"Hi, I hope you can help, I'm expecting baby 3 and I need to get three car seats across the back of my car!"
I can't tell you how often we get this enquiry through our social channels! Getting three car seats across the back of a car is no easy task, and there are a fair few things to consider when attempting it.
Before you do anything else, you need to check your vehicle handbook – it’s that important we’ve even made it bold! Not all seating positions in cars are suitable for a child seat, so it is really important to know what can go where.
Some vehicle seats may only accept a particular stage of child seat, which will dictate where each child goes in the car.
This image is of the vehicle manual for the 2018 Nissan X-Trail – as you can see, only the two outer seats in the second row are approved for car seats, or the front with airbag off.
By checking the vehicle manual first, you know right from the off what you’re working with!
If all three seats are approved in the back, it still doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to fit three seats across.
The next thing to do, is fit one of your existing car seats in the middle – if you have a second car seat available, try and fit it next to the one in the middle. If it fits, you have a better chance of getting three across.
If you can’t get a middle and outer seat to fit next to each other, three across is looking unlikely.
You may need to avoid ISOFIX
ISOFIX is fantastic for reducing the risk of fitting seats incorrectly and it works by attaching the child seat to two points which are part of the chassis of your vehicle – that means the position your ISOFIX car seat is in, is fixed.
More often than not, 3 across is much more likely to be achieved with belt fit seats, as you have the freedom to move these out slightly towards the doors to make more room in the middle (the outer seats must never touch the doors though)
It’s worth noting here that it is OK for car seats to touch each other! They can lightly touch, but must not be wedged in. So if you can move the seats against each other, you’re good – if they’re squashed in and not budging, that wouldn’t be OK.
what are the slimmest car seats?
Car seats are all different widths, so some will work better than others in your car. The best way to find what will work for your situation, is to visit one of our approved retailers, or a car seat library to try different combinations.
Some of the slimmest seats available are:
Most infant seats are no wider than 44cm, so generally your infant seat won’t cause too much of an issue.
The slimmest infant seat we have found is the Joie Juva.
These are seats which are suitable from birth – 18kg.
Joie Tilt – 42cm wide
Joie Steadi – 42.5cm wide
Britax Eclipse – 45cm (please note this seat is forward facing only)
Toddler – Child
Klippan Century – 42cm (extended rear facing 25kg seat)
Axkid Minikid – 44cm (extended rear facing 25kg seat)
Axkid Move – 44cm (extended rear facing 25kg seat)
Britax Max Way Plus – 45cm (extended rear facing 25kg seat)
Diono Radian 5 – 45cm (extended rear facing 25kg seat)
We could not find any group 123 seats which are especially slim, they generally measure over 50cm wide, which doesn’t often work getting three across.
Forward Facing Booster Seats
Britax Adventure: 42cm
Britax Discovery: 42cm
Chicco Fold n Go: 35cm at base, 44cm at backrest
All iSize booster seats will be no wider than 44cm.
BubbleBum booster cushion: 28cm
if nothing fits
Have one child in the front, and two in the back – who goes in the front will depend on your vehicle. Some experts advise to put the eldest in the front, if the car allows it, as they are stronger and can withstand crash forces better then a baby. Others recommend baby in the front with the airbag off, as baby benefits from the protection of being rear facing.
If there are three kids and two adults, one adult will have to get used to sitting in the back!
You could also consider having the two younger one’s in car seats on the outer seats in the back, and the eldest child using the Bubblebum booster cushion in the middle – this routes the seat belt safely, while not taking up much room in the car at all. It often provides a solution when nothing else is working (it’s also handy to have for school trips and going to friends’ houses!)
If you opt to use the Bubblebum, your child must meet the weight requirements, and we only recommend that older children use booster cushions.
The Bubblebum passes regulation 44/04, and passes testing both inflated and deflated. It has a core of memory foam that allows it to maintain it's shape, and this ensures the child remains with the seat belt fitted safely.
If you can’t get three across, and getting a new car isn’t an option, you may want to consider the MultiMac. This safely fits three or four children in the back of almost any car!
You can get the MiniMac baby seat which attaches to it also, which rear faces to 13kg.
There is no extended rear facing option for the MultiMac once the MiniMac is outgrown.
If you need to buy a bigger car
If you find yourself resigned to buying a new car, here are some we recommend considering, that we know you can get three across in!
VW Touran (2015>)
Peugeot 5008 (be careful of floor boxes with child seats that have support legs)
Citroen Xsara Picasso (be careful of floor boxes with child seats that have support legs)
This list is not exhaustive - there will be other cars that 3 across is doable in.
Cars that aren’t good for three across
Nissan X-Trail – the middle seat isn’t approved for child seats (nor are the boot seats)
Vauxhall Zafira – only certain seats will fit to get three across, and depending on the model you have, the middle seat is not always approved for a car seat. The same goes for the boot seats.
Renault Scenic – like the Vauxhall Zafira, depending on what model of Scenic you have, the middle seat is not always approved for car seats.
As with the 'good' cars, there will be other vehicle's that are not well suited to having three car seats in the back - you will only really know by trying seats in the car!
The very best way you will be able to work out if three across is possible, is by visiting a quality car seat specialist and trying different combinations in your car - check out our approved retailer section for an independent near you.