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.
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.
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.
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.
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