What Car Did I Buy? Droptop Desires Got The Better Of Me, It’s Time To Supplement The Family Minivan

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet.

Perhaps Canada’s brief summer exacerbates this Canuck’s desire for a convertible.

Summer is short. I want to take advantage of every last second.

This also explains why Canadian homeowners landscape incessantly despite the fact that all of their work is for nought for six or seven months.

I want to put the top down. But not just any convertible will do. I’ve got a budget of about USD $10,000. Due to the smaller market, and the much smaller market for convertibles, pre-owned prices aren’t as favorable north of the border as they are in the United States. Cross-border shopping is a possibility, but life has never been busier, and the last thing I want is to have a car detained at the border over some inspection technicality.

My options thus fell into four categories. Here are some examples.

No.1: Mazda MX-5 Miata
I’ve always wanted one. Growing up, there was a Mazda dealer on Portland Street in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. We basically had to drive by the dealer if we were going anywhere, and my siblings and I were floored when the first Miatas arrived in 1989. Obviously the latest ND Miatas are too pricey. Unlike many Miata fans, I’m a fan of the NC’s styling, but getting one in the price bracket wasn’t going to be easy, and I’m not convinced it drives as sweetly as the others. Many NA Miatas appear quite rough around the edges, and I like the look of the NB best. There have been a handful in my price bracket, many with extremely low mileage; some with high mileage but lower prices.

Two seats aren’t ideal for a family of four, but even if it had more capacity, this second vehicle isn’t going to be the car we typically use for family outings. We’re moving to Prince Edward Island next month, and the twisty rural roads around our new home would be ideal for a Miata.

No.2: Jeep Wrangler
So much for that fun twisty-road driving. But what the Miata lacks in terms of a rear seat and winter usefulness — the Mazda would be garaged all winter — the Jeep makes up for with genuine four-wheel-drive capability. No, you don’t need four driven wheels. (We’ll be acquiring a new set of winter tires for the Odyssey this year.) But we are moving to a place where winters can be, shall we say, harsh.

A rear seat, a removable top, and traditional Jeep qualities? I’ll put up with a fiddly soft top and find some hardtop storage in exchange for that.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though I can afford a post-2012 Pentastar, and I don’t want to go older than the current JK.

No.3: Something German
The Audi TT, BMW Z3, and Mercedes-Benz SLK are all just a little too cute for me. But the E46 3 Series is my favourite BMW 3 Series generation, and a useable rear seat certainly enhances its appeal.

Finding one with a manual transmission isn’t easy. I also have long-term maintenance cost concerns. But these cars are gorgeous, drive like BMWs used to drive, and are shockingly affordable.

No.4: Off The Board
The problem with spending every spare moment scanning the automotive classifieds? You’ll find things.

You’ll find a Land Rover LR3 with 186,000 miles for USD $3,000. Anticipated annual maintenance: $3,000.

Then there are the Passat Wagons that would serve utterly no purpose as the second vehicle in a minivan-owning family. Passat Wagons do look good, though.

Keep scrolling and you’ll find hilariously inexpensive Mazda RX-8s that will likely drink more oil than my new furnace. I love Volkswagen Golf GTIs. Minis are fun. So too are those Acura RSXs you see advertised with all sorts of engine swap code names. “I took out the EA87#47b and installed a *III427c for better power and reliability.”

But wait a second. I said I wanted top down motoring. Am I really going to forsake my own wishlist?

My choice has already been made. But now you get to tell me, right to my face, how badly I screwed up.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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