Best Used Vehicles
For Older Drivers
Everyone gets older, and the side effects of old age can vary from person to person. However, that doesn’t mean drivers have to give up the wheel just because they are putting on the years. Just like how high-mileage vehicles of earlier model years can hold their own beside factory-fresh examples, so too can older drivers stay on the road safely.
Read on to learn about the best vehicles for older drivers, as well as features, tips, and tricks to make driving easier.
Best Used Vehicles For Older Drivers
Not all vehicles are designed equal. And as drivers grow older, their opinion of certain types and models can change alongside their needs. A model that appeals to younger drivers may prove too hard to handle for older people. Conversely, there are models that either become more suitable for senior drivers or retain their usefulness.
Here is a list of vehicle models that we recommend for older drivers:
Compact SUV: 2017-2020 Honda CR-V
The CR-V is one of the most popular crossover SUVs for drivers of all ages. Among the model years of the current generation, the 2019 and 2020 CR-Vs are considered particularly friendly to older drivers.
- Elevated ride height gives good driver visibility
- Good cargo space with a lower liftover height
- Wide door openings for easy access
- Honda Sensing safety suite available in newer model years
- Affordable options
- Available all-wheel drive
- Fuel-efficient powertrain
- Spacious cabin
Midsize SUV: 2019-2020 Hyundai Santa Fe
When older drivers want a bigger SUV, they can’t go wrong with the Hyundai Santa Fe. The 2019-2020 model years come with the most senior citizen-friendly features and options.
- Front seats that offer excellent lumbar support
- Straightforward controls
- Active safety features like blind spot detection cameras available in newer model years
- Easy-to-use controls, multimedia system, and touchscreen
- Versatile cargo space
3-Row SUV: 2020 Kia Telluride
The Kia Telluride is a safe, roomy, and powerful full-size SUV. It's a good choice for older drivers who often drive large families or groups of friends around. If the 2020 Telluride feels too new and costly, older drivers can try out the very similar Hyundai Palisade or the smaller Kia Sorento.
- Third-row seating can fit adult passengers
- Ample cargo space after folding the rear-row seats
- Plenty of engine power to tow heavy loads
- Excellent crash test results
Compact and Subcompact Cars: 2017-2020 Toyota Corolla
Be it a sedan or a hatchback, the Toyota Corolla delivers reliability and luxury in a small, affordable platform. Active safety features first appeared in the 2017 Corolla, making this model year a good starting point to shop for used cars.
- Easy to drive
- Smooth ride
- Fuel-efficient powertrain
- Latest models have available advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS)
Sedan: 2015-2020 Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is a solid choice for a comfortable, affordable midsize car for most older drivers. Earlier vehicles in the current generation (2018-2021) have the latest features, but earlier Camry units built from 2015-2017 can match their safety, comfort levels, and reliability.
- Comfortable ride
- Excellent reliability
- Fuel-efficient standard engine with an option for a larger and more powerful engine
- Plenty of headroom and legroom
- Spacious trunk for a sedan
- Excellent crash test results
- Available ADAS features in the latest models include auto-emergency brakes, forward collision warning, rearview camera, and more
Luxury SUV: 2020 Lincoln Corsair
The Corsair is a great choice for older drivers who prize comfort over sporty looks or raw performance. It doesn’t skimp on the advantages found in an SUV and replaced the earlier Lincoln MKC, which is also a good model for older buyers to consider.
- Well-furnished cabin
- Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options for its powertrain
- Hybrid option for 2021 model year
- Available ADAS features include including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and more
Luxury Sedan: 2017-2020 Lincoln Continental
Affordability and luxury rarely go together, but the Lincoln Continental pulls it off. This luxury car comes with many features that appeal to older drivers. Put on hiatus for many years, the model made a successful return in 2017, and older vehicles give more or less the same luxurious features at a more affordable cost.
- Infotainment system that even older people can use without difficulty
- Newer models still have physical controls for climate, tuning, and volume
- Available heated front seats with power adjustment
- Optional amenities include multi-contour power-adjustable seats with massage functionality
- Available ADAS features include rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warning
Pickup Truck: 2016-2020 Chevrolet Colorado
Older drivers who work hard and enjoy the outdoors should get a midsize truck like the Colorado. It handles much easier than a full-size pickup and can do almost anything the bigger truck can. Starting with the 2016 model year, Chevrolet added ADAS features for older drivers.
- Balanced riding experience
- Good selection of gasoline and turbo-diesel engines
- Towing capacity of up to 7,700 pounds
- Easier to board and leave than a bigger pickup
- Simple-to-use infotainment system
Sports Car: 2016-2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Hopping into a sports car and taking it for a spin can make some older drivers feel young again. The Mazda MX-5 Miata meets that need for speed without breaking the bank. MX-5 Miata units built from 2016-2019 deliver the same exhilarating road performance as the most modern model years without costing anywhere as much as a brand new car.
- Highly-responsive driving controls
- Engine packs a punch for its size
- Excellent 6-speed manual transmission with an option for automatic transmission
- Comfortable cabin
Minivan: 2017-2019 Chrysler Pacifica
The Chrysler Pacifica can match the interior space of a large SUV without putting a toll on an older driver's body whenever they board or leave the van. The current generation started from the 2017 model year; the 2019 Pacifica is a good midway point between older, less high-tech model years and the latest, most expensive unit.
- Can seat up to eight people
- Third-row seating is very accessible
- Available Stow 'Go system lets you fold second-row and third-row seats into the floor to free up interior space for cargo
- Equipped with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
- Powertrain can handle daily driving
- Plug-in hybrid variant available
Challenges For Older Drivers
Here are some of the biggest challenges for older drivers:
As they get older, drivers can develop various health problems. They can get tired faster, making long trips or driving over uneven terrain much more unpleasant. If their vision deteriorates, they can struggle to notice or recognize road signals and warning signs. They may also have reduced reaction speed, which can make it difficult to respond to abrupt or dangerous situations immediately.
Entering and Exiting the Vehicle
Some health issues can make simple acts like opening the door, getting in or out of their vehicle, and shutting the door much more difficult. Low-slung vehicles (such as many modern cars) and vehicles with high ride heights of lift jobs (most SUVs and pickup trucks) are particularly hard to enter or exit.
Need for Active Safety Features
Besides features like airbags and seat belts, older drivers need more active safety options. They can’t react as fast as their younger counterparts, so automatic systems that can take over in an emergency are critical in keeping them safe. Warning systems must employ both visual and audible means to get the attention of a driver with poor eyesight or hearing.
Ease of Using the Control Interface
No one wants a complicated control interface that looks and feels like it belongs on a spaceship. Most older drivers prefer large buttons, knobs, and levels that are clearly labeled and easy to access. So it’s best to avoid digital controls that rely on touchscreens. Not only do they cost more, but they’re also more complex and difficult to use.
Older drivers often have to deal with health issues like poor vision that make it hard to keep track of their surroundings, so they need vehicles with unrestricted fields of vision. Avoid models with large blind spots like small windows and poorly placed mirrors. Navigation and active safety features can compensate for poor driver visibility, but it’s far better to stay on the safe side.
Features to Look for When Shopping for a Used Car for an Older Driver
Most older drivers find it hard to multitask and respond with the same speed they enjoyed in their younger days. Fortunately, there are many options to lighten the load on senior citizens behind the steering wheel.
We identified the most useful features for vehicles operated by older drivers:
Adaptive Cruise Control
Keeping the car at a safe speed and distance from other vehicles ahead can prove challenging and tiring for older drivers. Fortunately, adaptive cruise control can take over this tedious task, allowing the driver to focus on the road ahead.
There are a variety of adaptive headlight systems available, some of which pivot according to the vehicle's direction of travel to provide a better view when traveling through a curve. Other systems might automatically switch between the high and low beams as needed. Regardless of the design, all adaptive headlight systems make it easier to drive at night.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
Older drivers who live in places that get lots of rain or snow should consider getting vehicles with an AWD system. This feature automatically adjusts how much power goes to any and all wheels, reducing the risk of the tires slipping.
This active safety feature applies the brakes to avoid a collision or reduce the severity of a crash. Some systems only function within a certain speed range, while others operate at high and low speeds.
Blind Spot Warning
A blind spot warning system warns drivers about any object that might be outside of the driver’s field of vision. Most designs use both warning lights and audible alarms.
Forward Collision Warning
This active warning system alerts older drivers to potential collisions up ahead. Some systems may also prepare the brakes for immediate use.
Head-Up Display (HUD)
A HUD keeps the driver informed about the vehicle’s condition and speed so that they don’t have to take their eyes off of the road.
Heated Seats and Steering Wheel
Staying warm is important for older drivers, who can quickly become uncomfortable or experience pain if the temperature drops. That’s why heated seats and a heater steering wheel are always welcome, even if the driver lives in an area with a warm or hot climate.
Lane Departure Warning
A must-have for older people who often drive on highways, the lane departure warning system helps drivers keep their car in the right lane. Some designs even have the ability to adjust the vehicle's speed and steering to stay within the lane.
Older drivers can find themselves forgetting the route to their destination or failing to notice road signs. A good navigation system will keep them on the right track by giving fairly accurate directions.
There are many parking aids to help older drivers maneuver their vehicle into a small parking space without moving their upper body too much. Some systems use proximity sensors that make noise, while others have at least one camera to guide the driver.
Push Button Controls
Some modern vehicles offer a push button entry/start option that eliminates the need for a physical key. Older drivers who suffer from arthritis, stiffness, or increasingly clumsy fingers may appreciate having the car open or close doors and starting or turning off the engine for them.
Safe Driving for Seniors
Here are some tips and tricks for older drivers who want to keep driving throughout their golden years:
Driving Ability Evaluation
Knowledge is half the battle. It’s best for older drivers to take a test that determines their current driving ability. Once they know their limits, they can take steps to remedy any issues.
For example, an older driver who becomes aware of their poor endurance can plan for a long trip. Possible options include taking frequent rest breaks or bringing a travel companion who can take over the wheel when they get tired.
Take Up Senior Defensive Driving Lessons
Many driving schools offer defensive driving courses with older people in mind. These programs teach senior citizens how they can compensate for their diminishing faculties and stay safe behind the steering wheel.
Don’t let increasing age get in the way of driving yourself or your loved ones to wherever you want or need to go. With the right choice of vehicle, knowledge, and preparation, older drivers can continue to enjoy the freedom of driving on their own.