3 Interior Dimensions Tall Drivers Should Care About

Tape Measure

When you’re shopping for a vehicle, there are two ways to size up the contenders.

The first way is to compare the interior dimensions. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but comparing them will help you to prioritize your test driving. It might also open your eyes to some models that you hadn’t considered beforehand.

The second way is to evaluate how the space in a vehicle’s interior is used. But I’ll save that for another post.

So which numbers are important? Here are the interior dimensions that I compare when evaluating vehicles.

Head Room

Head room is measured from the seat to the ceiling of the vehicle.

Personally, head room the last thing that I want to compromise. I don’t like discomfort in my legs, but I really don’t like ducking or crooking my head to the side just to drive.

Head room is also at a premium. The swooping curves of modern designs tend to make life hard on drivers with a long torso.

Hip Room

Hip room describes the width of the seat.

For the skinny ones among you, this metric probably doesn’t matter that much. But for those of you with a bigger rear end or wide hips, you should pay attention to hip room.

Narrow seats don’t seem like a big deal at first, particularly in small SUVs where it seems like you have some room for your knees to wander laterally. But narrow seats, in my opinion, produce a discomfort that you’ll notice the most when you’re driving for more than an hour at a time.

A majority of my posts deal with tall drivers, so for the most part you’ll only see “front hip room” used. Rear hip room applies to the width of the rear seat cushion.

Leg Room

Leg room seems like the most commonly sought after interior dimension. It’s also the most controversial one.

You see, there are two standards for measuring leg room. The first is to measure leg room with the seat I’m a fully extended position. The second is to measure with the seat in fully forward position.

A vehicle could be measured to either standard, so comparing front leg room (which I once did) isn’t always a fair comparison.

There’s also an obvious incentive to measure front leg room using one standard over the other.

For that reason, I began comparing total leg room instead of front and rear.

You’re going to compromise somehow.

I think there are probably few cars that have a wealth of leg, hip and head room. Most of the cars that I driven either have none of those things, or require a compromise.

You might wind up with a vehicle that has tons of head room and leg room, but the seats are narrow and uncomfortable. Numbers aside, there are plenty of ways that any vehicle could be a bad fit for a bigger driver.

In the comments, let your fellow tall drivers know which metrics are most important to you.

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

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4 comments

  • Ric Giorgi

    I have to disagree with your premise. THE crucial measurement is the distance from the seat to the upper edge of the door opening. It determines whether tall drivers have to tilt their head and neck sideways so as not to hit their head on the car and also whether they can then lean out of the car in order to close the door. The interior measurements are important but this crucial measurement is nowhere to be found in the auto data available.

    • Will Eifert

      I agree that being able to get in and out of the vehicle is important. The issue is that, to my knowledge, automakers don’t take this measurement, or if they do they don’t make it readily available. The closest published measurement to this is head room.

  • Biggsy

    6’1″ long torso, broad shoulders.

    I know the article is old, but I’m just now coming across it.

    The two issues I have: 1) seat height. Seems like the top of headrest always hits me in the middle of the neck; however, fully extended and the forward tilt pushes my head forward. Moreover, the top of the seat comes to my shoulder blades, and the contours just aren’t designed for tall drivers with broad shoulders.

    2nd issue) windshield height. The crossbar where the top of the windshield meets the roof line is always on my line of sight – such that I can’t see traffic lights. When I’m stoped at a red light. I either have to tilt my head or lean the seat back (and I hate that). This to me is more valuable the headroom. I’ve been in lots of vehicles with plenty of headroom but lacking in visibility (haven’t yet found a vehicle with good visibility). I would really appreciate a measurement from the top of the seat cushion to the top of the windshield; this would be a good measurement of torso length – where I’d be sitting to where my eyes would be.

  • BlkSwan56

    I agree with Ric and Biggsy. My husband is 6’4″ with a long torso. He has to bend his neck to get in any car, even if it has sufficient head room. Every car he has ever driven has the frame of the car in his line of sight. So traffic lights and changing lanes are always an issue. I must wear sunglasses all the time because using the sun visor is a big no-no. We’re currently in the market now for a commuter car and it is FRUSTRATING.

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