25 March 2020

5 things older people should consider when buying a car

older woman driving car

Buying a brand-new car once you get older can be a really good idea. You don’t have to worry about things going wrong with a newer car and it can be a relief to know that there are now some features that can help keep you safe as an older driver. However, the process of getting a new car and picking the right make and model for you can be difficult and stressful if you don’t know what you need.

This is why we have come up with some great tips on things to consider when buying a car, whether its accessibility because you are a stair lift user and need space for a wheelchair or a safety system that won’t keep you up at night worrying if the car is secure. This list will help with the process.

Size

One thing that should be considered is that size definitely matters when it comes to a new car. Having something that is overly big can be cumbersome when trying to park in busy car parks and can cause stress when needing to reverse it. With a car that is too large, blind spots become even more impossible to check.

On the other hand, a car that is too small can make it hard to get in and out of if you have limited mobility.

Another thing to think about when looking at the size of cars is whether you need extra space. For example, if you are in need of bringing a wheelchair or frame with you on outings, the size of the boot should be taken into consideration, meaning that the car may be larger overall in size to compensate.

We spoke to Tracey from PackThePJs about the importance of the size of the car. She told us “My father is a very mobile 80-year-old. He is my brother’s carer – who is less mobile, so recently had the opportunity to join the Motability scheme. As my dad is the main driver, the car needed to suit him, as well as my brother. The car needed to have a large boot – large enough to hold a wheelchair or a walking frame”.

Also, remember to keep in mind that many cars with a larger capacity, are also higher up and sometimes require you to step up into the car. Checking that you can get in and out of the car smoothly before purchasing is a good idea as ground-to-car ratios differ in many makes and models. This is the same with smaller cars as they can be lower to the ground. Having to bend awkwardly to get into the car may be a deal-breaker for you, but at least it won’t be a backbreaker.

In-Car Technology

In-car technology dashboard view of car

Nowadays you can’t buy a new car without a bit of technology in it. Whether its voice-activated texting or emergency brake technology, the cars of today are now a lot smarter. For someone of older age, this technology could become unnecessary for them as not all drivers want a lot of technology in their car, especially if it is confusing. Matt from Keeping Us Safe, a dedicated blog for older drivers, however, warns that too much technology can overwhelm and sometimes be worse for the older consumer. He reminds us: "The landscape of in-vehicle technologies is changing daily as new features continue to be introduced. Many individuals are purchasing new vehicles because of these new safety technologies, which is great. However, if not used properly, there can be a downside to this new technology. An individual with cognitive decline can easily become overwhelmedby the bombardment of these high-tech commands such as audio warnings, alerts, tones, and visual cues”.

 

However, some technology like reverse sensors and cameras can be very helpful. Tracey agreed on this as she continued to tell us: “Because a large boot usually means a medium-large sized car, my dad needed it to have reversing cameras to help him get out of his driveaway, and to help him park it.”

There are many other electronic features that are also worth looking into: “One of these is the blind spot indicator, which beeps if he indicates to pull out of a lane into the path of something that he can’t see in his wing mirror”. This can be very helpful for those vehicles that may be a little bigger then you are used to as it means you don’t have to twist to look over your shoulder for your blind spot, which could cause discomfort.

Can you modify the car?

man modifying car wheels

With the prospect of buying a new car, there is always the option of modifying the one you already have or keeping in mind what can be modified on a new car. The comparison company Which suggested that: “Some problems could be solved by making minor adaptations to the existing car, such as fitting auxiliary mirrors to aid all-round vision or parking sensors. Even subtle adjustments to the driver’s seat and its height can give a better – and more comfortable – driving position or ease of access”.

These types of modifications are not as costly and can be done fairly quickly without the need of going to a garage.

However, more heavy-duty modifications can be done to cars for those who have very limited mobility, but still want to be able to drive. Fitted hand control can be installed instead of using foot pedals for those that have trouble with their legs. Similarly, joystick steering known as spinners can be attached to the steering wheel for those who have difficulty turning the wheel as it reduces the effort needed.

Three-door vs Five-door

When choosing a new car, the number of doors to have is always good to keep in mind. This is because if it is a three-door car, the doors will be wider and give you more legroom and accessibility getting in and out of the car, however, it will make the doors heavier to push open as they are wider. This can also cause problems if parking in a very tight parking space if you don’t have very good mobility to manoeuvre out of the car.

On the other hand, a five-door car will have better access for those in the back as well as the doors being shorter and will weigh less meaning no troubles getting out of the car. If you think you’d like a bigger boot, it may be worth looking at five-door cars as they tend to be geared up for more storage purposes.

Manual vs automatic

While driving, using gears, watching traffic in your mirrors and steering can become complicated, especially when you have limited mobility. A way to make things easier is to switch from a manual to an automatic car as it takes away the gearbox and one of the pedals, allowing you to concentrate on fewer things.

Another technology that can do this is ‘lightened power steering’ or ‘power-assisted steering’ depending on the manufacturer you speak to. This will allow any driver with reduced mobility in the upper limbs to steer the car easier. Drivers with reduced strength or rheumatism can call certain mobility companies to get this feature put into their car. However, do check which makes and models of cars are compatible with this modification before you buy one for that intention.

Buying a car can be stressful, more so if you’re a stair lift user and need certain modifications for you to be able to drive safely. These tips can help you make the right decision when buying a car. If you think you may need modifications for your home or car, take a look at some of our great stair lift options.