The lure of a convertible can become irresistible: the thrill of dropping the top, hitting a back road somewhere, feeling the wind tousle your hair as the car builds speed; maybe you are the only car on the road — your favorite road…
Maybe the sun is just peeping over the horizon, coming out to welcome you as you scythe through the landscape. It’s an experience like no other.
A car with no roof makes the driving experience so much more exciting — your senses are initially assaulted before they adjust to unfamiliar levels of input.
Drivetrain noise is increased, as of course is your ability to hear the engine. You can even hear the subtle changes in the exhaust note as the engine speed changes.
You hear the wind rushing through trees overhead, smell the flora and fauna by the side of roads, pick up little bits of conversation as you trickle through the city.
Convertibles open up (if you’ll pardon the pun) a whole new world and luckily it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s our selection of the best convertibles for under $20,000.
Porsche 911 (996)
Surprised? The 996 911 has entered the realm of the affordable, and surely represents tremendous value at under $20,000.
The first of the water-cooled 911s, these cars have strong performance and a strong image (if that’s your thing).
A great interior, cruising ability, and acceleration that’ll pin you back in your seat make this a good addition to your shopping list.
Chevrolet Corvette (C5)
Produced from 1997 to 2004, these Corvettes are comfortably under $20,000.
Great performance from that 5.7-liter V8 (356lb ft of torque and 345 horsepower, increasing to 350 horsepower in 2001) means you will make quick and easy work of any long-distance trips.
It’s not the most beautiful car ever penned, but it cuts a dash on the road.
The big sixer is a well-made, comfortable, sporty and fast creation.
It may take you a bit of time to get used to its looks (they’re not for everyone) but make no mistake, this is a capable machine.
There are many engine sizes to choose from, but the models we are looking at are the 645 and 650.
These motors are creamy and smooth, but the car will pick up its skirts and exceed speed limits quicker than you can say ‘achtung’.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Ah, the evergreen Miata! Well, you know it had to be on this list somewhere, right?
At around $20,000, you can have a nearly-new Miata. It’ll be the last-generation model, but this is no bad thing.
If you’re not bothered about the ability to blow other cars into the weeds, and instead just want a convertible you can have fun in at modest speeds, then the MX-5 is ideal.
Okay, it may have a ‘hairdresser’ image, but it’s really an astonishingly capable driver’s car.
A sweet motor, slick gearbox and a superb suspension set-up combine to make a wonderful package.
Plus, it’s a Mazda, so you can count on it being reliable.
For $20,000, you could bag yourself an SL500 or SL550 of pretty recent vintage.
Mercedes’ image suffered in the 1990s due to their quality control cuts, but they’ve been back on the money these last ten years or so.
These are not aggressive cars; they are effortlessly cool and classy. It seems uncouth to hustle a car like this — instead, just waft along and relax…
As long as you get one that’s been looked after, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Or, if you’re after a classic, how about an SL from the 1970s or 1980s?
Simple, angular styling and a solid interior, along with some cracking motors…
Mini Cooper S
The Mini is, you could argue, more of a fashion statement than anything else, but it’s still a lot of fun and handles very well for a front-wheel drive car.
The interior is quirky and build quality is good. The newer Minis are certainly a step up in quality.
In this price bracket, we’re looking at cars that are 3 or 4 years old, so you should be on to a winner. Try not to go for a ‘unique’ colour or spec, as this can make these cars tricky to sell on.
The performance from the 4-cylinder motor will never set the world alight (you’ve got 180 horsepower and around the same number for torque), but you will be pleasantly surprised by how quickly the car gathers pace.
It’s not what you would call elegant, but it’s pretty cute. This is a car that will cheer you up when you’re feeling blue.
Chevrolet Camaro SS
Fancy a 6.2-liter V8 with 426 horsepower? You could really tear up the streets in one of these beasts.
There’s a V6 model too, but we think we’d be suffering from buyer’s remorse if we went for that one…
An added bonus is you can pretend you’re driving Bumblebee from the Transformers movies (okay, he’s coupe, but it’s close enough).
Couldn’t leave the Mustang out in the cold! $20,000 or thereabouts will give you access to the GT V8 model with all the go to match the show.
And, because the Mustang has decent rear seats, you can even take three passengers on a thrill ride if you like!
Possibly the ultimate muscle car — certainly the most distinctive.
Take your pick from a first-generation XKR or a second-generation XK8.
If you are after a high-performance convertible, you’ll be in good hands with the XKR.
If, on the other hand, you are satisfied with more graceful progress, the XK8 could be just the ticket.
Sleek lines and a powerful motor make this a very compelling car — one you can buy with your heart way more than your head.
The interior is pretty cramped, so take one on a long drive to make sure it’s acceptable.
So there you have our votes. We’d love to hear about your favorite convertibles. What would be on your list?