime that a top keeps out and you can have a mess in the cockpit. Keep a vacuum handy.
5. Insurance rates
Luxury convertibles, because of their high sticker prices, will cost more than your typical mid-sized sedan to insure. Soft tops will cost more to insure than than hard tops. (Why? Because they're easier to break into.) Sporty convertibles will cost more to insure than, say, a Volkswagen Beetle. So the cost of insurance, as always, is a factor in deciding whether to go with a convertible.
Deciding to buy a convertible is, in the end, a matter of personal choice. There's a lot to think about, much of it perhaps pulling you away from the dream of open-air driving.
But the idea of rolling down the highway in a beautiful drop-top, your arm on the window sill, blue sky above, fresh air all around, often trumps all. And that can be a beautiful thing.
Just make sure you consider everything. And keep an eye out for that bird.
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