Fitting Two+ Car Seats into a Car

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  • Car recs--3 carseats in 2nd row?

    (7 replies)

    Hi guys,

     My husband is finally ready to get a car that will fit our 3 children inside (my son is 7, and my twin girls are 3).He would prefer to not get an SUV or anything that's big and bulky and more environmentally friendly. Any recommendations on a car that will allow for 2 carseats and one booster that meets the bill? Thanks in advance for your advice!


    It might be less about the car and more about the carseat. We have 3 kids - ages 3, 6, and 10 in a Toyota Prius. We have the diono radian carseats for all 3 and they fit across well. They're not cheap, and they're really heavy so I wouldn't recommend moving them between cars unless you have to, but they do free up your options quite a bit.

    I think you're best bet is to bite the bullet and get a van. They are usually more environmentally friendly than SUVs and have loads of storage space. Perfect for when those kiddos start participating in sports or other activities.

    One lead is that some friends have recommended the Diono Radian RXT for three-across fit. I also found this, which may be helpful to you - (Some of the recommended seats can convert to boosters).

    Good luck!

    We've done three car seats in a Prius! They're the Diono Radian RXT convertible car seats (convert to booster too), which are a bit pricey but highly recommended.

    My 2009 Toyota Camry seats three children in the back seat: two car seats for smaller kids and a Bubble Bum in the center.

    Diono car seats are narrow enough to fit three across in a regular car. It uses a steel frame which allows for a narrower seat while meeting safety standards.  Two Dione seats and a booster would be easy to do. We have a Subaru Outback with Dionos on one side and in the middle, leaving the other side available for an adult. 

    What do you have now? You may not need a new car but just new car seats. Have you looked at really narrow car seats and boosters? We have Diono Radian 120, Immi Go Booster, Harmony Defenders. If you are using a backless booster you could try a mifold or bubbleBum. Any combination of those seats will likely fit three across in a smaller sedan (e.g. a Toyota Corolla). 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Alternative to minivan or SUV for 3 carseats?

March 2007

I was wondering whether there is an alternative option to the minivan or SUV for 3 kids in carseats? Does anyone have experience with the CR-V? Does that fit 3 kids comfortably? Is there room for other stuff? Is it still considered an SUV? Any other options that are environmentally friendly? Thanks!

I can't believe not everyone in the world owns a Subaru Forester. It's hugely affordable, gets great gas mileage, has all the air bags in the base model, and fits five people comfortably. I'll never buy anything else. Subarus are the safest station wagons on the market, according to Consumer Reports, and you can't beat a Japanese car for affordable maintenance. I have the manual transmission and love it. I feel totally safe on the road. Katie

Non-minivan that can handle 3 carseats?

Feb 2007

We are expecting our third child this summer, which will mean we will soon be shuttling around 3 children under the age of 4 years old (!). I work part-time and my husband and I alternate drop-off and pick-up at daycare depending on our schedules. Right now we have a family minivan (which I use for shuttling the kids and family trips) and a compact car (which my husband drives short distances to BART but also allows him to drop-off and pick-up the kids when needed) both of which can accomodate two carseats. We can't fit three carseats in the back seat of our compact car and still close the door, so we know we'll have to trade-in for a bigger second car, but the idea having two gas-guzzling, monstrous minivans is depressing. Is there a non- minivan/non-SUV vehicle out there that can accomodate three carseats? Does anyone know of a ''regular car'' wide enough to fit three carseats in the back row, or else are there narrower carseats out there that will fit three-in-a-row? Or do we *have* to get something with three rows of seating? Again, it would be a ''back-up'' car usually used for short distances, but still would have to be able to hold three car-seats if needed. Thanks. -Used to drive a Geo Metro

Our other car is a Geo Metro, too! Three carseats is totally do- able, the trick is to get the right car seats. We have been driving with our three kids under age 5 in a 2001 Ford Focus for a year now. I have had good luck with Graco seats. Our back seat is 48'' wide so if each car seat is 16'' we're good to go. We currently have two high-back boosters and a rear-facing convertible seat, but we have also had one booster, one forward- facing covertible and one infant seat. I bought several of these seats at Sears, one of the stores was nice enough to let me take two new seats out to the car to make sure they fit before I purchased them. You can do it! Mom of three
How close will your eldest child be to age 4? And is he or she over 30 pounds? You could try using two convertibles and one booster seat in your current car -- boosters are generally narrower. I wouldn't put a 3-year-old in a booster by preference but for the ''backup'' car that might be a reasonable choice.

But if that doesn't work, yes, there are cars that can fit three carseats. Camry, Accord and similar size sedans often can. There are also some carseats that are narrower at the base than others. Check the measurement chart at Holly

For what it's worth, our VW Passat stationwagon can fit 3 car seats in the back seat. Maybe the Passat sedan can also? anon
We had #3 (all under 4 y) on the way when buying a car and took three Britax roundabouts to the dealer when looking. We decided on the Ford Escape Hybrid and all three seats fit. We still have the baby in a Graco infant seat and that scenario works too. We are happy with the arrangement for short trips, but wish we had a minivan when taking longer road trips so Mom could get in the back seat too. And, it's a great car!!
I have seen 3 carseats in the back of some volvo stationwagons (the cross county?) Also, I have just purchased a Sunshine Kids Radian 65 and Radian 80 to help our backseat issues out. They are alot narrower so they take up less room that way. They look like they would be not so great for rearfacing since they go to 65 and 80 lbs they are very tall, but I am using them forward facing so I don't know for sure. Hope this helps. small backseat
You didn't mention whether you checked the archives -- there are several useful pages. Try ''Fitting Carseat into Various Types of Autos,'' which includes ''Fitting Two+ Car Seats into a Car.'' anon
I've put three car seats in the back of our Toyota Camry no problem. And one of them is a Britax Marathon. anon
Check out the Mazda 5 - it is a lot smaller than a minivan, but can seat six (in three rows, so three car seats will fit). It is a pretty tight squeeze if you actually have six adults, but since it is the size of a smallish car, it fits in tight parking spaces, has a tight turning radius, drives well, fits a lot of stuff if you only have 3 or 4 in the car, and it costs under $20,000. artstove

Expecting twins, already have 16-month old. Which car?

April 2006

I'm expecting twins in September. I have a 16-month old now. We have to get a new car to accomodate all three car seats, but I'm wondering if big SUVs (ie pilot) or minivans are my only options. Does anyone out there have three car-seats in a non suv/minivan? What car? How is it working out? Rachel

We did three car seats with no problem in our Honda CRV for 4 years with a nanny share. One Britax Roundabout and 2 Cosco seats, which aren't as wide. And the CRV gets great gas mileage! Good luck!
Although my girls are now well beyond child seats, we easily got three full size seats across in our Camry wagon; the seats of our old wagon don't appear any wider to me than those of the current sedan. (Installing them was a bit of a gymnastics act, though!) I've also seen three seats installed in an older Volvo wagon; two of those were full size, with the third an infant.

If you want a car, as opposed to a yank tank SUV, I think you'll easily be able to find one that holds three safe seats. Creative shopping for the seats might help, too; try lining three of them up on the floor and measure the total width with a tape measure. Chris

We've been able to manage 3 carseats in the back seat of a small Toyota corolla when 2 are regular carseats and the 3rd is a portable car seat. The portable car seat doesn't work for infants, but your toddler could certainly use one. It's very small and not bulky. Our toddler sometimes doesn't like not being ''elevated'' in it; it definitely diminishes her ability to see out of the window, and isn't as comfy as a regular carseat for sleeping in (a pillow to lean on helps a lot), but we've used this arrangement quite a few times . I think ours is called a tote n' go. You can google it. --Totin' 3 from time to time
My kids are 6,4 and 2, and I've had them in the backseat of a Ford Focus station wagon since they were 4, 2 and 0. We started off with two carseats and a booster seat, now have two boosters and a Britax roundabout. Christian at Rockridge Kids got them in there, and I go back every time the arrangement changes.

It's been fine until this year. The Focus is very roomy with lots of storage space in the back. However, now that playdates and field trips are more a part of our lives, I'm getting ready for the mini-van. Also, you can only accommodate two adults, and that's occasionally been inconvenient. This keeps coming up...should archive it! Mom of 3

We have a Mazda5 and love it. It is basically like the station wagons they used to have when we were kids that had a ''way back'' third row seat. But in this case it faces forward and has seat belts and so is actually safe.

It's got a high roofline like a Forester and sliding doors like a minivan, but it is a car, not a minivan, and not much bigger footprint-wise than our old Honda Accord. It has a total of 6 seats, three rows of two each. It works great for our family of four, because we usually leave the third row folded down, which gives us a big cargo area. Then if we need extra seats to carpool or for parents visiting, we pop up the third row. The back row is split fold down, so you could have the third carseat in the back row and still have some cargo space. With all six seats up, there is only a tiny cargo area in back - big enough for a few grocery bags or a small stroller. The nice thing is there are also lots of nooks and crannies, including under the seat, for storing all the junk you keep in your car all the time.

You would need to put a fairly self-sufficient kid in the back, though, as it is hard to get someone in and out from that space.

It's reasonably priced, drives nicely, parks easily, and as gas just went to $3 a gallon, I am really thankful we didn't buy the Honda minivan we were on the verge of purchasing.

I don't know why the car companies aren't falling all over themselves to make more cars like this for all of us who don't need or have space to park a minivan and don't want the extra gas expense driving one, but need to take more than four passengers at least some of the time. Love my Mazda5

If you can afford it, and you have the space to park it, you will hug yourself for buying a minivan. And your back will thank you. I borrowed my sisters suv and having to hoist myself up to get the kids in and out of the car was a real pain in the back. As is bending over and crunching in with our sedan.

We only have two kids now but often carpool my sons friends and the thought of getting them all into our sedan is not a pleasnat one.(But it IS possible-I drove 3 two year olds around in 3 roundabout britax carseats for nearly 2 years.- So no an suv or minivan is not your only option.) I'm really not sure why minivans get such a bad rap, they are such a huge convenience(sp?) for young families. Sure they use more gas, but they haul more people. It is so great to have when my family visits. It is great for even short road trips. I also love it for the ''hang out'' option. Now if my baby is asleep, etc. I can hang out in the minivan while I wait for my sons class to finish etc. In my other car it felt so cramped and public (it is a breeze nursing in the minivan).

We lived with one car for nearly 10 years (my husband rode his bike 3 miles to work). So I do not feel guilty at all for owning a minivan. Life with 3 kids will be hectic enough -enjoy the luxury of a minivan -if you can. (p.s. we bought a used minivan to see if it was right for us. You can get a nice one for 10-12K, and upgrade if you decide to. My husband swears he'll never pay 30K for a minivan, (I personally love the thought of a brand new one loaded with all those family happy features)but my friend who use to be in car sales says with minivans (unlike SUVs)you get every penny out of them with family friendly features, where as you spend the same amount for a suv just to get the 'look'. (This could be wrong, but I believe it.) Minivan fan

Car that fits two car seats as well as passengers?

Dec 2005

We just had our second child and with two car seats in the back of our Toyota RAV4, we now have no room for passengers in our car (other than the front seat.) We need a new car anyway and decided we want to find a car that is wide enough to allow two car seats plus a passenger in the back seat. We are hoping to avoid a minivan or a huge SUV though. Does anyone have a recommendatiuon? Any station wagon recs? Thanks! Rebecca

We were in your exact same situation - two kids in car seats, wanting reasonably comfortable seating for additional passengers who aren't squeezed in between the car seats in back, but down on the minivan idea because of high gas prices and difficulty parking in tight spaces. We bought the Mazda5, which is great but hard to describe - it isn't really a minivan - it's more like a wagon in size, but with sliding doors and a tall interior cabin kind of like a Forester. But there's a third row of seating! Six seats in all - two per row. The deal is, though, with the third row seat up, there's only a tiny cargo space - I can fit my Maclaren stroller and a diaper bag and a few coats back there, or 2-3 grocery bags, but no more. With the third row folded flat, you have station-wagon-like cargo space. So for our family of 4 it's great. Mostly it is just 2 adults, 2 kids in car seats, and loads of room for gear. But when family visits, or we want to carpool, we can make it a 6! person car. Pamela
We have a Volvo V70. It fits a infant carseat, Britax Marathon which is huge, and a small size adult comfortably. It was much better when we use a booster seat and the infant seat. Miranda

Car for 2 toddler carseats and 1 infant seat

May 2004

Help! What kind of car is good for two toddler car seats (for two 2 year olds) and for one infant seat? Since all the kids are so young, we don't want to put anyone in the third row of a minivan out of reach of the driver. Is there a car with room for 3 car seats in the second row that someone can recommend? Thanks... dan

We have a 1998 VW Passat Stationwagon and it will fit 3 toddler-sized carseats in the back seat.(We used to have to do this for playdates). It's snug (all the seats touched each other and the door panels) but everybody gets strapped in and the door closes!

We have a Volvo Cross Country station wagon v70 (1999), and it also fits three Britax Roundabouts across the back. It is snug, but it works. Dana
I love my volkswagon vanagon, I currently have it set up with only the back bench and have two roundabouts and a britax wizard for my two toddlers & baby.. and there's still room! I feel like a bus driver, but I love that it's not a ''minivan''. I don't know if the newer eurovan is as weide, but mine is a 1991 vanagon and it's perfect. Good luck finding something! rachel

Two carseats - which child goes in the center?

June 2002

I am expecting my 2nd child and have been wondering how to position two carseats in the backseat of my VW wagon. I currently use a Britex Roundabout in the center of the seat with my son who will be 3 in October. By the time #2 comes, my son will be in a booster carseat (any recomendations for that is certainly needed) and I plan to use an infant carseat (the type that has a ''permanent'' base and removable infant carrier). Which child goes in the center of the bench seat? Please let me know how you handled this issue. Thank you Courtney

We recently faced the same question, and were told by a nurse at Alta Bates that the baby's car seat should go in the middle, with the 3 year old's seat on the side. Good luck! CJ
When our second child was born, our first was two. We put the baby's car seat in the middle and the toddler's carseat on the side behind the passenger. This has worked well for many reasons. First of all, the 2-year old (now 2 1/2) likes to look out the window. She can also ask to have her window rolled up or down, so it makes sense to put her by the window. Moreover, the 2 1/2 year old can tell us when the sun is in her eyes or when it gets too hot in the back. Being in the middle of the car (in a Passat wagon), the baby's carseat is better protected from the elements so we don't worry about him getting the direct sun or too much wind. Another advantage for the 2 1/2 year old to be near the window is that she can use the arm rest to store her various things, like snacks or books. Also, since the baby came along the number one child has learned to climb up and down from her car seat. She can do so because the carseat is by the door and on the sidewalk side of the car. This is a great help when I am holding the baby and fun for her! Alison
i found it impossible to put the infant carseat base safely in the middle when the toddler seat was next to it. i ended up with both carseats on either side of the back seat (leaving the middle as a buffer zone). it was a honda accord. suzie
You didn't say if you already tried putting 2 carseats in the backseat already, but when I tried putting 2 in our Honda Accord, they didn't fit side by side. I had to put one by each door (we have since bought a minivan...) There was simply too much bulk to place an infant carrier right next to a Britax Roundabout. Also consider the strain on one's back leaning into the middle of the car, lifting a kid in and out. My solution was to put the toddler's seat on the driver's side, where I can quickly and easily take the toddler out, in traffic. Then I put the baby's seat on the passenger side, so after the toddler was safely strapped into the stroller, or safely sitting in the front passenger seat waiting for me, I could take more time with the baby, putting her into a sling or Baby Bjorn, or the double stroller with her sister. Hope this helps, and congratulations!!! Heidi