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Choosing a safe vehicle for seniors

It's important to choose the safest car you can afford that suits your needs. The better the fit between you and your car, the more comfortable, in control and safe you'll be.

The choice of a car with in-built safety and technology features suited to the physical capabilities of the driver, eg rear-view cameras to assist with reversing, will improve safety.

Learn about vehicle safety features that can protect you and your passengers in a crash.

Using the tools on the Rightcar website(external link) you can search vehicle performance on fuel economy, driver safety, carbon dioxide CO2 emissions and air pollution; all of which should help when it comes to choosing the right car for you.

Choose vehicles with high safety ratings. The following features are recommended for new vehicle buyers:

  • electronic stability control (ESC): systems that use sensors to detect and prevent a vehicle going out of control.

  • four-star minimum ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Programme) crash rating – for safety ratings based on crash test results, check Rightcar(external link)

  • head-protecting side or curtain airbags.

Some other ideas to consider when purchasing a new car for senior drivers are:

  • adjustable pedals – with a push of a button, the driver can adjust the accelerator and brake pedals, a feature especially for petite drivers to reach the pedals while ensuring they are a safe distance (about 30.5cm) from the airbag mounted in the steering-wheel hub

  • adjustable steering wheel and seats.

  • electric mirrors – these are easier to adjust for drivers with limited strength or arthritis

  • large/wide-angle mirrors – for those who have difficulty twisting to look to the rear when changing lanes or reversing, large wide-angle mirrors can improve visibility

  • visors and extendable visors – visors that extend to protect drivers from glare are very important

  • low door threshold – or 'sills' make getting in and getting out of car easier, reducing the need to lift the leg over the threshold

  • thick steering wheel – these require less hand and wrist strength to grip and handle

  • anti-lock braking system (ABS) – these prevent the wheels from locking during hard braking, helping the driver retain steering control and eliminating the need to 'pump' the brakes, an action that might be challenging for some senior drivers

  • emergency brake assist (EBA) – a system that detects panic braking and automatically applies maximum braking force (most drivers – not just senior – do not apply enough braking force in an emergency, so they are not stopping as quickly as the car is capable of)

  • headrests – to minimise the risk of whiplash injuries

  • power steering – less physical effort is needed to turn and control the vehicle

  • safety belt pre-tensioners, side intrusion bars and front and rear crumple zones – all these features absorb energy and protect occupants in event of crash.

Buying a safe used car

You can find safety ratings for passenger vehicles. The used car safety ratings(external link) give an indication of how safe common Australian and New Zealand used-vehicle models are likely to be in a crash.

The costs of running a car

The actual costs of operating a car can be expensive. The cost of running an older, small car can be somewhere in the region of $1800 to $2500 per year, not counting the value of the car itself and depreciation. This includes petrol, motor vehicle licensing (registration), warrant of fitness, insurance and annual service costs.

The fuel economy label generator(external link) can help you work out how much you currently spend on fuel and gives tips on how to cut down the amount of fuel you use.