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Mom and Dad Need a New Car

My parents are both in their late seventies, and my father is rapidly reaching the point that he just can’t keep driving. My mother has never been fond of driving and has always left the driving to dad when she could; in fact, she stopped driving about five years ago, though there was no physical need to. She knows that she has to start again and that she will have be the principal driver soon; she started this discussion. Mom has always preferred smaller cars, and when they last bought several years ago, I recommended the Mazda 5 since they then sometimes needed 5-6 seats, but that was comparatively low to the ground. Mom has never driven it once. She says it’s just too high.

So, I’m looking for some advice about a compromise that will work for both of them. Mom wants a small car, but Dad has trouble getting in and out of my Mazda 6 and my sister’s Honda Civic. I’ve been looking on the internet at the Honda HRV and the Mazda CX3, hoping that they would be small enough for Mom to drive confidently, but high enough that Dad won’t struggle to get in and out. Even if you can give me some guidance about what to look at in car specifications, I would greatly appreciate it.


The best plan would be to attend a new car show with your mother if you don’t have to do anything now. The months of Feb. and April there are new cars shows all over the country. The other thing is go to the manufacture’s web sites and you can see all the specifications.
I can almost guarantee that your mother would not like most of the recommendations.


If your mom truly wants to start driving again, she’ll probably need some “refresher” lessons

I expect she might have to prove she’s still competent to drive. She’ll probably have to pass a hearing and vision exam at the dmv. And she’ll probably have to take the written exam again

My mom is in her 70s, and she had to do all of that. Because she doesn’t have any accidents on her record, she didn’t have to do the driving exam again, though.

By the way, a few years ago, my aunt and uncle were in the exact same situation as your parents. My uncle had always been the main driver. He was a control freak, and didn’t allow his wife to drive. She had gotten a driver’s license as a young adult, but stopped driving when she married my uncle. Then he had a stroke in his 70s, and from one day to the next, she resumed driving. She was completely uncomfortable with the whole situation, because her driving skills were essentially nonexistent by that point in time. And she had to also take care of my uncle, because of his condition. Predictably, it took a massive toll on her own health, as well. In fact, she had her own stroke and died.

If there is any other way, I would advise your parents go that route

My mother stopped driving, she has a minivan that now lives near the train station. The most helpful thing for her is leather seats, as she can slide in and out. She does very well at 88 getting in and out of that car, mine an suv with cloth seats she has difficulty with. Hope it helps.

I agree with VolvoV70 about attending a dealer car show. All manufacturers will be represented well with everything from small grocery getters to 1 ton pickups. They would be able to sit in anything they desire and see what fits.

Volvo is also correct about this time of year being car show time. It’s also income tax refund time which coincides with the car shows and that’s no accident…

Boy, this is a tough situation for your mom. I remember when my father-in-law had his stroke, the MIL had to start driving. My FIL always bought LTDs. When the MIL started driving, they got a Taurus. My FIL’s first reaction when he sat in it? “Pretty small.” And that’s the crux of the problem, finding something your dad can navigate, yet your mom will feel comfortable with.

If you decide on something in particular, I would suggest you rent an example of it for a week or so for them to use in normal daily life, so they can see how it “fits.” A few refresher lessons isn’t a bad idea, and actually might give her some confidence, if she takes them without your dad in the car, and using the car decided upon.

Another suggestion is for them to attend a “55 Alive” course, It will give her some great guidance. She’ll be there with others her age, and will actually probably get them an insurance rate discount.

I think your mom needs to compromise. She might like something lower, but your dad needs something higher. To me that wins out.

The car show coming up is really the best bet. Watching some of the older folks at church though last week, it seemed Buicks, Chevs, and Minivans seemed to rule. I did watch one lady having a hard time getting into a lower Impala though. So I guess I would look at GM, Ford, and other lines in addition to the Mazda line.

I will first make sure mom is really going to drive. We have been through this with my parents. Dad can’t see and mom does not like driving, gets anxious, so we gave up.

You are on the right track with the HRV and the CX-3. Also look at the Chevy trax and the Buick twin. Another family member has one and has been pretty happy with it.

This is a tough one. The needs of your dad outweigh the wants of your mother. She is just going to have to drive a lot of vehicles before she finds the one that’s suitable for the both of them.

I agree, your mother needs to re-evaluate this preference for a small car.

Take your parents to a Subaru dealer. Several good small cars and Outback versions are just a bit higher so dad can get in and out easier.

With seniors, getting in and out of a vehicle is one of the most important considerations. I would look at a Mazda3 Hatchback as a good compromise. The Mazda CX3 would be too small. Getting senior friends into the backseat is also a consideration.

Going to an auto show is a great idea since you can try out various models.

In so far as getting in/out of a car, I agree with UncleTurbo. Try a Subaru, such as the Forester.

Whatever they choose, it’s between the two of them. I’d recommend that you review the CR New Car Preview issue with them over a few cups of coffee, give them as much time as they’d like to select some they think they might like, and take them both out to test drive all the vehicles they’ve identified and any others they’re thinking about. While they’re making the selection, and if your mom is willing, you could spend some time with her behind the wheel and get her feeling a bit more comfortable.

She feels more comfortable driving a smaller car and he needs good access. IMHO the only way to find both is hands-on.

You have one thing working in your favor. Long term reliability and the ability to last for hundreds of thousands of miles aren’t as critical here as it would be for me.

Sincere best with this. Keep in touch. We do care.

A different option - no car, and Uber. How much driving do they have to do?

In thinking about it, I should perhaps comment on the access issue. While it seems counterintuitive, I myself have disabilities that create access problems (degenerative disc disease with two stenosis and disabling arthritis) and in my case higher vehicles are much harder to get in and out of than lower vehicles. Only the individual with the disability can determine what’s the best access. Even a 2WD F150 is extremely difficult for me to get in and out of. Without additional steps it’s impossible.

One additional thing I’ve learned from painful experience; coupes have far easier access than sedans. I can no longer bend in the middle, and B-pillars make getting into sedans extremely difficult. With coupes, I can sort of roll out of the seat and not have to finagle my body around a B-pillar. Coupes have longer door openings, and that makes a big difference for me.

Uber requires a level of technology that septuagenarians often do not possess. Few people would want to get a smart phone and a service plan just so they can call an Uber.

And Uber also uses a lot of different cars, which the dad might have trouble getting out of. I also don’t like their insurance, which is to say they don’t appear to actually have insurance above whatever the individual drivers have on their private policy. If the Uber driver gets in a wreck, I don’t want to be spending a lot of time and effort in court trying to find someone to pay for my injuries because the driver was not properly insured at commercial transportation levels.

OP, first off, what’s the budget? Second, encourage her to drive a minivan - they’re easy to get in and out of, and really don’t drive like a big car. She’s simply going to have to accept the idea of driving a larger vehicle if she wants to drive him around - otherwise they’re going to have to look into (real, professional) public transit.

"they’re [minivans] easy to get in and out of "-
As counterintuitive as it seems, this may not be true for the OP’s dad. I have old-age disabilities, and find coupes to be the easiest to get in and out of. Only the individual himself can know.

True, but OP already said his dad has trouble with a Mazda 6 and a Civic. That makes it sound like he needs a higher seating position.