Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Making it easier to get into and out of a car

What to look for

For a more detailed guide to techniques and products, see our full guide: Getting into and out of a car.

Once you have identified which of these features are most important to you, you can find vehicles that will suit you by using our Car search.

Easy-to-open doors

  • Most door handles are likely to be the type that you just pull on – no buttons or levers involved.

Wide doors that open wide

  • If your legs are stiff, you'll need room to swing them inside with the least possible bending. Two and three-door cars usually have wider doors.
  • Remember that wider doors need more space to open into (this can be a problem in garages) and you have to reach further to close them.
  • Watch out for bulky door pockets that get in the way. It may be possible to remove them - talk to the dealer.

High doors and low, narrow sills

  • The higher the door, the less you have to duck to get in.
  • It's easier to lift your legs over shallower and narrower sills. Avoid having a low seat and a high sill.

Space around the seat

  • The more space between the seat and the door, the better. If you need a lot of room, look for seats that slide back a greater distance.
  • Sit in the seat and check that you can reach the lever, and use it, easily.

Features found on some cars

  • Remote central locking is very common on a wide range of cars. On some cars, the remote locking closes the windows automatically.
  • Keyless entry systems are now more common. You carry a small card or key fob with you and, as you approach the car, it unlocks the doors automatically. 
  • Some MPVs and other cars have sliding rear doors, which may make it easier to get into and out of the back seats. This feature is becoming more common, so look out for more cars with it.

Adaptations that may help

Key holder
Car key holder
Car Caddie hand hold
Car Caddie
  • If the car key is too small, a key holder will give you more leverage - you can buy them for about £5 from general aids suppliers.
  • If your car doesn't have central locking, you can sometimes have it fitted by an adaptation company.
  • Leg lifters help you lift your legs over the sill. General aids suppliers sell simple leg lifters for around £10. A DIY solution is to loop a stiff length of webbing over your foot. Some people use a hooked walking stick or a plastic bag - you step into it and use the handles to pull your leg up.
  • A car dealer or adaptation company may be able to make the door open further by modifying the hinges. The cost depends on the vehicle. You may need to attach a length of cord to help you close the door or use a walking stick to pull the door closed.
  • If you can't find a convenient handhold to help with getting in and out, additional handles can be fitted. If your car does not have a grab handle above the door, it may have pre-drilled mounting points. If so, a car dealer should be able to fit handles. If not, or if you need handles in other places, adaptation companies can do the job.
  • The Car Caddie (available from general aids suppliers) and the Handybar (available from general aids suppliers and motoring suppliers) both provide additional handholds to help with getting in and out.
  • It may be possible to make the seat go back further by moving the runners backwards. This may not be worth doing on a 4- or 5-door car, because it may leave the seat too far behind the door pillar. Ask your car dealer or adaptation company about this.

Last updated: June 2011


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