When the rains have moved on and the heat hasn't quite settled in yet, there's no better time to consider buying a convertible.
Prior to the recession, buying a convertible meant sinking your cash into a Fiat Chrysler (FCAU - Get Report) Sebring/200, a Jeep Wrangler or a higher-end luxury vehicle from BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz. Convertibles still cost more than their hard-top versions, but gas prices that are averaging $2.33 a gallon and 5 cents lower per gallon than they were at this time last year. For convertible buyers, that levels the playing field a bit.
In 2014, TrueCar looked into convertible buying habits and found that drivers in California, Florida, Texas, New York, and New Jersey were the most likely to buy them. Not surprisingly, folks in Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and Idaho who face short summer and cold winters are a bit less likely to take the plunge.
With vehicle sales up just 1.5% through June, according to MotorIntelligence, we aren't exactly surprised that folks would hold off on a convertible. Still, car buyers 35 to 54 years old and nearly 40% of the female car-buying public love the convertible and are forcing the industry to give them more options. However, there are just six convertibles on the road today that are capable of 30 miles per gallon or more -- and Tesla doesn't make any of them.
With U.S. fuel efficiency standards closing in on toward 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, as the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated, more fuel-efficient vehicles have become both more plentiful and less expensive. The average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold last year was 25.2 mpg, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. That's still less than halfway to the EPA and Department of Transportation's goal set back in 2012, but it beats the roughly 19 miles per gallon that the Department of Transportation measured for the same pool of vehicles in 1995. Convertibles by their very nature aren't all that efficient, but here are five under $35,000 that'll at least keep initial costs down.
2017 Volkswagen Beetle convertible
Starting price: $24,725
Miles per gallon: 25 city, 34 highway, 29.5 combined
The iconic Beetle dates back to World War II but, by the mid-1970s, other compact cars began encroaching on the Beetle's turf and Volkswagen was staring down bankruptcy. To right the ship, Volkswagen had to ditch the Beetle in favor of the Golf hatchback.
Thus began the more than 20-year absence of new Beetles from U.S. roads. By the time a New Beetle concept car surfaced in 1994, engineers had figured out how to put the engine up front, how to give it front wheel drive and a more spacious interior and make it look like an updated version of the original while giving it little tweaks like a flower vase in the dashboard. The current Beetle's power soft top, 6.3-inch touchscreen apps display, rearview camera, blind spot monitor and 210-horsepower turbocharged engine don't get the reception that accompanied the Beetle's comeback and spawned the "new futurism" of updated Mustangs and Camaros, but it's still just as sweet. Sadly, this is rumored to be the last year for Beetles, as young driver have no sentimental attachment to it and their Boomer parents now prefer this roadster.
2017 Chevrolet Camaro convertible
Starting price: $31,905
Miles per gallon: 20 city, 30 highway, 25 combined
Nearly 400 pounds lighter, a bit wider, lit in 24 colors and rocking a 6.2-liter V8 with 455 horsepower on the high end (even the four-cylinder base engine produces 275 hp), the redesigned Camaro is a crowd pleaser.
Hooked up with Apple CarPlay, a 7-inch touchscreen, available MyLink navigation, an available phone charging pad, available in-car Wi-Fi, voice-activated controls and smartphone-activated locks and starter, this Camaro is certainly smarter than its predecessors. However, since it doesn't give up any of its trademark brawn to take on that added intelligence, it's a smart call for a convertible.
2017 Ford Mustang convertible
Starting price: $30,685
Miles per gallon: 18 city, 27 highway, 22.5 combined
Back in 2005, when the Ford (F - Get Report) Mustang was redesigned with a "retro-futurist look" that was basically an update of the first generation's classic aesthetic. It gave the Mustang line a huge boost just before the Great Recession and prompted Chevy and Dodge to make similar retro tweaks to their Camaro, Charger and Challenger.
Ford's softened up that style in 2015 and gave the 2015 Mustang an overhaul that looks more like a jacked up Ford Fusion than anything else. However, there's still 300 horsepower pumping out of that base-level 3.7-liter V6, which makes features like leather racing seats, leather steering wheels covers and high-powered gas headlights not at all ridiculous. Yet 27 miles per gallon on the highway, six-speaker sound system and 4.2-inch touchscreen entertainment and navigation display give it all great features of a practical mid-size without ditching any of the muscle.
2017 Jeep Wrangler
Starting price: $23,995
Miles per gallon: 17 city, 21 highway, 19 mpg
The wind slapping against that soft top in the summer is loud, its combined 19 miles per gallon isn't exactly efficient and it's a little cozy unless you spring for the stretched out Unlimited version. However, that iconic look and off-road performance don't have an acceptable understudy.
The ground clearance and four-wheel drive come in awfully handy in miserable winter weather, while that removable hardtop makes it a sweet open-air ride in the summer. Carbuyers don't pick up a used version of the Wrangler, because they want to truck the kids around or make grocery runs. They buy it because they want a "Jeep" and all the fun that comes attached to that name.
2017 Buick Cascada
Starting price: $33,065
Miles per gallon: 20 city, 27 highway, 23.5 mpg
What if you could have a car with luxury amenities but also mid-range power? That's the question GM's (GM - Get Report) Buick brand spends each year answering, but this time it's applied that formula to a convertible. This 1.6-liter 200-horsepower four-seater boasts about "turbocharged performance," but should maybe focus on the insulated soft top that opens in 17 seconds at up to 31 miles per hour. Features like the Buick IntelliLink with a 7-inch-diagonal color touch screen -- featuring text alerts and Siri Eyes Free for Apple phones with an iOS 6 or newer operating system -- OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot (includes three-month/3GB data trial), available navigation, available premium audio, rear parking assist, remote starter, leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and front and rear power outlets are the big selling points here. Especially considering that trunk space shrinks from 13.4 cubic feet to 9.8 with the top down.
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