Families with three kids are often put in a difficult position when it comes to choosing a vehicle. The struggle that is three car seats.
If you weren’t driving a minivan before baby #3 came along, you may be strongly considering one now. But a minivan isn’t the only option. It is entirely possible to accommodate three car seats comfortably in many different vehicles. Here are my best tips to help you get through this phase.
1. The right vehicle
Whether you’re looking to upgrade or wondering if your existing vehicle will be able to accommodate three car seats, it’s best to do your research ahead of time. You can use Cars.com’s car seat check to find out the rating on your vehicle or one you’re considering buying.
The busy lifestyle that this stage of parenthood is infamous for means spending a lot of time on the road. If I factor in our regular 2 hour road trips back to our hometown on the weekends, it’s safe to say that we spend nearly as much time in the vehicle as we do anywhere else. Purchasing our family vehicle was as big of a decision as was purchasing our home, so research was essential.
2. The right car seat
The type of car seats you’re using will also have an impact. In a perfect world, you may have one child in a high back booster, one in a convertible forward facing seat and one in a rear facing bucket seat. But if your children are closer in age or if you have multiples, you may have two in bucket seats and/or rear facing. The combination possibilities are endless.
The other thing you’ll want to consider is the brand of car seat you are using. Some are created bulkier than others and this can affect how well they fit side by side by side.
Cars.com has done a lot of this research for you. Here is a list of vehicles that can fit three car seats side by side.
3. The right position
Which car seat goes where? There’s no right or wrong answer. As long as the car seats are installed correctly and don’t hinder the position of the driver and passenger seats in front of them, it doesn’t really matter which child sits where. You can watch this car seat safety video from Cars.com for more information.
Consider keeping easy access to the child who needs the most attention.
If the baby tends to sleep during car rides, then you may want to keep the rambunctious toddler within arms reach instead.
OR, you may want to keep the oldest child closest to you in order to pass things to them to distribute among their siblings.
Another thing you need to think about is the convenience of getting into and out of the vehicle:
If the oldest child can buckle themselves in, put them the farthest away from the door.
Bucket seats on a base are simple enough to move but can be heavy and bulky and usually best suited close to a door.
Give yourself enough space and leverage to buckle in that squirmy toddler.
Factor in the weather. Dealing with car seats is one of the reasons why moms hate winter.
4. The third row shuffle
Having a vehicle with a third row isn’t always a necessity with three kids. But it IS a bonus. I, like many other parents, avoided getting a minivan and opted for an SUV with a third row instead. Here’s a list of the best three row SUV’s for car seats. And while that third row isn’t regularly used, it’s a nice feature to have, both for additional seating and for when the kids get older and will want their own space in the backseat.
Because as much as I don’t want to admit it – the day will come when they will no longer be in car seats and the struggle of the daily buckle will be another memory for the baby book.