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The Best & Safest Cars for the Elderly

January 31, 2020

As we get older, our priorities change when it comes to choosing a car. For the senior driver still in good enough physical and cognitive health to safely get behind the wheel, that typically means finding a car that’s safe, easy to drive and has the technology to help them avoid common mistakes that lead to accidents. 

 

Traffic on a busy streetOf course, it’s most important to ensure your or your loved one’s fitness to drive and to take common-sense measures when it comes to road safety. That means having your driving skills assessed by a specialist or taking a refresher course, if necessary, and talking to your doctor about any conditions or medications that may affect your driving abilities. Experts also suggest these tips for ensuring your safety behind the wheel:

  • Avoid driving in adverse weather conditions
  • Avoid driving at night or at dusk if you have trouble seeing at those times
  • Choose straightforward routes on which you feel comfortable
  • Leave adequate space between your car and the car in front of you
  • Consider driving in the slower-speed right-hand lane on highways 

Best Car Features For Seniors

The best and safest vehicles for seniors include features that account for age-related challenges, such as reduced mobility or arthritis, vision problems, slower reaction time and/or mild cognitive issues. These features include:
  • Keyless, remote or push-button entry and ignition: If you or your loved one is dealing with arthritis or reduced fine motor skills, a remote push-button entry and start feature means no need for turning a key as long as the driver is holding or carrying the encoded key fob. Remote- or motion-operated trunks or liftgates are also advantageous.
  • Large digital dashboard display: Easy-to-read speedometers and gauges make driving safer for those with vision problems. Certain high-end cars even feature a “head-up” display that projects the vehicle’s speed and other information onto the inside of the windshield in the driver’s line of sight to help keep eyes focused on the road.
  • Parking aids: Rearview cameras and proximity warnings can help drivers with reduced range of motion by minimizing the twisting and upper body rotation often required to back out of a garage or parking space. Some car models even have a system using multiple cameras that shows a 360-degree view around the car. Some Honda vehicles feature a side camera that shows what’s along the passenger’s side of the vehicle when the right turn signal is activated. Several cars, most notably from Ford and General Motors, also offer a self-parking feature that automatically steers the vehicle into a parallel-parking space.
  • All-wheel drive: Crossover SUVs and many luxury cars offer optional all-wheel drive systems to maximize traction on wet or icy roads.
  • Blind spot monitoring: This feature uses sensors or cameras to alert a driver to the presence of other cars to the side and rear of the vehicle on the highway, first with an illuminated warning, then with a loud alarm if the turn signal is engaged. Some systems also issue an alert if there’s cross-traffic approaching when the car is backing up.
  • Lane departure warning: These systems alert the driver if their car is drifting into another lane of traffic. Some also engage the brakes or steering to help direct the vehicle back into the correct lane.
  • Navigation system: For those who frequently get lost, have trouble reading street signs, are traveling a new route or just feel more confident driving with turn-by-turn directions, navigation systems are included in some vehicles or can be linked to your car’s audiovisual system through your smartphone. Systems that come with a large and legible display screen and voice-command operation are ideal.
  • Adaptive headlamps and auto-dimming mirrors: High-intensity headlamps that pivot to light the way through curves and/or switch between high and low beams as needed, as well as auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors to minimize glare while driving after dark, can be especially helpful for those with vision issues.
  • Forward collision warning: Typically bundled with radar-based adaptive cruise control, this system issues visual and audible alerts, and typically primes the brakes to full stopping power if it feels the car is closing in on a vehicle, or something else in its path, too quickly.
  • Automatic braking systems: The most effective collision warning systems are those that can take over and apply the brakes if the driver isn’t responding quickly enough. Though most are designed to stop the vehicle at higher speeds, Volvo and Mazda offer low-speed automatic braking systems designed to work in city traffic and prevent both rear-end collisions and collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists. A few Nissan and Infiniti models will also engage the brakes while the car is in reverse gear if sensors determine someone or something is in the vehicle’s path.

What Is the Safest Car for Seniors?

The best vehicles for seniors are ones that are easy to get into and out of, offer enhanced visibility, and include several safety features and easy-to-use information and control systems. Check out these top cars recently highlighted by U.S. News & World Report as good options for older drivers: 
  • Honda Fit
  • Subaru Forester
  • Kia Soul
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Volvo V90
  • Buick Enclave
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Hyundai Kona
  • Genesis G90
  • Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
  • Honda HR-V
  • Subaru Crosstrek
  • Kia Niro
  • Buick Encore
  • Toyota Avalon Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Atlas
Some of these cars also appear on the Consumer Reports list of Top 25 New Cars for Senior Drivers, which also adds:
  • Subaru Outback
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Kia Sportage
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Honda Odyssey
  • Ford C-Max
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Honda Pilot
  • Honda CR-V
  • Kia Forte
  • Ford Escape
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Kia Sorento
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Kia Cadenza
  • Audi Q7
In addition, AutoWeb recommends the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 200, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Volvo S60 and Volkswagen Passat for their senior-friendly features.

What Are the Easiest Cars to Get In and Out Of? 

As we age, we need to consider cars that are easy to enter and exit to compensate for reduced range of motion, arthritis or various levels of disability, as well as to prevent falls and enhance comfort. According to AutoWeb, the easiest cars to get in and out of have a low door sill, a large door opening, a seat that isn’t too low or high and perhaps a well-placed grab handle. The website lists the following 10 vehicles as meeting these criteria:
 
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Chrysler 300
  • Toyota Camry
  • Dodge Charger
  • Infiniti Q70
  • Lexus LS
  • Nissan Altima
  • Honda Fit
  • Lexus ES

A Checklist for Car-Buying

Choosing the right car for yourself or your senior loved one is a personal decision based on your unique needs and preferences. When you’re ready to go car shopping, remember to print and take with you this handy checklist of considerations that can help you find a safe, comfortable, sensible vehicle:

Download Car-Buying Checklist

Free Senior Living Options eBook

As you begin your search, use this easy to understand guide to help you better understand your options.

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