Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Fit Three Car Seats Across in Almost Any Vehicle

A couple of years ago when we found out that my wife was pregnant with our third kid, we were obviously excited for the new addition to our family, but I was slightly stressed because i knew it was going to change our lives in quite a few ways. Of course there were the usual concerns like if we had enough space in our house, do we need new clothes and products (especially if we had a girl), daycare concerns, etc. The list goes on and on.

However, the one thing I didn’t realize would be a major issue was our car seat situation. I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee and my wife had a Volkswagen Jetta. I knew the backseat of the Jetta could be a concern because it was a little tight but I figured I would be fine with the Jeep since it had a big backseat.  You would assume a big SUV would have plenty of room, even if there wasn’t a third row. I quickly learned that assumption was very wrong.

After doing a little research to find the best and most affordable options, I soon realized that there really weren’t many options at all.  I’m sure a lot of you have noticed how car seats have gotten bigger and bigger over the years which is great for safety and comfort for the kids, but not so great for parents with 3 young kids that all need a seat or booster of some kind.

Laws vary slightly by state, but on average, kids need to be in a car seat or booster until the ages of about 7 or 8 or when they reach specific height and weight requirements.  

You can read more state specific laws here:

This creates quite a predicament when you have a 3 year old, a 1.5 year old, and a new baby on the way.  

If you are in a similar situation, keep in mind that you are going to have about 3+ years of three car seats and boosters in the back if your kids are close in age like mine. Your car will basically become a 1 adult passenger vehicle for many years to come. Slightly depressing if you like to drive your friends around at lunch or on the weekends, but a positive if you always want an excuse for why you can't drive!

My initial concerns were how to make this work with any car seats, yet alone with a baby bucket seat. As many of you know, these things are HUGE so that was my first concern. Second, the older two boys had the large/wide Britax seats which were not going to fit next to each other in any of our vehicles.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  

There wasn’t a ton of information out there when I did my initial research (a few years ago) but more websites and brands are starting to notice that this is an issue for many parents so there are a few more resources these days.

The best site I have found so far was  BabyCenter’s blog which keeps a running and updated tally of the brands and styles that can work three across. This would be a good place to start your research and help you find the options that best fit your budget.

You should probably be able to get away with most of the bucket seats out there, as long as you have thinner seats for the other two. I found that the best move was two seats next to each other with the bucket near one of the doors for easy access. I'd recommend the right side behind the passenger seat for when you need street parking. That way you can access the seat and baby from the sidewalk and not be in the middle of traffic which can be a but more dangerous. 

What worked best for me was a brand called Diono. They smartly promote the ability to fit 3 car seats across in almost any vehicle so I knew they had tested this and I shouldn’t have any issues. 

Things vary slightly by model but their RadianRXT line is the best value in my opinion. They are thin and stylish, include special features such as folding for travel and transportation (think planes, or rental cars), an easy latch system for securing the seats quickly and safely, and a few other options you can see here:

The other great thing about this brand is that a good portion of their car seats are convertibles which means you can use them for infants at Day 1, all the way up to older kids that still need a booster.  This means you don’t need to purchase new seats/boosters every few years which is a huge cost saver and value over time.

It’s a bit costly upfront if you are going to be replacing all of your old car seats at once but after that initial purchase, you shouldn’t need anything else for the rest of their childhood. I use these in all of our vehicles and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made in terms of kid related products.

Amazon has some pretty good deals going right now which seem to be below MSRP if you are a PRIME member. If you are thinking about buying this model, click on the image below and hook a brother up with a few pennies in commission! 

Let me know in the Comments Section if you’ve had any experiences with fitting three across in your vehicle using other brands, and if you have any additional tips and tricks.


  1. You really provided great information to us. This is really helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Although this can save you money, this type type seat does not offer the same convenience or fit of an infant car seat. They are also not stroller compatible, which is inconvenient if you take your baby in and out of the car often.

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