In this article, we’ll take a look at what senior citizens can expect from cars now and in the future, the best options in vehicles for older adults, tips for getting the best deal on a new vehicle, and more.
To begin with, it’s important to understand that automakers are indeed committed to adding new features to meet the needs of older drivers, what with minivans boasting low step-up heights and other cars and trucks offering augmented reality windshields for navigation, high-tech safety features and seat belts that passengers don’t have to dig for. Interestingly, car buyers who are a bit older represent a powerful buying force – according to S&P Global Mobility, people 55 and older comprise 42-percent of all new vehicle registrations, and with the youngest boomers turning 65 by 2029, new vehicles designed by automotive engineers are being built with a goal in mind: holding onto existing customers as they get older (and simultaneously attracting new ones).
We mentioned minivans in our opening statement, so let’s focus on that for just a moment: over the past couple of years, manufacturers such as Chrysler have been demonstrating age-friendly features of some of their products; in the case of Chrysler, its Pacifica minivan boasts the aforementioned low step-up height, facilitating entrance into the vehicle, as well as second-row seats that fold into the floor to free up space for large items like wheelchairs and walkers.
Of course, the quintessential minivan always conjures up visions of soccer moms toting young kids around, but more than 60-percent of Pacifica buyers are over 50, according to a spokesperson for global automaker Stellantis – which builds and sells Chryslers. Outside of minivans, another sector that’s appealing to seniors is the small compact SUV, with models like Mazda’s CX-3 proving popular due to its higher seating compared to a sedan, ease of entrance and exit, safety record and lower cost compared to competitive models.
Based on research culled by S&P Global Mobility, more than 43-percent of these compact SUVs are bought by those age 55 and older, and there’s a reason for that – while a sedan demands some “ducking and lifting,” crossovers and small SUVs offer seats installed at the height of hips, providing ease of access and additional visibility.
So what does the future look like for senior buyers? General Motors designers and engineers are looking at creating vehicles with accessibility at the forefront of importance – extra handles to help get in and out of a vehicle; small lifts to load and unload wheelchairs, scooters and packages; and features that assist with driving, which could be offered as an “accessibility package.”
Ford is practicing “inclusive design,” notably with its e-shifter, wherein there are knobs with etching or rubber on the side to make it easier to grasp. Seat belt clasps, meanwhile, will protrude from the seats so passengers don’t have to dig around and retrieve them.
GM’s software program Ultifi enables a motor vehicle to operate more like a smart home, anticipating the driver’s needs and enhancing the safety features; it could, for example, allow sensor-equipped windshield wipers to close the windows when the system detects rain conditions, or enable the volume on the radio to be lowered if it detects a conversation.
In general, the market will be about making the vehicle easier to live with and easier to use every day.
Older adults should consider the following options when considering their next vehicle:
• Accessibility – Getting into and out of any vehicle with ease should be a top priority for older drivers; from wide door openings and seats just below hip level to trucks with running boards and grab handles on the A-pillars, accessibility needs to seriously be considered.
• Visibility – A higher perch with plenty of glass is the best bet for a senior’s choice of new vehicle; additionally, features like LED exterior lighting (auto-off headlights, taillights, daytime running lights) and rain-sensing wipers are important to consider.
• Comfort – The priority should be on minimizing fatigue through looking for features like power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated seats/steering wheels and ventilated seats.
• Convenience Features/Noise Control/Low Maintenance Costs/Safety
Older car shoppers should, once focusing on the vehicle they want, determine the price they should aim for.Another major tip for getting the best deal on a new vehicle seniors should consider is to go online and check out at least three dealerships.