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Convertible drivers are older, richer and smarter than the rest of us

Analysis finds most ragtop purchasers are over 45 and have annual incomes above $175,000.

By Douglas Newcomb Jul 24, 2014 8:44AM

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible. Photo by Ford.Think of convertibles and the image that typically comes to mind is of a carefree young person, couple or group of friends driving with the top down, sunglasses on and the wind whipping through their hair. But in reality, most convertible drivers are graying, empty-nest baby boomers wearing prescription lenses and considering the returns on their 401(k) accounts.

That’s the picture that a recent Experian Automotive analysis paints of people who purchased convertibles in the first quarter of this year. By looking at vehicle registrations between January and March, the credit reporting agency found that more than 72 percent of consumers buying a ragtop during that period were more than 45 years old, whereas only 60 percent of all average new car buyers were of the same age.

And given the age of these convertible buyers, it’s not surprising that Experian also found that those who purchased a drop-top this winter in anticipation of warmer weather ahead were also wealthier, better educated and had no kids at home when compared to all other new car shoppers.

According to the analysis, 19 percent of those who purchased a drop-top had a yearly income above $175,000 and 11.7 percent owned a home valued at more than $1 million. Just 10.7 percent of all car buyers earn that amount annually, and only 4.4 percent own a home valued that high. The study also found that 50 percent of convertible buyers had at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 38 percent for all other car purchasers. And 52 percent of convertible buyers didn’t have a child at home, whereas only 42 percent of average new car buyers are childless.

Brad Smith, director of Experian Automotive, said in a statement that one reason older, more affluent empty nesters make up most ragtop buyers is “that luxury brands tend to have more convertible options." He added that one long-standing perception of convertibles still holds true -- that they are mostly bought “by consumers who live in sunny, coastal areas."

Experian said that 23 percent of all convertibles in the U.S. are registered in either California (13.4 percent) or Florida (9.6 percent), with Texas (7 percent), New York (4.3 percent) and Illinois (3.9 percent) making up the remainder of the top five. As for cities with the most convertibles sold in the first quarter of this year, Los Angeles took the top spot (6.4 percent), followed by New York (5.2 percent), San Francisco, (2.9 percent), Chicago (2.9 percent) and Atlanta (2.5 percent).

But three of the five most popular models among the 4.5 million convertibles on U.S. roads -- which comprise only 1.8 percent of the entire vehicle market -- aren't that expensive. Leading all 50 states as top convertible is the Ford Mustang, followed by the Chrysler Sebring, Mazda Miata, BMW 3-Series and Chevrolet Corvette.

[Source: Experian Automotive]

Jul 24, 2014 2:27PM
Wait a second.  So in summary, 72% of convertible purchasers are over 45.  Coincidently around the same age bracket as BMW, Audi, Porsche, etc. purchasers -- which makes them old?.  Just 19% that purchased a convertible have a yearly income above $175k, not sure how that equates to convertible purchasers being rich.  Lastly, 50% of convertible purchaser had at least a bachelors and the conclusion from this amazing research company is that convertible buyers are smarter?  Sounds like research full of generalizations and assumptions to me.  Wow.....that is some amazing research and analysis.
Jul 29, 2014 4:29AM
What? Someone has to be using flawed statistics ; nowhere in this article does it say "NEW" convertible purchases . Convertibles are well known for their turnover in ownership , and MANY people (with nowhere near that much income)  buy them used , which is actually very smart since they tend to be much less expensive and have low miles due to usually being driven less . None of our friends or us are anywhere near $175k a year , but many of us like convertibles as a second car for fun . And in most cases they can be purchased almost as inexpensively as a hardtop . Look around , you can find 4-10 year old ragtops with low miles and excellent condition (convertible owners tend to keep them in good shape) for under $15,000 , and many times in the $5-10k area. My wife and I bought a 2003 BMW 323CI 4 years ago when it was 7 years old , 43k miles , for $9900 . Great handling car ! A friend and his wife found and bought a 10 year old Mazda with 35k , for $5500 .  And we both have retired family incomes of  about $55k a year , not $175k . Nothing I know of says you have to be that wealthy (million dollar homes??) to enjoy the open air ,  jmo
Jul 29, 2014 5:26AM

"convertibles in the U.S. are registered in either California (13.4 percent)"


I don't understand how this stat is significant.


13% of the entire population of the USA lives in California so selling the same percentage of convertibles seems rather average!

Jul 29, 2014 7:59AM

I'm retired at 62 in sunny Sarasota, FL and I own a Mustang GT Ragtop.

Life is definitely good.

Jul 29, 2014 8:56AM
I'm over 45, own a convertible but make nowhere near $175,000.00. Guess I don't fit the group stereotype.
Jul 26, 2014 2:22PM
I believe I fit all three criteria.  But, I never, ever buy brand new...always a couple of years old.  Love my 2006 325Ci BMW!
Jul 29, 2014 8:11AM
I guess I fit now. But I've been buying convertibles  since my new, dad had to co-sign, 1975 MGB.
Aug 1, 2014 4:05AM
I think this article was only written to make wealthy folks feel better about themselves!!!! I have a 1989 BMW ragtop and I make no where's near $175,000 and certainly do not own a million dollar home.
Jul 29, 2014 11:34AM
Insurance premiums are a bit higher on sporty , 2-door convertible.
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