Buy This, Not That: The Car Wizard’s Best and Worst Used Summer Convertibles

‘Tis the season for fun convertible cars. It hit scorching temperatures in my state today, and weather like this makes anyone start dreaming of long drives with the breeze blowing by. It may seem like there are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t buy a convertible, but what if you could score one for cheap? Read on for the best (and worst) cheap used summer convertibles.

What is the most fun convertible to drive?

Happy smiling white woman sits in the passenger seat of a summer convertible with the top down
Driving a convertible | Wendell Fernandes via Unsplash

Whether you’ve got big plans for summer beach adventures, a cross-country road trip, or you just love a good drive on the weekend, a convertible can be the perfect partner. Choosing the most fun convertible primarily comes down to personal preference.

Take a look at three of the best summer convertibles, according to popular YouTube personality The Car Wizard (CW).

The best used summer convertibles to drive

To find the best small summer cruisers, you need to know what to look for. The new BMW M4 convertible would be a blast to drive all season long, but you may not have that kind of cash for a car. Fortunately, The Car Wizard offers three great options for a cheap summer convertible.

3. 1999-2007 Toyota MR2

The Car Wizard’s #1 choice for great summer convertibles, a used Toyota MR2 made between 1999 and 2007 offers a lot for the price. This convertible offered a choice of a 5-speed manual or an automated manual, with 140 horsepower and 130 lb-ft torque. The MR2 can also return up to 30 mpg on the highway. This fun, small convertible offers all the sporty experience without the high fuel costs and is outrageously reliable.

2. 1996-2004 Porsche 986 Boxster

This gorgeous car is one of the best used summer convertibles you could find—plus, it’s one of the cheapest Porsches you can buy. CW claims that it’s like getting a 911 for a much lower price. There’s almost “no difference between the driver’s seat and the front.” The Porsche 986 Boxster offered various six-cylinder engine choices, depending on the year and specific model. Most of these convertibles can see up to 20-25 mpg on the highway, so they’re relatively efficient. Most importantly, though, the Porsche Boxster offers fantastic handling and ample power.

1. 1999-2005 Mazda MX-5 Miata

This is one of the most classic summer convertibles, so I’m not surprised to see the Miata on this list. They’re very popular, so it’s easy to find parts if you buy one used. They’re also relatively reliable and easy to fix. CW admits that they’re not super fast, but the Miata is great at handling—he claims that an old Mazda can outhandle a Porsche 911. This fun convertible can see 28-30 mpg on the highway, so it’s pretty fuel-efficient. You may be able to find a used Mazda Miata convertible for $10,000-$15,000, which makes it one of the best used convertibles under $20,000.

The wost used summer convertibles to drive

Small blue vintage VW Beetle Convertible, one of the worst used summer convertibles
Vintage VW Beetle Convertible | Jacques Demarthon/AFP via Getty Images

Regardless of the best time to buy a convertible, there are some small summer cruisers you should avoid all year long. The Car Wizard gave all three cars below a hefty “do not buy” rating. (You may notice that all three of these cars come from the same parent company.)

3. 1998-2006 Audi TT

Hands down, a used Audi TT is one of the worst convertibles for summer, according to The Car Wizard. These cars are not reliable, and they’re expensive to fix. The Audi TT is a good-looking car, but CW points out that the good looks wear off quickly. You’re likely to experience multiple breakdowns in one of these unreliable summer convertibles. You could spend as much to fix a used Audi TT as you paid to buy it.

2. 60s-70s Volkswagen Beetle convertibles

These cute and tiny classic summer convertibles often come with a need for extreme repairs. The old technology used in these cars can lead to engine issues in hot weather. Modern gasoline doesn’t work as well in older engines, and 70s Beetle Convertibles can suffer because of it. The Car Wizard points out that it’s hard to find a mechanic familiar with the engineering and harder to find one that an owner has cared for well.

1. 80s-90s Volkswagen Cabriolet Rabbit Convertible

The Car Wizard claims that the old VW Cabriolet’s Bosch Jetronic system causes many problems for this otherwise cool convertible. The mechanic tells how many of these 80s-90s classic convertibles ended up sitting unused for years at a time after breaking down. New owners can expect to potentially drop thousands of dollars in repairs on these cars. CW gives an emphatic ”don’t buy” label to any vehicles with a Bosch Jetronic system because it can be hard to find mechanics to work on it.

The best used convertibles to buy for under $30,000

White Mazda Miata parked on a sunny road with bright green grass in front of the
White convertible | Teddy Charti via Unsplash

When looking for the best affordable convertible cars, try to look for any cars on the Car Wizard’s list of best summer cruisers. Specifically, look for a used Mazda Miata or a used Toyota convertible. The Porsche is spectacular, but you might have difficulty finding one for under $30,000. 

The Nissan 370Z is a great used convertible, but it may run higher than you’d hope. 

Used-car prices are still sky-high right now, so finding a cheap used summer convertible may be tough—but the rewards will be worth the effort.

RELATED: Most Reliable Convertibles for Summer According to Consumer Reports