I recently blogged about how much gas money I saved from buying a Honda Civic rather than an SUV. I received a lot of nice feedback on that post (thank you readers!). The most common response I received was, “How did you fit three car seats in a Civic?!?“ I’m going to answer that question today.
The short answer: it wasn’t easy.
Both my husband and I drive Honda Civics. We could easily fit two car seats in our Civics. The problem was when we were expecting child #3, we didn’t think it could happen. Here are the challenges:
(1) We clearly could not add our baby car seat to the existing two car seats (actually, one convertible car seat and a booster). We could visually see that this wouldn’t work. Clearly, we would have to invest in new car seats. Thus, we had to find the right mix of three car seats.
(2) It’s not a stationary problem. When the baby arrived, we would have one baby seat, one forward facing seat, and one booster. After a few months, we would need one rear-facing seat, one rear-facing seat, and one booster.
(3) Some seats have dual functionality. For example, convertible seats can work as front- or rear-facing. The seat would need to fit in both modes. And that depends on the other two seats. The combinatorics made my head spin.
(4) Most of the information is bogus. The width of the back seat on car web sites is a rough estimate. The contours on the seats can affect the fit. Car seat widths reported on baby sites are often the size of the box that the car seat comes in (see this seat on Babies R Us that lists dimensions of 28.0 x 22.2 x 20.7).
(5) Just because you can fit three across doesn’t mean you can expect to use seat belts. Amazingly, “family friendly” cars such as the Toyota RAV4 have weird seat belt configurations that don’t really let you put three in the back seat at the same time.
(6) I wish I had a nickel for every time we heard someone say, “We couldn’t fit two car seats in our [insanely huge sedan] so we had to upgrade to a [insanely huge SUV].” (here here are people who “cannot fit” three in a giant Honda Pilot or GMC Envoy!) I have no idea why the common wisdom is so off here.
These are the two things we had going for us:
(1) Car seats are enormous. They are made for people who drive mini-vans. But with high gas prices, there is a growing market for slim-fit car seats that fit in small, fuel-efficient cars (yeah!!) While it might have been impossible to fit three across a few years ago, we had a fighting chance in 2011.
(2) This thread on fitting three car seats in small cars was literally the only reason why we even tried to keep both Civics. With all the misinformation out there, we didn’t think it was possible.
When we put all of this together, we learned that it was possible to get three across, but the information to do so was “expensive.” The slim-fit car seats were available by online purchase only — they were not available in box stores. Therefore, we couldn’t pull up to the local Babies R Us and pop a few floor model car seats into our cars until we found something that worked. We were going to have to do the best research we could and take a chance. Still, buying a few car seats was cheaper than buying a new car. I have have even built a decision tree to guide the process.
We ended up putting two Radian65 car seats in my husband’s Civic and a Combi Coccoro in mine along with older seats and boosters. We ended up spending ~$600 on new car seats, and we are happy with our decision.
We have since learned that a colleague of my husband fits three across in an even smaller Honda Fit. Every article I have seen suggests that only two car seats are possible. A little persistence goes a long way when it comes to fitting car seats in cars.
What surprised me is that this process was in stark contrast to just about every other decision we make. Online information was plentiful and accurate when we were researching a new washing machine. Decisions regarding kids are entirely another matter.
We usually have a wealth of information/data in operations research. But not always. For example, problems in homeland security and natural disasters are hard to come by, and the data is often perishable. The car seat saga was a reminder on how good we have it (in terms of data) most of the time.