The Best Cars for Seniors in 2022: Terrific Options for Older Drivers
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Every driver has different needs and preferences, so the best cars for seniors vary significantly across different categories. For instance, some older adults want something small and good on gas so they can zip around town. Others want a more rugged vehicle that can handle weather extremes and carry more cargo. Fortunately, today's seniors have a wide range of suitable options.
One of the most basic decisions you'll have to make when car shopping is what kind of vehicle you want. There are many different types, but the best cars for older drivers tend to fall into two categories: sedans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). The list below includes many of each. It's divided into sections for the best SUVs, sedans, and vehicles for seniors with disabilities. (In this article, "car" refers to any passenger vehicle.)
Plus, you'll find information on the basic differences between sedans and SUVs and why you might choose one versus the other. You'll also read about several senior-friendly features you may want to look for in your next vehicle. And you'll even get some practical tips on how to buy a used car.
Choosing a Vehicle Type: Sedans vs. SUVs
Before deciding on a vehicle type, you must understand their differences.
Sedans have four doors and a separate, closed-off trunk. They are smaller than SUVs and are generally more stable, smoother-riding, and easier to maneuver and park. They also tend to be more fuel-efficient and come with a lower price tag. However, they are lower to the ground, so they aren't as easy to get in and out of, and visibility can be a challenge. They also offer less interior and cargo space.
SUVs are taller and heavier than sedans and are designed to handle mountainous or rugged terrain with ease, so they tend to have better traction control in wet or snowy conditions. Because they are higher off the ground, they typically offer easier entry and better visibility. They also provide roomier interior and storage spaces. However, they are not as good on gas as sedans and generally cost more to purchase and maintain.
Then there are the crossovers. In cars, "crossover" means an SUV built on a sedan platform. While traditional SUVs use a body-on-frame approach that joins two separate pieces together, crossovers have the body and the frame as a single unit (just like a sedan). That means crossovers are lighter, more agile, and more fuel-efficient than full-size SUVs, while still offering benefits like a higher seating position and greater cabin and cargo space..
In this article, the term "SUV" encompasses traditional SUVs and crossovers.
Senior-Friendly Features to Consider
You should always consider fuel economy, reliability, and price when buying any vehicle. But older drivers often have additional issues to consider, such as mobility or dexterity challenges. If you have specific concerns, it might be wise to consult an occupational therapist to find out what features best fit your situation.
Here are some things to look for in the best vehicles for seniors:
Many older adults find it difficult to squat and move sideways to get into a seat. You may want a vehicle with a low step-in height, a tall roof line, and wide-opening doors. Some seniors need to back up to a vehicle, sit down sideways on the seat, and then slide in. If that's the case for you, non-fabric seats may work best.
Their height makes SUVs easy to get in and out of, and low-slung sedans tend to be a little less accessible.
Drivers need to be able to see from every angle: front, side, and back. Big windows and backup cameras are very helpful in that regard. Higher seats are also useful, which is why SUVs tend to offer better sightlines than sedans.
A 2021 report by Motor and Wheels ranked the top 9 picks for cars with the least blind spots and highest visibility, and unsurprisingly, safety-conscious brand Subaru shows up three times in the list. The other six vehicles on the list are all suitable options for seniors as well:
- Subaru Legacy
- Honda Fit
- Nissan Altima
- Toyota Camry
- Audi A4
- Subaru Outback
- Honda Pilot
- Subaru Forester
- Infiniti QX80
When it comes to the cars with the worst visibility, it's not surprising to see several sporty sedans on the list, but there are also a few surprises. According to a 2022 article from Hot Cars and data from Consumer Reports, the vehicles with the most limited visibility are:
- Toyota Tundra
- Nissan 370Z
- Infiniti QX70
- Toyota C-HR
- Mercedes-Benz CLA
- Nissan Murano
- Toyota FJ Cruiser
- Porsche Taycan
- Kia Stinger
- Chevrolet Camaro
Another important consideration with visibility is the height of the driver. The best car for a short, elderly woman will likely be different than the best car for a tall, young person. U.S. News reports that the best 2022 vehicle models for shorter drivers include the following (plus more):
- Honda Civic
- Ford Expedition
- Mazda CX-30
- Toyota Camry
- Kia Soul
Large, easy-to-read dashboard controls are often preferable for older people with vision limitations and those who prefer less complicated technology. Touchscreens can be confusing and difficult to use depending on the system and user, so make sure you test them out. The best ones have large fonts, intuitive graphics, and high-contrast displays. Voice controls are becoming more widespread and can be very helpful for seniors with dexterity challenges.
Safety is a key concern for any driver, but especially for older adults, who may be more fragile or prone to injuries. There are also plenty of grandparents who prioritize safety features based on being able to safely transport their grandchildren. And let's face it — who doesn't want a vehicle that will offer them excellent protection? Thanks to today's vehicles coming equipped with many new features, the safe, predictable "grandma car" or "grandpa car" no longer needs to be boring.
Safety features that senior drivers often appreciate and benefit from include:
- A backup camera that gives you a view of the area behind your vehicle that may not be visible through the rearview mirror. As of May 2018, such cameras are mandatory on all new cars in the U.S.
- Automatic emergency braking that signals when a crash is imminent and slows or stops the vehicle if you don't react in time. U.S. automakers have agreed to make this a standard feature on almost all new cars by 2022.
- Blind spot warning that lets you know when a vehicle is alongside yours in an area you can't readily see. This helps prevent you from sideswiping another car when changing lanes.
- Lane departure warning that sounds when you drift from your lane without signaling.
- Lane keeping assist that automatically steers the car back into its own lane if you cross lane markers without signaling.
- Rear cross-traffic alert that notifies you if vehicles are crossing behind you as you back up. This is especially useful when backing up in a busy parking lot or out of a driveway where fences or bushes obscure your view.
- Adaptive cruise control that maintains a constant distance between your car and the vehicle ahead of you.
- Driver attention warning that monitors your driving patterns and sounds an alert if it detects signs of drowsiness or fatigue.
Keep in mind that while such features can be helpful, they will not keep you safe if you rely on them to the extent that you don't pay careful attention to the road. It's still essential to be alert and aware of what's going on around you.
MotorTrend's list and review of the safest cars of 2022 considered the safety scores from both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), plus they accounted for which safety features are included and provide their own take on the vehicle in terms of its overall appeal. Some of the most senior-friendly cars on their list include:
- Subaru Legacy — best for someone who values a comfortable, quiet, calm ride
- Toyota Camry (and Hybrid) — a great choice for fuel economy with gasoline or hybrid options
- Honda Insight — a smart pick for someone looking for style, comfort, and great mileage
- Honda Accord (and Hybrid) — a well-rounded option highly acclaimed by MotorTrend for its overall quality
- Honda Odyssey — a minivan with flexibility for people with physical disabilities that may require wheelchair lifts or other accommodations, as well as for grandparents transporting grandkids
You might want a vehicle with plenty of cargo space if you're going to be hauling stuff around (especially large items like walkers or scooters).
SUVs typically provide more room than sedans. However, sedans allow you to conceal your items from view in a trunk, whereas SUVs have open cargo spaces that are often accessible from the rear seats. Keep in mind that in some hybrid cars, the battery pack occupies trunk space and limits the amount of room you have for groceries and gear. Hatchback cars and station wagons can offer more cargo space for those who prefer to stay with a car that's lower to the ground but require or prefer the extra room.
If you have pets that often drive with you, it's worth considering where they will sit in the vehicle. Options could include an appropriate harness on a seat close by, or a larger space with a hatch in the back of the vehicle where their pet can safely ride.
A comfortable ride is important to keep you from getting sore or fatigued. Heated seats can be good for people with stiff hips, lower back pain, or cold sensitivity. Some models allow you to set the seat bottom and back temperature separately. Many cars come standard with heat and cooling or ventilation in the seats, which can also provide significant relief if you feel overly warm.
Power seats that adjust in multiple ways make it easy to accommodate different situations. For instance, perhaps you need to keep the seat further back to get in and out, but then move it closer to the wheel to drive. Or maybe your spouse needs different seat positioning. It's especially handy if the seats have memory settings so you don't have to reconfigure them every time.
Some cars come with options for adjustable back support that can help provide proper structural support for your body, and some even have automatic cushioning on the sides of the seats to brace the driver for curves. And you don't necessarily need to buy a luxury car to get these features, as many higher trim levels of more basic cars can include surprisingly luxurious features.
Adjustable pedals and steering columns can also be useful in ensuring that you get a good fit. A power liftgate on an SUV can save you from manually opening or closing the heavy door. All you need to do is press a button or, in some cases, just wave your foot under the rear bumper (especially handy when your hands are full and you don't want to put your things down to open the car).
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
If you live somewhere with weather that affects driving conditions, choosing a vehicle with all-wheel drive can give you more confidence on the road. With modern vehicles' sophisticated AWD systems, the driver can feel a sense of gripping the road and stabilizing the vehicle. Some of the best cars for snow and winter driving have been those famous for their AWD systems, like Subaru.
Everyone's needs are different, and it's important to find the car that is best suited to you. CarFit is a program that allows seniors to have a trained technician or health professional evaluate how well their vehicles fit them. The process involves looking at factors like how you are positioned in relation to the steering wheel, seat belt, mirrors, pedals, etc. Since the program started, surveys revealed that 10 percent of participating seniors were sitting too close to the wheel, and 20 percent could not see at least three inches over it.
If you'd like to participate in the CarFit program, look for an event in your area and call the contact person to reserve your spot.
The Best SUVs for Seniors in 2022
If you're leaning toward the greater ruggedness, height, and space of a sport utility vehicle, check out these top picks for seniors:
Best All-Around SUV for Seniors: 2022 Honda CR-V Hybrid
The CR-V Hybrid offers a well-rounded range of features that stand out in its class, with Honda's long-standing reputation for reliability to back it all up. The base model is powerful and efficient. The 212 hp engine allows you to make the most of your car's performance capabilities while getting a combined city and highway mileage of 38 MPG. Similar vehicles in the small SUV class range closer to 25 MPG, so at 38 MPG, the CR-V Hybrid saves significantly on fuel costs (especially for how much pep it has to offer).
This SUV also stands out for coming standard with all-wheel drive and safety features like cross-traffic alerts and blind spot monitoring. These safety features can be especially useful to people dealing with neck pain, vision issues, and other factors that make shoulder checks more difficult than for the average person. And the superior crash ratings reinforce this as a top choice for the safety-conscious driver.
While this isn't the cheapest option in the bunch, the base model comes with more luxurious features than its competitors. Plus, the savings at the gas pump can compensate for a higher MSRP.
Best Small or Compact SUVs for Seniors: 2022 Honda CR-V
Honda is a leader in the industry when it comes to making reliable vehicles that are safe and enjoyable to drive. J.D. Power's overall rating of the CR-V includes an impressive score of 9.4 for safety and 9.6 in the critics' rating category. This SUV may be small and easy to maneuver, but the inside feels spacious, and offers a good amount of cargo space.
The turbocharged 190 hp engine provides impressive power to the CR-V, while maintaining an excellent combined city/highway mileage of 31 mpg. Plus, the CR-V is noted for its smooth ride, which makes it a great choice for anyone dealing with pain or discomfort that rough driving conditions can aggravate.
Best Midsize SUV for Seniors: 2022 Kia Telluride
Seniors looking for a vehicle that can fit more passengers will likely appreciate how much the 3-row Telluride offers for its reasonable price tag. The V6 291 hp engine provides significant power, while the ride remains quiet and luxurious. All trim levels come with an impressive range of safety and driver-assistance features that are simple to navigate.
All-wheel drive is optional on higher trim levels for additional control in changing weather and terrain. Opting for AWD makes this one of the best cars for winter driving. And the ample seating might also make this the best car for road trips (regardless of the season).
Most Affordable SUV for Seniors: 2022 Hyundai Tucson
The Tucson won U.S. News' 2022 title for Best Compact SUV for the Money, among other awards. Starting at just over $25K, seniors on a budget can take advantage of the highly regarded features of the Tucson, like its roomy, comfortable, premium interior, abundant cargo space, all-wheel drive options, suite of user-friendly safety tech, great mileage, and more.
This SUV is also a popular choice for families, and works well for taking care of grandparenting duties.
Best SUV for Seniors Looking to Prioritize Safety: 2022 Kia Sorento
This midsize SUV received a safety score of 9.3 from J.D. Power. The Sorento features a low step-in height, expansive windows, decent visibility, and user-friendly controls. It has three rows of seats and can hold up to seven passengers. However, the pop-up third row is best suited to children (so feel free to call this the grandma car or grandpa car because the grandkids will have plenty of space).
Advanced safety features and all-wheel drive are available on higher trim levels, which still come in as quite affordable. All trims of the Sorento come with an impressive range of driver assistance safety features, including:
- Driver drowsiness monitoring
- Automatic high beams
- Lane-keep assist
- Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Rear seat reminder
Best Luxury SUV for Seniors: 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge
This compact all-wheel drive SUV is Volvo's first all-electric car to enter production, but nothing about this model feels like a first try. In fact, MotorTrend reported this model to be the fastest Volvo they had ever tested.
While the electric powertrain adds to your purchase price, the significant savings on gas, as well as environment protection related rebates and tax credits, can add up and make it worthwhile financially. Plus, you'll be ahead of the game as the automotive industry continues to shift toward non-fossil fuel technology.
If you do prefer a lower purchase price and gas engine, the regular XC40 is still a standout choice, and offers trim levels with many of the same features that make the Recharge such a great SUV.
The Best Sedans for Seniors in 2022
Do you like the idea of a sleeker, more aerodynamic vehicle? Have a look at these options, which are some of the best cars for seniors:
Best All-Around Sedan for Seniors: 2022 Toyota Camry
This car is a well-rounded, safe choice for almost any senior in the market for a sedan since it excels in so many areas. The Camry has long been a reliable and popular choice for all kinds of drivers, and the 2022 version is no exception. The base trim level comes with luxurious features many seniors appreciate, like power lumbar support on the 8-way power driver's seat. Toyota's Safety Sense 2.5+ offers assistance with steering, lane tracing, and high-beam toggling, plus auto emergency braking, forward collision warning, and lane departure alerts.
The Camry feels like quality and retains its value well. And higher trim levels offer even more impressive comfort, performance and safety features like all-wheel drive and blind-spot monitoring. The Camry is also available with a hybrid engine.
Best Small or Compact Car for Seniors: 2022 Honda Civic
The Civic offers a winning combination of comfort, sharp handling, easy-to-operate technology, great mileage, and Honda's well-earned reputation for reliability. Small and compact cars are likely not their best choice for seniors with difficulty getting in and out of a more low-slung vehicle. But for a small car, the Civic offers a surprising level of spaciousness and accessibility if the height can work for the driver. The cargo space is also generous for the size of the car, which is helpful for everything from groceries to suitcases to wheelchairs (and more).
J.D. Power gave the Civic a safety score of 9.6 and a critics' rating score of 9.2. And U.S. News awarded it 2022's Best Compact Car for the Money award. The IIHS awarded the Civic the highest rating (good) in all of its crash tests and the Top Safety Pick+ stamp of approval.
Best Midsize Car for Seniors: 2022 Honda Accord
The Accord is a dream to operate and ride in with its high-end interior, smooth and responsive handling, powerful turbocharged engines, and superior safety features. And Honda is consistently a leader in the reliability department. You can enjoy extra peace of mind that you won't encounter unexpected issues that can put you in bad situations both financially and physically. Having your car break down on the side of the road can be costly to deal with, but it can also put you in precarious and dangerous situations.
Choosing a vehicle with a long-standing reputation for reliability and quality is a great way to feel safe and smart.
Most Affordable Car for Seniors: 2022 Kia Forte
The Forte may well be the best small car for seniors. It offers supportive seats, well-thought-out controls, a roomy interior, an enormous trunk, and excellent gas mileage. It's also a top safety pick of the IIHS, and received a safety rating of 9.5 from J.D. Power. Standard features include automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. Additional features like blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available on higher trim levels.
With the base price just over $19K, plus excellent fuel economy, your savings can really add up.
Best Car for Seniors Looking to Prioritize Safety: 2022 Subaru Legacy
Like all Subarus (but unlike most midsize sedans), the Legacy comes with standard all-wheel drive that can make it easier to get through wet and snowy weather. In fact, this may be one of the best cars for winter driving on the market. The seats are comfortable, visibility is excellent, and included features like lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control can help you stay safe on the road. The Legacy also earned top crash-test scores from the IIHS.
Best Luxury Car for Seniors: 2022 Mercedes Benz E-Class
Mercedes makes sure everything about the E-Class feels high-quality and comfortable so that the driver's experience is optimal. With a safety score of 9.7 from J.D. Power and a host of driving assistance features, the E-Class has so many configurations you can fine-tune exactly what you're looking for in a vehicle.
Different trim levels can include mild hybrid powertrains, larger and more powerful engines, and all-wheel drive. But no matter which one you choose, you know you'll ride in ultimate comfort.
The Best Vehicles for Older Adults With Disabilities
The best car for a disabled person is the one that most closely matches their specific needs. If you use a wheelchair or have some other sort of mobility issue, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) can help you select a vehicle or adaptive equipment that is appropriate for your situation. Use the NMEDA website to search for a member dealer in your area.
If you have physical challenges such as chronic pain or stiff joints, some vehicles will work better for you than others. For instance, the best cars for seniors with arthritis have keyless entry, push-button ignition, power seats, an easy-to-grip steering wheel, power mirrors, and voice controls. Heated seats can help keep you comfortable, and heated side mirrors can keep you from having to scrape ice off of them.
Many of the vehicles mentioned above, including the Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, and Kia Soul, could also be listed in this category. Here are a few more models to consider:
1. Ford Escape
The Escape combines a sedan's driveability with an SUV's versatility. Its ideal seat height makes it easy to get in and out of the vehicle. All models except the base one come with keyless entry and ignition as well as heated and power-adjustable seats. Heated side mirrors and a power liftgate are available on higher trims.
2. Honda Odyssey
This article focuses on sedans and SUVs, but the top-rated Odyssey is a minivan worth mentioning. All trim levels except the base one boast keyless entry and ignition, power-sliding doors, heated front seats, and a full suite of safety features. The second-row seats can even slide apart laterally for easier access to the third row or be removed for additional space. The Odyssey can be easily modified with wheelchair ramps and other mobility aids.
3. Mazda CX-9
Here's another SUV that drives more like a sedan. The CX-9 offers a powerful engine, nimble handling, supportive seats, and a comfortable ride. The cabin is roomy, and the doors open wide for easier entry. Blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking come standard.
Tips on Buying a Used Car
Buying a used vehicle can be a great way to get a set of wheels for less money, but you still want to make sure you're getting some bang for your buck. Here are a few tips to help you:
1. Research reliability.
The best car for seniors is one that is less likely to break down. A good way to find such a model is by checking out the vehicles on Consumer Reports' best used cars lists. These vehicles have shown to be consistently reliable over several years, so you can be reasonably sure they'll hold up well. The lists include everything from small cars and midsize sedans to luxury vehicles and SUVs.
If your friends, neighbors, or family members have the kind of car you're interested in, get their opinions about the pros and cons. Also, read online reviews to see what other vehicle owners say.
2. Decide whether to buy from a dealer or a private seller.
Auto dealerships typically have a broad selection of pre-owned vehicles from which to choose. In some cases, dealerships offer certified used cars that have undergone an inspection and come with a limited warranty.
By law, all used vehicles offered for sale by dealers must display a Buyer's Guide that includes information, such as whether the vehicle comes with a warranty or is being sold as-is. If a warranty is included, the Buyer's Guide will also specify what percentage of the repair costs the dealer will cover.
If it's an as-is situation, you need to thoroughly check the vehicle's condition, since you will be responsible for any maintenance or repair issues that come up after purchase. Keep in mind that some states do not allow dealers to offer as-is sales on used vehicles.
Private sellers generally offer better prices than dealers, but private sales are as-is, so you need to be cautious. Even if the vehicle is under a manufacturer's warranty, the warranty may not be transferable. That's why it's important to have the car checked out by a qualified mechanic.
3. Get a vehicle history report.
A vehicle history report can give you key information such as the car's repair records and odometer history and whether it has ever been involved in an accident or declared as salvage. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System offers links to a number of approved companies that provide such reports. Most providers charge a fee for this service. You'll need to enter the 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found where the dashboard meets the windshield on the driver's side.
You can also enter the VIN into this tool from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see if the vehicle has any recalls on it that have not yet been addressed.
4. Inspect the car and check service records.
Before you even think about driving anywhere in the vehicle, perform a visual inspection that covers the following:
- Look closely for scratches, dents, cracks, and chips.
- Make sure the seat belt is not frayed.
- Check that all lights (turn signals, headlights, brake lights, reverse lights, and hazards) are functioning.
- Look for signs of rust or corrosion on the engine, battery, and radiator.
- Check that the engine oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant, and brake fluid are filled to the appropriate levels and are not leaking.
- Ensure that the tires are evenly worn on both sides of the vehicle.
- Make sure all doors and windows open and close properly.
If the dealer or private owner has maintenance records on the vehicle, be sure to review them. Also, it's a good idea to look at the manufacturer's maintenance schedule to see if any costly repairs are coming up soon based on the vehicle's mileage.
5. Take a test drive.
You should always take a vehicle out for a spin to properly evaluate its performance. Spend at least half an hour driving around testing out the engine, brakes, suspension, and ease of handling. If possible, take it on the highway and on bumpy roads. Get answers to questions like:
- Do you fit comfortably behind the wheel?
- Are the pedals within easy reach?
- Do the brakes rattle, bang, or make a grinding sound?
- Is it quiet in the cabin?
- Do the heater and air conditioner work properly?
- Does the steering wheel vibrate?
- Does the car tend to veer to one side?
6. Have a pro look at it.
Take the vehicle to a qualified technician who has experience with automotive diagnostic work. They will be able to assess the car's mechanical condition and identify any necessary repairs. This will generally cost you around $100 to $120. Ask around for referrals if you don't have a mechanic you regularly use. (But don't take recommendations from whoever is selling the vehicle.)
An independent inspection is highly recommended, even if you are buying from a dealer. Many dealers will allow you to borrow the car for such a purpose, provided you leave identification. If insurance restrictions don't allow that, see if you can find a mobile inspection service that can do the assessment on-site at the dealership.
Get on the Road
As you can see, the best cars for seniors span a wide range of makes and models. With the tips provided above, you can evaluate your needs and find the vehicle that is best suited to you.