I Need an Affordable Convertible With Back Seats! What Car Should I Buy?



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Image: Saab

Paul lives in New York state and has dreamed of owning a convertible for a long time. Now that he’s reached 40 years old, it’s time to make a move. The droptop needs seats for two small kids in the back, and only two pedals on the floor. With a $20,000 budget what car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here’s the scenario:

I have wanted to own a convertible my whole life. At 40 years old, I seem to have saved up enough money to do so. I have a wife, who supports this purchase but hates convertibles, and two kids (ages 5 and 8). Two-seaters are out because I need to be able to fit both kids at the same time. This will most likely be an extra car, used primarily for evening runs to the ice cream parlor and weekend errands and activities. I commute to NYC by bus, so if this turned into my daily driver I don’t drive that much. I have only ever owned Honda/Acura cars but since they do not make a convertible that meets my needs, its time to take the plunge and try something new. I would prefer something luxury-ish but I’m flexible. My budget is about $20,000 it also needs to be automatic.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $20,000

Daily Driver: Not really

Location: Upstate NY

Wants: Droptop, 4 seats, automatic transmission

Doesn’t want: A manual

Expert 1: Tom McParland — A VQ Victory!

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Image: Autotrader.com

Paul, as a fellow 40-ish-year-old dude, I can understand the desire to start checking off your automotive bucket list while you have the right balance of age and income. I’m not a convertible guy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a good open-air recommendation.

You mentioned something “luxury-ish,” and you have had good experiences with Japanese brands. I would suggest you target the Infiniti G37 convertible. The VQ series motor has a lot of punch, and these cars are pretty reliable as long as they haven’t been abused. The hardtop configuration is probably a bit more ideal for the winter months and the backseats are usable for your kiddos. With a $20,000 budget, you can find a few decent examples as long as you are willing to travel. Here is one in NJ with about 80,000 miles and you don’t have to spend your whole budget.

Expert 2: Bob Sorokanich — We Must ‘Stang

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Photo: Cars.com

Paul, I know my colleagues are going to be tempted to steer you toward some 10-year-old European drop-top. Avoid this. Embrace America. Get yourself a damn Mustang convertible.

Because even with an automatic and a giant hole where the chassis-stiffening roof should be, a Mustang is just a fun place to be. And for your budget, you can get a ‘Stang that’s about five years newer and 50,000 miles less abused than anything from The Continent. Check this one out: It’s a 2015 with less than 47,000 miles, in Totowa, NJ. A baby!

Now, our 2015 example here does have one accident reported, so you might have to call the dealer and see whether it was a biggie or a not-so-biggie. Or you could just peruse the literal hundreds of listings for convertible Mustangs available an hour’s drive from you. If you don’t mind going back to the fifth-gen Mustang, you’ll find lots of examples with reasonable mileage, priced well within your budget. If you’re not hungry for a manual or a big V8, you’ll have no trouble finding a reasonably priced ‘Stang that lived a pampered life as someone’s weekend car. Drop the top, pop on some Beach Boys, and have a great time.

Expert 3: Erin Marquis — You Deserve a High A5

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You seem to be thinking, “Oh this is our fun car for ice cream trips and summer cruising, it probably won’t even see a hint of snow.” This is a common reaction to a desire for a drop top, but I’m here to tell you that becoming the top-down-year-round family on your block should be your aim. This Audi A5 2.0T quattro Premium Plus Cabriolet fits the bill, as it is both functional and full of luxuries. It’s for sale in nearby New Jersey and though it’s a smidge above your price point, you may be able to wrangle the dealer down a tad. If not, consider that additional $1,888 as the price for luxury.

Luxury that includes heated seats and all-wheel drive, turning your summer pleasure cruiser into a year round delight. If it’s not actively snowing or raining, you could (and should) have the top down in all seasons. This example comes with the sport package, which gives you 12-way power front seats and drive style selection with a sports drive calibration that lowers the car 20 mm for more engaging handling. All of that is mated to a 211-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and a traditional eight-speed automatic transmission (non-quattros come with a meh CTV). Just because it’s automatic doesn’t mean the drive has to be boring, after all.

Despite being nearly a decade old, this A5 comes with all the bells and whistles you’d find on more modern vehicles. You get all the parking sensors, a back-up camera and Bluetooth as well, which are common now but were very big deals way back in 2013. And with only 60,716 miles on the odometer, you could enjoy this Audi for years to come. I ask you, why not drop the top in brisk winter weather? The kids will love it! And if they don’t, just drive fast enough so you can’t hear the complaining from the back seat. Just the winds of freedom and Christmas music in your ears.

Expert 4: Andy Kalmowitz — Aye, Gagootz! Buy a Cadillac

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Photo: We Be Autos Consignments

All the cars listed above are good, but none of them are a Cadillac. None of them have V8s the size of small planets and none of them scream “I LOVE NEW YORK AND ITALIANS” quite like it.

Just look at this masterpiece. It’s perfect, and its got plenty of room for your kids in the back. In fact, it’s so big, the Eldorado could probably fit your kids’ friends as well with room to spare.

This particular Eldo is consigned to a dealer out on Long Island, so it won’t even be a terribly long trip for you to get it (which you will because it’s perfect.) It’s in fairly good shape considering it was made all the way back in 1973 by people who really didn’t care that much. Hell. its got less than 120,000 miles on the clock. That’s really not too shabby.

No, it doesn’t have any of the modern-day convenience the other cars suggested here have, but it doesn’t matter even a little bit. There truly has never been a car better suited for cruising with the roof down with your family next to you than the Eldorado.

If you don’t buy it, I honestly might. That being said, if you do buy it, you’ll have to start going by Big Paulie. Though if Big Paulie is already taken in your friend group, you’ll have to be Little Paulie.

Expert 5: Kyle Hyatt — Geniuses Choose Saab

Swedish racing beige convertible parked in front of brick wall.

Yeah, it’s beige on beige, but it’s got 31k miles.
Photo: Autotrader

Now, while my well-meaning coworkers have thrown out some decidedly reasonable options to solve your convertible conundrum, I have to say that they’re all wrong. That’s because none of them picked the Saab 9-3 convertible. It’s the perfect car for you.

Saab introduced the 9-3 ‘vert in 1998 to the delight of college professors, dentists and well-to-do suburban interior designers everywhere. The model continued through two updates and finished up in 2013. The car was generally available with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which, in typical Saab fashion, punched above its weight class and could be had with a manual or (more relevant to your interests) an automatic. It’s got a typically quirky-but-quality interior with the ignition switch mounted near the shifter and nice comfy front seats with back seats that can hold actual full-grown humans.

It may seem weird or sketchy to buy a car from a dead brand, but there are still tons of Saab specialists all over the country who can help you keep what is ultimately already a well-built and sensibly engineered car on the road.

The best part is that you can probably pick up two really nice examples of the 9-3 convertible in any of the generations for your $20,000 budget, and they’re still common enough to make finding one nice and easy. Or you can just buy this one in glorious beige on beige with just a hair over 31,000 miles and get ready to enjoy being sunburned — a lot.

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