Convertible 101: Six Things to Consider Before Driving One for the First Time

Enjoying the Convertible Experience 10 photos
Photo: Mark Mialik on Unsplash
BMW 1 Series ConvertiblePorsche 911 ConvertibleCruising with the Top DownMazda MX-5Porsche 911 ConvertibleMercedes-Benz 350 SL RoadsterJaguar E-TypeDriving a Convertible with SunglassesConvertible Wind Deflector
Driving a convertible is a unique experience that anyone should try at least once, but there are several drawbacks. If you’re looking to buy or rent one, but have no experience with these types of cars, here’s what you should keep in mind.
A couple of years ago, I visited the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes. It isn’t a small one by any means and there are many beautiful places to explore, so the first thing I did was rent a car. The initial plan was to get a Volkswagen Golf but once I got to the agency, I saw they had a great deal for an Eos, the Golf Mk V’s convertible sibling. I always wanted to drive one, so I filled in the paperwork, got the key, and took to the road.

While it was well worth it in the end, my lack of experience with convertibles made the first two days unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. So, if you’re planning to rent or buy one of these fantastic cars, here are some basic things you should keep in mind.

Learn how the top works - Before you go out there and cruise with the top down you have to know how it works. Tops can be operated either manually or electronically. While the latter system works similarly on most models and they fold up or down with the press of a button, manual tops can be a bit more complicated, especially on older cars.

If you’re buying a convertible, this will be among the first things you’ll learn but if you rent one for the first time, especially on a warm sunny day, you might pay less attention to this feature and hurry to go out there and drive.

Mercedes\-Benz 350 SL Roadster
Photo: Chase Baker on Unsplash
Regardless of the car and situation, take the time to understand how it works, when it’s safe to fold it up and practice a few times before you leave the dealership or rental agency.

Always buckle up - Apart from being illegal in most parts of the world, not wearing a seatbelt can have far worse consequences with no roof above your head in case of an accident. So, make sure that you and your passengers always buckle up, even if you’re driving for short distances.

A wind deflector is a must-have - Nearly all modern convertibles come with this accessory while others (like the Audi TT) have an electrically operated one incorporated into the bodywork, behind the seats. The deflector prevents air turbulence inside the cockpit and also reduces noise.

Driving a convertible without one can be an awful experience, especially at higher speeds so make sure the car you buy, or rent has one. The Eos I got didn’t and while I managed to brave the turbulence for the sake of finally driving such a car, my wife was less then thrilled as her hair was blowing forward. We eventually got back to the rental agency and the guy there gave us an aftermarket deflector which exponentially improved the driving experience.

Convertible Wind Deflector
Photo: SPBer on Wikimedia Commons
Have a pair of sunglasses at hand - Even in a normal vehicle, sunglasses improve visibility when the sun is out. In a convertible, they will also protect them from debris and insects, especially if you drive with the top and windows down. While the windshield will filter out most of them it does not offer total protection.

Apply sunscreen and cover your head - I mentioned earlier that my first two days driving a convertible were unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. One of them was my failure to apply sunscreen which led to some nasty sunburns on my nose, ears, and neck. If you don’t want to go through the same experience, apply sunscreen on all your exposed areas every two hours.

Covering your head is also a good idea. I recommend a baseball cap but make sure it fits tightly, especially if you’re taller as it could easily be blown away by the wind.

Never leave the car parked with the top down - Apart from thieves, there’s also another category of people who are attracted to parked open-top convertibles. Out of envy or pure stupidity, they will throw garbage in the first convertible they see so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Lifting the top will also protect the interior from the elements. If the car has a leather-upholstered cabin, you'll find it hard to sit down after leaving it exposed to the sun for a couple of hours with the top down. On the other hand, the weather can change, and it may start raining. This can cause serious damage to the interior and electronic components.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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