Taking the soft option

Mercedes soft top

Anyone who owns a convertible car must surely be able to feel the hostility oozing from those family saloons, estates and MPVs they cruise past on the motorway.

While the typical Ford Mondeo or Toyota Avensis owner is likely to be coping with a car full of screaming children - and typically has everything but the kitchen sink crammed in the boot - most convertible owners only have to worry about keeping their hair in place. Convertible cars are, quite simply, glamour on wheels. Take the BMW Z4 Roadster, for example. This car screams elegance and dynamism and its two-seat interior is sleek and sophisticated.

No sticky little fingers on the windows in this beauty – this is a strictly adults-only vehicle. For those looking for a four-seater, Vauxhall’s new Cascada looks hard to beat, with pure soft-top elegance and stunning interior design features. The roof can be raised or lowered at up to 30 miles per hour, and it takes just 17 seconds to open – a far cry from the days when, if you had a convertible, you had to pull over to take the roof down.

The Mercedes E Class Cabriolet is another convertible to die for. Even the car’s literature makes it sound like the protagonist from Fifty Shades of Grey, with its ‘thrusting, arrow-shaped front end, to the exaggerated shoulder line and muscular haunches.’ Phew. Get behind the wheel of one of these lovelies and even an ageing overweight baldy can take on the appearance of a film star (although without the wind-whistling-through-the-hair bit, obviously).

Heavy weather

One consolation for the jealous non-convertible car owners among us is that the British weather is so terrible the chances are that, if we did have one, we’d only be able to have the roof down once in a blue moon. But on a more serious note, the weather isn’t the only drawback for convertible owners. While the appeal of these cars is indisputable, choosing a ‘roof-less’ car is likely to mean higher insurance premiums. Most convertibles are sports cars or luxury models and usually cost more to buy, and therefore to repair, than ‘non-convertibles’, which means higher insurance bills. And although the cost of cover for convertibles has come down in recent years, you will usually still pay more for a convertible than for a fixed-roof version of the same car.

Convertibles, and particularly soft-tops, are considered easier to break into, and tend to be a tempting target for vandals. According to claims data from insurer LV=, convertible cars are twice as likely to be vandalised than other types of motor. Research among owners found that a quarter of them have experienced vandalism or theft to a convertible car they've owned, with malicious damage to the body of the car and ‘keying' being the most commonly reported types of vandalism. This makes them higher risk for insurers, bumping up the cost of cover. However, as with all forms of car insurance, premiums can vary widely depending on which provider you go to, which is why it’s always essential to compare lots of different quotes before buying.

Safe and secure

There are also several steps which convertible owners can take to reduce the cost of premiums. For example, installing additional security measures such as an insurer-approved alarm can help bring premiums down, and it will also help if the car can be parked in a locked garage, or at least off the road on a private drive. Convertible drivers could also consider raising their excess – the portion of any insurance claim you must pay yourself – as this can help reduce premiums, but remember that your excess must remain affordable otherwise you might not get enough to repair your car properly if you have to make a claim.

Bear in mind too, that insurance quotes are based on your driving experience and age too, so if you are an older driver and have a clean driving record, premiums will be a lot more affordable than if you are younger and have points on your licence. Despite potentially higher insurance bills, die-hard convertible fans are likely to consider this a price worth paying for the pleasure of driving with the roof down, and, on a hot summer’s day when the sun is blazing. And who can blame them?

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