Photo: Andrew Collins
What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.  

Michael has been working his ass off serving overseas and can now buy his dream car and enjoy some open-air motoring. He has a pretty healthy budget, but the catch is this ride must be able to fit two car seats comfortably. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)

Here is the scenario:

After several tours overseas and a now permanent home (WooHoo!); I have saved enough to find and buy a dream car. We already have a mini-van (#minivanlife) and a small SUV for the kids and to commute back and forth to work. I am looking for something I can open up (Convertible, panoramic roof, targa, etc.) and take out on nice days and the weekends. Car must be capable of putting car seats in the back to pick up kids in case of emergency and I don’t want to buy a new car because of the depreciation. I would like something that has some soul to it, something that you won’t see everywhere but that isn’t so exotic that I have to take it to a specialty dealer to have the oil changed.

For the budget I’m comfortable spending up to 80,000, maybe a little more for the right car. However, I’m trying to hedge against a massive depreciation drop so I would prefer a used car. Also it must be an automatic.

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Quick Facts:

Budget: $80,000 give or take

Daily Driver: Not really

Location: Bethesda, MD

Wants: Something fun with an open top (sort of), good for kids

Doesn’t want: Something too exotic

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Is Very Conflicted About This

Image: Travis Okulski/Jalopnik

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Michael, this was a tough one. I really wanted to give you something fantastic with style and character, like this 2013 Aston Martin DB9 convertible. Look at this thing—it is a sporty car for a well-traveled gentleman, which is exactly what you are! The problem is that even though “back seats” are present unless you are a dude on the shorter side they aren’t remotely functional for humans.

As the only person on staff who regularly transports multiple kids in a vehicle, I just can’t in good conscience recommend a car that won’t really work. While the kids are in car seats even the larger convertibles are going to be a challenge.

You should probably get a Mercedes-AMG E63 wagon. It’s not as sexy as that Aston, but getting the kiddos and their stuff in and out is a breeze and you can find one with the dual panel panoramic roof. It’s not quite full “open air” motoring, but it will get the job done. Here is a nice example in your vicinity for well under budget.

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Expert 2: Michael Ballaban – Let’s Keep The Conflicted Feelings Going

Alright, yeah, I know, “no new cars” because depreciation, but I’m going to save you money on those oil changes. All of those oil changes. Because you’re never going to need one with a Tesla Model 3 Performance. Look at me, saving you money already, so that you can eat all the depreciation in the world.

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The Tesla Model 3 Performance – if you can get one, and if you don’t mind occasional! fun! surprises! and if you can live with knowing that you’re giving Elon even more money to fund the dreams and nightmares that are entirely of his own making – is an excellent car. We’ve driven one. It feels light and nimble and chuckable, while at the same time affording absolutely brutal acceleration. We’re talking zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds brutal, faster than a Ferrari F430 at the drag strip brutal.

And yeah, it’ll drift, if blasting your eyeballs into the back of your skull isn’t the sort of thing that stirs your soul. Plus the rear windscreen crawls up into the roof, giving you plenty of light.

If you don’t mind living in a future where to control even the windshield wipers you gotta go through the big center screen, then go for a Tesla Model 3 Performance. They go for right around $80 grand, so go nuts. And yeah, it’ll fit some car seats.

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Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky – I’m Not Conflicted At All

Michael, first, let me apologize for the two suggestions above there. It’s like they didn’t even read what you asked for! You asked for something that gives you the open air, something that has some soul and you don’t see everywhere! The Model 3 is interesting and that’s a great Benz wagon, but neither is enough. Not open enough, not enough soul, not enough for you, Michael, and what you deserve.

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This beautiful 1964 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, though, it’s enough.

The Corvair was a fascinating car, a wildly unusual move for a company like Chevy to produce. It was America’s Porsche 911, only roomier and more practical, and, like this one, available with an automatic transmission.

The Corvair is a great-looking, clean design, and surprisingly roomy inside; you’ll have no trouble getting a couple of kid seats strapped onto that back seat, and, let me tell you, getting kids in an out of a convertible is a snap. I’ve done it—it’s by far the best kid ingress/egress solution.

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This particular one is only $12,950, pretty much the cost of a decently-appointed Lexus less than your budget, so if you’re worried about repairs, sock away $30,000 or so and don’t even worry about it. Besides, this one has had a lot of work done already and looks to be in great shape.

This open-air Corvair will give you everything you want: all the sky and wind you could ask for, an interesting car packed full of character, and enough room to occasionally take those kids, who will adore riding in this. It’s not really exotic, and you can still get parts for it and get it repaired without much hassle.

Just ignore that stupid Nader book and enjoy the rumble of that flat-6 behind you and the wind in your hair.

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Expert 4: Patrick George – This May Work

Mike—can I call you Mike?—I’m reluctant to make this suggestion because I’m not 100 percent sure it’ll work. But it might. These days the BMW M4 Convertible is a pretty substantial machine with a decent back seat. Move the front ones up and you may just have room for two car safety seats out back.

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And with that, you get a twin-turbo, 425 horsepower inline-six, rear-wheel drive, either a manual gearbox or a DCT, and performance that lets it run with a lot of vastly more expensive machines. You want a car that “you won’t see everywhere” but “isn’t so exotic that I have to take it to a specialty dealer to have the oil changed.” BMW M4s aren’t rare, but they are special, and they can be serviced at any BMW dealer, of which there are many.

Here’s a used one in your area way under budget at $51,000. It’s certified pre-owned too, so you get some warranty coverage.

As a backup, I recommend you just ditch the convertible idea and get yourself a BMW M3 sedan. It’s the same car in a vastly more practical package, guaranteed to fit two car seats (and give easy access to them with two doors.) You can always have that with a sunroof, or just put the windows down.