As someone on the petite side of the spectrum, I often get asked what’s the best car, truck or SUV for short drivers. While the ultimate decision is going to be up to each individual for a myriad of reasons, I figured I’d dig into the topic, starting with full-size trucks.
I’ve had the opportunity to drive all these full-size trucks, and there is definitely a clear winner – and loser. So, here they are, ranked best to worst, with a little commentary on why.
The hands-down best full-size truck for short drivers is going to be the Ford F-150. In addition to having adjustable pedals and tilt/telescoping steering wheel, the F-150 has a lower beltline, which means the windows are bigger and you get better visibility out the side windows. What’s more, the F-150 has a “kick down” on the front windows that allows the side mirrors to fall lower. This means you can see over the side mirrors rather than having them be a blind spot in a four-way stop. So, with a highly adjustable driving position, comfortable seats and excellent visibility out all the windows, this is not only great for short drivers but also drivers of any size. By the way, all of this applies to the recently released all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning as well.
Generally, the Ram 1500 is going to be a close second to the Ford F-150 in terms of visibility and comfort for short drivers. It also has adjustable pedals and a generously adjusting steering wheel for optimal driving position. The reason the Ram 1500 is a runner up, however, is going to be visibility out the windows. In some variants, the hoodline is popped up too high to get good visibility out the front, and there is no kick down on the side windows. So, the large side mirrors hinder some forward visibility, and you might miss a pedestrian in a cross walk if you don’t hike yourself up for a good look around the mirrors.
Toyota Tundra never had adjustable pedals, and General Motors did away with its adjustable pedals with the 2019 redesign. This lack severely impacts how close a driver sits to the steering wheel. So, all three of these trucks provide a mediocre driving position to short drivers. Additionally, the belt line on these trucks is a little higher, which means short drivers feel like they’re sitting lower in the truck. The Tundra specifically needs the height adjustable seats to move a bit higher on the track. While this wouldn’t solve the proximity to the steering wheel, it would give better visibility out the front.
The Nissan Titan is all kinds of bad for a short driver – especially if you’re closer to 5-feet-tall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that the steering wheel be at least 10 inches from a driver’s breastbone, yet for my driving position, I was only 9 inches from the wheel in the Titan. Other downsides include a lower steering column and dash underbelly, which could trap a shorter driver’s legs. Plus, the position of the emergency brake is in a location that would scrape a shorter driver’s leg every time he or she enters or exits the vehicle. So, even though visibility out the windows is good for smaller drivers, overall comfort and safety is a big problem.
If you came across this article, either you or someone you love is on the short side of the spectrum, and you’re stepping outside of brand loyalty to look the best full-size trucks for short drivers — with en eye toward comfort and safety. What you need to keep in mind: Every body is different, and legs or arms or torsos could be longer or shorter depending on the person. While there are certainly features – like adjustable pedals – that help make full-size trucks more accommodating to a wider range of drivers, the true decision maker is going to be a test drive.
But if you are on the shorter side of the spectrum like I am, I strongly recommend more than just a standard 10-minute loop. You need to see how the visibility is at a four way stop – can you see a pedestrian in the cross walk over the mirrors? And you need to double and triple check visibility out front and side windows. Plus, you might consider bringing a measuring tape to verify how far away you sit from the steering wheel – at less than 10 inches, you could be severely injured by a deploying airbag.
With the average transaction price of a full-size truck hovering around $60k these days, this is a big investment you’ll be living with for several years. So, doing your due diligence will ensure you make the right choice for you.
How about best trucks for tall people. I am 6 feet 6 inches tall and I can not comfortably get in a Tundra.
Chevy Silverado got middle of the pack? I rented a 2021 Chevy Silverado and I was so mad I could hardly see over the dash, and I’m 5’3. No excuse to make vehicles in this decade that doesn’t allow for shorter people to drive.