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Traveling With Children in RVs

traveling with kids in RVs
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Aaaahhhh. Summer travel time, which includes family road trips and perhaps traveling with children in RVs. RV camping is a great way for families to get away, enjoy the outdoors with the convenience of your own self-contained space.

From a child passenger safety perspective, the question falls to, are these kids using car seats? And if they are not, should they be?

traveling with children in RVs

There are three classes of RVs.

Class A are the largest type and look similar to buses. They are between 15,000 and 30,000 pounds and often have living areas that extend out when parked. This slide-out portion is part of the reason the RV Consumer Group (RVCG) say the Class A RVs have more structural problems. The RVCG believes that close to 50% of Class As will not sustain a collision at 20 miles per hour without serious damage. There is no rear occupant crash testing required for Class A RVs.

Class B is more like a built-out conventional van. They typically weigh between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds so they have to meet federal seat belt standards (FMVSS 208) for the front but not for the rear seat occupants. Class B RVs can require lap belt only seat belts in the back seating if it carries a chassis-mount camper that weigh between 8,500 lbs and 10,000 lbs.

Class C RVs are more like a moving truck. These weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. And manufacturer build them on a van or truck chassis. But they come with the front cab from the vehicle manufacturer so the cab still has those safety features. Class C also have to meet federal seat belt standards for the front seating positions but not the rear.

Though these rear occupant seat belts are usually bolted to the floor, the concern is that the wooden seat structure on which the passenger or child is sitting will fail. And some rear seat belts in RVs are not even bolted to to the metal frame of the vehicle. Rather they attach to the plywood cabinets. During a crash the seat belts can be pulled out of the wood with the weight and crash energy of the occupant.

Whatever type of RV you rent or buy, remember driving a RV is a lot different than your passenger car. Take some time to safely practice before hitting the open road.

Hit the road with your family to make some memories — rent an RV with RVshare.

When traveling with children in RVs, do they have to be restrained?

All states have car seat laws to keep children properly restrained and safe while driving. RVs are no exception to this law. Laws vary from state to state. You need to follow the state car seat law for each state you are driving in with your RV.

States also have varying laws for seat belt use for adults and older children. There are 22 states that say all occupants must wear a seat belt. And 26 states have seat belt requirements based on the age of the child. You’ll want to look up the law for RV travel specifically for your state and the state’s you’ll be traveling to.

Legally required or not, it is recommended to properly restrain yourself in a seat belt and your child in a child restraint in a forward-facing vehicle seat with a crash rated seat belt.

Many states require proper use for car seats. This means if a child restraint is not installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions on a forward-facing vehicle seat with properly anchored seat belts, it is in effect illegal to transport your child in the vehicle.

Does size equal safety?

People may be lulled into a false sense of security because of the size of an RV and how bigger vehicles tend to withstand crashes better. But bigger is not necessarily safer with RVs.

For instance, the structural soundness of an RV may be questionable in a crash. One reason for this is because of design features like galley slide-outs. Often the rear compartment is built on a wood or aluminum frame. A crash impact or rollover can crush this frame. In Class A RVs, the front seat belts need to meet federal standards. However, the front compartment itself does not have to meet any crash standards and may not be crash tested.

Some RVs do not have an adequate number of seat belts for the number of occupants. Some of those that do have rear occupant seat belts have at best lap-only belts. Sometimes the seat belts are in side-facing or rear-facing seats, which should never be used to install a car seat.

The trouble is, of course, RVs get into crashes too.

RVs pose additional risks of crashes because of blind spots, extended braking distance required and lack of maneuverability. Some of the most common causes of RV crashes are inexperienced drivers — states don’t require special training or permits to drive an RV — and senior drivers — 10 percent of RV drivers are more than 55 years old who may have declining eye sight and slower reflexes.

There is great risk in RV crashes with the lack of proper ways to restrain occupants, especially children, and lack of places to even put a car seat safely facing the correct direction.

If a car seat is restrained in the rear compartment, a big risk is the wooden seat structure it’s belted to and cabinets can come apart during a crash, increasing the risk of injury or death. Then these structures — and kitchen equipment, and mounted TVs, and decorations, and… — become projectiles. There is serious injury risk to all the passengers.

Trouble with motion sickness, click here for some tips to ease your discomfort.

So how do you travel safely?

Safety experts discourage transporting children in RVs since it is essentially impossible to do so with optimum safety. If you do plan to be traveling with children in RVs, here are some tips:

1. Properly buckle your children in a car seat every time you are driving. In order to do this:

  • If you were planning to tow a car, consider driving it instead. This way your children are in their car seats in this vehicle instead of in the RV.
  • Use a towable RV (fifth wheel, trailer, truck camper) where children can ride properly restrained in the towing vehicle. Make sure the driver is experienced with towing a trailer. There are inherent dangers in towing a trailer.
    • Fifth wheels are large towable trailers that need to connect to heavy-duty trucks with a fifth wheel towing hitch inside the bed of the truck. These trailers are spacious and may include slideouts for more interior space. Parking and maneuvering fifth wheels can be a challenge.
    • Other trailers include a pop-up campers, a compact trailer with canvas tent-like pop out sides when you raise the top, or travel trailers, hard walled trailers that come in a variety of lengths and may have a storage area for your toys like snow mobiles or a 4-wheeler.
  • Check in the cab of the RV for seating positions that are appropriate for installing car seats.
    • Smaller Class B and C RVs that are built on a regular van/truck chassis must meet the same safety standards as passenger vehicles for the front. They may be likely to have the features needed for car seat installations.
    • Perhaps they have or can install a custom seat or a captain’s chair in the rear compartment (like the Galleria Class B Motorhomes) with a seat belt that meets standards. Just like you can’t mix and match car seat parts between models or manufacturers, the manufacturer of the RV must order these these parts. Make sure whatever vehicle seat is used, it is facing forward so you can install the car seat properly.
    • While we don’t typically recommend the front seat for children, in the case of an RV it may end up being the only safe seat belt to use for a child restraint. (Of course it will only work for a rear-facing car seat if there is no airbag or a way to turn off the airbag.)
    • Remember, even when using proper seat belts, passengers are still at risk of cabinets, kitchen equipment and storage supplies becoming projectiles.

2. Make sure all other occupants remain properly buckled also.

Unrestrained occupants are a danger to other passengers. Much like all the other interior items that become projectiles in a crash.

Car Seat Options

A car seat requires a structurally sound seat belt in a forward facing vehicle seat. That means no side seats or seats facing the back of the RV. Some forward-facing car seats require the use of a tether strap also. If you have such a car seat, you need to make sure there is an appropriate tether anchor available.

If lap-only seat belts are the only option in the back of an RV, you will not be able to use a booster seat for older children.

RideSafer travel vest travel car seat

A RideSafer Travel Vest may be a viable option for keeping a child properly restrained in an RV. As with most things, the answer to if it will work for you is, it depends.

If there is a structurally sound lap-shoulder belt or structurally sound lap-only belt and a tether anchor in a forward-facing vehicle seat with a high back, the RideSafer should work. (Structurally sound means the seat belt is bolted to the metal frame of the RV, has a at least  6,000 lb system strength and an appropriate tether anchor strength, says RideSafer manufacturer.) If there is a adequate position that has a lap-only belt and there is a way to affix an Energy Absorbing Tether Anchor Loop (EATAL) somewhere that anchors to the RV, the RideSafer should work.

If the seat belts are not structurally sound and options “Good” or “Best”  or even “OK” above are not really options for you. You’ll have to make parental choices to do the best you can for your child’s safety. Would a car seat in a not-really-structurally-sound seat belt be better than no car seat and just the seat belt? Maybe. Since there is no actually testing, we can’t say for sure.

We want to know, do you plan to be traveling with children in RVs this summer? Share your comments below.

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004

Copyright 2020 Safe Ride 4 Kids. All rights reserved. You may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this material without permission. You are welcome to link to Safe Ride 4 Kids or share on social media.

We originally published this post in May 2016. We updated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness.  

© monkeybusiness | depositphotos


  1. I am just sick reading up on seat belt safety in a class A motorhome! We have a 4 yr old….where treo safely place his carseat.. ….why aren’t rear seatbelts required to have national safety standards on them!? Make a law and the allow manufacturers to just place the belts basically for ‘decoration’!!

  2. So considering a vest and eata loop (as there are no anchors in the RV that i have found) to secure my 3 year old in the class c RV. The couch is directly behind the driver’s seat, so I feel like that would be the best option for placing him and would provide the best protection in a crash due to its proximity to the cab. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Jennifer, Ideally when you sit a child in the RV using a child restraint, the child needs to be in a forward facing seat, meaning the seat – or couch as the case may be – needs to be facing toward the windshield. My assumption would be the couch is facing the side. This is not ideal. Are there seat belts available on the couch and if so what are they connected to? If this is the only location to sit a child in the rear compartment, you may consider putting your 3 year old in the RideSafer in the front passenger seat while driving. While also not ideal, it may be the safest option available. You may also want to visit with a local CPS technician in your RV so that person can see inside the RV and consider if there are other options.

  3. Thanks for these tips for traveling with children in an RV. It’s good to know that you should try to have a towable RV so the children can ride properly in the towing vehicle. This sounds especially important if they are very young and you don’t want them to hurt themselves accidentally in a RV.

      1. I believe Taylor said put kids in the towing vehicle, not the towed vehicle. So the vehicle doing the towing.

  4. We just rented a Mercedes Sprinter RV for touring NZ. How do I find out if there are tether hooks in this RV. Is there a list somewhere of the RV models with tether hooks?

    1. Reminds me of the response the British manufacturer of the original Mini gave regarding concerns of accident safety in their cars:
      “We design our cars not to crash”.
      Class A owners are little better off than pre 60s formula one, whose victims’ best hope was being “thrown clear of the wreckage”.

  5. Thanks so much for this article. We are looking at buying a Class C but have a 6 year old and 3 year old. Both still use a 5 point harness in the car, simply because they each still fit and haven’t complained.
    I was looking for booster seat options in an RV but now am second guessing our plan. We would really like the Class C lifestyle, but a travel trailer may be better for the next couple of years.
    The idea of the vest is intriguing but I’m not sure how my 6 year old would react to it and I am not comfortable with my 3 year old riding up front.

  6. I read a post from an RV forum online where the poster was a certified child safety seat technician. He is also a motorized RV owner and he has more than one child who rides in the RV while traveling as a family. Some of his children ride side facing in a car seat! What I found interesting is that he mentioned that while the ideal circumstances is not always present in an RV motorhome (forward facing seat, bolted to the floor, lap and shoulder belts, and the like), one should still use a car seat. Even if a car seat is installed in a rear or side facing seat, it will still provide additional protection (although slightly less than in an ideally configured seating configuration) for the child than if no car seat is used. Plus there are some higher end car seats that are side impact rated that will provide the full level of protection in a side impact crash (or protect someone in a side facing seat in a front or rear impact crash,and some do exist that are certified for use in rear or side facing seats although you are not likely to find them at Walmart or Target, as they are rare but can be ordered from manufacturers. RVs are also bigger and move slower which is also safer for children and it takes a lot more force to turn one over as they are heavier. This is similar to how buses protect passengers.

    The last thing I read is that the state laws vary as opposed to car seats in RVs. It has to do with the weight of the vehicle and how the state classifes RVs as if the child restraint laws apply and to what seats.

    1. We do talk about the various laws etc in the blog above. As for car seats that are allowed to be used in a side or even rear facing vehicle seat, did this person offer examples. Car seats are not crash tested in this configuration and it’s not part of certification so no car seats are allowed to be used in a side or rear facing vehicle seat configuration. I (a CPS technician since 2004) conferred with three instructors of the child passenger safety technician program just to be sure. And all three said there are no seats (cheap or higher end) that allow for such a configuration. We are happy to look at links if you and/or he can provide them.

      While a car seat in an RV not using a FMVSS 208 certified seat belt or a front facing vehicle seat, may offer some protection over not using any car seat, none would offer the “full level of protection”. Plus you still have to consider the projectiles involved a RV crash.

      1. Thank you for this article, Aime! I have a 3 and a 5 year old and am looking into getting a class C RV. There are seat belts in the two side-facing chairs behind the driver and passenger seats. Wouldn’t it be safer to use carseats – even if they aren’t crash tested in this configuration? It seems like it would be better than just strapping them in to the seats alone – yet you mention in your first paragraph that this isn’t allowed. Just looking for a bit more information so we know what the best option is moving forward. Thanks again!

  7. Just posting this for others to see what we did in our class A RV (I have pictures too if there is a way to share them). We took the couch out from behind the driver’s seat, bought a 2 seater van bench, bolted it to the frame of the RV, and have 2 forward facing car seats for our 2 young kids.

    1. LOVE THIS IDEA! Weve been stressing out how to do this with our kids, and we have about 3 seats we could use currently!

    2. I know this post was made some time ago, but I would love to see pictures of what you did for your RV seats.

  8. It might be interesting to do a crash test experiment with dummies in an RV and see exactly how much more protection (compared to no car seat) one has in some non-ideal circumstances. For example:

    * Class A RV with a Bench Seat not bolted to the floor
    * Class A RV with a side facing chair
    * Class C RV at the Dinette
    * Class A V in a Rear Facing Seat

    In addition, the “User ScottyDL” on (Search for his posts) that I described earlier mentioned that the term to search for seats that perform well in side crashes is “Side Impact Rated”. He mentioned this because if a seat is rated for side impact crashes, that when turned sideways (as in attached to a side facing seat), a child passenger front or rear impact collision will get the correct level of protection from the seat turned that way, at least in theory.

    BTW, the seats have changed since I was a kid. I cannot believe I survived the following when I was younger:

    * Rode in the front seat while I was still in elementary school (in fact on mountain roads it actually reduced by motion sickness) and my height was far less than 57 inches back then when I did it.

    * Riding in cars with lap belts only in the back (also common back then).

    * Was out of a booster seat long before I was in middle school.

    * Rode in rear facing jump seats as a kid while I was in second grade,

    * Rode with a teen driver their first year of licensing to/from school many days (back before graduated licensing was law) while I was in high school.

    * Rode on mom’s lap sometimes as a little boy

    * Rode in the back of a pickup (before it was banned)

    Almost all of us are still alive in our class today at our 20 year high school reunion! Did we just get lucky?

    1. That is an important distinction — “at least in theory.” Car seats are not crash tested for use in a side seat. The impact of a frontal or rear crash may have different crash dynamics on a car seat sitting sideways than a side impact does on a car seat facing the front.

      In a sense, yes, we all were lucky that we survived a childhood riding in cars the way many of us adults did. And things have changed that also affect driving safety now compared to then such as the higher number of cars on the road, higher speeds, higher average number of miles driven and cell phones increasing the number of distractions.

  9. Thank you for all your information yet I am still not sure what to do if the Camper Van we want to use will be safe for our 3 month old. The seating options look like this, driver and passenger seats, and a bench seat in the very back of the 20 footer van that turns into a bed….

    Should I be sitting in the back and have the baby in the passenger seat while my partner drives?

    Also in our truck none of the seats on either bench have the 2 metal clips where the car seat gets belted onto for extra hold and then use the seat belt.. so is that safe to use for the baby and car seat in the truck?

    1. Hi Martine, Greg emailed you our phone number so he can find out more specifics about the camper to better answer your question. As for using LATCH, it sounds like you are asking to use both LATCH and the seat belt to install the car seat. Only two car seats on the market currently allow you to do that. All other car seats do not allow you to use both LATCH and the seat belt. You need to pick one or the other. Read the car seat manual to see what it specifically says about using LATCH.

  10. So, we have a class c with tethers in the dinette, forward facing. Do I remove all the cushions, lower the table, and then install the car seat? Do I leave the car seat on top of the dinette cushions and have a cushion behind the car seat? I’d think dismantle the dinette down to a bed with no cushions, but I’m not sure.
    We have a Sunseeker 3270s.

    1. Since it’s not a crash-tested install, we don’t have definite answers to how to install properly in an RV. We would recommend putting the table down to limit what is in front of the child if there is a crash. As for the cushions it’s hard to say. How thick are they? Do they slide off at a sudden stop or are they attached somehow? Can you get a good install with the cushions or do you get a better car seat install without the cushions? Does the RV manufacturer have any recommendations, after all they put in tether anchors?

  11. Hi,
    I am new to this site and want to thank you for the great work you are doing. I was right in the midst of securing an RV with a deposit to secure specific dates until I started looking at little closer at the RV industry safety standards for children. I only came upon your site very recently.
    I have to say that I am utterly shocked and at a loss that, given the multitude of reasons I’ve read so far, that there are isn’t gov’t sanctioned prohibition in place for having kids travel in drive-able RVs (especially the ‘payload’ area). Or, in a worst-case scenario, that child seat safety restraints (seatbelt anchors & tether anchors fastened to vehicle structure, not wood seating, etc) is not required by law in forward-facing configuration. For all these reasons and more (such as projectile potential), Even after-market hardware installation should be certified by an agency within the Ministry of Transportation of any given province or state. I’ve decided to rent a large size passenger Van with all the appropriate safety requirements. Sorry for the long text. Keep up the good work…

  12. Dear Amie! We a family of 5, (3 children at a age of 1,4 and 6) are goingt to travel with a RV from San Francisco to Seattle in the End of May, beginning of June. We are coming from Austria and I have now studied several homepages and legal sites but I am still confused about the legal requirements. I know that it is not perfectly safe or the best way to have them in the rear of the RV. We are renting an 28-30″ RV and as far as I found out there is one seat at the dinette where a top tether anchor is available. This is the seat forward facing. So for me it would be be logical to put my youngest on this seat, with a rear facing child seat. My 2 other kids, age 4, and 6 would then be sitting on the opposite side of the table facing rearward in a child seat (booster seat with harness, behind the driver seat) On all of these seats only lap belts are available. Disadvantage is that my youngest will then face rearward and have no eyecontact with the rest of the family, so my idea was to but him on the rearfacing seat behind the driver seat and the 2 older ones forward facing on the opposite side of the table. Then the older ones could have an eye on my youngest one and I hope all regulations would then be met.. Is this correct? We are travelling through California, Oregon and Washington state.

    1. Hi Reimar, Placing a rear-facing car seat on a rear-facing vehicle seat means the child would be facing the front of the vehicle. This is certainly not ideal. A rear-facing car seat should be on forward-facing vehicle seat so the child can take advantage of the safety benefits of being rear facing. You said the other two children are in booster seats. Booster seats cannot be used with a lap-only belt. If you meant a 5-point harness seat you can install that with a lap-only belt however it still against car seat manufacturer usage to use those seats in a rear-facing vehicle seat.

      RVs do not appear to be exempt from California’s, Oregon’s or Washington’s car seat law requirements. Meaning all children legally must be properly restrained. Properly restrained means in a proper child restraint on a forward-facing vehicle seat. You could put one child in the front seat if there is no airbag but even then one child would remain improperly restrained. Will they ticket you if you get pulled over? Hard to say for sure but they could.

      Since this is not an ideal situation for the safety of your children, you will have to decide how to do the best you can with what you have once you are in the RV and see what is available.

      1. Hello….I’ve been struggling to find RVs with 2 front facing seat belt configurations.

        I’m also struggling to understand why it’s discouraged (I realize it’s not ideal) to have a car seat facing to the rear, in the rear facing seat with proper seat belts. Seems to me that this would be ok (not ideal) in the event of forward impact? The back of the car seat would be against the bench seat and would absorb the impact.

        Can you help me understand this better and am I correct with the above?

        1. Hello Troy,
          We understand RV’s are tough category of vehicle to transport a family with kids in car seats in.
          I will strive to answer your question about rear facing seats though. If I understand your idea, you are describing a vehicle seat that is facing to the rear and a rear facing child restraint. Are you thinking of A. a “convertible” car seat in the “forward facing” configuration but actually facing the back because of the vehicle seat facing the back or are you describing B. a rear facing only seat like a “carrier” installed facing the back of the vehicle in a vehicle seat also facing the rear? The reason I’m asking is there are 2 different answers depending on the proposed configuration. In scenario A. the answer is “the child restraint has not been tested or certified in that configuration”. It may be safe or it may be very dangerous. We just don’t know because it was not designed or tested that way. In scenario B we have the same answer as A but also the fact that a rear facing only seat would not have a belt path to install it facing the rear in a rear facing vehicle seat adding to the potential for something to very wrong in a crash. I hope this helps.

  13. Thank you for this blog.
    I am wondering about forward facing vs. rear facing. The recommendation to keep kiddos rear facing in cars has moved up to 2 yrs or longer.

    Wanting to take our 18 month old in a Class C.

    Side seating on a sofa seems like a bad idea bc the car seat wasn’t meant for sideways.

    Install the car seat to face the rear of the RV in the dinette?

    1. Hi Sarah, Right no car seat should not be place on a side facing vehicle seat. Car seats need to be placed on a forward-facing vehicle seat.

      So is the dinette the right place? Is the seat belt on the dinette rated for safety? Is it connected to the frame of the RV or just the wood of the dinette?
      Or do we consider the front passenger seat which does have a safety rated seat belt? But is there a front-passenger airbag? If so, can the airbag be turned off?

      Perhaps neither location is the ideal setup for a car seat, in which case you have to choose the best available after answering those questions.

  14. Thank you.
    I am going to check 1. If forward facing dinette seat’s seat belts are rated for safety and connected to the RV frame.
    If yes to both,, I think I feel comfortable installing the car seat facing the rear of the RV in the forward facing dinette seat.
    If no, there’s always next year ;)
    Thanks again for helping narrow down the right issues to consider.

  15. We bought a Class B 2011 with 2 forward facing buckets with lap belts behind the driver and passenger buckets and bench in the back with 3 lap belts. I worked for months to get a 3 point seat belt in the bucket seats for my grandchildren. I took motor home to Mercedes because van is a sprinter who said they couldn’t do anything. because the sprinter had already been customized in the back. I called Air Stream directly about the 3 point seat belt who said they did not have a solution. and that the van qualified for the same requirements as a bus and the lap belts were satisfactory. Then I went to a van customized shop who said they could not retrofit seat belts without going through safety testing. Then a local mechanic worked with me to buy some seat belts online which he would install but when he received them he could not bolt it the way he thought and couldn’t do it because of liability. So I only let the grandchildren come with us and sit in the lap belt seats when we are just around town vs on the highway. We are selling our RV next weekend to a young family with 2 children so once again I was looking for a solution for them. The safety vest with the anchor belt is an amazing find.. Thank you.

  16. Hello! Do you have any opinion on converted school buses with van seating installed for kids? Thanks!!

    1. I think we would need more details to form an opinion. Please give Greg a call at 844-421-7233 ext 700 to discuss the configuration.

    2. You could purchase ford transit bench seats or sprinter bench seats and have them bolted to the frame of the bus.

  17. I’m just curious, before my family and I even bother with an even, is this grounds for cps to get involved? I’d hate to do something fun planned for our family and it to go wrong over something we can fix!

    1. Can you be more specific? Is what grounds for getting CPS involved? Traveling with kids in RVs? If they are properly restrained per the legal guidelines for the state(s) you are traveling in then there should be no reason for CPS to get involved.

  18. Me and my husband are taking a trip in our new Class A RV this weekend for the first time and I do not know where to put my 8 month old in his car seat.. He is supposed to be rear facing.. Where is the safest place to put him? Our RV is also a slide out. We also have my 14 year old son and a friend of his going.. I’m not even sure where they should sit. Can you please tell me the safest place to put these kids? Thanks in advance!!

    1. I don’t know the specific layout of your RV so I can’t tell you a spot. But the rear-facing car seat needs to be properly secured rear facing in a forward-facing vehicle seat with a lap-only belt or lap-shoulder belt.

  19. Hi there, my husband and I are looking into renting an RV in a few months to visit some family (OK to ID). Our daughter will be 8 months around the time we are planning to go. I read that it isn’t good for them to sit in their carseat for more than 2 hours at a time. Is this correct?

    Our desire was to drive straight through (10 hours) as effectively, safely and cost effective as possible. Do you have any suggestions as to what type of RV to rent and what questions to specifically as these rental companies?

    During the drive, would it be safe to take her out periodically to play and feed her? Our main reason to renting and RV was to give her some freedom of movement and not have to stop every few hours for her to play and eat.

    Thank you so much for your help!

    1. Hi Kasey, It is true that it is recommended to not have your child in the car seat for extended periods of time. This became an issue because people were leaving their child in the car seat for long periods when they were not driving in the car. What you are proposing is a one time occurrence (well two because you have to drive back) rather than a habitual thing and a long drive in the car rather than letting you child sleep in the car seat at home. It would be ideal to take driving breaks (for baby and parents) to get out and stretch. And since it’s definitely not safe to take your baby out of the car seat to play and eat while driving in the RV, we would say if this is the only reason for renting an RV, it would be safer to travel by car and take several short stops. Plus probably faster and more fuel efficient. Also, you want to make sure the rear-facing car seat is at the correct incline to allow for optimal breathing.

  20. We have read these articles and blogs with great interest because we are considering taking small grandchildren on a trip. One point in some articles appears illogical.
    The point states that Children’s car seats must be facing forward. Centrifugal first e will cause all vehicle occupants and objects to be propelled forward in a frontal crash. In a forward facing seat, the 1 & 1/2″ wide belts are what prevents you from going forward.
    In a rear facing seat, the entire seat, including head rest, prevents your body from going forward. Ideally, you would always want your back facing an impending crash., not your front. The caution about never rear facing installation of child seats makes no sense.. As long as there are frame mounted the theta and catches, either is fine. Remember you never gave a baby facing forward and the seat manufactures recommend rear facing for the first 2 to 3 years.

    1. Hello James, You are absolutely correct that in a standard vehicle, in a forward impact, a rear-facing car seat, offers more energy diffusion/support than a forward-facing child seat. I suspect there might be some confusion between forward-facing child restraints and forward-facing vehicle seats. All child restraints are only tested and/or certified for use in forward-facing vehicle seats. In an RV there is often the option to seat occupants (including child restraints) in the back, in a rear-facing bench seating position. Obviously, because it has never been tested or certified this way, putting a child restraint in one of these seating positions would be outside of the child seat manufacturer’s specifications. To your point, it MAY be safer to install a Forward-Facing child restraint on a rear-facing bench seat BUT it is not, and can not, be recommended by anyone in the safety community because it is un-tested and outside all manufacturer installation instructions. We hope this clarifies the point. (and, just to point out, installing a “rear-facing car seat” in a rear-facing vehicle seat would put that child Forward Facing which would be very dangerous)

  21. We have a 2013 Ford Thor four winds class c. There is a sideways jackknife sofa with seatbelts but is simply bolted to the subfloor, not the frame. There is also a dinette with no seatbelts. These options are obviously not going to work for us so we have looked into a professional to fabricate mounts to install a forward facing seat behind the passenger seat that is married to the frame. The few individuals we have contacted do not entertain the idea due to liabilities. Do you have any insight on this process as we are not interested in upgrading our rig just yet. My wife currently drives behind me with our child in the proper safety seat configuration. Traveling is not the same when we can’t all be together on the road.

    1. Unfortunately we do not. I’ve always been told people should go to the manufacturer for that type of retrofitting. Maybe Ford would have some people they can refer you to.

  22. Hi,

    We just signed the paperwork for a Class C RV (Coachman Freelander Q21B) and we have a nine month old and a six-year-old. I didn’t know this would be an issue. Where do we put their carseats?

    1. Hi Vinita, Ideally you would put car seats in a vehicle seat that faces the front of the vehicle in a seat belt that meets federal standards. That is rather unusual in the back of RVs. You do want to make sure whatever seat belt is available is anchored to the vehicle and not just say the wooden table bench. Ideally it would also have a tether anchor available for forward-facing car seat or a RideSafer vest for your older child. You cannot use a booster seat with a lap-only seat belt if that is all that is available. I found specs for a 2017 Coachmen – Freelander 21QB. I don’t know if that’s the same as what you have or not. It does not appear that there are any forward-facing vehicle seats in the back of the RV and the specs do not share where seat belts are located. So I can’t any more specific.

  23. This is a phenomenal forum; thank you for the careful replies to all of the comments! Like many others, we are planning on renting a Class C RV this summer to drive from the west coast of the US to the midwest to visit family. The RV we have reserved is a 2019 23′ forest river forester, in a configuration with two lap belts on the forward-facing seat of the dinette. Our children are 6.5 and 2.5, and are currently in a belt-positioning booster and a rear-facing car seat, respectively. My plan is to turn the younger around so they’re both facing forward for the trip (to watch movies, etc), but would appreciate advice on the best seat configurations for both children. The online owners manual for this RV says that there should be a tether anchor for my younger child’s car seat, but I can’t find information as to whether the seat is bolted to the chassis. Additionally, what do you recommend for my older child? His booster shouldn’t be used with the lap belt, but he’s too big for the 5 point harness that came with the booster. Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole, You may need to contact the manufacturer to see if the seat is bolted to the chassis. Is there more than one tether anchor? If there is another tether anchor, you could use a RideSafer vest with the lap belt and tether. You also want to look at the seat back. Will the tether strap go over an actual seat back or does it just go over a cushion? It needs to go over a solid seat back.

  24. Excellent points – I am lucky that the RV rental is in town, so I can go inspect the actual vehicle in advance of buying any additional seats. Thank you!

  25. We are doing a van build. Can we build a box for car seats and bolt the seats with teacher straps in a sideways position? If we got pulled over and it’s not legal do we get a ticket or what is the recourse?

    1. Hi Tiffiani, I recommend you calling to chat with Greg about the box build. No child restraint is crash tested for use in a sideways facing vehicle seat position and would consider that an inappropriate use, which could be illegal in many states.

  26. Hi, great forum.
    I’m doing a trip with my 7 year old daughter. Rented a class B converted van.
    Seating options are:
    1. Passenger bucket seat up front (which can swivel to rear facing)
    2. Side seat in back with no restraints/visible attach points.

    Can she ride up front?!? (Going TX, AZ, CA)
    Does your restraint system work with either feont or rear seat?

    1. The RideSafer can be used in the front seat if need be. When used in the front we do recommend pushing the seat back as far as possible. Like other certified child restraints, the RideSafer can only be used in a forward-facing vehicle seat. You can look up specific state car seat laws here.

  27. Hello –
    Can you detail any RV options that HAVE seats bolted the frame/chassis with shoulder belts? My boys rear face in convertible car seats. One uses latch (but we could use the belt path he is 2 pounds away from the weight to switch) the other is belt path only. Trying to find which Brand, Class, floorplan, etc has seats bolted to the frame/chassis with shoulder belts is a nightmare online. I don’t even care how many it sleeps I can deal with all that once I get everyone there safely! Help! I have BOYS, I need the outdoors.

    1. Hi Jamie, We are not familiar with all makes and models of RVs. The best thing to do is to visit a dealer who can hopefully point you in the right direction.

  28. Hello,
    Am I correct: we have rented a RV for next summer and will be travelling in Ontario and Quebec with our by then 8 and 7 year old children. The 8 year old has to be in a car seat in Quebec, but not in Ontario (correct?). So I have been looking for a solution because our RV only has lap-belts (facing forward of sightways) and no anchor point or tether connection. Because we have 2 children, placing 1 in the front seat is no option. So I have to look for harnassed booster seats that can be installed with only a lap belt? If so I have found 2 seats that aren’t too expensive and in which my children will fit (although the 8 year old almost will be to big). Graco® Atlas™ 65 2-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat in Glacier™ and the Graco tranzitions 3 in 1 harness booster seat.
    Is my story correct? Many thanks!
    Susanne (The Netherlands)

    1. Hi Susanne, I’m not up to date with the various car seat laws in Canada to be able to answer that question.

      A “harness booster” (also called a combination seat) is used as either a harness seat or a booster seat. As a harness seat it can be installed with a lap-only seat belt (or lap-shoulder or LATCH) and the child is restrained with the harness straps of the seat up to the height/weight specification. As a booster seat the harness straps are removed and the child sits in the seat with a lap-shoulder belt over the child and seat.

      To be able to use the “harness booster” with a lap-only belt, you need to use it as a harness car seat (not a booster) so the question is does the 8-year-old fit the specifications for height/weight to still be able to use the harness in the car seat?

  29. Hello,

    I’m researching the proper child restraint in a transit conversion camper van with a swivel passenger seat for a four-year-old. I’m having trouble finding any answers or suggestions for safe cargo van restraint for kiddos.

    Any help would be appreciated!


    1. If it has a normal crash-tested seat belt in the seat, it should accept a forward-facing child restraint or a RideSafer vest. I would really need more information about the vehicle, seat belt configuration and child to be any more detailed. Is this the front passenger seat? Does it have a lap-shoulder belt? What do you mean by “safe cargo van restraint”; a safe restraint for a cargo van, a safe way to restrain cargo in a van?

Hello Amie,

    Thank you for the article and all the advice.

    We are in a less-than-ideal situation with our 2015 Mercedes Sprinter, as we only have a front 3-seater bench from the manufacturer and it is our only vehicle at current. We are expecting anytime now.


The middle bench seat has a full regular waist and shoulder belt + we picked up an Anchor Mounting Kit for ISOFIX Belt Connector that we installed properly for our Uppababy Mesa V2 seat

    There is no way to disable the passenger airbag without manually disconnecting it. I have found ways to do this online, but MB strongly discouraged it and talked about it potentially (the person didn’t know for sure) but thought it could affect the whole system (airbags + belts), which we do not want to mess with. When chatting with MB, they talked about there not being an airbag in the centre console of the vehicle. They did say the passenger airbag is wider than the drivers side. The manual does say that a front-facing car seat can be installed (of course not recommended).

    We are trying to figure out what’s best in this less-than-ideal situation here. One benefit is we created a barrier between the front and the back so projectiles from inside the vehicle/RV are minimized.


    1. Hi Martin, If I understand correctly, you need to put a rear-facing car seat for your new baby (Congratulations) on a front bench seat which has a passenger airbag that may extends into the middle seating position and you cannot turn off the airbag. Did I understand that correctly?

      We would suggest first contacting MB and see if they can tell you how wide the passenger airbag is and how far it deploys into the seating area so you can determine if it will indeed be in front of the middle seat as well as the passenger seat. If it does enter the middle seating position area, there is no way to safely install a rear-facing car seat here. If the middle seating position would be clear if the airbag should deploy, it might be OK to install a rear-facing car seat in the middle, though certainly not ideal.

      It also depends on how close the seat is to the dashboard. Will the seat fit in this space?

      You stated the manual says a front-facing car seat can be installed but is not recommended. That leads me to believe MB is not OK with installing a rear-facing car seat, which means if you do move forward installing one there, you would be taking on the liability.

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