Better Passenger Seat Comfort May Require a Whole Ride Upgrade

Dear Car Talk:

We own a 2014 Honda Accord V6 with the top trim level. My wife no longer drives due to a bad back. Since switching to the passenger seat, she has become painfully aware that the passenger seat does not have the same level of controls and adjustments as the driver's seat.

Is there an aftermarket seat upgrade that can be integrated into this car? Or is there an affordable vehicle that has a comparable passenger seat to the driver's seat that does not cost a fortune? -- Raymond

Not really, Raymond. Many passenger seats don't have the same variety of adjustments as driver's seats. It's discrimination, pure and simple. It's passengerism.

And it's not easy to just find a driver's seat from another Accord and plop it where your passenger seat goes. For one thing, the electronic controls and motors aren't there. There are aftermarket seats, but the good ones, from companies like Recaro, cost upwards of $1,000 to $1,500 before installation.

And there are two challenges with those seats. First, it's hard to find a place where you can really test them out -- a crucial step for your wife. You'll also find that a lot of them are geared more toward sporty driving and racing, rather than folks with back issues.

So, my suggestion would be to upgrade your whole ride -- seats and all. Some manufacturers just use better seats than others. I've always found Volvo seats to be more comfortable than anything I sit on in my house -- including the cat, occasionally. BMW and Mercedes seats are also terrific.

Try shopping around for a used luxury car and see if you can find one with seats that make your wife more comfortable. In that range of cars, you're also more likely to find passenger seats with more adjustments -- although perhaps still not as many as the driver gets. But you might get lumbar support on the passenger side and even seat cushions with separate front and rear height adjustments. But most of all, the seats themselves will be better made and more supportive.

You don't have to take a long test drive before making a decision. But do take a good, long, test-sit. Bring a copy of Anna Karenina with you and sit in the car with your wife for an hour or more. And if the salesman forgets you're there and goes home for the night, consider the car yours.

Instead of trading in your old car for pennies on the dollar, donate it to your favorite NPR station. They will turn it into the programs you love. Here's how.

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