When it comes to choosing a car which will support you through your retirement, there’s a lot to consider. You may be looking to upgrade to a vehicle with additional seats for the grandchildren, or want a car with plenty of storage space for a mobility scooter or wheelchair. Maybe retirement has made you more adventurous and keener to travel, or perhaps you want to wind down a little and are looking for a car to make you feel safer and more confident now you’re spending less time on the roads.
However you decide to spend your retirement years, there are plenty of different models on offer to suit your needs and lifestyle as you get older. Our complete guide highlights some of the key features which offer the biggest benefits to older drivers and identifies some of the best cars on the market based on safety, comfort, visibility and assistance technology.
Manual or automatic?
There are plenty of inbuilt features in cars to support the needs of older drivers, however it’s important to first decide on the basics. Automatic gearboxes make driving much simpler and are a great option if you have mobility problems, such as arthritis, or want some added comfort on long journeys. Automatic cars can also be adapted, with features such as hand pedals, much more easily than a manual car.
Choosing the correct size of car to suit your lifestyle is not only important from a practical perspective, but you’ll also save money on running costs. If you’re just looking for a small run-around for short journeys, then a city car such as the Renault Clio dCi 90 ECO, which is capable of an amazing 88.3mpg and exempt from road tax under the current system, may be the perfect choice. However, if you’re planning longer journeys, then you’ll want a spacious, economical, family car such as the Toyota Prius – a hybrid car which achieves 94.1mpg and is much better for the environment.
If you need additional seating for grandchildren or need the extra storage space for a pushchair, wheelchair or even a small mobility scooter, then a sport utility vehicle (SUV) or minivan (MPV) is ideal. Some MPVs have very spacious interiors and come with sliding doors, which are even better for those who have issues with mobility. The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Audi Q7 SUV and Volvo XC90 SUV all come with seven seats as standard and boast spacious interiors of over 770 litres, meaning there’s plenty of additional space for storage.
It’s required for all drivers over the age of 70 to have regular eyesight and hearing examinations and submit a medical form to the DVLA every three years. However, also ensuring you choose a car which maximises your visibility as you get older is essential. Quick-clear windscreens and larger mirrors are great features for older drivers, and models such as the Dacia Duster, VW Tiguan and Kia Sportage all have higher driving positions to give you greater visibility and make you feel more secure and in control behind the wheel. Kia also offers a seven-year warranty on all new cars, so you can rest assured you’re buying a quality car which should have lower maintenance costs going forward. Your car will also have a higher resale value, as Kia’s warranty is transferrable to any future owners.
A car which has good lumbar support and plenty of legroom can make all the difference on longer journeys. The Skoda Superb is not only great value, but is particularly roomy and offers a comfortable ride. The Citroen C4 Cactus also has a very spacious interior for improved comfort and accessibility, and its lightweight design and soft suspension mean it effortlessly tackles any bumps in the road.
When it comes to those additional extras, you’ll find that some really aren’t worth scrimping on. Heated seats and steering wheels can offer a touch of luxury, while added extras such as the extendable seat cushions, adjustable bolster support and massage features seen in the Volvo V90 can all provide a little extra support needed during longer journeys. Many models now allow you to electronically programme in and store your preferred driving position, meaning you can easily adjust your seat when entering and exiting your vehicle, before returning it to your saved driving position at the touch of a button.
Feeling safe on the roads is vital, particularly if you’ve found that you’re using your car less and less. Safety tests have become much more stringent and challenging over time, meaning that manufacturers are constantly striving to meet the strict testing criteria. As well as sophisticated airbags and seatbelts, many cars now include cruise control technology, which automatically adjusts the car’s speed according to speed limits or the distance between the vehicle in front, and can also assist with lane control on motorways – all of which can help minimise the likelihood of accidents occurring. Some of the safest cars tested in 2015 and 2016 include the Honda Jazz, Hyundai Ioniq, Volkswagen Touran and Toyota Prius. However, the car which came out on top was the Volvo XC90, which is one of the safest cars tested to date.
Not only is assistance technology on modern vehicles extremely useful, it’s also incredibly user-friendly. Simple features, such as electronically opening and closing boots and adaptive lighting, are great examples of intelligent extras which offer added convenience. And from inbuilt cameras to help improve visibility and assist with parking to voice recognition navigation systems, there’s plenty of other state-of-the-art technology which has been developed in recent years to help make life easier on the roads.
Age UK Car Insurance customer data shows that the majority of insurance claims are related to incidents involving parked cars.* Ford has introduced Enhanced Active Park Assist to several of its vehicle types, and it uses inbuilt sensors to help with parallel parking and bay parking, as well as help you manoeuvre out of tight spaces and highlight items hidden from view. While none of this technology is a substitute for sound driving skills, much of it could be useful to many drivers.
Our top picks
While choosing a car to suit your needs may seem daunting at first, having an awareness of which features and functionality can best support your lifestyle is essential. Many vehicles can be specially adapted to support changing needs. However, looking ahead and opting for a car which will meet your needs as best as possible in the long run will help save you money in the future.
With this in mind, here are our top picks from the small car, family car and SUV market to help make your decision a little easier:
- Ford Fiesta - The Fiesta is a great small car which is very economical to run. It boasts a five-star safety rating and three-year warranty as standard, and its spacious interior, with plenty of leg and head room, high driving position and adjustable lumbar support mean it’s also very comfortable. It also comes complete with some handy assistance features, including a rear-view camera and front and rear parking sensors, which make life on the road that little bit easier.
- Toyota Prius - The Prius comes out on top for fuel efficiency, making it great value for money. With a fabulously roomy interior, it scores highly for comfort and accessibility, and features such as a reversing camera, DAB radio and Bluetooth are all included as standard. The Prius is also one of the safest cars you can buy, and you can even upgrade to added safety features, including adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with brake assist for added peace of mind.
- Volvo XC90 - Whether you need space for your golf clubs, a wheelchair or the grandchildren, the Volvo XC90 boasts a particularly spacious interior. The adjustable lumbar support and large windows offer superb comfort and visibility, while the 360-degree camera and a Park Assist Pilot (which performs parallel and 90-degree parking) make tricky manoeuvres a breeze.
If you're considering changing your car it's important to make sure you have the correct car insurance in place. Find out more about Age UK's Five Star Rated Car Insurance.
* This data was gathered from the period June 1st 2016 - May 31st 2017 with claims analysis from all car insurance claims using Age UK customers. Age UK Car Insurance is administered by Ageas Retail Limited and brought to you by Age UK Enterprises Limited.
All facts correct at the time of publishing.