Best Cars for Seniors and All the Features You Need

By Russ Heaps 03/13/2023 12:00pm

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No matter the age, here at Kelley Blue Book, we believe in owning a car that makes everyday life easier, driving safer, and fits our budget. On the other hand, we’d be kidding ourselves to think there aren’t some features and issues that take on more consequences as we age. So, with all of that in mind, we approached pulling together a list of the best vehicles for seniors. Use our quick links below to head to the section you want or jump ahead to see the Best Cars for Seniors list.

Considerations and Features for Senior Drivers

You probably don’t need us to tell you what to keep in mind as you shop for a car. However, we want to tell you about a few things and features to consider as you carefully weigh your buying decision.

The goal of our process aims to put you into a comfy, safe environment so you can concentrate on what is important. That is, an environment allowing you to keep your attention on the road and surrounding traffic.

So as you set out on your search, you can use the information below to create a checklist helping you itemize the features you want in a new or used car. Just know that scoring all of them in a single vehicle is a tough nut to crack. However, acquire a majority of them, and you should be more than satisfied with your choice.


Whatever you drive, you’ll want to be able to get into and out of any vehicle with ease. That means wide door openings and seats just below hip level, or as close to it as possible. You will eventually tire of falling into and leveraging yourself out of a sports car or a subcompact if that’s what you had in mind. If you are more than 6 feet tall, you probably figured that out a long time ago. It only gets worse with age.

Likewise, if you are considering a pickup truck or large SUV, you’ll want running boards and grab handles on the A-pillars to hoist yourself in. We didn’t include any large trucks or SUVs among our picks for that very reason.

We also didn’t include any 2-door coupes. Folding yourself into a pretzel crawling into the backseat of a 2-door is a kid’s game.


In any vehicle, you want to see and be seen. We are convinced a higher perch with plenty of glass surrounding you is your best bet. Our list leans heavily on crossovers providing exactly that.

LED exterior lighting — like headlights with auto on-off, taillights, and daytime running lights — provides better illumination over a wider space than conventional lights. These lights shine brighter, and other drivers will easily spot them. We are big fans of high-beam assist, in which the headlight system automatically engages and disengages the high-beam lights in needed scenarios. We also appreciate an auto-dimming rearview mirror that senses approaching headlights from behind. The feature automatically dims their reflection from the rearview mirror.

We like the idea of rain-sensing wipers that we don’t need to keep fidgeting with as the precipitation volume increases and decreases. In the Snowbelt, wiper de-icers will be a big help, as are headlight washers. If you buy a crossover, a rear-window wiper and defroster rank as must-haves. Heated outboard mirrors are equally helpful in colder temperatures.


Give yourself a break. Driving makes you tired regardless of age. Consequently, what you want to do is minimize fatigue. We strongly recommend a power-adjustable driver’s seat. And not just a 4-way or 6-way seat.

Insist on one that adjusts fore and aft, up and down, and reclines. While you are at it, consider seats with power lumbar adjustments. On that next multi-hour driving trip, you’ll be glad you did.

It’s just part of the getting older experience to become more sensitive to cold and heat. If you deal with cold winters, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel make a lot of sense. If you reside in the Sunbelt, the same goes for ventilated seats, which help to cool you down in hot weather.

Adjustable Steering Wheel

A steering wheel with height (tilt) and telescopic adjustments is a must. Between a fully adjustable seat and an adjustable steering wheel, you should be able to find the most comfortable driving position.

Convenience Features

  • Stick to automatic transmissions. It probably goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: An automatic transmission is a no-brainer. Even if you are still determined to select the gears yourself, many of today’s automatic transmissions provide a manual shift mode. Many even have steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
  • Keep controls close at hand. Keeping controls at your fingertips at any age is crucial. You need not reach too far for anything. User-friendly systems help you get what you need without too much effort. As much as the car can be automatic, it should be. For example, you can turn on dual-zone automatic climate control once because it’s a set-it-and-forget-it system. It also allows you and your front-seat passenger to tailor the temperature to individual preferences.
  • Look for larger touchscreens. A large, easy-to-use touchscreen controlling audio, phone, and other systems is preferable to a tiny one. An infotainment system with voice recognition is even better. Telling the system what to do is better than taking your hands from the wheel and eyes from the road to do it manually — the same with your Bluetooth smartphone interface.
  • Go for the proximity key. We are also big fans of proximity-key systems, allowing the doors to lock or unlock simply by walking up to the vehicle with the key fob in your pocket, purse, or anywhere on your person. Such systems usually include push-button start as well. Along those lines, hands-free smart trunks and liftgates also make life easier. They automatically open — a big help when your hands are full. Another perk of the proximity-key systems: it’s hard to lock your keys in the car because most vehicles will not let you. Instead, the car sends a signal or beeps at you if you try.
  • Choose automatic climate control. We like the idea of setting the ideal temperature and then letting the climate system maintain that control. In other words, we don’t have to continue fiddling with it as the outside temperature changes. Even better is an automatic climate system with dual controls, which divides the vehicle into right and left zones.

Noise Control

Some vehicles do better than others at controlling the amount of racket seeping into the cabin from the engine and surrounding traffic. Noise is annoying and distracting. So, it’s best to spend time in as quiet an environment as possible.

Many of our vehicle picks excel in this area.

Lowest Maintenance Costs

Even if you did everything right and are sitting on a big pile of retirement savings, value still counts. It’s just a reality of car ownership; stuff goes wrong. The goal is to minimize upkeep costs. Well, all costs, really.

Driving a vehicle with solid fuel economy helps at the start. Therefore, we’ve included the combined mileage estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the models we’ve picked. Beyond mileage, some models simply require less maintenance than others. Use our 5-year Cost to Own tool to estimate the costs of vehicle maintenance, fuel, repairs, and insurance before buying the vehicle that’s right for you.


Cars, trucks, and SUVs are safer today than ever before. Safety features like antilock brakes, stability controltraction control, and rearview cameras are now on every new car. Most vehicles come with at least six airbags, and many provide more than that.

The government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test cars, scoring their safety. All of the new cars on this list earned the IIHS Top Safety Pick (TSP) or Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+) rating. Used cars posted the IIHS top score of Good in their crash tests, while some also earned the TSP or TSP+ accolade. In some instances, you will see “2022” after the TSP or TSP+ rating. This indicates this 2023 model is substantially unchanged from 2022; however, the IIHS has yet to update the preferred rating.

Additionally, safety technology in the form of active driver aids is advancing at a blistering pace.

We can thank the relentless march toward driverless cars for most of the driver-aid (driver-assistance) technologies. Velcro and microwave ovens were born of our efforts to send people into space. Today, all manner of gee-wizardry is a side benefit of trying to make cars self-driving.

Those of us still haunted by the flashing clock on a long-abandoned VCR can take comfort in knowing many of these driver aids don’t require much in the way of input from us.

However, keep in mind that totally autonomous cars may still be decades away. No matter how much a carmaker boasts about its driver-assistance systems, they all require hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. There are no exceptions.

What Are Driver-Assistance Technologies?

  • Rearview or Back-up Camera: Government-mandated since 2018, these rearward-pointed cameras capture what is behind us as we back up. Shifting into reverse will bring up the image on the touchscreen or some other dashboard-mounted display. (In older models, the display may be in a section of the rearview mirror). More advanced cameras feature bending trajectory lines. Using a rearview camera effectively requires a bit of practice but can save you from having to stretch around to physically see what’s behind you. The older you become, the more that will mean to you.
  • Parking Assist: Depending on the system and availability, it can parallel park or diagonally park the car on its own.
  • Parking Sensors: Mounted on the rear and/or the front bumper of a car, these sensors detect a close-by object and sound an alarm. We refer to this feature as “park assist.”
  • Forward Collision Warning: Using a camera alone or with radar, this feature sounds a warning when it detects an impending front crash. Many systems also include an emergency braking feature in case the driver fails to respond to the warning.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control: Once the speed is set, adaptive cruise control maintains the preset speed and responds to the changing speed of the vehicle ahead. It slows your vehicle as the vehicle ahead slows, then speeds back up with the flow of traffic. Some systems will come to a complete stop, if necessary.
  • Traffic Jam Assist works like a low-speed adaptive cruise control feature because it’s engineered specifically for slow-moving, stop-and-go city traffic.
  • Blind-Spot Monitoring: Sensors mounted on the rear bumper corners detect and warn of traffic approaching your flanks.
  • Lane-Keeping Assist: A forward-pointing camera keeps track of lane markings, nudging you back if you begin drifting out of your lane.

How About Electric Cars?

As you research that next car purchase, you may be shocked by the number of vehicles on the market featuring some degree of electric propulsion. Cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks are represented in the wave of vehicles offered at least partially electrified.

What Are the 3 Types of Electric Vehicles?

  1. Hybrid (HEV): A gasoline-fueled engine and an electric motor (maybe more than one) work in tandem. A battery, which is charged by the gas engine and through the brake system, powers the electric motor. The Toyota Sienna on the new car list is an HEV.
  2. Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV): A gasoline-fueled engine and electric motor team up, but the motor can power the vehicle all by itself. Typically the electric-only range is between 25 and 50 miles. Although the brake system might help charge the battery, a PHEV requires charging by plugging into an electric source.
  3. Fully Electric (EV or BEV): An EV sources all of its output from an electric motor powered by a battery array. As with the PHEV, the EV must also be charged by plugging into an external electric source. The range of fully charged EVs varies wildly. For example, the government estimates 114 miles of range for the 2023 MINI SE Hardtop, while it’s 358 miles for the 2023 Tesla Model 3 Long Range. The Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6 are EVs on the new car list, as is the Hyundai Kona EV on the used car list.

Which Is Best for Seniors: Cars or SUVs?

Our picks do not include full-size SUVs or trucks. Taller drivers may be happier in a big SUV or truck, but we believe most older drivers (and passengers) would find entering and exiting challenging and potentially unpleasant.

As for midsize or small crossover SUVs, these are well-suited for easier ingress and egress. They also provide a higher seating position and better view than passenger cars, yet most offer low step-in heights. For these reasons, we lean toward midsize and smaller crossovers.

However, we placed several 4-door cars on our list. We live in an SUV-crossover world, but plenty of people still prefer sedans. And manufacturers continue to build terrific cars.

The Best Cars for Seniors

New Cars

Here are our new car picks, based on the best combination of features, fuel economy, safety, and reliability for the money. We provide the trim and its price for each pick that we think is the best buy for seniors. However, we’ve also included the base prices for the entry-level trim level so you can get an idea of whether or not each vehicle will fit your budget.

1. 2023 Toyota Camry

2023 Toyota Camry Hybrid Nightshade near bushes and barn.