Plus+Size Living


Help for a Plus Size Life


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Some airlines have policies and procedures that make it easier or more difficult for large size passengers. Find out which airlines are size-friendly.
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Seat belt extenders are available for all cars. Learn how to find the right extender for your vehicle.

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Car Features to Look For

Shop for Size-Friendly Car Features

Editor's Note: The information provided in this article was compiled by Stef Jones in her online FAQ about Physical Resources for Big Folk in answer to the question "What models of cars work best for big folks?"

The consensus on cars is: there is no consensus on cars. Everyone is shaped slightly differently, and what one large person loves, another large person hates. That said, here are some guidelines on buying cars, followed by a list of makes and models that some big folks have found work (or don't work) for them.

Test drive everything you can lay your hands on. Avoid preconceptions -- check out all the cars in your price range. Once you find a car you think you like, try to rent it for a week or so. You learn much more about a car when you spend some time with it.

When you check out a car, here are some things to think about:

Seating

If the fit is almost there, an auto upholstery shop or body shop or shop specializing in modifications for special needs (such as Mobility Systems in Berkeley, California) can move or lower a car seat, add or take away the seat's padding, install pedal extenders or a small steering wheel and so on. Also, all U.S. car companies will help pay for adaptations in new cars for the physically handicapped.

Seatbelts

Many car companies offer seatbelt extenders and some will customize seatbelts for free. Unfortunately, car seatbelts vary a lot, even within models -- there is no universal extender. The only way to get the correct extender for your car is to go to the parts department of your dealership. Honda owners may be able to sweet-talk a Nissan parts manager into trying to figure out which is the corresponding part (but people have run into trouble with this--a Nissan Vehicle Identification Number may be required to order an extender).

Nissan and Honda buy their belts from the same belt makers, but Honda does not offer seatbelt extenders. (If you do this be very sure you are not voiding your insurance coverage, your warranty, or you right to sue if the belt breaks in an accident. You have to get everyone's permission in writing, and this procedure can cost you a few hundred dollars.)

Here are some web sites which may help anyone trying to get seat belt extenders:

If you haven't bought the car yet, get it "in writing" (very important) that they will provide you with extenders, or replace the belts for long-enough ones at no charge to you.

Companies reported to be good about seatbelt modifications include:

Companies reported to be bad about seatbelt modifications include:

Note that dealers may be willing to bargain. One person told her local dealer that she'd buy a Honda from them if they could put longer seatbelts in the back. They installed new seatbelts at a local customizing shop for no extra cost.

Other solutions for too-short seatbelts:

Other seatbelt considerations:

Airbags

Airbags may be dangerous for people who sit within 10-12 inches of the steering wheel (measured from the center of the wheel to the center of the chest) or the passenger side dashboard. This includes people under 5'3" and many large people. If a person sits that close, the airbag may cause serious damage because it opens explosively.

The U.S. federal government has issued new guidelines for airbag on-off switches to be fitted to some vehicles. To obtain the switch, get a safety brochure and form from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a dealership, repair shop, state motor vehicle office, or other location. The form requests information on the vehicle and the reason for fitting the switch. It also contains a section where the consumer acknowledges the risk of turning off the air bag. The NHTSA will then send an authorization letter so you can have your air bag switch installed.

Also consider pedal extenders, which may allow you to sit farther back from the steering wheel. Note that even without airbags, people who sit close to the steering wheel may be at greater risk for injury from the steering wheel itself.

Reach, Entry and Exit

Copyright by Stef Jones (stef@bayarea.net)

GrandStyle also has great info on various models of size-friendly cars.