Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

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Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Mudpuppy » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:52 am

I am in the process of researching my next car to purchase and intend to keep it for at least a decade. Due to certain circumstances since New Year's, it's become clear that I need to consider the current and future mobility of a family member who I transport to appointments quite frequently. The family member uses a walker and has difficulty getting out of my current car (a Honda Civic) due to the low seats. I have installed a wedge cushion in the Civic that brings its height up a couple of inches, which is working for the moment, but the cushion is not very comfortable according to my family member and it is clear that any declines in health or mobility will render this option nonviable. So I would like to address this in the next car purchase by getting a vehicle with slightly higher seats.

I had been considering hatchbacks in the same class as my Civic for my next car purchase. However, I am finding it extremely hard to find any sort of information on the seat height or if the passenger seat is height adjustable. Car manufacturers seem to devote a great deal to talking about height adjustment on the driver's seat, but not much at all talking about the passenger's seat. The sweet zone for seat height for this family member right now seems to be between 17" and 23". I am willing to give up on the idea of a hatchback and go with a normal sedan if it has an appropriate seat height. I also really don't want to resort to an SUV or van, as those seats might be TOO high for the family member to safely get in and out of the car, and I would like to have at least a somewhat decent fuel economy.

Short of hitting the dealership lots with a tape measure in hand, is there any place to find out information about seat heights on car models? If it helps any, prior to the current events, my short list for the hatchbacks was Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus SE 5-door, Mazda 3 iTouring Hatchback, Toyota Matrix, and Honda Fit.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Frugal Al » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:43 am

I recently had the same challenge in finding an easy ingress/egress vehicle for a family member. I ended up with a CR-V. I think most of the cross-over type vehicles would be worth looking at: Subaru (Legacy or Forester), Honda Cross Tour, etc. I agree, a full size SUV would be too high most likely. You're right, it would be nice to see a seat height (from the ground) specification. Chassis ground clearance alone is not a good indicator. Other factors are roof height and door opening width. Even with the CR-V, it was easier for my MIL to ride shotgun.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby mike143 » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:58 am

Make a selection of vehicles and have your family member try it out before you buy. If you want to stay Honda you can try the Fit, Accord, Crosstour or CR-V. My wife's parents, in their 70s, went with a Accord instead of a Civic due to the easy of getting in and out the car. If I were in your shoes, coming from a Civic, I would try a Fit. I think squatting below parallel with the ground becomes difficult as we age, keep the squats going.

Side story: When I started doing squats in my exercise routine my hips/joints were not used to it and I actually started out holding a broom stick instead of a barbell. Now I can squat 135+, keeping in mind I weigh 315. I think squatting is a important strategy to ensuring our mobility as we age.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby englishgirl » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:29 am

I wouldn't necessarily just think about seat heights, or about adjustable seats. For my family members who have mobility trouble, they can't easily maneuver into a seat either, so sitting into a car basically involves falling into the seat, butt first. But this means that they don't really have good control of where their head is going. I've never seen one of them hit their head on the door frame, but it stresses ME out to watch the process pretty much every time. I would worry that if you just adjusted a seat upwards, by reducing the head room you could be setting yourself up for problems as your relative's mobility decreases further.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Postmon » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:53 am

The 2013 Toyota Sienna offers an auto access seat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMmrIQidXQQ
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Frugal Al » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:10 am

mike143 wrote: I think squatting is a important strategy to ensuring our mobility as we age.

I said the same thing to my 98 year old MIL, and then I ducked. :oops:
That Sienna seat system looks interesting.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby sscritic » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:26 am

Mudpuppy wrote:The family member uses a walker and has difficulty getting out of my current car (a Honda Civic) due to the low seats.

I would think that the height of the floor off the ground would matter, as would the sill height. My sister is not buying a new car without having my father test sit it. You need to test sit your new car with your relative. Yes, you have to go to a dealer. You may want to go first by yourself before you bring your relative, but I don't think you can do this over the internet.

Getting in is harder than getting out for my father. Someone else mention head clearance. That's also important.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Postmon » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:29 am

Frugal Al wrote: That Sienna seat system looks interesting.

I happened to see it at this year's Auto Show and it's very impressive!
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Valuethinker » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:31 am

sscritic wrote:
Mudpuppy wrote:The family member uses a walker and has difficulty getting out of my current car (a Honda Civic) due to the low seats.

I would think that the height of the floor off the ground would matter, as would the sill height. My sister is not buying a new car without having my father test sit it. You need to test sit your new car with your relative. Yes, you have to go to a dealer. You may want to go first by yourself before you bring your relative, but I don't think you can do this over the internet.

Getting in is harder than getting out for my father. Someone else mention head clearance. That's also important.


+1 You have to try before buy.

I am wondering if a minivan/ people mover is the best solution? Inelegant but sensible.

Also the Mercedes A Class (or other cars along that line, which I think here are termed 'MPV' s?)-- ie kind of a mini mini van, very upright but with low entry. Renault and Fiat certainly do, and so does Toyota (Previa?) so I am guessing along those lines is available in USA?
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Mudpuppy » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:31 pm

Standing up is the major problem for my family member. She can sit down on low seats with no problem, but you might have to haul her back up if the seat is too low. Obviously, that is something I want to avoid, so I don't injure myself just trying to transport her. This is not a lack of activity issue, but is rather a bone-on-bone knee joint and the family member is not a candidate for knee replacement at this time. So while the suggestion of squats might be appropriate for the older generation in general, it does not apply to my relative.

That is why I was hoping to get a first pass of potential vehicles by researching online. Obviously, I know that it ultimately comes down to the in-person sit test. However, I do not have the time to go around measuring every model of car there is out there. Being able to narrow the candidate pool online first and then go to the dealership to test the semi-finalists is what I am looking to do.

The Sienna seat looks interesting. I wonder if more manufacturers will adopt a similar technology, even as an add-on package.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Watty » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:49 pm

I found this in with Google;

http://www.aaa.com/aaa/006/Press/mature ... tures.html

there is a link to a chart of cars at the bottom of the web page.


If there is a Auto show near you and they are up to it you could take them to a car show and have them try getting in and out of a number of different cars from in a short period of time.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby btenny » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:53 pm

I think you will find that most of the crossover or medium SUV class of cars will fill your needs, not too large and not too small. The seats are just high enough for older people who use walkers to get into the car easily. Plus these cars have good back end storage space for a walker and other stuff. Think cars like the Acura MDX or the Lincoln MKX which I know work for older people with health issues. But I also suspect that the Honda CRV and Toyota Rav and many others fit the bill as well but who knows without trying the exact car. Also note that the "handles" in some of these cars are well positioned for people to use as support when exiting and entering. Here is the handle in the MDX.

http://www.edmunds.com/acura/mdx/2012/o ... ml?sub=suv Note the handle above the door.


I mention the Acura because my wife's cousin uses a MDX to drive around her 90 year old dad all the time and he uses a walker and has mobility and medical issues. I added the Lincoln MKX because my 88 year old father in law just bought one to replace his Cadillac sedan because of the higher seats and higher driving postion and so forth. He really likes it.

Good Luck
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Last edited by btenny on Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby dm200 » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:59 pm

Our experience is that minivans (front seat) are good for such accessibility. We had one of the original Chrysler minivans (from the 80's) and the front seat was great when my late mother-in-law visited.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Mudpuppy » Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:08 am

Watty wrote:I found this in with Google;

http://www.aaa.com/aaa/006/Press/mature ... tures.html

there is a link to a chart of cars at the bottom of the web page.

That's a very useful link Watty. Thanks.

I also found that several manufacturers have websites on mobility modifications for their cars, although several just have a simple page describing how one applies for reimbursement through their modification assistance programs. Some manufacturers had a little more detail. For example, Ford has a generic list by car type and modification category, although it was a little too generic for my purposes. Toyota has a pretty extensive site, complete with a chart of the types of modifications possible for each of their vehicles: http://www.toyotamobility.com/mobility_ ... .html?id=4
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby jeffyscott » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:01 am

You might also pay attention to how wide the door opens. I never noticed until I had to help my mother, who uses a walker or wheelchair, that front doors on my wife's VW open much wider than those on my Mazda. Hers open to the point that they are nearly perpendicular to the car, this makes it a lot easier to help my mom get in and out. Her VW also has height adjustable passenger seat, which seems to be pretty rare.

My mom is short and the desirable seat height has declined over time. My sister at one time felt she had to have a cross-over or minivan so that the seat was not too low, but after a few years the seat in her Highlander was too high and it became difficult to get her in it.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby MnD » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:35 pm

The Toyota Venza seat height is optimized for easy entrance and exit. I sat in one in an auto show and I would agree.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby cherijoh » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:05 pm

The front passenger seat on my Ford Fusion adjusts in height similar to the driver's seat and falls in your specified sweet spot.

C
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby Mudpuppy » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:20 pm

I've been rather busy with work the last two weeks, but here's what I've come up with in my spare time on the car search.

From my original list of compact hatchbacks, it looks like the following have the most accessibility options either standard or as part of a manufacturer's after-market mobility program:

Toyota Matrix
Ford Focus 5-door

I could not find much information about accessibility for the Hyundai Elantra GT or the Mazda 3, which were both on my original list, so I've moved those two into the "research further" category. It looks like the Honda Fit, which was the 5th candidate on my original list, has very few accessibility options, so I've removed it from my list.

I also looked into the crossover segment, but have determined that will require some careful measurements. For example, another family member's Kia Sedona is "too high" for this relative to get out of. She feels uncomfortable since her feet cannot touch the ground when she gets out. The Sedona has a 6.6" ground clearance and 6' overall height, so it is not a massive vehicle. If she has difficulty with that, I feel she'll likely have difficulty with most of the crossover market.

My next round of research will be into regular sedans that might be a bit higher, like a Honda Accord, Toyota Corrola or Camry, Ford Fusion or Taurus, Hyundai Sonata, and so on.
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Re: Car purchase. Need to consider seat height.

Postby stlutz » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:48 pm

What this thread really needs is input from a physical/occupational therapist.

I think there are more factors that just seat height that works into it, but I never quite figured out the exact combination of what works right (things to grab on to, how far the seat is recessed from the frame edge of the car, how easy it easy to see what you're doing etc). I just knew when I had a family member who was using a walker, she had a much easier time getting into the Corolla I then owned vs. another family member's Camry. That's not what we expected given the Corolla was much smaller car. When I was seriously injured a couple of years back and was maneuvering in and out of a car from wheelchair->walker->car and vice versa, getting in and out of a Prius was a relative piece of cake; larger vehicles were much harder. Too small was bad as well as I couldn't bend my leg very far.

In short, my suggestion is not to focus in on one factor but actually try a few different cars--even ones you think have no chance of working. Perhaps your family member can try getting in and out a few of your friends' cars?
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