Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let's play - What was the car maker thinking?? (or - were they thinking at all?)

It's the disappearing center seat!

Why should you care?
  • The center of the back seat is the safest place of the car
  • Studies show kids are 43% safer if they ride in the center instead of the side
What does a "normal" center seat look like?
2010 Honda Accord Sedan
Center: 15 inches wide
What car seats might work in a narrow center seat?
  • If you or a parent you are helping have a vehicle with a narrow center seat, we at The Car Seat Lady recommend trying the Graco Snug Ride 35 (if you need an infant seat) or the Britax Marathon / Boulevard (if you need a convertible seat).  We find these two seats to fit in narrow situations where other seats won't.  However, there are some centers that are too narrow for even these seats.  While the First Years True Fit Premier has a narrower footprint than the Britax, the head area of the First Years is wider and often won't fit rear-facing in the center of the vehicle without forcing the driver to sit too close to the steering wheel (the contours at the top of the Britax tuck themselves nicely between the two front seats).  
  • For reference, the footprint of the Graco Snug Ride 35 is 9.25 inches and the Britax approximately 13 inches.
Get ready to watch the center seat disappear!
Note: All of these center positions have top tether anchors (for forward-facing car seats) - which means that someone who made the car thought it would be possible to install a car seat in this position.  I'm wondering what they were smoking?

It gets narrower...
2010 BMW X5Center: 9.5 inches "wide"
Best part: if you can find a forward-facing car seat that is narrow enough, the head rest is fixed and angled forward which prevents the car seat from resting flush against the back of the vehicle seat, and thereby prevents a tight installation
And narrower...
2010 Infiniti EX35Center: 9 inches "wide"
(check out the dual hinges the center is sporting - this center is a car seat nightmare)

and narrower...
2010 Nissan Cube
Center: a svelte 8 inches
Worst part for a car seat: the seat belt & buckle are 5 inches forward of the bight!

wait - it's almost non-existent here...
2010 Toyota Highlander - back view
My bottom hurts just looking at this center seat
2010 Toyota Highlander - front view
I didn't get to measure as I lost my tape measure, 
but the center is probably about 6 inches "wide"
Wait... it did disappear!

2011 Mini Cooper Countryman
Finally, a wise decision - if you don't have room for a center seat, don't tease us with 8 inches of a seat that is unusable for a car seat or a human body


  1. The narrowest carseats are the Sunshine Kids Radians though.

  2. The Sunshine Kids Radian is 9-10" wide! So it will fit in some of those seats.

    What about the Minivans that have 2 top tether points but ONLY have them in the Captain seats, Or the ones with 3 top tethers, and its 2 in the captain chairs and one in the center back seat. Heaven forbid you have more than 3 kids requiring a top tether, your SOL (especially here in Canada where the top tether is required by law).

    I think that if a vehicle manufacture would actually build a vehicle with children's safety in mind, they'd sell ALOT of them.

  3. The Radian, like most convertible seats, is wider at the rear-facing belt path than the forward-facing belt path. The measurements can be found at: http://www.skjp.com/product/97556/195XX/_/RadianXTSL%26%23174%3B# At its narrowest it appears to be at least 11 inches, from their measurements. The other complicating factor is that the Radian is a much more difficult seat to install rear-facing than others - and while it may be narrow it does not tend to install securely in positions that have hinges and other unfriendly contours (which are usually the ones that also have the narrowest anchor points).

  4. I am sadly in the situation that Samantha describes. I need to put 2 kids still in harnessed seats in the back row of my mini van, no latch for outboard positions, we will have to use the belts. I am HUGELY uncomfortable with this choice, but at this time a new van is not an option. But I think I will start researching and trying to juggle money before October when this must happen.

  5. Anonymous: The lower anchors and the seat belt are two means to the same end - i.e. securing the car seat to the vehicle. Just like contacts and glasses are two means to the same end of helping you see better and neither one is better than the other, so too with the lower anchors and the seat belt - neither is better than the other as long as the car seat is installed securely.

    When you say no LATCH for the outboard positions, I'm not sure if you mean that you have tethers but no lower anchors, or that you have neither tethers nor lower anchors.

    What is the make/model/year of your minivan? With this info I might be able to recommend some seats that will work for the kids and your minivan. Email me at info@thecarseatlady.com and I'd be glad to help.

  6. Okay so, I have a problem. I'm having twins, have a 3 year old in a booster or convertible by Evenflo we have both. What seats will fit my infant twins and my 3 year old son in the back seat of a Nissan Cube 2009 model? Would 2 Graco Snugrides fit in the back seat with a booster seat for my 3 year old as well? Help?