Top 10: Used convertibles for £3000 or less
If you fancy a bit of affordable, drop-top fun this summer, now is the time to hit the classifieds in search of a bargain convertible. With a budget of just £3000, you might be surprised at how many soft-tops are on the market...
If you're after a second-hand convertible and don't need to carry many passengers, the MX-5 should be very high on your shortlist. It's the default choice for good reason - it's brilliant to drive and very reliable - just watch out for rust. With a £3000 budget, we'd hunt out a third-generation model.
The Toyota MR2 offers the same Japanese reliability as the Mazda MX-5, but they’re much rarer and offer a slightly different driving experience due to their mid-engined layout. Unlike the MX-5, they’re not exactly a docile introduction to rear-wheel-drive, although later (post 2003) examples aren’t as snappy as early models.
Introduced in 2004, the MINI Convertible still looks modern and stylish today - and it’s practical enough for most of us to use all year round. We’d opt for a desirable Cooper model, ideally with the Chili Pack (bringing with it extra leather, sports seats and sports suspension).
Second-hand cars don't get much more stylish than the Audi TT. Early examples wear well, making them an excellent used buy. Check that the cambelt's been changed every five years or 80,000 miles and listen out for knocks and squeaks from the suspension. Uneven tyre wear can also be an indication of suspension trouble.
BMW 3 Series Convertible
A four-seater that looks great, drives well, has a stow-away roof and all for less than £3000? The BMW 3 Series Convertible is arguably the best all-rounder you can buy on a limited budget. Hoods are costly to replace so inspect them carefully, and buy on the condition and service history rather than the mileage or specification.
When you think of stylish soft-tops, a Volvo may not spring to mind. But the second-generation C70, launched in 2006, is a very sensible way of spending £3000. Its three-piece folding hard-top was ahead of its time, offering more refinement than a conventional soft-top yet able to lower in less than 30 seconds.
While some people would prefer a Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio, our money would go on the Golf-based Eos. Like the Volvo C70, the Eos featured a clever folding hard-top when it was launched in 2006. This meant it was more refined that soft-top rivals, and the retractable roof has earned itself a reputation for being reliable.
We make no apologies for featuring two BMWs here. The fact that the Z4 is dropping below £3000 makes it a soft-top bargain, in our eyes. Although it’s only a two-seater, there’s more space than a Toyota MR2, while its rear-wheel-drive layout and 50/50 weight distribution means the Z4’s great to drive.
Oh, how exciting the Renault Wind was when it was revealed at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. A stylish two-seater with a trick rotating metal roof that didn’t impede on boot space even when it was dropped, the Wind offered quirky looks and excellent value for money.
Can you buy a Boxster for £3000? Probably, if you haggle a bit. Should you buy a Boxster for £3000? Probably not. A clutch replacement can cost four figures, while engine issues (from cracked cylinder bores to intermediate shaft bearing failure) aren’t unknown. Do your research before buying a cheap Boxster - but a £3000 Porsche isn't to be sniffed at.