Tag Archives: size-friendly car

plus size car shopping

4 Tips on Finding a Size-Friendly Car

Looking for a size-friendly car? Sit down! You can’t judge the roominess of a car from the outside. You need to sit in the car and drive it. That’s the only way you can see if there is enough tummy room under the steering wheel, enough (or too much!) legroom and if there is enough head room for all passengers.

Research for Best Results

There are several ways to do your research, narrow down your selections and select the best car to meet your needs. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Research internal measurements of new vehicles – It’s always a temptation to select a new car or truck based on its appearance or special features. Before you run out to take a few test drives at the dealership, spend a little time researching car measurements from reputable sources such as Consumer Reports. Another great source for internal car measurements is Jack Gillis’ annual research book, The Car Book. It’s not rocket science…trucks tend to be bigger inside than cars and bigger cars are more likely to be size-friendly cars.Here are a few vehicles to consider:
    – Nissan Quest
    – Toyota Sienna
    – Kia Sedona
    – Honda Clarity
    – Honda Accord
  • Consider a used car – Used cars can also be a great option for plus size drivers. Low mileage used cars can be a great value. Be sure and do your research on both the mechanics and the measurements of the model you are considering. For research on more recent used cars, Consumer Reports magazine is also great source for internal measurements.
  • Rent before purchasing – A test drive before purchasing a car is always a must. That is the only way you can get a feel for the power, noise level and comfort of a car. But it is difficult to really evaluate a car after a short test drive. Instead, consider renting your car of choice from a local car rental agency. After three to four days you will have an excellent idea of how the car feels during everyday activities — like loading groceries, getting in and out to run errands and sitting and waiting for long period of time – as well as during a car road trip.
  • Arrange for a seat belt extender – Currently, according to Federal law, a car’s seat belt only has to accommodate a 215 pound driver or passenger. Some car dealerships are more helpful than others in providing seat belt extenders for larger drivers. GrandStyle provides an overview of car manufacturers providing seat belt extenders. Extenders are available from car manufacturers and through online retailers such as Amazon.

More Help and Ideas on Finding a Size-Friendly Car:

Plus Size Car: Features to Look For

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 a size-friendly, plus size car.

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 the same make and model for a week or so. You learn much more about a car when you spend some time with it over a day or two.

Shopping Tips for a Plus Size Car

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


If the fit is almost there, an auto upholstery shop or body shop or shop specializing in modifications for special needs 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.

  • Can you extend your legs fully? If you have to fold up your legs too much, you’ll get a cramp over long distances.
  • Is there enough room for your hips? Do your hips or thighs touch anything sharp or hard on the sides of the seats or on the doors? Some bucket seats are too small for big folks to sit in comfortably.
  • Does it feel claustrophobic with two people in the front seats? Manual cars may have more room between the front seats, to allow space for the gear shift to move — but a large person’s thighs may interfere with the gear shift.
  • Is there room for your thighs and stomach the steering wheel? A tilt steering wheel may help.
  • Does the the front seat support your back sufficiently? If the car has adjustable lumbar support, does it fit you?

Seat Belts

Many car companies offer seat belt extenders and some will customize seat belts for free. Unfortunately, car seat belts vary a lot, even within models — there is no universal extender. The only way to make sure that you are getting the perfectly-sized extender for your car is to go to the parts department of your dealership.

If you haven’t purchased the car yet, get it “in writing” (very important) that they will provide you with seat belt extenders at no charge to you.

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 seat belts in the back. They installed new seat belts at a local customizing shop for no extra cost.

Other solutions for too-short seat belts:

  • Buy oversized van seat belts at an auto parts store.
  • Have an auto customizer or auto upholsterer modify or replace the seat belts.
  • J.C. Whitney offers inexpensive (under $20) seat belt extenders. You have to bolt them onto the wall or floor of the auto compartment. So, you need to have seat belts that attach to the car with a bolt (as opposed to those spring-recoil or automatic slider-thingies a lot of new small cars have).
  • Amazon stocks a variety of seat belt extenders.

Other solutions for rubbing or choking seat belts:

  • Fasten the belt, pull it out an inch more, and attach a safety pin or bulldog clip where the belt retracts.
  • Tuck the seat belt underneath a fanny pack worn around your waist.
  • Buy a Velcro pocket that you can thread the seatbelt through so it sits lower on your chest. It’s available at auto parts stores. It’s often marketed for children, but can be used by adults too.


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 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

  • Can you reach the steering wheel easily? A tilt steering wheel may help. You can raise the steering wheel to get in and out, then pull it down for driving.
  • Can you reach the radio, lights, mirrors, glove box, door and window controls? Can you reach the seat adjustment controls while you’re seated?
  • Is the car door low, so it’s easy to bump your head when you get in or out carelessly?
  • Can you get out of the car in a narrow parking space? Four-door cars work better in this situation.
  • Can you and your passengers get in and out of the back seat easily? Four-door cars are easier to get in and out of.
  • How far does the car sink when you get into it? If you use a driveway with a high incline, a lot of sinkage may cause the car to scrape the ground.

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?”

3 Tips for Last-Minute Plus Size Travel

Vacation in your future? It’s not too late to get a good deal on airline or hotel reservations. And, it’s never too late to do a few things to make your plus size travel adventure super comfortable.

Plus Size Travel Tips

1. Waiting until a vacation period to book your hotel room can save you as much as $60-$100 a night. Tip: Check out the high-end hotels that usually cater to business executives. They are typically looking for travelers to fill empty rooms during holiday and vacation times (such as in December or July) when business travel slows down. For the best rates, call the hotel directly, not the hotel’s central 800#.
2. Schedule your travel when most people are home celebrating the holiday. Tip: Fly on the day of the holiday. On Thanksgiving or Christmas day the rates can be reduced as much as 30-50%…and you’ll have more seat choices (go for an aisle for the most room!) with less chance of having to squish into a crowded airplane.
3. If a car trip is in your travel plans, don’t forget to take your seat belt extender so that you can be comfortable AND safe. Tip: Order a car or airplane seat belt extender from Amazon for quick delivery. Your local car dealer usually has to order seat belt extenders…which could take several weeks.

Regardless of when (or how!) you travel, be sure and hand the camera to someone else and get into the travel pictures! Don’t let your poor self-esteem keep you out of the pictures that are taken to help you preserve the memory!

There is a lot of info on plus size travel here on GrandStyle. Check it out and enjoy your trip! For more info on comfortable airline travel check out 13 Tips for a More Comfortable Airline Flight.