Of all the height biased man made objects, cars are perhaps the most problematic. 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 ‘head room’. 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 head room, as 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 me to the hereby coined term, Roofline Height: the vertical height between the foot well and where the windshield meets the roof. Roofline Height is measured inside the car with the floor mat removed, which can often be in excess of 0.5″ thick. Most cars can be measured with just a tape measure.
I have started compiling a complete list of Roofline Heights for cars currently on the market here. Please check it out and post your cars Roofline Height. Or, tell me what car you want measured and I’ll go do it! Below are some of the more interesting findings.
The top three cars are the Ford E-series vans (49.125″), the pre 2007 Scion XB (47.5″), and the Honda Element (46.675″). Other noteworthy cars are the Nissan Titan (46″), the Honda Pilot (46″), the Ford Escape (46.25″) and the Ford Flex (46.375″).
Much to the contrary of popular opinion, behemoth vehicles don’t necessarily provide lots of space for tall people, the Hummer (Roofline Height = 43″) being a prime example.
Finally, while I was at it, I also checked out some commercial vehicles. Most noteworthy are the Ford Transit (51.5″) and the Mercedes Sprinter (52.75″)
In addition to Roofline Height, taller drives also need to consider leg room. However, leg room is more difficult to quantify and furthermore, if a driver does not have enough leg room they can always get a shop to re-position the seat further back on the rails. Then there is also the extent to which the pedals and steering wheel adjust and the comfort of the seat… one obviously needs to try many cars before deciding. However, Roofline Height gives you an excellent idea of what cars will at least have a chance of being suitable.
It is my hope that, with your help, Roofline 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 Roofline Height! So please use this term whenever you can, post your car’s specs and don’t forget where it originated!