Is it stupid to buy a convertible as the only car in Seattle?
July 21, 2006 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Is it stupid to buy a convertible as the only car in Seattle?

I'm moving to Seattle, and I am going to buy a car there. Some of my options right now are convertibles (both two-seaters and four seaters). Here are my main concerns:

* Will I look stupid in a convertible during the winter?
* Are convertible tops good enough to stand months of non-stop rain without leaking humidity into the car?
* My second-to-last car had rear wipers. My current one hasn't. The wet rear-view doesn't bother me (I usually only notice it's raining when my front windshield is completely unusable), but I am wondering if the combination of small rear window + no rear wipers will be too visibility impairing.
* I am a single 25 yr-old male. What's a realistic estimate on how many times I'll regret buying a two-seater? (Even at college, where quite a few people hadn't cars, I rarely used more than the front seats, and I don't play golf, ski or surf).
* I know Seattle has about 155 non-cloudy days a year. But how many of these would you consider really adequate to top down driving?
* If I buy a roadster, should I be worried about being a cop magnet (non-white guy here)?
* I like driving (one of the reasons I'd buy a two seater is for driving fun), but will commuting in a convertible somehow "get old"?

Feel free to add more points to this list.
posted by qvantamon to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
Not to directly answer your question, but from the few friends I have talked to, you can get around many of these problems (specifically the clear plastic rear window, excessive road noise, water problems) by purchasing a hardtop for the car. Hardtops are a bit of a pain to get on and off, and usually require two people, but they make a convertable a much more livable choice.
posted by SirStan at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2006

I have a cousin who's lived up here for more than a decade. He's on his second Seattle convertible and loves it. I actually see a lot of them around. I think non-Seattle people are more likely to think you're weird for buying a convertible than Seattle people, who seem to be in denial about the rain.
posted by clarahamster at 10:24 AM on July 21, 2006

There are a lot of days at this time of year where having a convertable would be glorious. There are also a lot of misty days where having a convertable might be "bracing."

In my opinion though, there are so many days where it feels like the sky is on top of you like a wet blanket. Commuting under a convertable top with next to no headroom would only add to the claustrophobic atmosphere.
posted by Good Brain at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2006

I had a 2+2 (i.e. very small rear seats) Mitsubishi Eclipse for 3 years. It was parked outside, and I had zero problems with rain/leakage. If you do end up keeping it for some time, keep in mind that you will have to replace the seals and/or top every X years. I ended up leaving the top up the vast majority of the time, but it was fun when the weather was just right and the car was sufficiently free of clutter to put it down. It had a glass rear window, and I didn't have a problem with rear visibility.

I imagine you'd regret the 2 seater if you ever wanted to bring along a third person in your car. ;) I know that I would not want to be without that flexibility.
posted by trevyn at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2006

Seattle has a secret - lots of sunshine. They just don't tell the out of towners a lot about it. I'm sure some will disagree - but for those people I can only say 'verts aren't what they used to be.

I have a 2006 Mustang Convertible (GT BABY!!). I have more headroom in that thing than I have in my SUV (GMC Envoy) and I'm 6ft tall. Also, the seat sits lower so I have an easy view of traffic lights through the windshield - in the Envoy I have to bend my head over to see a stoplight. The rear window is Glass with electric defrost.

About a month ago it rained here in DC - we got 13 inches in a week. The inside of my Mustang?? Nice and dry...
posted by matty at 10:42 AM on July 21, 2006

The summer days are so glorious here that it causes a kind of denial among the inhabitants against the fact that it ever gets rainy or gloomy. There are tons of convertibles around.
posted by matildaben at 10:53 AM on July 21, 2006

I think it really depends on how bad you want to have a convertible. Personally I can't imagine not owning one, but if there's a Kinsey scale for rag-top folks I'm a 6. I drive it on the highway with the top down when it's 50 out, wearing my coat, scarf and gloves with the heater blasting. If I'm going to be in it for more than 3 minutes I put the top down. If it sprinkles lightly while I'm driving I just let the slipstream keep me (mostly) dry - one of the advantages of a 2 seater.

Other people.. less so. A lot of convertibles leak, particularly when the top gets older. Will that drive you nuts? I think it'll be less of a problem with you considering the usually lighter (than Miami and DC, where I have driven mine) rain in Seattle. Once in a while mine drips on my knee. That's a tiny price to pay for all the joy it brings me but maybe your position is different.

As far as when the weather is cold, well, my car is perfectly comfortable here in the VA winters which are colder than you deal with. A small engine heats up quick and a small cabin doesn't need a lot to change its temp.

On the two seater issue, eh. If you're not the only person in your circle of friends with a car I don't think it'll matter much. So your cow orkers can't make you drive when you go out to lunch... is that really such a bad thing? I MOVED from FL to VA in my two seater... you'd be amazed what you can fit in it when you have to.
posted by phearlez at 10:56 AM on July 21, 2006

Actually, most non-rainy places (desert areas) are TOO hot for convertibles, if it's over 90 and sunny, driving with the top down is really uncomfortable. So Seattle may be on the wet side but the general temps are moderate.

I would be on the lookout to avoid cars that have recalls for leaks. If you can find an internet forum focused on your car, you can usually find this info.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2006

Response by poster: Some clarifications:

I'd be buying it new, so, as far as I can tell, all of them have glass rear windows. My problem is more with the size (from what I've seen, the eclipse spyder rear window is slightly bigger than a bunker slit), huge "pillars" around it, and lack of wipers.

phearlez: won't driving top down in a sprinkle get your seats humid (and, if they're cloth, moldy)?

Also, my main options are the MX-5 (maybe even the new hardtop, depending on price), or a Spyder GS. These are two completely separate concepts. A MX-5 would be primarily a fun car: small, light, RWD, nice engine/weight ratio. A Spyder GS would be heavier, slower, less "connected" to the road, but more roomy and comfortable.
posted by qvantamon at 11:14 AM on July 21, 2006

I would say yes, because I don't think ragtops can take the abuse Seattle winters dish out all that well. The people I know with ragtops have had to replace theirs 5-10 years in. Leaks are a big worry.

That said, I'd love to have a convertible from June to September in this town, and everyone I know with a convertible is happy about having one.
posted by dw at 11:35 AM on July 21, 2006

Seattle doesn't get winter.

As others have said, it gets plenty of sun, it's just that the cloudy part is all bunched together and continuous.

The only real reason to avoid a rag top is lack of secure parking (and far less trunk space). They are slightly easier to break into, but with an alarm that shouldn't be too much of an issue unless you are parking it on the street in the sort of neighborhood where someone breaking in can safely ignore the blaring alarm while emptying your vehicle of CDs and the like.
posted by caddis at 11:42 AM on July 21, 2006

One thing to consider is that, while it rains frequently in Seattle, it doesn't usually rain all that hard. Consider a place like Hawaii, where the rain can be torrential. If a convertible can survive there, I imagine it would have no problem in Seattle.

And just to repeat everyone else's comment, the summers in Seattle are incredible. I grew up in Southern California, and it's much, much nicer here.
posted by bjrubble at 11:55 AM on July 21, 2006

I'm in Seattle right now, and today would be a hell of a day to have a convertible. Go for it!
posted by rossination at 11:58 AM on July 21, 2006

Seattle doesn't get winter.

Not in the Chicago sense, but the October-to-June rainy season lately has been nasty. 12 inches of rain in January? Yeesh. And mold, mildew, and moss love Seattle cars. Honestly, they'll find their way into anything you leave outside in Seattle, if the blackberries don't devour them first.

My issue is leaving that car outside in the damp for months at a time.

You know, though, if you take care of the roof and follow the care instructions, I don't think there'd really be a problem. And it would be nice to have one today.
posted by dw at 12:43 PM on July 21, 2006

Whatever you do, don't become one of The Convertible People.

On the first sunny day of the year (mid February, perhaps March), temperature in the 40s, they come out of their oppresive suburban dwellings to worship their blinding, skin-destroying god. They ride forth upon the concrete ribbons, exposed to the overpowering brilliance of the sky, yet, paradoxically, hiding their pallid features behind an array of masks, hoods, parkas, and gloves.

They haven't had the top down since October (except for the occasional, shameful, bit of garage masturbation, up and down, up and down, quickly, secretly, "just making sure it still works"; they all do it, but nobody talks about it), and the great light in the sky robs them, temporarily, of their sanity.

They unsteadily laugh off the threat of frostbite to satiate their hunger before the day's 6 hours of taunting, glorious sunlight comes to a dark end, and the oppressive grey wool, tinted by the streetlights almost to the color of blood, fills the heavy skies once more.

Save yourself while you still can; become one with the Seattle masses, get a Subaru and go on with your life, and pretend you never heard the lonesome call of convertible.
posted by doorsnake at 1:25 PM on July 21, 2006 [3 favorites]

The question is "Is it stupid...?"

I would say, clearly, "stupid" it is not. "Preferable" we could debate all day. If you really want one, go for it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2006

Seattle has a secret - lots of sunshine. They just don't tell the out of towners a lot about it.

Seattle doesn't get winter. As others have said, it gets plenty of sun,

WTF? Seattle is hands down gorgeous this time of year (today being A+ exceptional) but "lots of sunshine" "plenty of sun"?? I think not. The big misunderstanding about Seattle is that (this year being an exception) it doesn't rain all the time. It's just dark and gloomy and dark and gloomy.

But back on topic: One of my dearest friends, a Seattle native, just bought a convertible (hardtop) and I'd take that as evidence that it's a good thing to have in this lovely town.
posted by donovan at 2:15 PM on July 21, 2006

A friend owned and drove a Sebring soft-top convertible in Chicago. Call him crazy, but he was the happiest person in the city during the summer.
posted by muddgirl at 3:04 PM on July 21, 2006

I ride my motorcycle here year round...surely you'll be just fine.
posted by black8 at 9:47 PM on July 21, 2006

I live in Seattle, and to lift my spirits in the gray winter, I always keep track of the first convertible I see in the new year with the top down. The earliest I've seen in January 19th. Go for it!
posted by slowstarter at 10:57 PM on July 21, 2006

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