Currently reading: James Ruppert: Why it's open season for cheap roadsters
November isn't the usual time to buy a convertible, but it’s a good one

Is it wise to get a convertible, especially at this time of year? Of course it is. They fall in price during the colder, darker months (not by as much as some people imagine, though) and although they are not necessarily easier to find, the private ones you do come across can be desperate sales.

Dealers, by contrast, always know what they are doing, so they’ll either settle for a smaller profit in the off-season or just wait for the weather to improve. But you don’t have to. There are roofless cars out there now with your name on them.

I’d say it was fate that brought me back to the BMW Z3 that I’d surfed past days earlier. Obviously, that’s all I do, but this 2001 1.9 Z3 looked the business. Black alloys maketh this model along with dark blue paintwork. It was a dealer partexchange and the previous owner had had it for 16 clearly enjoyable years and had racked up 140,000 miles overall. It wasn’t without battle scars and you could clearly see rust around the sills where they meet the wheel arches. I can usually take or leave a Z3, but I really wanted this one for £995.

I’ve also been looking at Suzuki Jimnys recently, and for just £3490 I can get a 2000 1.3 JLX that is bobbed to the max. Actually, it is very well done: proper black paintwork, big black steel wheels, jacked-up suspension and, most important, an open roof. It’s done 90,000 miles, but that is not relevant. This is what a convertible is all about – grabbing some attention.

Folding metal roofs: don’t you feel like giving the driver a round of applause once the show is over? It’s best to get a really reliable Japanese one, like one of those impossibly cute Daihatsu Copens. There was more blackness, including the alloys, on a £1995, 2003, 85,000-mile example I found. Most impressive of all was the extensive history, never mind the aircon, leather and two new rear tyres.

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The best look for any affordable, street-smart convertible/roadster is clearly black, or at least very dark with black wheels. Which brings me to a 2005 Toyota MR2 with 128,000 miles. It was dark, naturally. I’ve had direct experience of these cars in the past few years and they are super-fun. Also, they don’t break down if looked after. This one had 128,000 miles, leather, a CD player, electric windows and air-con for £1595.

I started out just looking for anything with a part-time roof and ended up down a very dark, mostly matt black rabbit hole. That’s the best way to do these convertible searches: get a theme, stick with it and enjoy a wild ride on the way to full ownership. 

What we almost bought this week

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Rover 220 Turbo Coupe: Rover’s fastest production car at the time of its 1992 launch, the 220 Turbo Coupé is now rare but sought after. It was sporty all round, with a Torsen differential, anti-lock disc brakes, improved suspension and a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine good for 200bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 6.2sec. We found one advertised for £5500.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

Porsche Cayenne, 85,539 miles: As I write this, the Flying Pig is mid-MOT at my local garage. It still hasn’t passed, and after a couple of new front discs, a front wishbone was ordered. When I hadn’t heard anything for a while, I phoned the garage. The Flying Pig had been causing them all sorts of fun. The old wishbone was reluctant to leave its home. Despite the garage trying everything on the retaining nuts, like heat, they would not budge. So they had to be split. New ones are on order from the good people at Porsche. It is now a waiting game. Presumably, an expensive one. 

Reader's ride

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BMW 545i SE Touring: Thanks to Tom for an update on his ‘car situation’, as he calls it: “I just sold the BMW 330i (along with declared MOT-failing faults/warning lights, no history and one key) for £850, so only £1100 depreciation in almost three years. I’ve replaced it with a lovely 545i SE Touring – full service history, 110,000 miles – for £3000. I needed to own a naturally aspirated V8 and now seems like the perfect time. In SE spec and de-badged, it just looks like a 520d, for the ultimate sleeper look. It’s early days but I’m loving it.”

Readers' questions

Question: What is the best way to clean a cloth roof? I’m thinking of buying a soft-top Mini but I live in a covered, wooded area. Graham Hennessey, Norfolk

Answer: There are several kits you can buy to keep your fabric roof clean, from brands such as Autoglym and ValetPRO. As the Mini is fitted with a canvas roof, start by giving it a quik vacuum to remove any dust or debris, before adding some water and your cleaning product. Leave the cleaner for several minutes to give it a better chance of removing any mould and then scrub away gently with a soft brush. Wash down with water afterwards and remove any leftover excess water with a towel or cloth. Vinyl roofs require a more careful cleaning process. JW

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Question: I’m considering buying an electric car before the new year but I’ve not heard good things about the range in the winter. Is an electric car viable for the colder months? Elsie Ellingham, Truro

Answer: Low temperatures can certainly have an effect on range. Batteries operate through chemical reactions that take in and release electricity and low temperatures can slow that process down. Some drivers have noted a drop in range of up to 40%. That said, electric cars are still a viable option. Newer batteries are less susceptible to the cold than those of older models and most should offer you more than enough miles for your daily drive. JW

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