For the last time, I'm not going to buy a @#$@ing SUV!
June 10, 2006 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Cars and car seats: I have a 2-door 2005 Ford Focus ZX3. The baby is coming in six months. Should I plan on buying a new car?

Soon it will be time to start shopping for one of those rear-facing infant bucket seats. They look huge! Although the back seat of the Focus is surprisingly spacious (ie, adults don't complain about being shoved back there), I'm concerned about the logistics of cramming in a car seat.

So I'm looking for opinions on the following:
- Have you used a rear-facing infant seat that fit well in a compact car? If so, which one did you use?
- Have you used a convertible car seat that fit well in a compact car (in both forward-facing and rear-facing positions)? If so, which one did you use?
- How much of a pain is it to use a car seat in a two-door car?
- In theory this child is the first in a series of two. I am thinking that 2 car seats in a two-door car is a no go. Would you get a different car now, or later?
- Which alternative vehicles would you suggest to a growing family? No minivans or SUVs, please, but a station wagon is ok. I like hatchbacks. Must fit two car seats (one infant rear-facing with 45 degree incline, and one forward-facing) with 6' tall individuals in the front seat comfortably. Ideally, I would like to get comprimable gas mileage to the Focus. Also, must be new/fairly recent vintage (I'd prefer less than 50k miles) for around $15k (US, Seattle metro area).

I just bought the damn Focus a year and a half ago, not realizing at the time that I would be married and pregnant at this point. I own the car outright. It is in suboptimal condition (some scratches that would require more than one body panel to be pounded out and repainted).

My original plan was to drive this car into the ground. I am now cursing myself for not buying a used Mazda 6 that I test drove and liked, but could not justify at the time. I will only spend more money on another car if I will be wishing for my own death while wrangling car seats in the Focus. Will I curse myself if I don't get another car?
posted by crazycanuck to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My "baby" is now a 6'3" giant, but when he was new-born, we had a 1984 Honda Civic wagon. Four doors and easy to get in and out of, held a ton of stuff (stroller fit easily in the back) and adults could ride in the back seat on either side of the car seat. I don't know what the equivalent is these days, but I do know people who tried the two door route while wrangling a baby seat and they were all miserable. You could probably get by for 6 months or so with the two door (while the baby is still tiny), but my vote is to go for the 4 door asap. Congratulations!
posted by jvilter at 11:23 AM on June 10, 2006

Go ahead and buy the car seat. You're going to need it sooner or later, right? Now put it in the car. Take it out. Put it in. Take it out. Put it in. Take it out. Put it in. Take it out. Are you crazy yet?

You'll probably find you want to leave the car seat in the car. So leave it in. Get a sack of potatos. Put in the car seat. Take it out. Put it in the car seat. Take it out. Don't bang its head on the roof. Are you crazy yet?

If you survived these tests, you can keep the Focus. Otherwise, not.
posted by jellicle at 11:25 AM on June 10, 2006 [2 favorites]

Jellicle would seem to be dead on.

Anecdotally, I am currently a 6'2" "former baby." When I was a toddler in the 80s, my mother shuttled me around in a seat more or less permanenetly mounted in the rear of a late-70s Dodge Colt two-door hatchback. That seemed to work just fine for her.

-My mother is known for being stubborn and impractical. I doubt it ever occured to her to get a different car.
-This was before the day of rear-facing child seats, so I'm not sure how much that changes the equation.

From my perspective as the baby being shuttled, I don't recall any substantial issues with the arrangement.
posted by Alterscape at 11:30 AM on June 10, 2006

I think you'll find a 4 door car much more convenient. We went through the car seat years with a 4 door Mazda Protege.
posted by COD at 11:38 AM on June 10, 2006

I just got a Honda Fit for just this reason. I can't imagine hauling a kid with a two door.
posted by jmgorman at 12:28 PM on June 10, 2006

when i was car seat shopping, I asked the baby shop if I could try out the car seat in the car... If the shop is close to the car park, it may be willing...

Be warned that some cars have longer safety belts than others, especially in the back seats: because of this, I have been unable to to put the baby seat in the rear of some rentals.

However, although possible, its a real pain to get it in and out of the rear of a a 2-door car...
posted by nielm at 1:29 PM on June 10, 2006

Put down your sense of pride and get a minivan -- Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey. The second you realize how much easier it is to get a child into a car seat in a minivan is the second you'll want to get one.
posted by frogan at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2006

The saddest day of my (car-owning) life was way back when I had to sell my 318i to get something with four doors, to make schlepping our son in-and-out of the back seat less of a back-breaking twist.
At least the 5-speed Maxima we got was fun to drive, too. 4DSC, indeed!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:03 PM on June 10, 2006

When we had my first son, our only car was a 1981 Honda Prelude. The "back seat" was a joke.

I could get the baby seat into the car's back seat, but attaching the seat belt was a Herculean effort. My son was born in November, and I clearly recall removing all of my winter covers because I started sweating them out just wrestling the thing into the car.

At one point, my mother in-law just bought us a different carrier so we didn't have to keep putting the car seat in and pulling it out.

So, in short, your Focus should be fine.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2006

You might glance at the Car seat compatibility database for information on what car seats have worked with Ford Focus cars -- I saw at least one mention of ZX3, 2 door, but most mentions were of the wagon or sedan or just didn't say. It's worth a look through (also, look through it if you decide to get a different car).
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:58 PM on June 10, 2006

If your husband will drive you and your baby in this car, test out how you will feel riding in the back seat yourself. I rode in the back seat of our car most of the time for several months after our daughter was born.

The Focus replaced the Escort, no? Having driven two Escorts, I think you will be fine, backseat-wise. I would be more concerned about the trunk space and access, for all the other baby-related paraphernalia you will be hauling around with you.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:38 PM on June 10, 2006

I rode in the back seat of our car most of the time for several months after our daughter was born.

I should add that I was rather paranoid (as well as crazily hormonal post-partum) as she was a preemie and very little, and I was positive she was going to fly right out of the straps with every little jolt of the car. This did not happen, or even come close, obviously. So don't feel like you ought to ride in the back, just because I did.

My comment was not meant to be advice...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:43 PM on June 10, 2006

I had an Eddie Bauer convertible car seat. It did not fit well in our Honda Civic, but it was safe. We had to ride with our seats forward, which, I have since learned, puts you at increased risk of airbag injury/death. Fortunately, we are not tall people and did not have them too far forward. We were recently in a car accident with our child. My husband and I have whiplash, but our son was okay.

Since we were in an accident, we took the Eddie Bauer seat to the dump and had it crushed.

We did not buy another Eddie Bauer. We bought a Britax Marathon, which is steel-reinforced and the top-rated seat for safety. It fits better in the car and we can put our seats even further back. It's also easier for someone else to sit in the back. (I sat in the back for the first six months or so and wish I had had more space!)

The Britax is only a 2-in-1. It doesn't have a booster seat. However, the child can be rear-facing to 30 lbs (same as Eddie) and can sit forward till 48 (more than Eddie). The heights are also higher. A rear-facing seat is the safest. And sitting forward in a carseat is still safer than a booster seat. My research showed that the Britax does both rear/front-facing very well, whereas 3-in-1s make trade-offs and do everything well, but not perfectly. Since I was just in a car accident....Also, I reasoned that, by the time we have another child, our older child will be ready for a booster seat, which is cheaper than another car seat. And I'd rather have the most recent booster seat at that time, since it needs to last to 80 lbs or more.

You might want to also get a travel system car seat that clicks in and out -- use it for the first six months or so. It's a lot easier than waking a sleeping baby, especially if they are in a 2-door.

Two doors...people tell me it is awful. The potato argument above is good.

New much do you drive? I don't drive a lot. I mostly walk, since I live in an urban area. We stuck with our Civic, but we are not tall.

Go to a store and put two carseats (arranged as you noted) in your car or in any car you plan to buy.
posted by acoutu at 11:01 PM on June 10, 2006

When my daughter arrived, trading our 2-door Pontiac Sunfire in for something with 4 doors was not an option. THose extra two doors make all the difference, as child + car seat + bent over trying to get said bundle into the back of a 2-seater is pure murder on the back. If you or your husband have back problems, or think you might like to avoid them, I can't recommend getting a 4-door enough.
posted by lekvar at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2006

Started out with a two door, bought a four door when my son was a year old. By that time his weight cantilevered twisting backwards into the seat had done some major damage to my back. Save yourself a LOT of pain and get a four door now. Your back will thank you. Oh, and get used to lifiting your child with your knees while you're at it.
posted by johngumbo at 10:28 AM on June 12, 2006

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