Measuring Cars for Tall People: Vision Line Height 14

Of all the height biased man made objects, cars are perhaps the most problematic for tall people. The one size fits all approach results in poor ergonomics leading to both long term and immediate health hazards. There are some modifications that can be done to improve a car’s fit, but the first step is to choose a car with the most space possible.

With so many cars on the market, finding the best fit can be difficult. The measurement most often cited when characterizing a car’s suitability for a tall person is headroom. Headroom is the vertical distance from the lowest point on the seat to a point directly above it on the roof. Here are two major cruxes with this: First, cars that allow the seat to be adjusted really low to the floor of the cabin have misleadingly larger headroom; this position leaves the tall driver with insufficient legroom. And second, it does the driver no good to utilize the top inch or so of the cabin as the roofline cuts off visibility.

Vision Line Height for Tall People

This leads to the hereby coined term, Vision Line Height (VLH): the vertical height between the foot well and where the windshield meets the roof. VLH is measured inside the car with the floor mat removed, which can often be in excess of 1/2″ thick. Most cars can be measured with just a tape measure: Use one hand to hold the end to the floor and measure vertically to the roof line. The measurement should be taken as close to the steering wheel as you can while still keeping the tape vertical.

Measuring Vision Line Height

At the end of this article you will find a VLH list. Though it is a few years old, it is still useful as not much has changed. If you get a chance, please check out you car’s VLH and post it in the comments. Below are some of the more interesting VLH findings.

The top cars are the Ford Transit Connect (51-1/2″), Ford E-series vans (49-1/8″), the pre-2007 Scion XB (47-1/2″), and the Honda Element (46-5/8″). Other noteworthy cars are the Nissan Titan (46″), the Honda Pilot (46″), the Ford Escape (46-1/4″), and the Ford Flex (46-3/8″). If you are truly desperate, there is also the commercial Mercedes Sprinter (52-3/4″))

Much to the contrary of popular opinion, behemoth vehicles don’t necessarily provide lots of space for tall people, the Hummer (VLH = 43″) being a prime example.

Big cars are not necessarily better for tall people: Hummer

Long-limbed tall people may find legroom to be a bigger problem than vertical space. Such people may prefer to use legroom as the main measurement when searching for a car. However, picking a car with a large VLH is still important as it means the seat can be in a higher position, which coincides with more legroom. Besides, it is possible to modify cars to get more car legroom for tall people, but this is not the case for cabin height.

It is my hope that, with your help, Vision Line Height will become a standard measurement provided by car manufacturers. This will make the suitability of cars for tall people more transparent and might even inspire a visionary manufacturer to produce a car with an unusually large Vision Line Height! So please use this term whenever you can.

MakeModelYearVision Line Height (inches)
Civic Coup201342
Transit Connect201351-1/2
Camaro Coup201338
LX 200201441
Chrysler 300201342-3/8
HyundaiSante Fe201344-1/2
Elan Tar201341-1/2
GLK 350201043-7/8
ML 350201043-3/8
R 350201144-3/4
LexusIS 250200939-1/8

Toyota Prius V (2014) 44”

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14 thoughts on “Measuring Cars for Tall People: Vision Line Height

    • Tall Life Post author

      I plan to at some point, though it’s a lot of work and I’m swamped these days. I’m always eager to put up data collected by the community 🙂

      • Anonymous

        This is a really interesting topic. As a tall guy I completely understand where you are coming from. Let’s try to get more cars in this list. Can you share your data collection methodology and others can take measurements and post.

      • Tall Life Post author

        I added a couple sentences describing how to measure. I’ll try to take some pictures when I get a chance. I’m hoping people can just send me the car model and year along with the VLH measurement, either in the comments or via the contact page. I’ll then update the table on this page.

      • Bran

        This would be a great idea. But we need to establish a standard for ho wwe measure the windshields. Please tell us how to measure a windshield or post a video about how to do it.

  • Tall Man

    I love the premise! There’s one aspect that might be misleading however, which is minimum seat height. Some cars’ seats go a lot lower/closer to the floor than others, which can change the value of Vision Line Height pretty dramatically.

    • Tall Life Post author

      Yup, that’s the crux of it. So ideally we would have seat height measurement too. It’s a lot trickier to measure though as you would need some custom apparatus… As far as a single measurement to characterize how friendly a car is for tall people, I think VLH is the best way to go.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always used my own subjective assessment of where the headliner or windshield tint is and also how much I have to lower and tilt back the seat to get as much vision below the headliner-windshield seam as possible, which makes most vehicles ridiculous to drive. A standard measure for shopping from the couch is a great idea. Has Consumer Reports taken up the idea? I suggest anybody interested in this write them since they actually buy the cars they test and do not have to rely on factory published dimensions. I keep looking for something to replace my older SUV and the options are horrible particularly if you have a long torso. Full-size SUVs no longer help with their sloping windshields.

    • Tall Life Post author

      Contacting consumer reports is a great idea, such a prominent third party could really help popularize this measurement!

  • Thankful

    This is an incredibly helpful blog. I’m not sure if you’re motivated to keep it up, but I’d be happy to donate if you put up a PayPal link. This is a frustrating shopping experience- and you’ve nailed the problems. Even top Google search results for “cars for tall guys” come back with prominent car mags measuring headroom

    Here’s praying you can keep this up or fund a clever way for the community to post the measurements

    • Tall Life Post author

      Thank you for the feedback and kind words! The VLH concept is something I came up with when I was desperate to be sit up straight to save my spine further degeneration. My old man accompanied me as we drove all around town checking out different cars. Some day I’ll do it again. In the meantime, as I’ve mentioned, anyone who sends in measurements via the comments or contact email, I’ll post these to the list. I wish I had the resources to do some kind of collaborative system… some day perhaps.

      I’ve added a donation button to the top of the sidebar. Any donation will help fund Tall.Life projects. But honestly, the best motivation for me is comments like yours. It’s hard not to feel like all this content is going out to an empty void sometimes, but comments like yours make me realize I’m being helpful 🙂

      Thank you again!

  • Jackie

    This is the dumbest way to measure it possible!!!! You could have a seat that is low to the floor and still be fine. You must measure from the seat to the roof. NO ONE sits on the floor that I know of. LOL