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  1. Default Convertible vs Mini van for road trip??? Advice please!

    My self and my girlfriend are planning a 90 day road trip this summer 2011 round the USA starting from Seattle and most likely ending near there as well. We will actually be coming from Vancouver.
    We have the choice of car that we buy for this trip and we are really struggling with the decision.
    Just so you know we do have a budget so the less we spend in every day needs means the more we have for the fun stuff.
    The two choices are something like these 2 cars:
    1996 Chrysler SEBRING CONVERTIBLE (it does have a trunk)
    2000 Ford Windstar LX

    The way I see it if we get the convertible then we are going to have to hall camping gear and may be more inclined to spend nights in motels plus struggle with space and maybe security.
    If we get the mini van we can take the seats out and make a bed in the back and almost live in the van if needed. So no tents to hassle with hopefully.

    I am wondering if the extra hassle of a convertible is worth it? I have never owned one but I can’t think of anything better than driving along the coast or through the dessert or even a forest with the top down.
    Can someone that has done a long road trip in a convertible please tell me if this is a romantic notion that wears thin after the first hour with the top down?

    Can someone tell me what to expect so that I know the realty of it as it is a big purchase and not something I will be able to change half way.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Welcome!

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America Forum!

    Every vehicle has some form of compromise, and these two are no exception. If your plan is to spend 90 days sleeping in your vehicle, you'll find out that after the first week the romantic notion of that will wear thin. Your first priority should be the condition of the vehicle that you will be taking. After that, which vehicle would be the most comfortable. Certainly driving along the ocean in a convertible would be nice, but if your back is sore from long stints behind the wheel, or you have to keep pushing back something that is taking up too much space in the back seat, it's less likely to be enjoyable over the long haul.

    Either way, since you're on a budget, I would still suggest bringing the camping gear with you. Reasonably priced campgrounds are easy enough to find, and staying at one of those is a lot better than waking up in the middle of the night by the local police telling you to move along because you're trespassing.

  3. Default Thanks for the advice.


    Thanks for the advice.
    Lest assume that what ever vehicle is chosen is mechanically sound.
    I would like to know more specifically:

    Convertible + camping gear
    Mini van with bed in the back

    We have no intention of sleeping every single night in the car. But there would be some well chosen hotels/motels/hostels and most of the time I expect to roll into a campground no matter which vehicle I choose as we will need showers.

    I would like to focus more on the car type for this question.

    Is taking a convertible on this long road trip worth the hassle of having to find a place to pitch a tent (most night) before we can sleep. Will the fun part of driving with the top down become annoying very fast and we wish we had just got the minivan.
    A minivan we could roll into a Wall-Mart or truck stop and climb straight into the back and sleep or rolled into a campground/beach late at night and slept without the hassle of setting up a tent.
    Maybe even having a bit more security in those emergency times where we may want to pull off the side of the road and Sleep for a few hours. (I don’t know if this is even going to happen)
    I know I might be over analyzing this but I really want a convertible but the logical side of me thinks a minivan is best. As I have never had a convertible I am worried the novelty wares off fast and I will have made a mistake.

    I have even toyed with the Idea of taking the minivan and then hiring a convertible for a few days for down the California highway.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    I think you're going to struggle a bit with camping gear in the convertible. I just don't know if you'll have the cargo space. At the very least, I think you'd have to use the back seat area for some of your stuff.

    I've really got to say, the 2 options are about as close to opposites as I can imagine. The mini-van is certainly the more practical option, but it will sacrifice some fun. In the worst case with the convertible, if you decide its not much fun, you're still just got regular car if you decide to keep the roof up.

    Having said that, I think you are over-estimating the practicality of the mini-van. Sure, there could be a time or two where you could roll into a parking spot to catch some sleep, but over the course of a 90 day trip, I can't see why you'd need to have a lot of marathon drives that would lend itself to that kind of travel. Frankly, if you put a bed in the back of the mini-van, you're not going to have much room left for the rest of the stuff you'll need for a 90 day trip either. After spending lots of days inside a car, don't underestimate the power of simply being just outside of the confines of the tin can, either.

    And in a real practical sense, it rarely makes sense to purchase a car only for a roadtrip. I'd be giving some serious though to what would make sense for you after your trip is done.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 03-23-2011 at 10:33 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    From your 2 choices I would opt for Mini van plus camping equipment, but equally a 'normal' Sedan would do do the same job without the need for a bed in the back and you would probably get more for your money.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I'd be a bit concerned about the reliability of either one of those specific vehicles. The Sebring was not that well built and doesn't have that great a reliability record - and the Windstar has documented engine and transmission issues. When you are talking a vehicle that's over 10 years old, very likely has over 100k on it, and you don't have an idea of how it was treated and maintained, it's pretty risky.

  7. Default

    Thank you all for your advice. This is good stuff and it is giving me a lot to think about.
    A bit of background to help focus on the question. I am working in Canada for 12 months so I have to buy a car for work. And the cost of a Hire car for the 3 month road trip is to expensive. I intend on using the car for work and taking it on a trip in the summer. Then after the 12 months is up I will have to sell it. I wont get what I paid for it but I should get something and as a vehicle is a necessity for me the only choice I have is which vehicle to get. I intend to do some research on the car quality before buying it of course. I can also do basic service and maintenance on cars myself provided they are not to modern.
    I have done shorter three week long road trips in regular cars in the past (South Africa, Scotland, Irland). I have my suspicions about a convertible but they are not fact they are simple an opinion based on no actual experience with the type of car.
    Has anyone ever owned a convertible and/or taken a medium to long road trip in one?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default a big detail

    If you are working in Canada, then you will have to buy the car there, but more importantly, you will have to sell the car there. Put very simply, you can not sell a Canadian car in the US or vice versa.

  9. Default

    Thanks. I intend to do both things in Vancouver where I am living.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2009
    SF Bay Area

    Default Former Sebring owner

    I actually owned a Sebring Convertible of that approximate vintage (Orchid Pearl coat). Did have a decent trunk for a convertible; back seat ok for a couple of elementary school kids.

    I'd suggest having a mechanic give it a complete go-over before: a) buying, b) taking on a long trip. A car of that vintage can be problematic.

    Mine passed to my daughter in '98, and she donated it to charity in around 2003. It was a mess by then. Hate to think what it looks like right now.

    Hint: if the car you're looking at is light purple and has California plates.... pass on it!

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