Which car for a senior?

Like the Jan 23, 2020 letter from Lynn who said she wanted a car to sit high like her My '06 Scion xA with 87,000 miles on it, I’m a senior with back problems and a tight budget who needs some more recommendations. I had an ‘03 Honda Civic that my brother totaled. I’m on a limited budget, and.because my brother used the Honda during his visits, I took the precaution of insuring it for collision in addition to liability. I thought I’d buy a used 2012 Accord because of its reliability and relatively low maintenance cost.

However, as I’m getting treatment for my back pain, my physical therapist recommends that I get a car with some more height than the Honda Accord. i thought about a Honda CR-V about the same age; but, despite generally good Consumer Reports ratings I’ve heard many negatives from friends who’d owned and had to replace the entire A/C systems.

The only one that appeals to me in both your reply and the comments is the Crosstrek, which I assume is Subaru; and of course, the newer year would be out of my budget range. But isn’t it more costly to maintain a Subaru Crosstrek than the Accord sedan?

Thank you in advance for sorely needed advice.


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Any crossover will be better for a senior with back issues in many ways. Particularly getting in and out. Here’s a story just for you about vehicles for folks with bad backs. Written by a writer with Spondylolysis (Chronic back pain related to a stress fracture in the back. ) The CR-V is the single top-selling vehicle in America to individual buyers excluding two truck models. All those people are not wrong. Personally, I prefer the Mazda CX-5.


Do you actually need all-wheel drive . . . ?!

Statistically speaking, you’ll probably be just fine with that CR-V

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If you live in an area where it’s easy to get an Uber, you may find it more comfortable and cheaper to leave the driving to someone else.

A Kia Soul might also meet your needs, or a Scion Xb

Goreham ––Thank you for your input. I’ll read the article with great interest.

I was set to go for a CR-V, when a friend of mine told me she’d had a lot of trouble with the A/C and ultimately had to replace the entire A/C system. She told me she tried again and later bought a different year CR-v, but had the same problem. And she said she had other friends who bought it and had A/C problems. That seems more than just a coincidence.

Since I’ll be buying a used vehicle, unless there’s a dealer warranty, I’ll be SOL.

Thanks again.––Kathryn

db4690–No, I don’t need all-wheel drive, but I know it will be higher off the ground than an Accord, or what my physical therapist recommends for my degenerative back. Do you know of any well-reviewed/reasonably priced (used) sedans that are not as low as the Accord? The reasonable pricing also should apply to maintenance.

I’m wanting a practical car where I can carry large items if needed.

Thank you. –Kathryn

P.S. The A/C is VERY IMPORTANT to me because I live in Texas, with long brutal summers.

Keep in mind that it might be easier to slide in and out if you have leather seats instead of cloth seats.


I am a senior , 6 feet tall and have bad knees plus a back that does hurt at times . We have a 2018 Ford Fiesta and a 2010 Volvo V70 and really don’t have any complaint about getting in or out.

Simple fact , a person just has to try out different vehicles with an open mind . Finding the largest used vehicle seller can give a chance at having a wider selection .

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The smaller crossovers (Rav, CRV, Forester) have seats that are essentially butt-height, so that driver and passengers can slide into and out of their seats, rather than having to lower themselves to get in, and hoist their butts to get out.

And, as stated, a leather seat makes sliding into that seat even easier. Additionally, because the “premium” models are the ones that get the leather upholstery, the seats themselves usually have better support and are more adjustable than the seats in the cheap-o models.

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My opinions here, but I have never found reliability ratings from CR to be helpful to me at all, but rather actually misleading, as you have discovered. They have never matched with any car experiences I’ve ever had. Had I heeded the results I would have missed some of the best cars I could ever dream existed. Any minute differences in perceived reliability are magnified in the way the rating scales are set up. I’m sure it sells magazines for them, though. :wink:

Other than the reliability ratings, I had found useful information there in the form of car reviews, discussing interior space, trunk capacity, etcetera. Also, when they actually lab test products I tend to garner valuable information when results are published. Because of the misleading (to me) car reliability reports I finally cancelled a decades long subscription.

Word of mouth from friends and relatives is the most valuable reliability advice, as you have discovered.
:palm_tree: :sunglasses::palm_tree:


On the other hand, 3 data points regarding a vehicle that has sold millions of copies isn’t much of a trend…


One thing that can be done when a friend is warning you about a specific make, model, and year, is to go to CarComplaints and look for that issue on the list of many that owners have reported. Like most vehicles, the CR-V has good years and bad. I looked through a number of older CR-V models and could not find any that had a well-known, common problem with AC failure. I suspect that your comments define what may be happening. The tough Texas weather may be hard on all used cars’ AC systems. There are a couple ways to manage that. One is by purchasing a certified, pre-owned vehicle with a manufacturer’s warranty on the vehicle (including the AC) for a year or more. The second is to simply buy a used vehicle in your price range, but with you already have set aside $1K for a complete AC failure. These are if your options do not include buying new. You could buy a new Hyundai today and not have to worry about any repairs for five years or 60K miles. Hyundai even throws in three years of included maintenence (news this week).


Kathryn, another suggestion for you would be to borrow a friend’s crossover or rent a crossover to see if you like the getting in and getting out part better (or not). Just be aware that like sedans, crossovers have varied seats, so “I hated the seats in the XYZ Model” is not really a reason to shy away from a crossover.


I have found, after 30 years of using them, that the Consumer Reports reliability ratings are a very reliable guide. I think a CRV is a good choice. The 2011 model does not show much in the way of AC problems, and I didn’t have any trouble with mine.

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Certain years of CRV puked AC systems as you state 2002-2006. I believe its in now a few generations past that period without the issues. Is your budget range dropping into 2002-2006? Otherwise don’t think much of it.

People on a budget and even my neighbors who are frugal everyday millionaires(Dr, Pharmacist) in their late 50’s drive a Kia Soul and they love the economy, price etc and the entry/exit.

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Good news Top Gear covered this a few years ago


My recommendation to the OP is to try out a vehicle for fit just as you would a pair of shoes. I had a classmate in college that came from a well-to-do family and had serious back problems. He often took the bus home on weekends. One time he drove back to campus in a car from his family’s fleet. He forgot he had driven back to campus and took the bus home. He came back in another car from his family’s fleet. The next weekend, he and a friend drove both cars to his family’s home and came back by bus. My classmate’s father told his son to go out and buy a car and he could buy any car he wanted. After testing different cars, my friend bought a VW Beetle. He found the VW Beetle had seats and a driving position that was the most comfortable for his back. He could have had a car that cost three times as much. He had been taking the bus because he found most cars too uncomfortable to drive. The VW was comfortable for him. This was back in 1961.

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My former neighbor had severe back issues and drove a CR-V. He found it worked best for him among the small SUVs available. One of my wife’s friends had two bad knees, and bought a CR-V to make getting in and out easier. It worked well. She had both knees replaced and recently bought a second CR-V. Any vehicle in this class might work. I suggest you drive some and buy the one you like best. Before you buy, take it to a mechanic you trust for a pre-purchase inspection. If it checks out OK, you might want to buy it.

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