Based on my past and recent experience with aftermarket car seats for tall people (I’m 6’4″), the author of this website has asked me if I could come up with a summary. I am more than happy to do this. I was already thinking of doing something like this for quite some time but I wasn’t sure how to publish this since I don’t maintain any blogs anywhere.
My story with aftermarket seats started back in 2001 when I bought a 2001 Isuzu Trooper. I felt comfortable in the car when I test drove it. But after a few days the problems started and I got severe back and neck pain. I was close to selling the car when I started some research on aftermarket orthopedic car seats.
I knew about Sparco, Recaro and Corbeau. Only Recaro seemed to offer a solution I was looking for but not with really high back rests. Then I stumbled across Greiner. This is a small company in Germany specializing on seating solutions. They have their brand of Scheelmann car seats and offer a car seat with extra long back rest (70cm) and height adjustable lumbar support.
It is called the vario XXL and is the best car seat for tall people:
Without having the option to “test sit” that seat I ordered one from Germany. They also had the matching brackets for the Isuzu. After some modification to the brackets (theirs were too tall for me) I had the seat in the car and my life kind of changed. The seat was really great.
In 2006 my Isuzu was killed in an accident and totaled. But the seat survived. Since we had another family car (my wife’s Toyota Sienna) I wanted a smaller fun car. This is why I ended up with a used 02 two door Chevrolet Tracker. Unfortunately the Tracker seats were not tall enough either. So I contacted Greiner again and they sent me a matching bracket for the Tracker and I mounted the seat in the Tracker. I was happy for 4 more years when I decided to get a midlife crisis toy convertible. The Tracker was sold and the tall car seat went into storage. My new car was a used Saab 9-3 convertible. This one has really great factory seats and I did not use my Greiner seat on this car.
Now I decided to get another 4×4 again and ended up with a used 05 Suzuki XL-7. The reason why I went with a Suzuki was that it has the same front floor plan as the Chevrolet Tracker. I could reuse the seat bracket from the Tracker.
Below are more details and challenges I came across during my work with aftermarket tall car seats.
There are four companies who offer aftermarket seats for a variety of cars:
- Sparco: http://www.sparcousa.com/vehicle/vehicle-seats-type
- Corbeau: http://corbeau.com/
- Recaro: https://www.recaro-automotive.com/us/home.html
- Greiner: http://www.greiner-gmbh.de/en/produkte/traffic/anwendungsgebiete/alle.html
Sparco focuses on racing seats and does not really have a product line around comfort seats for tall people. Corbau does have comfort seats but they don’t have any tall seats for tall people. Same for Recaro. The only company who seems to offer an aftermarket seat for tall people is Greiner. Their model is the Vario XXL.
Where to get them?
Here is the problem. Sparco and Corbeau are readily available in the US. Also Recaro officially sells in the US but I could not find any stores where I could test sit any of the Recaro seats. But Greiner does not sell their seats in the US. I had it shipped from their factory into the US.
How much does it cost?
I think Sparco and Corbeau seats can be bought for a few hundred dollars. Recaro are more expensive but occasionally you can get used ones for a decent price. With Greiner this is a different story. You probably won’t find a used one in the US and new ones are expensive. With shipping you have to plan for at least $2K per seat. Probably more in the $2.5K range. This is per seat. Yes you may think this is crazy. But having a comfortable and tall car seat is more important for me than shiny wheels. Also I am using this seat now in my third car. I consider it a worthwhile investment.
The best and most expensive car seat does not work when you cannot get any seat brackets for your car. When I ordered my seat back then in 2001 Greiner made their own brackets. After a recent conversation with Greiner they told me that they are now using Recaro brackets. The Greiner seats use the Recaro non-racing seat bolt pattern.
The link below is to the German Recaro site. I could not find the English web site for their vehicle selector. The pulldown window titled “Marke” (brand) under “Seat Finder” allows you to select the vehicles that Recaro has brackets for.
Since Recaro is a German company they mainly focus on cars offered in Europe and they don’t have brackets for cars sold in the US or Canada only.
But there are two other companies which offer seat brackets for cars sold in the US:
- Wedge Engineering: http://wedgebrackets.com/seat-brackets-home/
- Planted: http://wedgebrackets.com/seat-brackets-home/
However, here in the US most of the aftermarket seat business focuses on motor sports and is tailored towards sports cars. Meaning there is only a limited amount of brackets for non-sports cars. You need to check the sites to see if there is a bracket for your car.
In addition you will need some sliders. Recaro offers a universal pair of sliders. The sliders go between seat and bracket. And since Greiner and Recaro have the same bolt pattern, these sliders work for both brands. Wedge engineering offers these sliders as an option for their brackets. The guys at Planted also confirmed that they can get me a pair of Recaro sliders which is compatible to their brackets.
Sparco and Corbeau offer their own brackets and sliders.
- Sparco: http://www.sparcousa.com/product/seat-base-600-series
- Corbeau: http://corbeau.com/master-seat-brackets
But I don’t know how far all these brackets are compatible with each other and other seat brands.
Side impact airbags:
This is another important aspect. Most cars nowadays come with side air bags which are integrated in the seat. Only Recaro offers some seats with optional universal airbags such as this one:
But I don’t know if these seats are compatible with all vehicle airbag systems or if these seats are only compatible with a particular vehicle brand or vehicle model. No other aftermarket seat manufacturer offers airbags in their seats.
If you are removing a seat with side airbag from a car, the airbag light will come on and I don’t know if the remaining airbags will still work properly. There are some companies out there offering bypass kits such as this http://www.k1racegear.com/airbag-resistor-kit.html.
In some forums people are talking about using 3.3 Ohm resistors: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=304495
I have not tried any of these solutions above as the cars I have owned so far did not have any side impact airbags. And I have not received any information from any car manufacturer. They will not recommend or support such a solution because of liability reasons.
This is a grey zone right now and I would also like to get some more information on what is possible with cars with front side impact airbags.
Yes, these may also be affected. Most cars nowadays have sensors in the front seats which monitor the distance from the steering wheel to adjust how far the driver side airbag shall deploy or if they should at all. If you unplug the sensor, the airbag light might come as it did on my car. Also, I don’t know if the remaining airbags will still work properly if you leave the system that way.
Mine was a magnetic sensor which I could move to my new seat and modify in such a way that it simulated the seat position in a correct way. Meaning my airbag system now works as before. This is something you need to look into.
Seat Belt Tensioners:
Some cars today have seat belt tensioners. Often they are mounted on the factory seat to pull back the seat belt lock in case of an accident. I have read posts in forums out there that either the seat belt lock warning light or the airbag warning light might come on if you unplug these tensioners. So the safest way would be to mount these tensioners to the aftermarket seat. But I don’t know if the brackets available out there offer this option and if they have the space to mount a tensioner.
Leg and Headroom:
Unfortunately, for some cars some brackets reduce headroom, which is an issue for tall people. This happened on my Isuzu Trooper. I had to modify these brackets to adjust the headroom.
They also don’t always increase the leg room. But sometimes you can set the sliders further back on the bracket. Or you can set the whole bracket back. I did this on my three cars. On the Suzuki I used a flat ¼” steel plate to move the seat back. Pics can be seen here on the Suzuki site:
There may also be a chance to combine an aftermarket seat bracket with one of these extenders:
Integrated seat belts:
Last but not least there are some cars out there with integrated seat belts inside the seat. Such as 07+ Honda Element, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Tahoe, Suburban and the trucks. For these cars there is no solution with an aftermarket seat as none of the aftermarket seats offers an integrated seat belt solution.