With warmer weather approaching, the call of the open road is heard in many drivers’ ears. Although that old minivan is great through snow and hauls the kids like no one’s business, there’s plenty to be said for a good, spirited little sports car with a drop-top roof to make those summer evening jaunts to the ice cream parlor something really special. Need to keep your ride on the cheap, though? No problem. These cars have been around long enough that there are plenty of them in good condition on the secondary market.
1999-2004 Ford Mustang
After shedding some of its rounded, import-like appearance, the Mustang regained some of the appeal that it had lost through the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although not as desirable as the ’05 and newer Mustangs, there’s an added bonus: These Mustangs can be had cheap. Numerous special editions are available, many at less than $10,000 for examples with between 80,000 -100,000 miles.
1992-1998 Honda Del Sol
Although not a convertible in the strictest sense of the word, the Del Sol’s targa top is easier to care for on used cars. In addition, the car’s basic underpinnings are still that of the Civic, one of the most reliable and long-lived cars in the world. If you plan to purchase one, though, keep in mind that these cars are relatively popular with auto customizers, both those who know what they’re doing, and those who don’t.
1995-2005 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
With either a four or six cylinder engine, the Eclipse was in equal measure both a sporty and economical car. With the top down, these cars have relatively good rear seat space, just in case you want to bring the kids along for the ride. A choice of manual or automatic transmission can be found with both engine sizes. Another popular choice with customizers, beware of cars that are significantly altered from their original configuration.
1989-2005 Mazda Miata
Mazda’s venerable Miata belongs on just about any “best cars” list. It is light and quick, just the way a fun to drive convertible should be. It’s front engine/rear drive layout provides excellent weight distribution, and the four-cylinder engine is both gutsy and economical. Additionally, since many of these cars were purchased specifically with summer driving in mind, many older model years are still in excellent condition, having spent their winters garages.
1993-2002 Chevrolet Camaro
Like the Mustang, the Camaro underwent a major styling upheaval prior to the introduction of the latest generation car. This left the previous generation in the unenviable position of being the undesirable older sibling. The benefit is that this brought down the price of all the late 1990s Camaros, convertibles included. With a choice of either a V6 or V8 engine and either a manual or automatic transmission, the Camaro is as versatile as it is easy on the eyes.
Kelly Blue Book: Used Car Price Guide; www.kbb.com
Edmunds: Used Car Guide; www.edmunds.com