When can I leave a car with the top down?
May 8, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Car theft: I'm looking into buying a convertible, and would like a feel for when you would leave the vehicle with the top down.

Seattle/Eastside area. I have no clue where to draw the line between a "safe" situation in which to leave a convertible with the top down, and a "dumbass" one. What are some rules of thumb and tips for this?

A catch: I'm thinking of a c5 corvette coupe, so taking the roof off/on is not a press-button affair. I would mostly use the car for short trips, so it would be a lot of hassle to be continually changing the top. Thus "always leave the vehicle with the top up" would basically equate to "never get to drive it with the top off".

To cut out the obvious, there would be no bags or purses or anything left lying in the vehicle, (and no rainclouds :).

What kinds of things can be done to make a vehicle with the top down safer? What kind of security additions and systems are recommended?

What kinds of situations would a typical convertible owner leave the top down, vs never dream of leaving it down, eg:

- Grocery parking lot, affluent suburb, daytime, in the store for 30 minutes?
- Same, night time?
- Work parking lot, 9-5pm?
- Downtown Seattle parking lot, daytime, 2 hours?
- Downtown, night time, 1 hour?
- Downtown parking lot near nightclub, night time, 4 hours?
- On street parking, suburb, 1 day and 1 night?
- Urban field/park, parking lot, evening, 1 hour?
- State park parking lot, daytime, 3 hours?

Any other tips? Do insurance companies have requirements regarding this, or is it already reflected in the higher premiums?
posted by -harlequin- to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
I don't know about your area but around here I'd expect pedestrians to spit into a convertible left with the top down. Have I mentioned that I really don't like my town?

I think leaving the top down overnight anywhere except in your garage is a bad idea.

One suggestion I do have is to get in touch with the local police station and see if they have any statistics on car break-ins for your area.
posted by fenriq at 9:45 AM on May 8, 2006

We're in Seattle (Ballard/work on Eastside) with an S2000, so the top is a pushbutton affair. We rarely leave it down when we're out of the car, but if it were a tougher roof to deal with, I think nighttime would be our "never" time. People like to mess with things when it's dark, they feel they won't get caught.
posted by GaelFC at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2006

When I had a convertible, the only time something was stolen out of it when I had the top down was when it was parked in a locked garage. YMMV. The other big problem was if it's at all windy, you'll get a lot of dust and debris in the car. You also won't want to park under trees as you'll get leaves and bird poop as free gifts from above. I don't know what kind of electronics you'll have, but your stereo should have somesort of removable face-plate so it's not too tempting. Also make sure that NOTHING is visible, not a CD, not a few coins, nothing. Because if they are, it's like unlabelled food in the fridge, "Hey, free food!".
posted by blue_beetle at 9:55 AM on May 8, 2006

With my convertible, I leave it down if I am home, in my driveway (FYI - very much in the suburbs, good neighborhood.) That being said, I lock the ipod in the console when I do. When I am out, even short trips to the store, I put the top up.
posted by quibx at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2006

In San Francisco I'd leave it open anywhere and at anytime unless it was dark (my buddy with a Jeep woke up to find a bum sleeping in it). Don't leave anything in it and you shouldn't have any problems.
posted by zeoslap at 10:10 AM on May 8, 2006

I lived in Vancouver for over ten years and drove a Mazda Miata. I usually would put the roof up if I was going to be away from my car for a while. It's easy to do, and takes seconds. I've never had anything thrown into the car, or had anyone spit in it.

The issue I had was having the soft top slashed - I think I've had it replaced four or five times.
posted by cleo at 10:29 AM on May 8, 2006

I drove a Miata in and around LA for years. I never locked it (with the hope that anyone trying to get in would not cut the top) and I mostly left the top down. I never went out of my way to park anywhere special and never had any problem.

I know of two times that people played with the car (stuff in the trash and headlights popped up (not on)) but no harm was ever done.

Specifically here's what I would do:

- Grocery parking lot, affluent suburb, daytime, in the store for 30 minutes? [in LA affluent grocer means there's a guard in the lot so always down]
- Same, night time? [always down]
- Work parking lot, 9-5pm? [i put a car cover over the whole thing at work.]
- Downtown Seattle parking lot, daytime, 2 hours? [down]
- Downtown, night time, 1 hour? [down]
- Downtown parking lot near nightclub, night time, 4 hours? [up but it was easy to put up the miata's top. pay a valet $5 and don't worry]
- On street parking, suburb, 1 day and 1 night? [up]
- Urban field/park, parking lot, evening, 1 hour? [down]
- State park parking lot, daytime, 3 hours? [down]
posted by deanj at 10:32 AM on May 8, 2006

In Baltimore, I have seen people rip open the back windows of cloth-top convertibles to sleep in them. A top-down convertible is a lovely home (provided the weather's nice).

One of my friends has a non-pushbutton top convertible. He takes the top off to go on fun drives, but otherwise leaves it up.
posted by schroedinger at 11:01 AM on May 8, 2006

Top down always, replacing the top costs more than what they might steal, and if they want to steal it they'll cut the top and steal it anyway. Plus, people love to cut convertible tops even if they don't want to steal anything. If do leave the top up, I would leave the windows down or at least leave the doors unlocked. I've never had the money for an alarm, but some convertible people love them. Also, there was a similar askmefi question on this topic with some good advice .
posted by 445supermag at 11:29 AM on May 8, 2006

I have an Audi Cabriolet, and I leave the top down pretty much all the time. Never overnight (except in my parking garage), but for the whole day on city (Minneapolis) streets, in my suburban office's parking lot, at malls, grocery stores, etc. I either take the IPod with me or lock it in the glove compartment, but otherwise I don't worry about the stuff I leave in there (blanket, some books, small change).

No one's every messed with it. There was a big spider in it this morning, though.
posted by bonecrusher at 12:05 PM on May 8, 2006

I used to have a Karmann Ghia convertible. Leave the top down unattended? The answer is "pretty much never."

People are pigs. Someone will take the opportunity to leave something nasty, damage the interior, or steal anything they can. They'll break the flimsy lock on the glove compartment, so why bother locking it.

The old Ghia was a manual top, but had a full glass window. I never had any damage to the top.
posted by cptnrandy at 12:31 PM on May 8, 2006

i have a supra with a targa top. putting it on and off is something of a hassle, so i imagine it'll be the same story with the vette.

when i lived in the bay area, i would leave it off almost the whole summer. there was no threat of rain for months at a time, and i lived in a fairly affluent and crime-free area (palo alto) and never had any troubles. i would put it on if i was leaving the car for more than a few hours in a place that was not either my work or home (both fairly secure). i would also put it on if i went into the city, but stories of constant break-ins and car thefts in san francisco may have made me somewhat paranoid. i would definitely NOT leave it off at night around a club.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 12:44 PM on May 8, 2006

When I drove my convertible rabbit in LA, I left nothing of value in the car and left the top down whenever weather allowed. The only times I was broken into, was of course when the top was up. Since there was nothing to steal, my cost was always replacing the window/top.
posted by Manjusri at 3:08 PM on May 8, 2006

when I had an RX-7 would a good alarm system, I'd leave the top down but windows up overnight sometimes. Never really had any issues. I realized because of the cars length, it was near impossible for someone to get inside the cabin without being extremely obvious. I did have one or two rain incidents. I also left nothing in the car except for a few CD's.

With my Miata, it's smaller and easier to mess with. The only time I leave the top down is when hopping into my bank for a few minutes and even then I put my iPod in my pocket. And even then I don't feel comfortable.

I don't think the threat of someone stealing the car is so strong... I think it's more the threat of someone stealing what's inside. At least in my part of town...
posted by trinarian at 3:57 PM on May 8, 2006

Top down if I'm running into a store/office for a short period of time (say ~5-10 minutes). If I'm near home, top down when it's warm enough always except when parking overnight. And that's for critter issues. When in a "real" city and parking on the streets, top up.

I know the general consensus is that "if they want to get in, they'll just slash your roof," but I tend to think that putting the top up discourages the kind of snatch-n-grab/petty vandalism of passer-by's that might otherwise be discouraged with a top-up. Plus, I hate pigeon shit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:33 PM on May 8, 2006

The only place I'd leave my top down was the first one you listed.

Also, a convertible in Seattle - are you nuts? It rains all the freaking time there. The chance of rain in any given hour in Seattle equals the chance of rain in any given month in Los Angeles.

Lest I be unclear, rain in a convertible equals ruined leather seats and, eventually, a moldy, mildewy smell that is hard to remove.

There are a lot of cars that have sane, civilized convertible tops. A C5 is not one of them, and chopping the top also ruins the chassis rigidity that is so crucial to its great skidpad rating. In general I would say that a C5 doesn't make a good daily driver, and point you towards something like a BMW M3 convertible.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:39 PM on May 8, 2006

My personal experience: living in Minneapolis (suburb) for 3 years with a convertible (albeit, the non-flashy Volkswagen Cabrio) and I would almost ALWAYS leave it roofless. Especially big grocery stores, department stores, malls, etc. there's always tons of people walking around and most people are reluctant to steal stuff that way.
I had a removable stereo that in the beginning I would lock away in the glove compartment, but towards the last 2 years I didn't even do that, would leave stuff in the car, etc, and I never had 1 problem (other than garbage once or twice, but that was more likely friends than strangers). YMMV
posted by shokod at 6:35 PM on May 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the anecdotes all - this gives me a good range of views to get my ballpark!

I don't actually want a convertible (I don't like the soft tops much), the removeable roof is just a feature that by chance happens to come with the solid-roof car that I want, but I had no concept of whether I would ever get to use it :)

Also, I think you're describing the c5's backwards - the chassis was designed from the ground up for the coupe (ie removeable top - standard) and the convertible, it was only a year or two later that they started selling (a small number of) a fixed-roof version. (I think to cater to the track-racing motorsports crowd that were modding the c5's into fixed-roof racing vehicles. Or if you listen to some snobs, to offer a cheaper model to tap the market of people who couldn't quite afford a proper c5 but wanted one :-)
So while the fixed roof version enjoys some performance benefits, they are not the norm, not necessary since the car was designed for a removeable roof, are harder to find (meaning I don't get my colour :), and have an uglier rear, which is of course, massively important :)

I'm not after the convertible experience, but if a lesser version of it comes free with the package, I certainly won't mind if get to use it from time to time.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:49 PM on May 9, 2006

I had a chance to drive a C5 removable-top a few weeks ago, and it was freakin' wonderful. I retract my above comment.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:29 AM on October 17, 2006

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