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What suvs/cars are available for bad backs?

Let me explain my problem first a little. I’m 20 and underwent multiple lumbar punctures (spinal taps), which resulted in permanent damage in my lower back and frequent sciatica. I drive a 1999 Ford Taurus, and the its chairs were okay at first but are now disastrous after driving for more than half-an-hour (something I have to do quite frequently). I’m trying to buy something that’s either new or has fewer than 30k miles on it. Also, the car has to cost less than $27k, reliable (make it to 200k miles), utilitarian, and must be good-looking (not a Lincoln Town Car). Any recommendations?

Your back it too critical to mess with. The ONLY clear way is to test drive the vehicle. While I find my 4runner to be very comfortable (even on long trips)…it may NOT be good for YOUR back. Only you can tell what’s comfortable to you. I have a friend who swears up and down his Subaru is the best riding vehicle around…I find it very uncomfortable. Of course there’s over 8" in height and 50lbs in weight.

MikeInNH has given you good advice. A vehicle that is comfortable for one person is uncomfortable for another. We also have a Toyota 4Runner and find the seats very comfortable for us. On the other hand, we had a 1993 Oldsmobile 88 with a power seat and I could never get comfortable in that car on a long trip. I had a classmate in college who could purchase any car he wanted. He had a congenital back defect and he found the only car he could drive comfortably was a VW Beetle (this was the original Beetle–the only Beetle made in 1962).
I am certain that there will be a million posts recommended the Ford Crown Victoria. My inlaws owned a 1995 Mercury Grand Marquis (the Mercury version of the Crown Victoria). The Mercury wasn’t comfortable for me to drive. However, my neighbor bought the car. His wife found riding in the Mercury more comfortable for her back than the Cadillac they owned.

We have a chevy and a ford with adjustable lumbar support, maybe looking for that feature would be helpful.

The new 2013 Altima claims to have “zero gravity” seats, and it meats all your criteria, but as noted by MikeInNH, seats are a very personal. My advice for people with back issues is to go to a large truck stop and look into seat pads etc. Truckers know stuff about this.

I had to cross the country and I owned a Saturn Vue so I had to get rid of it. Once I sat in an E-150 van with the standard plastic seat cover I said SOLD. It was a great seat. The latch for the engine cowl bothered my foot a lot but if you get cruise control there won’t be a serious problem.

My daughter-in-law suffers from back problems. She had surgery, but it didn’t help very much. When she and my son were married 11 years ago, she brought a Ford Mustang with the 5 speed manual transmission to the marriage. She hasn’t been able to drive that car for several years. They have had minivans which are more comfortable for her to drive. They recently sold the Mustang and purchased a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck with automatic so that she could drive both the vehicles they own.
You may have to go with an SUV or a pickup truck. I found the Taurus to be more comfortable than the other cars in my institution’s fleet and this included the Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Impala, Honda Civic Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata and the Dodge Stratus for long distance drives. However, since you find the Taurus to be uncomfortable, you might try the Ford Escape. My institution had several of these in its fleet and I preferred the Escape to any of the cars.

Many people with mobility problems like the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

I agree with Barkydog. A car with the most adjustability including power lumbar support. I would also include those with the most adjustable steering columns too. You will need a car that can be operated while the seat is in it’s most comfortable position. I find that is not always possible with low slung sedans and find car based SUVs in general are the best compromise. There are plenty out there.

In addition, getting in and out is much easier too as well as loading and unloading.

I suffer from back problems. I made a poor choice in 2005 and had to trade a new car in after only two months.
Every bad back is different. The only thing you can do is be sure you take a good, long test drive.

I’m not sure what other cars have it available, but the new Taurus has something akin to a massager in it’s driver’s seat. They call it their Multi-countour seats with active motion.
You might take one of those out for a long test drive and see how that works out for you. Car should be fairly reliable, and since it’s a Taurus, it’ll have parts galore should you need anything from anywhere if/when something happens.

Actually, since it’s a Taurus, you should be able to call up any rental place and rent it for a few days to see how you like it. Ask them if they have one with the seat massager in it

I have to disagree with dagosa and barkydog. I have problems finding a comfortable seat. The best seats I’ve had so far are the seats that were in my base model 90 Dodge Colt and the one in my 97 Nissan PU. Both are fixed, no adjustments except back and forth.

Before I retired, I used to make long trips in the company cars. Some of them had seats that had all kinds of adjustments, but I could never find a setting that was comfortable. I have a separate lumbar support and a gel seat pad that make almost any car seat bearable for me. Truck stops usually have the best.

Thanks guys, I’ll consider all of your recommendations. I test drove a very nice Volvo C30; the chairs were perfect, except the car was priced a little high for being used. Also, I know that the car will last easily to 200k; it’s just not that utilitarian…

“I know that the car will last easily to 200k…”

AquaticSnoopy–ANY car can be made to last easily to 200k nowadays.
The difference from one make to another is how much it costs to keep the car running for the long term, and the costs for Volvo parts and repairs are significantly higher than for most other makes.

Unfortunately, you are operating from a reputation that Volvo gained many, many years ago that is of no relevance today. The reality is that modern Volvos are less reliable than most other makes after the first few years, and that they turn into veritable money-pits in order to keep them running. They also have no real safety advantage over other makes nowadays.

However, they do have very good seats, and that is their only advantage, IMHO.

Even a new C30 is less than $27,000. If you were looking at a used C30, check out the new one. They do have incentives.

http://www.edmunds.com/volvo/c30/2012/car-incentives.html?style=101399729

I have seen the recommendation to rent a car for a few days to see how you like it, then buy one if you do like it. Chryslers used to have good seats.

I agree with Barkydog. A car with the most adjustability including power lumbar support.

The one thing I like about my 4runner is it’s not a struggle getting in and out of my truck. My butt is even with the seat…I just slide in. When I had knee surgery 15 years ago…it was a pain getting in and out of my wifes Accord. Not sure if that effects a bad back or not.

Here’s my recommendation:

RENT whatever vehicles you want to consider and drive them on long trips to test them. Not just around town, but on long trips. The dealer might even be able to help you out on this. I did this for my car purchases, and the rental rates from the dealers were VERY low - they simply give you a dealer demo model and consider it a sales pitch.

Other than that, there isn’t much anyone can recommend, because it is YOUR back, and your back is different than ours. I have lower back pain myself, and had a 97 Taurus with an adjustable lumbar (air bladder) that I found extraordinarily comfortable. Our '10 Mazda6 has no adjustable lumbar, and I found it more comfortable than most cars that DID have adjustable lumbar (most are mechanical adjustments now). I’ve found '87 and '98 Camrys to be comfortable, but the '92-'96 generation was torture for me.

And don’t forget that different trim lines of the same vehicle may have different seats with different comfort levels. I’ve seen tests done where high-trim seats from an entry-level mainstream subcompact routinely slaughtered seats from BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class sedans when tested in blind tests - removed from the car, subject not allowed to view seats, just rate comfort- until the test subjects were told where the seats came from, at which point no one seemed to care for the subcompact seats, as brand biases took over…

I suffer from continual back pain. I just rented a 2012 Ford Escape and drove a lot. I was very very comfortable without any pain.Try it!