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Is a convertible BMW 3-series too midlife-crisis for a 20-something guy?
May 14, 2009 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Is a convertible BMW 3-series too midlife-crisis for a 20-something guy?

(sorry for the big wall of text - but since it's an anon question, I want to give as much context as possible - summary questions are at the end)

I currently have a Miata. I'm moving out of it mainly to get a bit more space (two more seats and a real trunk), and a bit more luxury (all the plastic and squeaking are starting to throw me off). Yet, I absolutely don't want to give up on road-feel - last time I drove a sedan (a Mazda-3, even, which is supposed to be "sporty") I was almost sleeping and felt like I was riding on a cloud. I really like convertibles too - Every time I ride in my friends cars in a sunny day I have the reflex to open the top.

I'm almost set on a BMW (I heard nothing but praise on the driving experience from everyone I asked). My big doubt is between convertible or non-convertible.

My biggest concern with the convertible is the image - My friend put this image in my head that any convertible with more than two seats is for middle-aged balding guys with aviators shades, etc - especially premium-brand big convertibles. I do see my fair share of middle-aged guys in these, but then I also see a lot of them in roadsters, so I really don't know if it's any more middle-agey than a Z4 or a Porsche.

Just to be clear, it's not for cruising with the top up and stereo blaring in front of night clubs - that is, I might do it by accident because I pass in front of them when going home, but my preference for the convertible is purely for my enjoyment, and not at all to impress people (OK, maybe friends).

I don't care that much about generic "jokey" stereotypes (the Miata is supposed to be a girly car, and BMW an arrogant douchebag car, anyway), those that generally have enough exceptions to not be taken seriously (noone will see me at the wheel of a Miata and seriously think "why, never mind the face, that's probably a girl"). However, I do have a couple white hairs, so if the stereotype is strong (and statistically sound) enough people might actually take me for a middle-aged guy. As another example of what I mean, I doubt anyone would genuinely assume a woman driving an Subaru is a lesbian (although they might joke about it) - but I think a black man in an Escalade might get labeled as a rapper a lot.

So, basically, what I want to know is:

* is the midlife crisis stereotype any stronger for a bigger/luxury convertible than for a roadster?
* is this a stereotype like a jokey "haha! you drive a convertible bimmer, you're such an old fart, why don't you get a Camaro already!", or like a genuine "wow, you're only 20-something? I saw you on your car and thought you were much older!"

*Since I can't babysit an anon thread, please stick to the image/stereotype topic (note the Society & culture category, not transportation). On-topic replies questioning my premises (like "Audis look much less mid-lifey than BMWs, you should reconsider them") are fine, but please don't derail into something like "Audis have better engines!", or "Get a real man's Mustang instead", or "Get a Civic and save your money".
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (42 answers total)
 
Sorry, but your 20s aren't midlife.

If you like the car, get it.
posted by nitsuj at 8:08 AM on May 14, 2009


I'd go with the coupe out of personal preference, but you cant go wrong with the convertible. I don't see it as midlife crisis. If the weather in your area is nice, it is something beautiful to have.

Don't overanalyze your decision making based upon what other people will perceive.
posted by stratastar at 8:11 AM on May 14, 2009


Wow, all those stereotypes. If you like the car, why not just get it and not worry about what other people might label you as a consequence?
posted by BrokenEnglish at 8:11 AM on May 14, 2009


Honestly, most of the people I see driving 3-series convertibles around here are trophy wives and young guidos. I'd pick Mercedes convertibles and roadsters as much more midlife crisis-worthy vehicles, at least in my neck of the woods. In any case, though, who cares what other people think? If you like it, drive it.

Go for the 335i, though, if you can swing it; the engine itself is a work of art.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:11 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ranked from most snickers to least:

1. Miata
2. BMW 3-series convertible
3. BMW 3-series non-convertible

I think the BMW convertible is going to get more snickers for being a "girly" car rather than a "midlife crisis" car. The hardtop BMW is going to get snickers because it's the stereotypical "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs trying to look rich" car.

All of that is silly, of course, so get the car you can afford and makes you happy.
posted by mullacc at 8:12 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but your 20s aren't midlife.

Right, that's the question: he wouldn't want one if it's stereotypical midlife-crisis car.
posted by smackfu at 8:13 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have been thinking of getting a sports car, and a friend of mine told a story where a huge tool was bragging to a bar full of people about how [sportscar] was the best car on the road, come listen to the engine, ooh and ahh at my authoritah, etc.

I said, hmm, maybe I shouldn't buy [sportscar.] He said don't be silly, just if you get one, don't be a douche.

So, get what you want, enjoy it, and if people can't take that, then they aren't people you wanted to know anyway. I, too, worry about what people will think, more for the dating angle than anything, but if that is the type of car I am likely to drive the rest of my life, why would I want to date someone that is completely incompatible with my chosen lifestyle.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:14 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


In my experience, the Miata has a much stronger stereotype, as you've mentioned. If you've been able to live with that, you'll be fine with anything.

Now, you're talking used 3-series, right? BMW has been shying away from it's "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline over the past couple of models, and no longer produces the sharp handling vehicles that it's famous for.
posted by hwyengr at 8:15 AM on May 14, 2009


A stereotypical midlife crisis car is only perceived as such if its owner is midlife. If you expect to die by age 50, then OK, it's your midlife. It may be a car older people get to make them feel younger, but a younger person would get for totally different reasons, like to enjoy his youth.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:17 AM on May 14, 2009


No matter what car you get, someone will have an unkind snickery opinion about it, so forget about that, get the car you want and enjoy your new ride. I think the stereotypes vary depending where you are anyway. Here in SoCal I wouldn't think of a 3-series convertible being a midlife crisis car at all. Unless it were red ;)
posted by Joh at 8:25 AM on May 14, 2009


As far as images go, you're more likely to come across as having a midlife crisis if you drive around with gray hair in the Miata. Miatas are the go-to car for midlife crisis victims (especially new models)

The idea behind the midlife crisis, however, is that the one suffering from it is trying to make up for "lost time" because the major shift in thinking. (Years lived vs. Years left to live) so the impulse is on buying something flashy and exciting, trying to relive one's youth. This is not limited to buying into the youth culture of the day (music, fashion, etc) in order to complete the illusion.

If you wanted to go for the "midlife crisis" thing, I would suggest coloring your hair gray, buy lots of popular rap music (preferably at a Target or Wal-Mart) and get a BMW Z4.
posted by hellojed at 8:26 AM on May 14, 2009


If you like this car, get this car. Your bigger issue is why you care so much what other people might think of your (perfectly ordinary) car.
posted by biscotti at 8:27 AM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your dream car is the car you want right now, perfect for who you are right now. Not the ultimate car for when you arrive at being the ultimate person. You can have your dream car now.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:35 AM on May 14, 2009


A.) Why is this anonymous? Gezz...

B.) You're being way to image conscious. You should buy the car you like, fuck what anyone else thinks.

C.) Four-seater convertibles will never be as unappologetically manly as a two-seater. This is precisely because they have wider appeal to people are looking for a drop top, but more cargo and people room.

D.) You're already driving a Miata...
posted by wfrgms at 8:35 AM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Location may play a role here. If you're in, say, California, no one will think anything; BMWs are as common as Corollas and driven by all kinds of "types."

If you regularly put the top down on your Miata, yes, you want another convertible.

My husband had a Miata for years. Image-be-damned guys are awesome.
posted by sageleaf at 8:41 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Harleys scream "midlife crisis". A BMW is a status car (to Americans).

Just for the record, no one in Europe drives BMWs anymore. They drive Audi's. Much better car and less of a ripoff re options and overall quality.

If you drive a convertible and don't want to look like "that guy":

If it is sunny, only put the top down in late afternoon- and (of course) in the evening.

Leave the top up when it's humid.

People who drive with the top down in humid weather and/or when the sun is high are posing. They are sacrificing practicality for image.
posted by Zambrano at 8:50 AM on May 14, 2009


Seconding "you're already driving Miata..."
posted by Perplexity at 8:50 AM on May 14, 2009


(practicality and comfort)
posted by Zambrano at 8:51 AM on May 14, 2009


By the time you reach mid-life crisis age, you probably won't care much what other people think of the car you drive (one would hope).

The stereotype you are really falling into here is the 20-something-overly-concerned-about-image version.

If you want to defy stereotype, get something really different.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:52 AM on May 14, 2009


Get the car you want. You say your goal is not to impress anybody, so there's your own answer already. If you are really concerned about some BMW stigma (e.g. "Q. What's the difference between a porcupine and a BMW? A. With a porcupine the pricks are on the outside.") then consider another performance import (Audi, Volvo) that doesn't have the same (douche?)baggage.

Happy Dave: You're a good citizen. I have a sticker for you.
posted by applemeat at 8:53 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


My usual response to questions of car and image tends toward variations on "fuck it"--I've long heard that Miata stands for "Masculinity isn't all that anyway", but I've craved one for twenty-odd years and counting.

That having been said, the 3 series comes off as much less of a mid-life penis enhancer than the Z series, which was sort of ruined by association with a sub-par James Bond movie. Beemers are fine cars anyway, generally, and if anyone gives you grief about it then act as if you couldn't care less about what people think, it's all about that fine Bavarian engineering. (If some punk gives you the stinkeye at a stop light, pretend that you can't see them due to the glow of your general awesomeness.) As an alternative consideration, I think that the Audi TT convertible looks pretty fine, as well. About the only ones that I'd absolutely stay away from would be anything domestic; it's sad to say, but somehow America seems to have forgotten how to do ragtops.

Man, I love telling other people how to spend their money! Let's chat sometime about what to look for in a yacht, not that I've ever been on one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:59 AM on May 14, 2009


3 series is NOT a midlife crisis car. 3 series is a normal, minimally acceptable car.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:09 AM on May 14, 2009


As a few others have said, stop worrying about stereotypes and images and just get the car you want.

My personal story: I was considering a G35/G37, 335i, and a few other luxury sedans last year when I was looking for a car. I liked the speed, quality, etc., but in the end I couldn't stomach the gas mileage. After a ton of research, I ended up in a 2009 MINI JCW Hardtop. Yeah, I get some "it's soo cute!" and "you drive a MINI!?! pfff" comments. I can deal with it. Why? Because it's SO FUN and it's what *I* wanted.

Life is short. Do what makes you happy.
posted by Tu13es at 9:22 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough, here's an article I just read before coming to askme entitled "Drop Top" with the subheading "This is the time of year when the midlife crisis is salved with the very real joys of open-air motoring. And with the hardtops and soft-tops now available, they're really all-season vehicles. "
posted by modernnomad at 9:26 AM on May 14, 2009


Well, I bought a used Saab convertible at about 40, making me the target of "midlife crisis" jokes. (In fact, some friends referred to my car as The Crisis.)

All that to say this: I didn't care what people said, I loved the car and it was the most fun car I ever had, and I never regretted buying it. It has since died, but I plan on buying another convertible as soon as I can work it out.

I understand the "image concerns" of what you drive, and it's something most people do think about when buying a car. But, if you like it, get it. Basing your buying decisions on what other people think is no way to go through life, son.
posted by The Deej at 9:43 AM on May 14, 2009


I used to think that BMW were cheesy and poserish, as were the people who drove them.

Then I grew up.

People who make judgments like this should not be worth your time, they are adolescents. Convertibles are a pleasure, a good engine is a pleasure. Worrying what people think of you is not. Time to man up and get past that. Buy what you want.

P.s. The mid-life crisis myth is silly. Back in the day, men who were at that age, were also at an age that their children were grown, their house was almost paid for, their businesses up and running. They finally could stop being in 'provide' mode and allowed some disposable income to be spent on themselves. We should start thinking of that as noble, not cheesy.
posted by Vaike at 9:55 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


You might want to think about the stereotype engendered when you consider that the Miata was for a long time the most popular car among gay men. Oh, you didn't know that? Let it be a lesson in the utility of stereotypes.

That said, the 330ci is the only 3-series worth getting (besides the M3). I'm not much of a BMW (or Mercedes) guy, so take that with a grain of salt. The 335 is a problematic engine and the 325 (or whatever, 328?) is underpowered, like a 2-series Mercedes.

And to bring it full-circle back to society, there's no real difference between convertible and hard-top (technically not a hard-top, but you get my point).
posted by rhizome at 10:01 AM on May 14, 2009


Data: I just conducted a non-scientific poll of 8 people in my office, various ages, men and women. 5 people said no, it's not a midlife crisis car, two people said yes it is, and one person said the 3-series seemed like a "starter BMW - like you wanted a BMW but couldn't afford a nice one". The two people who said it *was* both said it was more of a "jokey" thing, not a "christ, I thought you'd be a geezer" thing. I side with the "no, it's not a midlife crisis car" people.

Tul3es, I just got a Mini, too! It's SO FUN and it's what *I* wanted!
posted by ersatzkat at 10:08 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the reaction will depend a lot on where you are, but if I saw you in that car I'd think "douche."

Somehow being a younger person makes it even worse. At least if you were in your 40s, it could be written off as "well hey, he's an old dude guy going through a mid-life crisis, leave him be."
posted by Ultra Laser at 10:17 AM on May 14, 2009


Were I in the market, I wouldn't bother with an E90 3- other than the 335i. That engine is pure sex. That said, no current BMW drives anything at all like a Miata. Smooth and competent but not nearly so direct and involved. If I wanted a Miata-on-steroids driving experience, I'd look at the previous generation E46 M3. That's if you're in it for the driving experience and not the "hey, I'm an asshole in a BMW" thing.

WRT the image:
Face facts. BMW drivers deserve their reputation for the most part, but that doesn't mean the company doesn't produce the best sedans in the world.

Me? I love the people that buy new BMW's...they're the ones paying the depreciation on the cars I buy.
posted by paanta at 10:21 AM on May 14, 2009


slightly OT, but since the OP brought it up:
I have a 2003 BMW 325i. The thing rattles and squeaks like CRAZY and has had tons of problems (electrical, AC, windows/sunroof, molding, etc).
Since that's one of your reasons for giving up the Miata, I thought I'd inform you. I still have fun driving it, but that being said, my next car will NOT be a BMW. Check Consumer Reports or Edmond's if reliability is important to you.

And, no it's not a mid-life crisis car. Just buy what you personally like and can afford and don't worry about it.
posted by j at 10:31 AM on May 14, 2009


It seems like this also depends a lot on where you are. Here in rural PA, land of Ford, Chevy and Dodge pickup trucks, I think the BMW might have more negative associations for the general populace. When I visit my in-laws in Princeton, you can't spit without hitting a BMW or Mercedes, so they can't all be driven by douche-bags (Well, OK, it is possible, being Princeton).

Anyway, I know people who drive BMWs and they are fine, upstanding folks. If I see a young man driving one, I usually think, "Lucky bastard! How'd he afford that car?" That's what I think about most luxury cars, though.

So, short answer, buy what you want and enjoy it!
posted by dellsolace at 10:48 AM on May 14, 2009


You're the one making the payments, get what you want. Just don't drive like a douche.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:56 AM on May 14, 2009


I drive a convertible Mustang GT. I'm 40. EGADS!!! In my 30's I had an M3. In my 20's I had a Neon. In my teens I had an old Monte Carlo. Let's go back to the Neon... everyone hated it but me. LOL.

Purchases are only a mid-life crisis if you're using the car to try to define yourself to others. ... I always wanted a Mustang in high-school, but I hated the way 'Stangs started to look until the retro-designed 2006 models came out. So I bought one. It wasn't about how I hoped others saw me in the car, but how much I liked the CAR.

Hell... get yourself a VW-bug convertible with a flower-holder in it if you want. It's YOUR car, so quit worrying about what everyone thinks and get what YOU want.
posted by matty at 11:31 AM on May 14, 2009


This entire question is predicated upon the assumption that anyone will notice you at all... which is not very likely. BMWs, especially 3-series BMWs, have been as boring and nondescript as an Accord for years now. They're decidedly mass-market and, as a car enthusiast, don't get a second glance from me.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:46 AM on May 14, 2009


The thing with BMWs is the colors, just take one look at the BMW home page and compare it to say the Mazda website and you'll see what I mean, the BMW colors are muted, boring, tasteful, designed to go with those slacks when you roll up at the golf club.

If you want your BMW to look like its a young persons car then you will need to get it in BLACK.
posted by Lanark at 12:15 PM on May 14, 2009


BMW an arrogant douchebag car

Wow, all these opinions and only one actual BMW owner so far. I have a 2003 325i, and I'm a mid-30s female, FWIW, and I've never been accused of having a midlife crisis. It wouldn't occur to me to think of others that way. I disagree with this:

The thing rattles and squeaks like CRAZY and has had tons of problems (electrical, AC, windows/sunroof, molding, etc).

I love my car. I was actually going to get a new Mazda 3, but as it turned out, the BMW was the same price/payments with a much, much nicer interior etc. I've driven a Miata as well, and I definitely prefer mine.
posted by desjardins at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2009


This entire question is predicated upon the assumption that anyone will notice you at all... which is not very likely. BMWs, especially 3-series BMWs, have been as boring and nondescript as an Accord for years now. They're decidedly mass-market and, as a car enthusiast, don't get a second glance from me.

I'm sure my 325i doesn't ping your radar, but you'd be surprised at how many people want to "race" me at stoplights, even in totally absurd cars like DODGE NEONS. Even if it's not a True Sportscar®, some people (overwhelmingly young males) seem to think it is.
posted by desjardins at 2:29 PM on May 14, 2009


There will come a day when you don't care what other people think about what you drive, or anything else for that matter (although if you're like my parents that day will end about the time you hit your 70th birthday).

I'm a guy. My midlife crisis toy is the first motorcycle I've owned in 32 years. After having always said I'd get a Harley if I ever rode again, I realized I'd be perfectly happy with a Suzuki S40; a little 650cc bike which most real motorcyclists would describe as a girl's bike. I'm perfectly happy with it and it cost about 30% of the Harley I'd always considered.

Buy and drive what you want.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:25 PM on May 14, 2009


Based on personal experience I can say that the BMW 3 series coupe is an awesome car. We have a black 2 door coupe and its great in front for driver and passenger, but in the back it is quite cramped so don't expect to be driving people around too frequently. Based on the awesomeness of our car a friend bought the convertible (didn't want to copy too blatantly). His car is noisy beyond belief when he doesn't have the top down and since we live in the UK that is the majority of the year. Convertibles seem to age more as the soft top looks raggedy sooner then a regular hard top.

I used to have a Mercedes SLK hardtop - brilliant car and the only way to have a convertible in my opinion, but I wouldn't have a convertible again for the following reasons:
- In traffic you feel exposed to all the other cars and drivers.
- You can't have your music up loud because you are disturbing everyone you drive past.
- You can get sunburnt and have to wear sunscreen all the time (at least I did!)
- The roof mechanism is something that can go badly wrong after a few years and is another maintenance expense.
- They are more likely to leak then regular roofs.
- When you have the top down on motorways it is virtually impossible to talk to your passenger!

Convertibles are amazing, they look brilliant and I don't regret owning one, but by having it and then selling it I have got it out of my system in a way!

The BMW 3 series coupe is fabulous and is brilliant to drive, don't skimp on the engine though, we have a 330 diesel and it does great mileage and can really accelerate when you want it to.

Seriously - go for it!

FYI we are f-28 and m-30 and have had the car 2 years and it is now 4 years old.
posted by lilyflower at 4:55 AM on May 15, 2009


I daily-drive a 335i convertible, last year's model. It is, simply, an awesome car. I really enjoy driving it, top up or down. I get a lot of reactions to it, but most are in the category of appreciation or envy. One of my friends likes to gently tease me about it, but he's a BMW driver himself.

If I were going to buy a car again, I'd go right back and get another one just like it. (No iDrive!)

For reference, I am mid-30's, use a baseball cap to protect my bald spot from sunburn. I am generally happy and do not suspect myself of being in a 'crisis'.

Things I'd change about my car:

1) There's a little cowl shake with the top up at 62 mph, a resonant frequency. According to web forums, every car's resonant frequency is a little different; it makes sense to test out your prospective car on the road at your preferred cruise-control speed before you buy it. If my car's frequency had been at 76 mph, I'd be hugely annoyed.

2) The 80 extra hp from the aftermarket chip are applied a little unevenly at partial throttle. The chip maker keeps improving the chip so I have hopes this will be better in future. More here.

3) The service interval for the free oil changes seems too long to me. I work around this by doing my own oil changes every 5000-6000 miles.

posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 11:07 AM on May 15, 2009


Do what makes you happy without putting yourself financially in a hole. If you can afford it, get the car.
posted by arcticseal at 8:55 AM on May 17, 2009


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