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August 11, 2009 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Please help me fit three little ones into my car. I need recommendations for some skinny car seats.

We are working on a foster placement of three siblings: ages 2 1/2y, 1 1/2y, and 4mo. Since it has just been the two of us, we still tool around in our hatchbacks, a '99 Subaru Outback Impreza and a '06 Toyota Matrix.

Seeing as people have been having kids far longer than the popularity of minivans, I imagine we will be able to make do with our current cars for at least a little while longer. If the placement moves towards adoption, or if we get sick of the cramped quarters, we can move on to a larger vehicle later.

We already have an infant car seat, so we will need seats for the two oldest. I know that the Toyota, which will be the primary kid car, has the Latch system, but I do not know if there are two or three. That car is with my wife, and I cannot seem to find the info on the net.

We both have spinning heads and will need to track down bedroom furniture and prepare our jobs for some time off, so an afternoon on google or all night at Babies 'r Us is not in the cards at the moment. I'd like to save some time shopping with recommendations. Naturally, I will make certain that everything fits and is safe. Thanks!
posted by wg to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Last I knew the Radian was the skinniest carseat out there. It is the one most recommended when you need to get 3 across. The wonderful people at will let you know how well radians ft into the vehicles you have and if any other seats may fill your needs.
posted by a22lamia at 9:22 AM on August 11, 2009

I had a similar question a few years ago, although my question was - what car would fit three car seats in the back.

One answer took into account skinny car seats:

Not quite a derail: You can also look into what car seats are skinniest. I have a friend with six children who ride in two rows of three in her minivan. When she was due with number 5 (meaning she'd have to start putting some three abreast), she went on-line and researched car seat dimensions, and found that Britax car seats (expensive and fancy) were the narrowest. She's been able to fit three car seats across if one is a Britax in a row where she could not fit any other combination of three seats.

Second the Camry. Our 99 Camry accommodated three quite well, though I had to learn tricks for dealing with the buckles. It works best if they aren't all facing the same way--one rear-facing and two front-facing, or vice-versa.
posted by not that girl at 8:28 PM on October 24, 2006 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]

Here's the post.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:22 AM on August 11, 2009

It looks like the Matrix has only two LATCH positions - outboard (by the windows). The center is not LATCH and you would need to use seatbelt installation.
posted by peep at 9:27 AM on August 11, 2009

We use a Sunshine Kids Radian. Link to product website. It's about as narrow as you can get, and has no problem fitting in the middle of our back seat next to a standard baby bucket seat leaving a full spot for another adult. It's got a metal frame rather than plastic which I think explains the narrowness. As another bonus it folds flat-ish which makes carrying it on a plane much easier. We've used it both with seatbelt and latch, both are fairly straightforward. Best of luck!
posted by true at 9:28 AM on August 11, 2009

The Latch system is not a requirement for any infant or child car seat. Federal law requires them to be constructed so that they can be secured with a lap belt.

I'm 6'3" and one of our cars is a Toyota Corolla. I have to drive with the seat all the way back, so finding small car seats was imperative for us.

Start here:

I know you said you don't have time for it, but if you do have a Buy Buy Baby near you, they may have a better selection of car seats than Babies R Us, and they will also take floor models out to your car and let you see how they fit in your backseat. It's worth the trip, if you can make the time.

When we looked for seats, we found that the Sunshine Kids Radian65 was the slimmest. Graco models are slightly larger, but do tend to be smaller than others in height and width. Look at the ComfortSport models.

If you want to go with Britax, their Roundabout is smaller than most, and requires less room front to back than other models. It's specifically designed to fit in smaller cars, is lower in height and slightly slimmer in width than standard seats.

When they grow out of it, consider the Britax Marathon/Boulevard/Decathalon models. They didn't fit well into our Corolla, (too high and wide, they blocked the rear window!) but they might be okay in an Outback or a Matrix.

Good luck!
posted by zarq at 9:31 AM on August 11, 2009

The LATCH systems will be on the outboard seats (not the middle seat), so one of the seats will have to be secured with a seatbelt - probably the infant seat if it has a base, since it will be easiest (you didn't mention which one you have). Technically, it's safest to have the two oldest ones still rearfacing, though I highly suspect that if these kids have been in foster care, they're already used to being forward facing for a long time and you might have a hard time switching them back.

Yes, the Britaxes are awesome seats, unfortunately they're also the some of most expensive (full disclosure: my kids have Marathons and I think they're great). The Boulevard is probably the most narrow, and would take you up to 65lbs with each kiddo.

Radians would probably be the most cost effective since you have to buy two at once. You might want to see if some of the smaller online stores might be willing to cut you a break if you call and explain why you need them (I've heard of stories in the past where they might knock even 10% off).

Definitely do check out as a22lamia mentioned. You can also check out the carseat forums at for some good insight.

I think it's awesome that you and your wife are stepping up and doing this for these kids. Good luck!
posted by dancinglamb at 9:43 AM on August 11, 2009

If you want to go with Britax, their Roundabout is smaller than most, and requires less room front to back than other models. It's specifically designed to fit in smaller cars, is lower in height and slightly slimmer in width than standard seats.

The Roundabout is an awesome seat, but it only goes to 40lbs. That's fine if the kiddos are on the small size, but it's a lot of money to drop if the kids are big and you have to replace it a year out. (I was able to fortunately get three years and out of mine between two kiddos, but in retrospect was sorry I didn't go straight to a bigger seat). At ~$200, it's worth considering a bigger option in the long run.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:47 AM on August 11, 2009

Just "n"th-ing our happiness with the Radian 65 - We got it when my son was still center-mounted and we needed something narrower than our much-loved but gigantic Britax for his older sister to squeeze next to him with. It's a great car seat.
posted by jalexei at 9:49 AM on August 11, 2009

As a mom of triplets (who unfortunately did NOT research this before buying convertible seats) I can tell you that most triplet parents who need to put all three seats in one row end up with the Radians.
posted by pyjammy at 10:49 AM on August 11, 2009

Nthing forums to get suggestions on fit - what kind of baby seat do you have? Some are wider than others.

Also, don't get too hung up on the latch thing. Its no safer than a seatbelt install, just a little more convenient. Assuming you will be putting the car seats in and then not taking them out very often, it doesn't really matter which way you install them. Latch also tops out at 44lbs I think, at which point you have to do a seatbelt install.

Agreed that you should put the baby in the middle, and try to have the other two rear-facing if possible.
posted by Joh at 11:24 PM on August 11, 2009

Thanks to everyone for the response and positioning advice, looks like the consensus is the Sunshine Kids seats. Wow, pricey (but apparently useful for many years) and not in any store near us. But, looking at photos, all of the other seats seem so much wider at the shoulder than the Radian. We're taking a moment tonight to hit up Babies R Us, just in case, but it looks like we might be making a special order. We'll be able to beg, borrow, and steal to make due until the shipment arrives.

Again, thanks!
posted by wg at 7:37 AM on August 13, 2009

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