How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Convertible Top?

Dustin Hawley | Feb 22, 2021

Owning a convertible is a special kind of pleasure. It can, however, be a special kind of annoyance as well.

car with convertible top

Do you remember that fairytale moment when newlyweds Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly rode in their Rolls Royce convertible and greeted the public? Or better yet, when John Travolta drove that 1948 Ford DeLuxe in the film “Grease”!? The list of famous people who have proudly sported their beloved convertibles is lengthy: everyone from The Beatles, Muhammad Ali, and Marilyn Monroe, to Queen Elizabeth II and Sophia Loren have enjoyed the top-down experience provided by a convertible. 

However, it is unlikely that they faced the issues that a regular convertible enthusiast would. While these vehicles offer many thrills and benefits, convertibles can get tricky. What should you do when the top begins to show signs of wear, or simply needs to be replaced after years of use? And how much does a new convertible top cost?

Replacing A Convertible Top On A Budget

Before embarking on this endeavor, carefully consider whether you want to repair the top or replace it. Depending on its condition, fixing it can sometimes turn out to be a more affordable option. 

  • If you’re set on replacing the top, make sure to consider alternative materials. There is a whole list of available fabrics, so you don’t have to focus exclusively on vinyl options. You can always opt for the canvas convertible top. It gives the vehicle a soft-top appearance, and the wind will not cause as much noise on the material while driving. Another alternative is the Stayfast canvas with a rubber inner layer and a cotton backing. 
  • Are you looking to cut costs? Try choosing a brand that targets the budget customers. In many cases, these budget companies can save you upwards of $200 on convertible top replacement costs. Auto Tops Direct and Tops Online are good examples of economic distributors. 
  • Whether you are repairing or replacing the top, you can reuse some hardware and/or accessories if they are still in good working order, including the top frame, pads, and cables. 

There’s one crucial thing to keep in mind: As much as you may feel tempted to try some DIY repairs or installation, replacing a convertible top can be a complicated task. If it is not performed correctly, you can cause a fatal leak, damage to the interior, or even catastrophic failure. Save yourself the trouble and leave it to the professionals. 

The Estimated Price For Replacing A Convertible Top Runs From $900 To $1500

The price of replacing a convertible top is largely dependent on the make and model of your vehicle. But in most cases, the costs include the following:

  • One replacement top (including pop rivets, staples, hold-down cables, and adhesive)
  • A strip of windshield sealer (for those who own a vehicle with glass windows with rubber trim)
  • Silicone spray 

A new curtain window and backlight are often not included in many DIY kits, so make sure to purchase them independently if you plan on tackling the project yourself.

Soft Top vs. Hard Top

A frequent dilemma faced by consumers who are considering purchasing a new convertible is whether to go with a soft-top or hardtop. Though both soft-top and hardtop convertibles have their pros and cons, they are two entirely different applications when it comes to maintenance.

Some consumers may be concerned about a soft rooftop’s safety features, knowing the top of their vehicle’s structural integrity is not as sturdy as that of a hardtop. Additionally, soft-tops are also more susceptible to general wear and tear. 

But while hardtops may prove to be the safer and more durable option, they are also more expensive to maintain and repair. A hardtop convertible relies on many moving parts to function correctly and requires more labor and expertise to service. 

With that said, the soft-top provides one great advantage - it can be detached. So if you find yourself in need of repairing your convertible top, you can still use your car in the interim while the repair process is taking place. Also, keep in mind that the insurance rates for soft-top convertibles are often much higher than those for hardtops. This is because soft-tops are more susceptible to damage and break-ins (due to their easy access) than hardtops, and hence, come with an increased insurance cost.

How To Replace Your Convertible Top

Replacing a convertible top is a process that requires a lot of patience and a few carefully planned steps. Let’s take a look at how it’s done:

  • Start by removing the lids from the rear of the car body. Then cover the deck lid. From here, remove the fasteners. Ensure that you properly mark all screws and moldings.
  • Lift the top, and then remove the roll strip. All the staples and screws need to be taken out and stored for reuse at the end of the process. Be sure to remove the screws from the middle bows, as well. 
  • Remove ALL staples. Failure to remove all staples may result in the jagged edges of an overlooked staple potentially lacerating your new top. 
  • Loosen everything enough to make the removal of the old top as effortless as possible.
  • Check all measurements before beginning the new pad installation.
  • Carefully remove the rear window. Getting the window out is probably the most challenging step, and you’ll need wide screwdrivers or plastic tools to perform this task. When possible, seek assistance from a second set of hands to ensure safe removal. 
  • Remove the convertible top from the frame. Be careful while peeling the vinyl off.
  • Carefully form and install the new top onto the frame. From this point, the installation process is reversed from removal. Everything that was loosened needs to be tightened, and everything that was removed (screws, etc.) needs to be reinstalled and put back to its place in reverse order of removal. The best practice is to work your way from the back to front. When you have finished installing the new top, you should be able to raise and lower it without difficulty. Test it out a bit and make sure it is functioning smoothly before calling it a day. 
  • The final step is to re-install the window, and this process should always be performed with the top up in a locked position. This is also the point where you should replace all remaining trims and hardware that have not been reinstalled. 

Summary

It should be emphasized that it is entirely up to you to find the replacement option that best suits your needs and budget. With that said, it is highly advised to have your convertible top replaced by a professional. Generally speaking, the standard prices for replacing a convertible top are as follows:

  • In the case of a DIY application, you’ll spend roughly $300 in parts to get the job done.
  • A professional will likely charge about $1,000 to perform this service, depending on your vehicle’s make and model and whether or not you have a soft-top or hardtop.
  • Changing the rooftop at the authorized dealer may increase costs slightly (over $1,000), but this may be your best option depending on factors like top style, warranty coverage, and insurance claims. 

Bear in mind that these prices are only estimates. The final cost depends on the type of car you drive and the repairs necessary to get you back on the road. Maintaining and repairing your convertible can sometimes be pricey, but you can’t put a dollar value on the feeling of having the wind blowing in your face while cruising down the freeway.

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