Let me set the scene. You’re driving down a gorgeous highway on your way to vacation with your partner. Everything is perfect… except for the stabbing pain in your back, the stiffness in your legs, and the pulsating feeling in your neck and shoulders. A lot of people aren’t comfortable in their car seats, and it makes long drives almost unbearable.
A big portion of your comfortability stems from how you set up your car seat. There are multiple ways to adjust a driver’s seat, so you should spend some time and play with these options. Adjusting the height, angle of the back, distance from the pedals, and lower back support might be all you need to do. Staying comfortable while you drive will keep you safer and happier during your trip.
The good news is that I put together this guide. I have 11 ways to make a car seat more comfortable, along with an additional 9 tips to stay comfortable during your drive. Take a look and try some of these options out for yourself.
Why Comfort Matters
Comfort is a big factor when people test drive cars and decide on their next purchase. Driving an old Cadillac feels like you’re sitting in a modern movie theater seat. Personally, I think there are a few factors at play that make comfort so important when it comes to driving.
Comfort Makes You Drive Better
I strongly believe that I drive my best when I’m highly comfortable. A nice seat will allow you to hyperfocus on driving without the seat distracting you.
When your seat is correctly positioned, you’ll have the best field of vision around you. That means you’ll see more and be able to react quicker.
Comfortability and Safety Go Hand-in-Hand
Comfort also ties into your safety while driving. I’ll mention this idea a few times in this guide because it’s important. As you keep fiddling around and squirming to get comfortable, you’re not focusing on driving.
You should never try to adjust your seat when you’re moving on the road. There are a lot of external forces going on, and it’s possible that you’ll lose control of your car.
For example, trying to push your seat back while you’re driving at highway speeds could result in your car seat flying backward and slamming into the back of the rails. This unexpected motion and added distance from the steering wheel can make you move the wheel a certain way that lands you in a ditch or another car.
All of the tips that I cover in this guide should be done in a car that’s parked in a lot somewhere.
A Comfortable Driver Can Get in the Zone
There’s this certain “zone” that drivers get in when they’re highly focused. Time flies by and actions happen without even thinking them through.
I know that I get in the zone quicker and more often when I’m comfortable in my seat. All it takes is a little bit of discomfort and I’m pulled out of the zone, and I get distracted. This is always the case when I drive my friend’s car.
With him being shorter in height, the vehicle driver’s seat is adjusted optimally just for him. I can hardly focus while I’m driving, let alone get in the zone. Of course, he will never let me adjust the seat, so it’s just something that I have to deal with.
Many higher-trim cars come with memory seats which means anyone that gets in can adjust the seat to their liking without having to worry since the owner of the car can easily with a click of a button adjust it to their liking.
Makes the ride more enjoyable not having to arrive in discomfort
If you’re taking a road trip, that means your driving experience will directly parlay into the start of your vacation. No one wants to start their vacation angry and uncomfortable, because it will set the tone for the whole trip.
By staying comfortable, you’re more likely to be happy when you get there, and you can have a better time without body aches slowing you down.
Who Does This Apply to?
Whether you want to max out your odometer or just make casual driving more comfortable, a comfortable car seat is a must-have. Any commute feels a lot longer when you’re trying to get comfortable the whole time.
So, who can benefit from this guide? Anyone who sits in a car. Even a 5-minute drive can be very uncomfortable if your seat is way out of position.
Disclaimer: You Don’t Need a Luxury Car to Feel Comfortable Driving
Before getting too far, I want to point something out. Being comfortable during a long drive isn’t something that only drivers of luxury cars can experience. I believe that any car on the market can be made more comfortable, as long as you take the right steps.
The different options you’ll see in this guide have nothing to do with the kind of car you drive. It could be a 1997 Camry that refuses to stop running or a 2022 Rolls-Royce — it doesn’t matter.
If your car makes you very uncomfortable while driving, it doesn’t mean that you need to sell your ride and buy a new, more expensive option. A lot of my following tips are free, and most of them are very inexpensive. There is almost certainly a way to make your seat more comfortable without the need to get a different car.
This Guide Focuses on the Driver’s Seat
I’m assuming that most people will complain about comfortability from the driver’s seat. Your passengers have the luxury of sprawling out and making themselves comfortable. The driver is restricted in how they sit and position themselves, so it’s harder to get comfortable.
With that being said, I just want to point out that the entirety of this guide will focus on the driver’s seat. Some of the points can also be used to adjust other seats in the car, so feel free to give them a try.
11 Ways to Make a Car Seat More Comfortable
Let’s get started with some helpful tips. Here are 11 ways that I know you can make your car seat more comfortable.
Note: Your vehicle might not have some of these functions for example, “lumbar support button.” However, most of these tips can still be applied to your vehicle.
1. Change the Height of the Seat
The first few tips are going to revolve around your seat itself. If you have a modern car, then your driver’s seat probably has multiple ways to adjust. Personally, I like to start by changing the height of my seat before changing anything else.
Check the side and front of your seat to see what types of levers, bars, and buttons you have. If you’re not sure, then check your owner’s manual for a better breakdown of how you can adjust your seat.
The height of your seat will be an immediate boost to your comfort. If you’re currently sitting too low, your neck will strain as you crane your head. If you’re too high, then you’ll need to hunch over and you’ll feel pain in your shoulders and neck.
The ideal height will let you see out of your windshield with relaxed shoulders and a square back.
2. Adjust the Seat’s Back
Next, let’s work on the back of your seat. With a pivot point at the connection between the base and the back, the back will be able to swing back and forth while it’s being adjusted.
If you look at your seat from the perspective of the passenger, you’ll understand the angle of your seat.
Shorter drivers will want an acute angle for their car which is anything less than 90-degrees. This will push you forward without the need to stress your back.
Tall drivers might lean their seats at an obtuse angle that is greater than 90-degrees. A seat in this position will give the driver more space to sit without hitting their head on the ceiling.
For most drivers, a 90-degree angle in the seat is perfect. It’s important that your back is touching the seat while you drive, so play around with this angle until you achieve that.
3. Tweak the Lumbar and Seat’s Base
Another way to adjust your seat is through the lumbar and base. The lumbar is the lower part of the back, where the seat touches your lumbar.
Cars will allow you to move the bottom portion of the backrest further or closer to you. The goal is to have the seat touch your lumbar without pushing you.
The base can typically be angled slightly. This should be done in junction with the height and angle of the back in order to create the perfect sitting position.
4. Change The Headrest Height
The headrest is the detachable part at the top of your seat that looks like a loaf on poles. As you sit on your seat, the headrest should allow you to lean your head back and hit the rest.
The only adjustment you’ll be able to make is the height of the headrest since the position is determined by the position of the seatback.
It’s important that your headrest is correctly adjusted in the case of an accident. If your body is pushed backward and you don’t have a headrest to break your fall, you can seriously damage your neck as it bends.
5. Adjust the Seat Further Away From the Steering Wheel
If you have pain in your shoulders, legs, or arms while you drive, your seat might be too close or far. Reaching too far for the steering wheel will fatigue your arms and reaching for the pedals will make your legs feel stiff.
If you’re too close, then the same thing can happen as you contort your body to accommodate your position.
You want to make sure that you’re in a position where you can reach the pedals without leaning. Your thighs should be supported on the base of your seat. Your arms should be bent slightly, and you should be able to reach the steering wheel with your back comfortably against the seat.
As you change the distance of your seat, you might want to play around with the other settings to fine-tune the comfort of your seat.
6. Move the Steering Wheel
Did you know that your steering wheel can move? In a lot of cars, the steering wheel has telescopic functions to adjust up or down, and closer or away from you. That means that it can pivot up and down and move closer or farther from the driver.
Check under the steering wheel for a release lever. Flip the lever and grab your steering wheel, moving it around. Never do this while you’re actually driving, because it can cause you to lose control of your steering.
Once you set the position of the wheel, flip the lever back down to lock in the position.
7. Add a Lumbar Sear Cushion
After making all those adjustments, you might not be crazy about the comfort of your seat. That’s perfectly understandable, and that’s where different products will come in to help.
First up is a lumbar seat cushion. This is a small cushion that gets positioned on the lower section of your car’s backrest. They’re typically made of memory foam material, and the purpose is to give you the lower back support you need.
This cushion should help fill the gap between the seat and your back while you’re driving.
8. Add an Ergonomic Seat Cushion
There’s also the matter of the seat itself. It might not be the most comfortable surface to sit on. For that, you can add an ergonomic seat cushion to the top of your seat.
Keep in mind, that this is going to make you sit higher up, so you’ll need to adjust your seat afterward. These cushions are a lot like ones you might put on an office chair. They’re made of memory foam and designed to keep you comfortable as you sit for an extended period of time.
9. Put In an Aftermarket Seat Cover
If you’re not crazy about the material of the seat, you can change that as well. In this case, you’ll be putting in an aftermarket seat cover.
These covers will slip right over your current car seat. They will latch, zip, or tie down somehow to keep everything snug.
This will hide the original material of your seats and give you a potentially more comfortable material to sit against.
I have friends who can’t stand the feeling of leather against their skin while they’re driving, so they put in cloth seat covers and now they’re much happier. As someone who loves leather seats, that was a little tough to see but it made sense.
10. Add a Seat Belt Cover
Maybe it’s the seat belt that’s making things uncomfortable while you drive. The belt might fall in an awkward position or pull too hard against your lap. This problem seems to get amplified as you add lumbar and seat cushions.
The solution to this problem is to add a seat belt cover. These are soft strips of material that slide over your seat belt. Now, the soft material will be resting against you instead of the seat belt.
11. Swap Out Your Seat
If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t seem to get comfortable, there are two options:
You can either physically alter your seat to make it taller, or you can swap out your seat. To alter your seat, you’ll need to disassemble and remove it. From there, you’ll add a block of material under the seat’s rails and reinstall the chair.
To swap out your seat, the beginning steps are the same — you’ll still take out your current seat. The difference is that you’ll then install a brand-new seat in its stead.
If you just do this for your driver’s seat, then your cabin might look a little weird. After all, one of your seats will not match the others. Even so, that’s the only real drawback of doing this.
The key is to find a new seat that will fit into your car. For that, you’ll probably need to hit the junkyard and start taking measurements.
Other Ways to Make Your Trip More Comfortable
Making adjustments to the seat is not the only way to make long trips more comfortable. There are some other options that don’t pertain directly to the seat but still help with overall comfort. Let’s get started with some of my favorites.
Wear the Right Clothes
During my years of driving, I’ve discovered that the outfit I wear has a huge impact on how comfortable I am during the trip. Belts tend to dig into my waist and tight shirts make the trip less fun.
If you want to maximize your comfort, especially during a road trip, then you should start by picking the right clothes. This typically entails things like sweatpants, athletic shorts, and loose clothes. This gets tricky if your long commute is for work, but you can pick and choose when you use this tip.
Get the HVAC Set Correctly
Another way to boost your comfort is to make sure the temperature is perfect in the cabin. If you’re running too hot or cold, every second will feel like a century as you drive along.
If you’re shivering because your heater isn’t working, then follow my guide to fix your heater before you hit the road.
I’ve found that when the temperature is perfect, I can quickly hit a groove while driving, and time seems to fly by.
Consider a Neck Pillow
Some people fill discomfort in their necks while they’re driving. Have you tried a neck pillow? You’ll want to use one that doesn’t restrict your ability to swivel your head around and check your blind spots.
Low-profile neck pillows can support your neck and help you feel more relaxed during your drive.
Get a Wide-Angle Rearview
Upgrading my rearview mirror has made my life a lot easier when I’m behind the wheel. I personally opted for a wide-angle rearview, but I’ve also been in cars that had live video footage from a camera pointing out of the back window.
If you can see more from your rearview, you don’t have to move around as much. In a perfect world, screens around you will show every angle behind your car so you don’t need to move at all.
Until then, we can just use a bigger and better rearview.
With a small rearview mirror, you’ll always be looking around and twisting your body to see over your shoulder before changing lanes or pulling out. Even with this upgrade, you’ll still need to look around, but it happens less often.
Instead, you can settle into your comfortable driving position and sit there for longer without moving.
Add Interior LEDs
I’m a big proponent when it comes to setting the right lighting for the drive. There’s something about blue lights on the interior of a car that puts me at ease.
Today, there are dozens of options when it comes to interior LEDs to add to your ride. Installation usually involves using double-sided tape to stick LED strips around your car.
Once installed, they usually plug into a charging port somewhere in the car and use a remote to operate. You’ll be able to hand-pick the color you want to add to get the best mood while driving.
Put in a Phone Mount
I know a lot of drivers who express concern over the discomfort of having to use their smartphones while driving. If you rely on your phone’s GPS, then you need to find an easy way to mount the phone, so you don’t need to look down or move your body.
There are phone mounts that install into either your car vents, dashboard, or windshield. They’ll stay in position and allow you to put a phone in the holder. By doing that, you can look at your phone’s screen without having to move out of your position.
If you’re driving hundreds of miles for a trip, then this upgrade is a must-have. Not only does it make you more comfortable during the drive, but it’s a massive safety improvement.
Get an Air Filter or Scent
Have you ever tried driving when there’s a bad smell in the car? Most people react negatively to bad smells, and it can make them really uncomfortable.
Getting cigarette smell out of leather is one thing, but what about cars with a lingering odor? For that, you can get an air filter or scent for your car.
These options will either eliminate or mask the scent of whatever is causing the odor. It’s a lot harder to get comfortable when you don’t like what you’re smelling. Hopefully, a filter or air freshener will help.
Do Some Stretches Before Driving
A lot of the discomfort comes from the joints and muscles in your body. As humans, we’re not really built to sit around for extended periods of time. Our body wants to get up and move around, just like how our cavemen ancestors did.
Since being a hunter or gatherer isn’t a common career choice anymore, we have to find ways to adapt.
A great way to prepare for a long drive is to spend some time stretching yourself out before getting in the car. You’ll want to focus on your back, shoulders, arms, and legs. These areas are the most common problem areas that people complain about after a long drive.
While driving, take some opportunities to roll out your shoulders, elbows, ankles, and knees. Move your back around if it starts to feel stiff.
Even though this solution seems pretty simple, it’s highly effective. Cramping is largely due to acid buildup in joints, which happens when you don’t move enough. Obviously, you’re going to be restricted since you’re sitting in a car with a steering wheel in your hands, but any little bit of motion can help.
Stop and Take Breaks
I’ve grown to appreciate the power of taking a break during a long drive. Pulling over to stretch out your legs and use the bathroom will make your trip feel shorter and will make you feel more comfortable.
Even though these breaks will prolong your trip and add time, I think they’re helpful in improving comfortability.
I just went through a total of 20 tips that will help you be more comfortable while driving. Whether it’s a short trip to the grocery store, a long commute to work, or a very long road trip, these tips will keep you comfortable all the way to your destination.
If you want some more of your car questions answered, feel free to check out my website. Also, feel free to write a comment below and let me know your tips to stay comfortable during a long drive. Some products I talked about in this piece will show up in my ultimate list of suggested car products, so take a look.