Did you know that the average American keeps their car roughly 6 years before getting a new one? As we grow older that becomes quite a lot of vehicles over a lifetime. As our bodies age we often need to make adjustments to our day to day lives to accommodate for those physiological changes. One thing people tend to forget about is making the same adjustments to the cars they drive.
Before I became a member of the Fusion family, I spent 13 years in the car business. I sold cars, worked in finance, ran an internet sales department and was a sales manager. During that time, I helped many people who required special adaptions for their vehicles. I have sold vehicles to customers who had amputations, were paralyzed, wheelchair bound, and many who were just frustrated with getting older. I would like to share a few things with you that I have learned about finding the right car for you as you age. I am not telling you how to buy your next car, just offering some tips to keep in mind. Having helped care for elderly parents and grandparents, as well as growing older myself, I speak from experience.
If you suffer from back, knee or leg pain, I recommend you purchase a vehicle that the seat sits high enough that will allow you to go from a standing position to seated with very little drop. As a good rule of thumb, if your lower buttocks rests against the side of the seat when standing, you should be able to easily sit and swivel your legs into the vehicle with little to no trouble. While I would love to own a classic roadster, the days of lowering myself into those seats and then fighting to climb out of it are getting close to being over.
If you or your passengers require the use of a wheelchair and are unable to stand to enter the vehicle, the seat height should ideally be close to the height of the wheelchair seat. If I transfer board is required, you do not have a large incline or decline making transfers more difficult. If you perform a squat pivot transfer, or have somebody assist you in doing so, A more even surface will be more effective. I also recommend finding a vehicle in which the doors open as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. This will give you more room to maneuver the wheelchair and still have room for assistance with the transfer. Also make sure that you have ample room to easily load and unload the wheelchair while not interfering with driver or passenger comfort.
Once in the vehicle, make sure that you have good visibility all around you. While this may go without saying, I have rented cars and SUV’s in the past that had terrible blind spots. I also recommend getting a vehicle equipped with a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, backup camera and rear automatic braking. For people suffering with limited neck mobility, this will prove to be of great benefit.
If you have found that your reflexes are not quite what they used to be, look at vehicles that have some type of driver assist feature. My current vehicle is equipped with a collision avoidance system, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. This safety suite is something I highly recommend. I have used them for a few years and can say with complete certainty that they work. A lot of people express fear at giving a vehicle so much power over the driver, but these systems are not nearly as intrusive as you might think. I use them proactively and they have improved my driving skills and awareness as I have grown older.
If you require hand controls, make sure the vehicle you choose has a tilting and telescopic steering wheel. Make the necessary adjustments for driver comfort, then make sure you have enough room between the bottom of the steering column and your knees and legs to accommodate for the hand controls. Once hand controls are installed, the tilt and telescopic functions of the steering column cannot be adjusted. Make sure you are comfortable.
I also recommend that if you need to have your vehicle specially equipped with hand controls or other modifications, you purchase a new vehicle as opposed to pre-owned. Some manufacturers offer programs where they will offer reimbursement for modifications if you do it within a certain time of purchase.
These are just a few recommendations that I have learned from my life experiences and I wanted to share them with you. If you would like more specific help with your next purchase or have questions, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Craig Repanshek