Do car seat heights mostly stay constant within a model year?

I am helping someone pick an SUV. Neither of us knows much. A frequent elderly passenger needs to have a passenger seat of a certain height range (above the ground), and not too far from the side of the car. Most SUVs (the driver is in snow country, where AWD and sufficient ground clearance is needed) have seats that are too high for this passenger (mostly because of the “bolster”, which makes it much harder to get in and out).

So we have been carefully measuring seat heights from ground, making the assumption that they would stay the same within a model year, and follow a general upwards trend.

AFAICT there has been a general recent trend for the past few decades in the U.S. for vehicles of each model to get bigger, and possibly, for seat heights to get higher. But we found two seat measurements in which the later model had a lower seat. I talked to a dealer about it, and he said that seats are not made by auto makers - that they contract out, to a variety of seat makers, subject to specifications. (He claimed that auto makers are mostly just engine and body makers, who contract out almost everything else.) He did not think seat height was often not one of those specifications. So he thought that seat heights often change within a model year, and that our approach is flawed. He suggested we find a vehicle that otherwise fit the driver’s needs, and recommended a seat upholstery place that did good work, who could cut the seat down to fit.

Is he right that seat heights frequently change within a model year, so that the approach we have been taking is pointless?

If so, why do so many car (etc.) reviewers talk about seat comfort qualities, as though seats stay the same within a given model (and perhaps trim level)?

P.S., as a separate question, dealers have been telling us that they don’t have to negotiate on (used) car price, because of a temporary shortage of vehicles. Is that generally true - or do most of them still negotiate prices.

I’m not aware of seat heights or other aspects of seat construction varying w/in a model year on a particular model. One “trim line” of a specific model may well have a different seat height than another trim line of that model, but within trim lines, I don’t think that there is a variation.

Yes, many/most components are bought from outside suppliers, but those companies must conform with the vehicle mfr’s specifications. More than likely, the car companies have contracts with the seat-building companies (chiefly Johnson Controls, IIRC) that run for at least one year–if not longer.

Or, to put it bluntly, I think that the car salesman to whom you spoke is wrong.
In over 5 decades of new car buying, I have found only a couple of car sales people who knew as much about the cars they were selling as I did, and some of them were as dumb as the proverbial box of rocks when it came to knowing the details of their vehicles.

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That is pretty much the normal across the US and other countries .

The lower trim levels of any brand might have seats that are are not as bolstered . this one of those you just have to try it to see if it works.

Power seats allow height adjustment within the car but the height relative to the floor of the car stays within a tight range. Height above the ground can vary quite a bit between models of the same car.

If you are thinking height is the side bolster dimension, that varies based on the seat option you choose when the car is ordered new. Used is random based on the popularity of various options.

I don’t think you can get an upholstery shop to reduce the bolster…too much liability for.them as the seat and side airbags are designed as a system to protect the passenger and changing the bolster would affect that. The seat back bolsters have airbags IN them on many models so those won’t change.

So search the used car lots to find one acceptable to you. Don’t expect a discount. Supplies are still tight especially because of the 60,000 cars damaged by the hurricaneds in Florida.

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I don’t know but I would sure talk to an auto upholsterer before assuming it would be an easy task to lower one. If you look at seat anatomy with the springs the molded foam and any other plastic parts it would not seem easy.

I do remember back in the 60s ford and mercury seats fit me fine but Chrysler seats were always uncomfortable. There was also a couple inch difference in impala seats than the cheaper biscayneline. Might be easiest to wait for an auto show where you have access to different lines and manufacturers, but the folks there will just be sales people too.

Faced with this issue I might go a different route than modifying seats or severely limiting my selection based on seat height. I would look into installing powerstep running boards that deploys when you need it and tucks away when you don’t.

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An additional indicator that the salesman gave the OP misinformation is the following:

Every vehicle mfr publishes specific details regarding interior measurements–including headroom. If the height of the seat varied w/in a model year, that would alter the headroom, and then the vehicle mfr would have to reprint their brochures and edit the details on their website.

The salesman is wrong.

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I think the salesman is wrong. For one, changing the seat height would probably invalidate the required crash testing that was done on the car.

Regardless, keep in mind that the rear seat might be at a different height and might have less of a bolster. Also, I’ll point out that my dad puts a plastic garbage bag on his seat so that he can slide in and out more easily (although that seems uncomfortable and annoying to me). Finally, consider a product like this:

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Pretty sure dealer’s wrong, like others have said. Seats are made to exacting specifications that would almost never change within a model year (he almost makes it sound like the carmaker drops by “Seat R Us” and gets whatever’s in stock). Different trim levels will have different seats, along with some that have electric vs. manual seat adjustments. I would not recommend any modifications to the seats, they’re part of the safety system.

I would recommend going to somewhere like a Carmax and having the elderly passenger try out a lot of vehicles, especially those with electric passenger seat adjustments. Don’t overdo it on the size of the vehicle, I drove a VW Rabbit GTI (very limited ground clearance) in Anchorage for 12 years without problems regarding ground clearance. The key was getting a good set of winter tires.

I’d think something like a Rav4, CR-V, Forester, or CX-5 might work.

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This recollection dates back to the cars of the '50s and '60s. I do not remember which makes or models of cars that had adjustable level and height adjustments. I but I do remember making adjustments on some of them. As I remember, the bench seats were mounted to the frame installed rails by four bolts, two on each side. The rails, mounted to the floor boards had three mounting holes, front and rear. By adjusting which hole the bolt went through, you could raise or lower the seat front or back by up to an inch or more.

On two-door cars, where you swung the front seat-back forward so passengers could get into the back seat, you could adjust the angle of the front seat back by installing thicker or thinner rubber bumpers on the base of the seat-back.

Now, on my 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback SE, the passenger seat sat so low, you felt like you were in a child’s seat. I manufactured 1" blocks to raise the seat up 1". The Factory Bolts were too short for the riser and I bought Class 8 or Class 10 Bolts to replace the factory bolts. The Driver’s side had a mechanical lever to raise or lower the seat.

Now, on my 2001 Dodge Ram 2500HD, 4x4, Quad Cab, SLT Laramie Plus, has 40/20/40 Bench-Bucket Seats. These Leather Seats are 8-way Powered and Heated with inflatable Lumbar Supports in the back rest. The “20” in the 40/20/40 is a Business Console Arm Rest. Lazy Boy has nothing on these seats…

Me thinks that the elderly person in this thread might have trouble getting in that truck .

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Our 66 Plymouth was the first and only car that I remember having seat adjustments. But they were done with a socket and wrench and not easy. Now I insist on power seats.

Me thinks you know this elderly person… As for me, I’m still spry but I do grab the steering wheel and use it to pull myself in… As for the wife; as a gentleman, I offer the wife the use of the Milk Crate with the Plywood step to help her enter, and with the Grab Handle, she can more easily enter, but getting out, she usually just oozes out until her feet hit the ground… The Milk Crate rides in the back…

The Floor height of the truck is 28" off the ground and the seat height is a cool 42" and this truck is completely stock height, I have not changed its riding height in any way…

About 10-years ago, before I mounted the Plywood permanently to the crate, I was loading the back of the truck and using a milk crate as a steep. As I hopped out one time, my foot crashed right through the crate and I shredded my shin and needed 10 stitches to close up the gore… The worse part, when my foot crashed through, the hole closed up around my leg like a “Chinese Finger Trap” and I had to cut my foot out to get the crate off my leg…

Was there some reason you felt you had to highjack a thread ?

You can buy those folding steps for about $5. I take one alone while traveling so I can reach the top of the windshield to clean it. And yes my washer works just fine but not on bugs.

Thanks for all your help guys!

I called the upholstery place. They said there are modifications they can do, and frequently do, including cutting the foam, and re-sewing the cover. Also, the upholstery place won’t touch modifications near airbags, or wires.

A lot of websites say you cannot legally modify the way a seat attaches to the vehicle, Of course, there exists information on the WWW that is wrong.

We just visited a used car lot at which hinted we could dicker on price a bit. We also spoke to a mechanic who does repairs for another car dealer, but who normally doesn’t talk to customers. He said that the idea that car dealers won’t negotiate any more is not correct.

It’s also true that dealers further from town, in the middle of nowhere, offer lower prices.

I appreciate the idea of using steps or running boards. However, the passenger and driver has poor balance and have been specifically advised to avoid them.

I’m looking into various types of transfer board - e.g., ones that can extend at the height of the seat to outside the car. The passenger would have to slide over the board onto the seat. They are supposed to be easier and safer, because there is no gap between the person when standing, and the edge of the seat. It is reversed when exiting the vehicle. I’m not sure if the passenger is strong enough to scoot over.

I’m also looking into “transfer seats”. They are government approved to replace original equipment seats. They typically pivot, and bring the seat out of the vehicle, with electric motors. Many also have electric lifts, so the seat level can be below that of the normal vehicle height. But such seats are very expensive, and are installed by specialists.

So we are learning a little. Slowly.

Unless the seat is powered there’s usually not a height difference between trim levels on the passenger side, if you have a rough idea of how heigh you need the seat to be it will be the same for a given model year with a few inches difference if the seat can be raised or lowered, Mom went through a similar search for her new car back in 2009 and we found the right fit by trial and error. The seat on the 2007 CRV we had at at the time was a little higher than she preferred but could get into a 2010 Prius comfortably.

Some dealers are no haggle for everything now but others you should be able to at least make an offer, they don’t always take it though. Local ford dealer is no-haggle but at least before the supply crisis was competitive compared to other dealers.

Well, actually, that last posting was in response to your posting that this “elderly person in this thread might have trouble getting in that truck” and I was merely responding that yes, I do and I shared how the wife gets in my truck…

I am sorry that you do not care for my stories and that you think I am trying to highjack a thread. I try to stay of topic and contribute to the discourse. I like to share my experiences with others so that they may laugh, cry, learn, or just trip down memory lane revisiting their own journey through life.

You’ll probably hate this but here I go again. When I was very small, my family had an “Uncle Ned” visit us and other relatives nearby. Uncle Ned was probably really someone’s cousin, several time removed, but a wonderful old guy we all called “Uncle.” The noteworthy thing about Uncle Ned was he was blind, he lost his sight in a gas attack during the first world war. We kids loved him because he was always asking us to describe the world around us, the birds, the clouds, the trees, etc… and he would listen to us chatter on and on…

And here is one of my “Life’s Lessons…” We were driving Uncle Ned home and we kids kept our chatter up, telling Uncle Ned about the road signs, farms, barns, the cows, horses, etc… and our mother told us to “pipe down and not tire Uncle Ned out,” and Uncle Ned told my mother that he wanted us kids to keep it up, he said he loved being able to once again to see the world, but through the eyes of a child…

I can’t be all that bad since I’ve been awarded numerous “Badges” for the number of times my stories have received “Likes” and whole lot more badges for various other contributions…

So, Uncle Ned, (or Uncle “V”) close your eyes, enjoy the ride or stop reading my stories if you don’t approve of them…