Three car seats in the back: what you need to know

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Fitting three car seats in the back

Here at Mum’s Grapevine, we’re often asked what cars fit three car seats in the back row. It’s the ultimate question, one of the world’s finest mysteries, the holy grail of car safety for growing families.

And the answer is …

It depends! Whether a car can fit three car seats across the back depends on a number of different factors: one car model may just squeeze in all three but, a later version won’t. Another car may fit two booster seats and a car seat, but won’t fit a capsule, a car seat and a booster. Or your car may fit all car seats quite comfortably, but leave no leg room in the front seat for lanky adults.

So we might not be able to provide you with one simple and perfect answer, but we can help you find the solution. The great news is, with a little bit of thought and cunning, many small to medium size cars actually can fit three car seats, it’s just a matter of how you do it. Brought to you by Real Insurance.

Here are our top tips …

1. Get to know your car

Back seat of car

When establishing if your current car can fit three car seats in the back, or if you need to get a new one, there are a number of things to look out for.

  • How many anchor points does the car have and how accessible are they?
  • What’s the spacing between the seat belt clips? Will you be able to access them easily?
  • Are there side, rear and frontal airbags?
  • What is the car’s safety rating?
  • Is there enough room for prams, nappy bags and shopping in the boot once your back seat is taken up with kids?

Break out the tape measure and figure out exactly how much room you have to work with in the back. You don’t necessarily have to buy a people mover – many of our Mum’s Grapevine community report being able to squeeze three seats across the back of small SUVs, sedans and even the odd compact car. But it will very much depend on your configuration. So let’s get to work!

2.  Research car seats

Three Car Seats

Not all car seats and capsules are the same: there are a number of compact or narrow car seats on the market, designed for this reason. You’d be surprised by how much 1cm here or there can make a difference.

The Safe n Sound Compaq range and the Infasecure Kompressor are narrower convertible car seats, suitable from birth to four years. The Kompressor has a specially designed small footprint base and is Infasecure’s most compact car restraint yet. If you have one or more child in a booster, the Safe n Sound Encore Booster seat has an ultra-slimline base for easier access to seat belts, and the Infasecure Vario Kid features a narrower external width to aid three seat installs. Although marginally wider than the Encore or Vario, the Maxi Cosi Goliath is also a good choice.

3. Understand the law

Car Seats Rules: What you need to know

If you’re not sure what kind of child restraint you will need for your children, check out our guide to child seat laws in Australia, including advice about child booster seats versus booster cushions for the over fours, and booster seats versus seat belts for the over sevens.

It’s a refreshingly simple summary that will also allow you to look to the future. If your child is on the cusp of moving in to a new age group, make sure your configuration will work when they level-up.

4. Learn about restraints and extenders


There are a number of different methods you can use to fit and secure car seats to your car, but it’s important to do your research.

ISOFIX brackets, which feature in most vehicles imported to Australia, were officially approved for use in Australia last year. The ISOFIX system provides a safe and easy way to install a child car seat correctly without the need of vehicle seat belts.

However this doesn’t mean you can use an ISOFIX car seat from overseas: Child restraints purchased from overseas are illegal to use in Australia as they do not comply with the Australian standard.

Maxi-Cosi has now released the first Australian approved ISOFIX compatible car seat system, and it’s likely more brands will follow. The Child Restraint Evaluation Program has some great information about Australian compatibility and how to properly use ISOFIX.

Seat belt extenders can help car seats fit by offering more length to access difficult-to-reach buckles. But they should be used with caution. For example, seatbelt extenders are not recommended for use if the buckle is located over rather than beside the child.

Visit the Best Practice Guidelines for the Safe Restraint of Children Travelling in Motor Vehicles by Kidsafe for more advice.

5.  Get the order right!

Infasecure three seats

How you put the car seats in also might make a difference as to whether all three restraints can fit. InfaSecure provides some great tips about how you can get all three seats in. They suggest you always start with the middle restraint – it’s easier to install the side seats last!

6. Find some help

Choosing a car seat

Fitting three seats in the back row is very much a matter of trial and error, don’t give up! Different car seats, and different combinations of car seats can make the difference. Visit professionals who can install and adjust child restraints correctly, and show you how to use them correctly.

Professionals have a wealth of insider knowledge about which combos work and which ones don’t, and can point you to slim-fit car seats and capsules. Plus, they’ll make sure everything is properly installed and safe. Lots of our readers recommend heading to the Baby Bunting store car seat fitting days.

7. Ask the Mum’s Grapevine community

We recently asked over 100,000 mums if they could fit three car seats in their car and the results are in! Click below to visit the Facebook page, read tips and advice from other mums about what works for them, and share your own experience.


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(This post is sponsored by Real Insurance)

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