Soft top convertible without a garage?
April 26, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Is it just flat out stupid to get a soft top convertible if you don't have a garage and live in NY (or more generically, a place where it snows a few times a year)?

I've been looking around at cars and a pre-owned Miata (or MX5 as they're calling it these days) looks like it checks off all the right boxes, reasonably affordable, completely awesome to drive, small and reliable. (I previously owned a Mini that was several years old and cost more than it was worth to maintain and finally ditched it. Before that, I was firmly in the Japanese car camp with two Civics and an RSX.)

I know that a hard top has always been an option for the cars since the 90's, but I don't have a garage to store the top in, so that's never really been an option. With the new PRHT feature, I could have a hardtop and not have to worry about having a place for it, and it doesn't take up any trunk space. But it seems most used Miatas are of the soft top variety and buying a hard top to go over that during the winter isn't an option since I can't really store it anywhere. Plus, the PRHT costs more.

Having never owned a convertible (and while it's nice, it's not something that I'm dying to have, the Miata just looks like what I'd want) is it crazy to expect a soft top to last several New York winters? If it helps, I live on the south shore of Long Island. If it matters, the car will be parked less than 100 yards from the ocean.

Aside from a used Miata, is there some sub-$20k fun little car that won't kill me in maintenance? If not, it getting a soft top asking for problems? (Not so worried about slashing/theft.)
posted by Brian Puccio to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (19 answers total)
Soft top doesn't sound like a good fit for NY without a garage. How about a used hardtop Mini Cooper?
posted by JesseBikman at 1:30 PM on April 26, 2011

) is it crazy to expect a soft top to last several New York winters?

No, that's not crazy. Yes, it will eventually wear out, but soft tops on Miatas aren't all that expensive to replace, particularly compared to the multi-layer soft tops on Audi, Mercedes, and some other cars.
posted by The World Famous at 1:32 PM on April 26, 2011

Response by poster:
How about a used hardtop Mini Cooper?
After spending almost $4000 over two and a half years on my 2003 (bought in 2008) only to have the transmission die (CVT) and find out it would cost north of $6000 for a new one, I'm done with Mini's and their maintenance issues. Even buying a newer one with a warranty, I don't really want to give the company any more money, as much as I loved the car. (It also forever soured me on AT, 6 on the floor from now on.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:37 PM on April 26, 2011

It's not crazy at all. The World Famous pretty much covers why. Snow isn't that much of a drama for soft tops.
posted by Brockles at 1:49 PM on April 26, 2011

I would add that I have had soft-top convertibles, including one Miata, during Michigan winters and would not hesitate to do it again. The only problem I ever had was when I was young and stupid and left the top down on a Mustang convertible on what I thought was an unseasonably warm winter day only to come back to the parking lot a couple of hours later to find several inches of snow in the car. Don't do that.
posted by The World Famous at 1:57 PM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might be able to get a VW Eos for less than $20K. Hard-top convertible.
posted by rhizome at 2:07 PM on April 26, 2011

I parked my Saab soft-top 'vert on the street through 8 Wisconsin winters (it was 2 years old when I bought it) and had no problems with the top at all.
I miss that car.
posted by Floydd at 2:07 PM on April 26, 2011

Response by poster: Awesome, it looks like my knee jerk "soft top in the snow?!" reaction is unnecessary. I appreciate it. I'll keep looking around for small, fun to drive cars (convertible not required), but I thank you all for your feedback.
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:12 PM on April 26, 2011

Not crazy. I drive a Volvo C70 soft top which I park outside. In Pittsburgh. My husband drove a Mazda Miata soft top for 10 years, which was periodically left outside for months at a time, also while living in Western PA. We had the roof replaced and was able to do the work ourselves. (I miss that little car. Sadly the rust got it.)
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 2:13 PM on April 26, 2011

If you go this way, consider that while you don't have a garage, you could add $450 to the bill and get a top quality all-weather custom-shaped car cover. It won't save the roof frame from the weight of excessive snow, but it'll keep things drier, and might even help in other ways by not giving the snow a direct frozen interface with the car. Covers are not a complete moisture barrier though (else they would trap moisture and cause problems), and the car needs to be clean when putting one on else the wind could cause the cover to ripple which could cause scratches if there is grit on the car.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:13 PM on April 26, 2011

I drive a soft-top Jeep in arizona, and even here I've had problems with the plastic windows cracking in the winter. (They get brittle, and if you put any force on them, they'll just crack).

I've driven my soft-top through the mountains up in Flagstaff, where it's routinely in the 20s, and had no problems at all with the cold.
posted by blhack at 3:30 PM on April 26, 2011

Have had (and still have) a 2001 Toyota Solara soft-top for about six years. Years spent in Vail, Colorado (we're talking shit-tons of snow), Santa Fe, New Mexico (slightly less snow, but would still dump a few feet throughout most of the winter) and now Chicago, Illinois (needs no introduction). Never garaged it. The top hasn't undergone any significant wear, despite being frequently buried under feet of snow. The only issue I've had with the top is that the seaming on the back window came undone slightly a couple years ago, but it was a cheap fix ($200), and didn't seem to have anything to do with weather damage.

Long story short, I can't speak to Miatas, but considering how old my car is I would expect that most modern soft convertible tops are pretty hearty. YMMV (heh...), but I really wouldn't worry about it.
posted by libertypie at 4:09 PM on April 26, 2011

A soft top convertible in new york has more to do with your desire to make the car lockable than snow. Any knife blade is a key to a soft top convertible. (If you never ever leave anything in the car, then it's probably not an issue).
posted by desl at 5:45 PM on April 26, 2011

I had a Miata in Michigan, no garage for five years, the top did just fine... and, as for the theft from the car issue, never leave anything of value in the car, and never lock the door...
posted by tomswift at 7:45 PM on April 26, 2011

Response by poster: Yup, regarding theft, I'm not so worried, but I've read the don't leave anything expensive and don't lock the door anecdotes. Thanks everyone!
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:15 PM on April 26, 2011

Winter is not a problem. However even with the doors unlocked some enterprising thief will cut the top in an attempt to get inside. I know, and had to give up my lifetime love affair with soft tops because I was tired of all the break ins.
posted by Gungho at 5:55 AM on April 27, 2011

Data point for your question about Miata alternatives in your price range: I bought a 2004 C70 last summer in North Jersey, under 28,000 miles, under $16,000. It was in terrific shape cosmetically, very few scratches.
posted by troywestfield at 6:04 AM on April 27, 2011

I own a Miata. I live in Portland, Maine (plenty of experience with snow and salt, urban parking & living). I used to live in Boston (more of the same). Soft-top the whole time. Never once had anyone mess with the car. That said, I do also own a hard top that I'll occasionally put on the car if I can remember to do so (usually I'm lazy and don't get around to it until March or April, after all the real snow has gone…). As long as you have four#1 good#2 snow and ice#3 tires (all three are requirements, not suggestions) but as long as you have those things, you'll be fine in the Miata. In fact, you'll be great in it because the Miata has basically perfect handling. I mean it, it's like a go-cart. In the snow, it's a blast. Drifting a Miata in the snow is ludicrously easy.

Aside from a used Miata, is there some sub-$20k fun little car that won't kill me in maintenance?

Sure. Plenty of options, mostly Asian, a few years old, and not convertible. See, that last part's the killer. With the Miata you get all the legendary, might-as-well-weld-the-hood-shut reliability, but in a convertible.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:30 PM on April 28, 2011

Response by poster: For what it's worth, I didn't like how I fit in the Miata, though it was a blast to test drive. I wound up with a GTI instead.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:14 AM on May 29, 2011

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