Fitting 3 across can be difficult in many cars and in some actually impossible to do it safely.
Sometimes it takes just the right combination of seats and putting that combination in the right positions like puzzle pieces.
When we upgraded from two to three children, our car made fitting 3 across extremely difficult. We had bucket seats in the back with a humped center position. The only solution that worked for us was to take both our booster kids out of boosters and put them into RideSafer travel vests on the outboard positions and put the infant carrier in the center.
Some of the common problems fitting 3 across:
- seats don’t fit side by side
- seats seem to fit but get twisted
- can’t get to the buckle to tighten seats
- can’t get to the buckle to buckle a child in a booster seat
There are some generally more narrow seats on the market that make fitting 3 across easier:
- For infants:
- Chicco KeyFit (we like this car seat enough that we used it with our third child – it wasn’t available with our first two. Granted some of the newer innovative seats weren’t available with our third.)
- Cybex Aton
- Diono Radian
- Clek Foonf
- Combi Coccoro (at 15 inches, it is the narrowest convertible car seat)
- Belt Positioning:
- RideSafer (this has no seat so just takes up the width of the child)
- Safety 1st Incognito (this is a less high booster for bigger children)
- Harmony Carpooler
What to do?
If you already have seats, is there a way to replace one to make them all fit? For instance if you have a high-back booster and a rear facing convertible and you need to fit a new baby infant seat, can you use the RideSafer instead of the high-back booster in between the other two seats?
If you are ready to buy all new seats, can you go to the store, checkout the narrowest seats of the types you need and start playing with them all to see if they fit. Try different seats. Try different positions.
- It is usually easiest to start with installing the car seat in the center seating position first.
- Alternate forward facing and rear facing to fit better. For instance, FF-RF-FF or RF-FF-RF. Keep in mind having a rear facing in the middle between two forward facing seats may make getting a child in that rear facing seat a challenge.
- Be sure to put forward facing car seats in positions that have a tether anchor point.
- Use seat belts for all the installs, sometimes using LATCH makes the seats requires the seats to be further from the doors than a seat belt will allow.
- Look at the width of the seat and the back and side panels and various heights.
- If you take out one seat and the others are suddenly loose, then they were not installed correctly and it was the squeeze of fitting 3 across that made them seem tight.
We want to know, did you figure out 3 across in your car? Share your solution for others below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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