How is Headroom Measured in Cars?

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  • Post last modified:August 29, 2020

One thing you might not think of when browsing the car market is the height of the roof. For those on the taller side, this property can make or break a deal on a vehicle. We’re here to help explain how the automotive industry measures the headroom so you can make an informed decision when considering a new car.

The listed headroom of a car is the measurement of the distance between the roof and the bottom of the seat.

  • The angle of the seat’s backrest is not considered in this measurement. It is merely the vertical length between the roof and the seat.
  • It is essential to consider the headroom in context with the Vision Line Height and Legroom.

When you’re looking to buy or rent, safety and comfort are top priorities. Continue reading to learn how to use this measurement to effectively analyze whether the car you’re looking at may be right for you.

Car in the light of evening sun, How is Headroom Measured in Cars?

Key Measurements 

On a car retailer’s website or an information pamphlet, you’ll usually only get the number in inches or centimeters, along with an array of other values describing the dimensions of other parts of the car. Here are some vital measurements to look for and how they work in conjunction with the headroom.

Vision Line Height

The Vision Line Height (VLH) is the measurement from the floor of the car to the top of the windshield. This region is where the driver will be looking when driving, and encompasses the dashboard, wheel, and windshield. 

The difference between the headroom and VLH measurements shows approximately how high the seat of the car is. This is important to conceptualize as having a position too high or too low can make it difficult to operate the vehicle. 

The VLH can tell how much vision is cut off by the roof of the car when compared to the height of the cabin. Comparing these two with headroom can tell you where your eye-level might be at, and whether the roof will obstruct your vision.

Legroom

This is another measurement taller people will want to pay close attention to. Legroom measures an angled path between the pedals and the back of the seat, traveling along where the driver’s legs will go. Sometimes the ratio between the headroom and the legroom is not conducive to everyone depending on your torso height and leg height. 

Cars with a lot of legroom and little headroom can force taller people to have to lean their seat back uncomfortably. The opposite, with less legroom and more headroom, can bunch your knees up and make maneuvering the pedals difficult. Too much of both may mean the car is too big for you to operate comfortably.

Shoulder Room

When considering the headroom, you should also think about your horizontal range of motion. Shoulder room measures the width of the back of the seat. Taller people with larger frames may need additional space to drive comfortably, so keep this in mind when considering where your head will be in a car.

How Much Headroom Do I Need in a Car?

How much headroom you need comes down to torso height and personal preference. When you’re considering the headroom, remember that the space that the headroom is measuring is where your torso will be when you drive. Because not all people have the same ratio of leg height to body height, how much headroom you need can vary between people of the same height. 

An effective way to determine how much headroom you’ll need is to take a tape measure and sit comfortably in a chair. Measure from the bottom of your seat to a few inches above your head, depending on how much space you want. This measurement should give you a close estimate of how much headroom you’ll need.

Some cars can come with adjustable seat heights, so take note if you see it listed in the car’s features. Often car retailers will advertise the headroom when the seat is at its lowest height, so keep that in mind when browsing a selection.

What Vehicles Have the Most Headroom?

Makes and models are all unique in their statistics, but similarly, classed cars often share similar ranges of values, especially considering sizes like headroom. If you’re in the market for a particular class, consider how much headroom those cars typically provide.

Convertible

Despite having the option to remove the roof and have infinite headroom, convertibles tend to be on the smaller, more compact side. With the roof up, many convertibles have around 38 inches of headroom, which can be cramped for some people who are 6 feet or taller. The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata, for example, has 37.4 inches of headroom

Coupe

Coupes are similar to convertibles in headroom size, averaging around 38 inches. In the backseat, if it has one, the headroom can average out to even lower, with a mean of about 34 inches. Coupes tend to fall on the smaller side of cars, so keep this in mind if you plan to have passengers often. The 2020 Audi TT Coupe has 37.1 inches of headroom, while the 2020 Chevrolet Camaro has 38.5 inches.

Hatchback

Hatchback cars tend to be a bit larger than coupes or convertibles, averaging around 39.5 inches of headroom. With a larger trunk, hatchbacks tend to have more comparable rear headroom, averaging approximately 37.5 inches. The 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback LX has 39.3 inches of headroom in the front row, while the back row has 37.4. Similarly, the 2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback has 38.0 inches of headroom in the front, and 37.2 in the back.

SUV and Minivan

SUVs and Minivans tend to be similar in headroom ranges, both being large style cars. The average headroom of an SUV or a Minivan ranges from around 41 inches in front, depending on the size of the vehicle. For example, the 2020 Dodge Grand Caravan has 39.8 inches of headroom in the front, 39.3 in the middle, and 37.9 in the back. The 2020 Toyota Sienna has 41.0, 39.7, and 38.3-inch headrooms from front to back.

Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks are comparable to minivans and SUVs in terms of headroom, averaging about 41 inches of headroom. With nearly flat roofs, the rear row usually has no more than an inch or two of headroom loss. The 2020 Ford F150 XL, for example, has 40.8 inches of headroom in its cabin.

Find Your Car

Choosing a car to buy or rent is an important decision, so it’s essential to come with as much information as possible before making a choice. Knowing your preferences when it comes to headroom, and how it interacts with other car dimensions like VLH and legroom, will help make your new car a comfortable and smooth ride.

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