Best cars for bad backs

Not all cars are created equal when it comes to back pain. Here we’ve picked out the best cars for people with bad backs

Sam Naylor
Mar 19, 2021

There are many aspects to consider when looking for a new car - but for millions of people, the most important one is finding a car that won’t agitate a bad back. If you have back pain, driving can be an ordeal - but it doesn’t have to be that way. We've tracked down eight affordable models with the most comfortable seats.

Read on for our picks for the best affordable cars for those with back pain. We’ve based our choices on several factors - there’s more detail on each car below - but crucially every car is available with seats certified by the Campaign for Healthier Backs (Aktion Gesunder Rücken, AGR), so you can be confident that you'll be able to get comfortable.

AGR is a German organisation that awards its seal of approval only to products that 'truly help against back pain'. The seal is becoming an industry standard and signifies that the approved seat meets the basic guidelines that the organisation sets for beating back pain.

All of the following models are available with AGR-approved seats. If you’re buying new you’ll need to add the approved seats as an optional extra in some cases, but if you’re buying used you will need to make sure that the model you’re getting has the correct seats fitted. Some manufacturers include an AGR logo on the seat base, but not all, so check with the seller that it has the option fitted before you buy.

We’ve listed the option that needs to be added with each car below. We’ve also only chosen automatic models as having to use the clutch pedal can exacerbate a bad back, so sticking to cars that can change gear for you should give you the best chance of avoiding back issues when behind the wheel.

Best cars for bad backs

1. Ford Focus

Best for all-round ability

Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Titanium PowerShift
Used deals from £11,558
Monthly finance from £218*
Look for comfort seats option

The Ford Focus was the first car to be accredited by AGR, and the latest version makes a great all-rounder for those with bad backs. The car needs the comfort seats option fitted to get the AGR seal of approval - these have loads of adjustment so you can get comfortable easily, and the pedals and steering wheel are placed perfectly in the Focus.

The latest version of the Ford Focus is comfortable, especially in Titanium trim (sporty ST Line models have larger wheels that aren’t as good at soaking up bumps in the road, so you may want to avoid these). The Focus is also fun to drive, but crucially it’s also practical and spacious too.

There’s plenty of space for passengers in the back, and the boot is big enough for a huge weekly shop. The engine range is superb, too, and we’d go with the 1.0-litre petrol model as it’s one of the most economical options. An automatic gearbox is a must for those with a bad back, so keep an eye out for cars in self-shifting form.

FORD FOCUS BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Mercedes E-Class

Best for luxury

Our pick Mercedes-Benz E220d SE
Used deals from £13,999
Monthly finance from £283*
Look for standard seat, multi-contour seat, sports and comfort seat or seat comfort package

The Mercedes E-Class is one of the most comfortable cars on the road, let alone on this list, so it’s great to see that most versions have AGR-approved seats. There’s lots of adjustment in all models, and there’s a good balance between softness and support here.

As a large saloon car the E-Class is very spacious inside, and with so much room inside that they’re often chosen as luxury taxis. All models have an automatic gearbox so there’s no need to worry about finding one with this option, and the diesel engine in the E220d model is economical, quiet and powerful. For the best comfort levels avoid those with sporty AMG Line trim and large alloy wheels and stick to SE trim, which should have softer suspension.

Then there’s the luxury element: the interior is very high quality and has lots of technology included no matter which version you pick. The E-Class feels properly upmarket, which is great considering how affordable even low-mileage used versions can be.

MERCEDES E-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Peugeot 3008

Best for SUV practicality

Our pick Peugeot 3008 1.2 Puretech Allure EAT6
Used deals from £9,949
Monthly finance from £226*
Look for Ergonomic seat option

The Peugeot 3008 was transformed from a dull people carrier into a stylish SUV when it was updated to the current model, improving it vastly in the process. The latest version has an Ergonomic seat option that’s AGR approved, and the higher driving position should help those with back pain as well.

The 3008 does have a slightly odd driving position, though, with a tiny steering wheel that sits low down, almost in your lap and you look at the dials over the wheel, so think about whether that appeals to you. What will strike you when you get in, though, is the superb interior that looks like it’s come from a much more expensive car.

The Peugeot is also practical, with a big boot and plenty of space in the back seats for passengers. Go for a specification such as Allure rather than sporty GT Line because the larger wheels on high-spec models mean they aren’t as comfortable. 'EAT6' is a good term to look for when buying, as it means the car has a six-speed automatic gearbox.

PEUGEOT 3008 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

Best for value for money

Our pick Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 1.5i Turbo SRi VX Line Nav automatic
Used deals Limited stock
Look for Ergonomic driver’s seat, heavy-duty, premium, premium ergonomic or sports economic option

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is unbelievable value when you consider what you get for very little money. It’s one of the most spacious estate cars around, for a start, and has so much legroom in the back that some passengers won’t be able to even reach the front seats.

Then there’s the way it drives: the Insignia may have a plain image but it’s actually great to drive and also very comfortable at the same time. The AGR approved seats in certain cars only add to that comfort for those with back pain.

We’d recommend the 1.5-litre petrol engine but if you do a lot of motorway miles, choose one of the excellent economical diesels instead. The automatic gearbox is good in most situations, and SRi VX Line Nav - which makes up most of the used models available - has lots of equipment.

VAUXHALL INSIGNIA SPORTS TOURER BUYER'S' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen Golf

Best for ease of driving

Our pick Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI EVO SE DSG
Used deals from £14,790
Monthly finance from £238*
Look for ergoActive or ergoComfort seats

The Volkswagen Golf is the default answer for anyone who doesn’t know what kind of car to buy, because it's good at just about everything. There’s lots of space inside, economical engines and plenty of comfort, especially in models with AGR-approved seats.

We’d pick a 1.5-litre petrol model with the ‘DSG’ automatic gearbox, as this model is quiet and smooth yet still quite economical. Visibility is good and the light steering means it’s really easy to drive. Stick to SE trim for relatively small alloy wheels - meaning more rubber between you and the road - and softer suspension than more expensive versions.

It might be tempting to go for the fast and fun GTI and GTD models but these have stiffer suspension that means they aren’t as comfortable as a normal Golf. No matter which Golf you go for, performance isn’t a problem and you’ll enjoy driving in the well-built and well-equipped interior.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Octavia

Best for modern tech

Our pick Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI SE Drive DSG
Used deals Limited stock
Look for Ergo-Active driver's and passenger seat

The latest Skoda Octavia arrived in 2020 with certain seats getting the AGR seal of approval, which is great news for those who want a car with all the latest comfort tech inside. The touchscreen media system in the car is packed full of features and you can also connect your smartphone directly.

Yet it retains all the best features the previous versions of Octavia were known for as well: it’s good to drive, comfortable and has a huge boot. There’s lots of room inside for passengers, too, and there’s plenty of safety gear to keep everyone protected.

The Octavia is available with the same set of engines as the Volkswagen Golf, so the 1.5-litre petrol makes the most sense for most drivers, as a good all-round option. Diesel versions will work best for drivers who do lots of motorway miles, though, while the smaller 1.0-litre models are likely to be a better option if you do short trips more often.

SKODA OCTAVIA BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Mercedes GLC

Best for upmarket SUV lovers

Our pick Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d 4Matic AMG Line
Used deals from £26,058
Monthly finance from £398*
Look for multi-contour seat or memory seat package

Many Mercedes models have AGR-approved seats but we’ve picked out the GLC here because it covers off a really popular type of car: the medium-sized upmarket SUV. The GLC should appeal to those with a bad back, because it’s focused more on comfort than other models of a similar size.

It’s not the most comfortable car here, however, especially as most first owners chose the slightly firmer AMG Line models when buying new, which have large alloy wheels and stiffer suspension. Yet it’s still smooth over all but the bumpiest roads and the high driving position keeps you in a comfy spot most of the time, though avoiding AMG Line trim is wise to get the most comfortable ride.

Then there’s the interior, which is luxurious and well built. Options such as heated seats are good to have but those are available on pretty much all of our contenders here - the GLC’s real appeal lies in its practical interior and stylish exterior.

MERCEDES GLC BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Vauxhall Crossland X

Best for city-based practicality

Our pick Vauxhall Crossland X 1.2T Tech Line Nav automatic
Used deals Limited stock
Look for Ergonomic driver's and passenger seat

There aren’t too many small SUVs with AGR-approved seats, so even though the Vauxhall Crossland X isn’t our favourite car in this category, it’s still great for bad backs. The Citroen C3 Aircross is a more comfortable car in general terms, for example, but the seats may not have the support required for those with back pain.

The Crossland X is remarkably similar to the Citroen, though, because it’s built using many of the same parts. It has a similar driving experience, which is to say that it’s easy to drive and has good visibility, but it’s not much fun for keen drivers.

The 1.2-litre petrol engine is a top choice because it’s economical and powerful enough for overtaking on the motorway without hassle. The Crossland X is reasonably practical too, considering its small footprint on the road. The high-up driving position should help for people with a bad back, too.

VAUXHALL CROSSLAND X BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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