Right or wrong, there have always been certain cars associated with retirement and senior citizens. Disparagingly referred to as "old man cars," this category has, in the past, included vehicles like the Lincoln Continental, Buick LeSabre and Cadillac Eldorado. Typically, they're long, full-size sedans that are difficult to parallel park and elicit eye rolls from younger people.
Some cars are indeed better suited for older drivers and credible automotive authorities, such as Autotrader, Edmunds and AutoGuide, regularly list them. Their choices – and the reasons behind them – may surprise you. One thing they don't do is drive like a living room on wheels. Here are five cars that are considered to be a good fit for retirees and cost $30,000 or less.
1. Buick Encore
It's still a Buick, but the Encore is quite different from the Buicks driven in the 1970s and 1980s. For starters, it's a sport utility vehicle (SUV), and its high seating position provides good views of the road in all directions – a plus for seniors. The Encore is also easy to climb into and out of, given its proximity to the ground.
Standard features that could be helpful to retirees include a back-up camera, power windows and keyless entry. A new, well-equipped Buick Encore can be purchased for about $28,000. For a little more money, buyers can get the OnStar roadside assistance option. Finally, the Buick Encore was a 2016 Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
2. Hyundai Sonata
One of the cars that pops up often in discussions about good picks for retirees is the Hyundai Sonata. Known for being reliable and low maintenance, the Hyundai Sonata is a roomy, mid-size sedan with many features likely to appeal to seniors. These include a wide dashboard, large buttons and controls, a telescopic steering wheel and seats outfitted with lumbar supports. The car is also low to the ground and easy to enter and exit. And Sonatas are known for having one of the largest trunk spaces of any mid-size car.
Redesigned for the 2016 model, the latest Sonata has great fuel economy: 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 miles per gallon on the highway. The gas/electric hybrid version of the Sonata has even better fuel economy. The starting price is around $25,000.
3. Subaru Outback
This selection might seem a bit curious, given that Subaru vehicles are known for off-road driving and racing. However, the Subaru Outback, an SUV, is mentioned regularly by automotive experts as an appropriate cars for seniors because it's a simple, functional and durable vehicle. What's more, it has great safety features: There's all-wheel drive for slippery road conditions, and the Outback will stop automatically at low speeds if it detects that a collision is likely. There are also high seats, plenty of cargo space and a dashboard that is intuitive to use, not over complicated, with voice commands and touch screens.
At about $25,000, the Outback is also less expensive than many comparable sport utility vehicles, and it consumes less gas – 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 miles per gallon on the highway. Suburus are so popular these days that you can expect a long waiting list for this vehicle.
4. Ford Taurus
A descendant of the Lincoln Continental, the Ford Taurus has been a bestselling car in North America since it was first introduced in 1986. Seniors have always gravitated to this full-size sedan. Recognizing the appeal of the Taurus to its older customers, Ford has continually added features over the years that make it easier and more comfortable for seniors to drive.
The 2016 Ford Taurus is equipped with a wide dashboard, seats designed to reduce fatigue and back strain, ambient lighting and even a heated steering wheel for cold mornings. It also comes with keyless entry, cruise control and safety features like forward collision and lane departure warnings. At about $30,000, a 2016 model is a little pricier, but certified pre-owned Ford Tauruses are also good and are available for less.
5. Honda Odyssey
Perfect for retirees with a brood of grandchildren close by, the Honda Odyssey is among the top rated mini-vans on the market today. With seating for seven or eight people and generous trunk room, the Odyssey is the ultimate people mover. It can comfortably fit the grandkids, family dog and plenty of sports equipment. The mom-mobile works just as well as a grandmom-mobile. Or granddad.
Like the other vehicles on this list, the seats in the Odyssey are high and provide clear views in all directions. The van also has a large and comfortable cabin with ample room in the front, and its intuitive buttons and controls have been praised by automotive critics. Safety technology includes a blind spot detector in the side view mirrors, forward collision detection and four wheel anti-lock brakes for safe stopping. The Odyssey is also notable for its engine and performance. What many people like most is that it doesn't drive like a typical minivan. A new, basic model Honda Odyssey starts at about $30,000.
The Bottom Line
Selecting any vehicle is a personal choice, and many factors will influence that choice. But for retirees and other seniors, it helps to know that certain brands and models of cars deliver features and functions designed to make driving enjoyable and safe for people who are advancing in years. Seniors should also take the time to test-drive all the cars they are considering to make sure that the one they choose is a good fit for their body and their driving style. Your height and whether you sit up or lean back when you drive can make a difference in rear-window visibility, for example.