What’s the Difference Between a ‘Spyder’ and a ‘Convertible?’

The term “spyder” might sound like a unique name for the eight-legged arachnid that you kill or run away from, but in reality, we usually see and the hear the term to describe certain cars, like the Ferrari 488 Spider, for example. That car is a convertible, so what is the difference between a “spyder” and a convertible?

The term “spyder” dates back to the stagecoach times

While the term “spider,” or “spyder,” has been widely used to describe two-seat sports cars with a convertible top, the actual term dates back to before cars were even on the road, Road and Track reports. The name actually dates back to the 1800s, when horse-drawn carriages, known as “phaetons,” still roamed the streets as the main mode of transportation. According to Carfection, there were mail phaetons, for carrying larger cargo like mail, but there was also the “phaeton spider.”

The phaeton spider was aptly named that because of its thinner, larger wiry wheels that when combined with its smaller, lightweight carriage design, it looked kind of like a spider. After that, the name just stuck around when cars came out and automakers started making convertibles.

The difference between a spider and convertible

Now that we know what a phaeton is, we can start to see why the term “spider” stuck around for so long. Britannica defines the word “phaeton” as an “open, four-wheeled, doorless carriage that contained one or more seats and usually had a falling top.” If that doesn’t scream the word “convertible,” we don’t know what does.

Now that we can see that the terms “spider” and “convertible” go hand-in-hand as, technically, they mean the same thing. That’s right, they’re basically the same term and can be used interchangeably. As Road and Track noted as well, there is no difference between the term “spyder” and “spider” as well, as they both mean the same thing, but some automakers just choose to spell the word differently.

A white 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible with red seats on a forested mountain road
2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport Convertible | Chevrolet

What is a roadster?

With all of our history lessons out of the way, you’re probably wondering if the term “roadster” has anything to do with it. Technically, yes, but there is a subtle difference. For example, if you were to ask Lamborghini about the subject, the automaker would tell you that a roadster is a “two-door, two-seat vehicle without the top. Although, most roadsters have a top-up option.”

Case in point, the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, for instance, is a convertible with a soft top that unfolds with a touch of a button. But its stablemate, the Aventador Roadster, is an open-top, two-seat exotic that has a removable hardtop that can be stored under the hood and can be snapped into place by the driver, preferably when the car is parked.

A blue 2018 Lamborghini Aventador driving through the swiss alps with the top down.
2018 Lamborghini Aventador | Lamborghini

Are Convertibles Really More Dangerous Than Other Cars?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you call a car a “convertible, a “roadster,” a “spider,” or a “spyder,” they are all the same thing and describe the same vehicle. Even if you happened to be describing a horse-drawn carriage.