Finding the Right Retirement Wheels

This is a guest blog post from Jamie Page Deaton, the Managing Editor of the U.S. News Best Cars rankings. Having owned everything from mid-eighties Volvo station wagons to BMWs, pickup trucks, and classic Corvettes, Jamie is passionate about the cars and technology that move us.

Let the working stiffs find the right car for sitting in traffic. When you retire, it’s time to find a car that fits all the new possibilities and challenges in your life. Here’s how to narrow down your options and find a car that enhances your retirement. 

Your Passions

Before settling on a car to drive into your golden years, make sure it can keep up with what you’re planning on doing. If you’re thinking of doing a lot of volunteer work, fuel economy might be a concern as you go to your volunteer site. If your volunteer work means carrying a lot of cargo, make sure the car you buy has the space. Don’t leave fun out of the equation: if you plan on spending time biking, you’ll want something that can handle a bike rack, or that you can fit your bike inside of. Gardeners will want something that cleans up easily after a trip to the nursery. Golfers should take a few sets of clubs to the dealership to make sure they fit. You’re done with the daily commute – find a car that’s good at something other than sitting in traffic.

Your People

If you’re planning on spending time with grandkids, make sure their car seats and boosters fit comfortably, and that they can reach the cup holders, doors and seatbelts. People who are spending part of their retirement caring for an aging spouse or parent will want a car that makes that job easier. Avoid low sports cars or high SUVS, which can be tough to get in and out of. Look for doors that open wide and enough cargo space to handle things like walkers. Some cars even offer cooler boxes that can keep drinks or medications cold. A car with a system like Safety Connect from Toyota, or OnStar, from General Motors, that can instantly connect you to emergency responders (and in the case of a crash, can do it automatically, without any driver input) can give grandparents and caregivers peace of mind when they’re on the road.

Your Location

If you’re planning on relocating when you retire, your ride should work in your new location. Headed where it’s warm? Consider a convertible. Headed for the mountains? All-wheel drive might be worth investing in. If you’re city-bound, look at smaller cars. A subcompact can feel silly in the suburbs, but it’s right at home in crowded streets. Small cars are also safer than ever before and come with the high-end features that used to be available in larger cars. Downsizing your car means giving up space and high gas bills, not amenities.

Your Budget

Before you can find the car you want, you need to know how much car you can afford. Don’t just look at the car’s price. Companies like Intellichoice calculate the total cost of owning a given car over five years, so you can see how much your car will really cost in terms of gas, insurance and depreciation. Take the data with a grain of salt: By not commuting every day, you’ll keep miles off the car which will help protect its value, lower your insurance rates and help keep gas costs in check. Do your research before heading to the dealership. Websites like give you the actual prices that people in your area are paying for the car you’re interested in. has in-depth reviews and buying advice, while has reliability and customer service ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides safety rankings. And of course, U.S. News ranks and reviews every car on the market. The more information you have, the easier it will be to find the right car, the better you can negotiate and the more you’ll save.

What else makes a car right for retirement? 

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