Fitting three car seats in the back of your car isn’t usually something you think about when you’re happily child-free and buying a vehicle. Or even when buying your first family car.
It’s only after you discover you’re pregnant with triplets (whoa!) or having twins as your second round, or decide to have child number three, that you start looking into this.
Of course, the most likely scenario is the latter, so you probably already have one or two children’s seats in your car already.
We spoke with the down-to-earth experts at Kids Carousel in Belmont NSW to give us all some guidance, because we know you’re worried that:
- you’ll need to fork out for three new seats, and/or
- you’ll need to buy a new car to fit in one or two new seats.
Be pleased to know this isn’t always the case! Read on to find out what they said and learn how to install them safely.
Check and Measure Your Car First
Every car is different. The shape and size of the cabin, contours of the seats, distance between the back seats and front and, importantly, where the anchor points are located and how many there are.
The first step to fitting three car seats in your car, according to Kids Carousel, is checking your available anchor points. Why? ISOFIX seats need to be tethered at the top to comply with the law.
For example, as we found out in our blog on car safety for children, many dual cab utes don’t have adequate or safe anchor points available. This makes the option of fitting three car seats across a fairytale.
Here’s our hot tip: before you start car shopping, read our suggestions below!!
And if it turns out you do need a new car then here’s a detailed list of five-seat cars that will fit three car seats across.
Now – once you’ve checked your anchor points, measure the width of your back seat. Then, check the height of your cabin. Because…
Narrow Car Seats Aren’t the Only Thing to Look For
Sure, it helps to have slimline car seats, but according to Kids Carousel it won’t matter if your seats will fit side by side if they’re too tall.
They recommend checking both the height as well as the width, but don’t rely on measurements alone. Not every car seat will fit in every car so make sure you pick the best and safest restraints.
It’s always best to drive down to the car seat store and physically sit them in the car. Then, check that:
- The taper of the roof doesn’t interfere with the seats
- You have enough rear-view visibility even with the seats installed
- The restraints don’t impede the front driver’s and passenger’s seats
- You can close the doors without impacting the seats. They can touch but shouldn’t be “squished” in against the glass to fit.
- They can be installed to safety standards, i.e. no twisted or loose restraints and tethered correctly.
Remember, rear facing car seats are best used for as long as possible as your baby blossoms into toddler-ville. And if you’re installing just one new seat because you already have other children, the middle position is preferred.
However, our research tells us it’s rare to find a car with ISOFIX fittings in the middle (they’re usually only on the sides). Keep this in mind when choosing and fitting seats.
What to Look for in a Car Seat When Fitting Three in the Back
Car seats can be expensive – especially if you’re buying two or three! It’s best to consider how your kids will grow, then invest in a seat that will support them for as long as possible. This is where type G seats come in.
Type G car seat
A type G seat is a convertible car seat that starts off in rear-facing position until your child grows too big for it (between two and three years of age). Then it converts to a forward-facing seat that supports your child until approx. eight years old.
They’re the bees’ knees because they feature an inbuilt five-point harness and you get to keep them for much longer, negating the need for buying another seat.
A type G is safer, and you’ll never have to squeeze your hand between the seats to buckle up your child. Great news when you have three seats crammed together alongside each other!
Seats with front adjustments
Once you’ve gone to all the trouble of installing all three seats (it’s a mission!), there’s nothing worse than knowing you’re going to have to pull them out again to adjust the straps.
Thankfully, there are plenty of models on the market (like this one) that allow you to make these adjustments from the front. Phew!
Booster seats without armrests
When you’re playing Tetris with your car seats, sometimes it’s just about finding the configuration that works. Armrests on booster seats aren’t 100% necessary and can just make life difficult.
However, keep in mind that the armrests often act as guides for the seatbelt. You may find a model with armrests that don’t make it too difficult for you to buckle your kids in, while keeping the belt in a secure position.
Tips on Fitting Three Car Seats
When fitting any car seats, it’s important to understand the laws as well as the safest practices for travelling with your children.
Unfortunately, while many parents follow the law, research suggests that up to 70% of parents are incorrectly installing their car seats. Also, many are progressing their children to the next car seat, faster than is safe. Eeek.
The best way to approach this is to:
- Get a professional to teach you how to install your car seat properly, and
- Understand when your child needs to go up to the next restraint.
After all, when you have three children to cater to, keeping them in the same seat longer won’t just protect them – it’ll save you some pennies.
Again, Kids Carousel recommends you take your kids and the existing car seats with you when looking for one or more new seats. You’ll get a good gauge on how high the seats need to be, how much room your kids currently need (and might need in the future) and how everything will fit properly.
Also, be wary of retailers who say you need to purchase three new car seats up front. There are so many options on the market that chances are you’ll find a configuration allowing you to use your current seats for a good while yet.
Your retailer should ask you:
- What type of car you have? (Make, model)
- How many and what type of seats do you already have?
They should then encourage you to come down and try them in your car. That way they can help you check if they can be installed safely and within the law. Securing them legally and safely won’t just give you peace of mind. It’ll ensure you’re driving within the law, so you’re covered in an accident.
Safeguarding Your Kids and Car
If safety is at the top of your priority list, then take some time to research car seat safety ratings. We suggest starting here. Remember that new products are entering the market all the time, so speak to your local car seat expert as an additional step in making a decision.
Also note that, in the event of an accident, your insurance won’t cover you if you carry more passengers than permitted by law. Ditto if you’re loaded above the legal weight limit for your car, or have it loaded in an illegal way.
At PD Insurance, we can talk you through this. We can also help you get the best deal on your comprehensive car insurance.
Over to You – Fitting Three Car Seats in a Car
Are you shopping for one or more car seats, to fit three across? Do you have any more tips on fitting them in your car? Share your experience with us below or on our Facebook page.