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3 kids - 1 small car - what to do?

post #1 of 61
Thread Starter 
Not sure what forum to put this in, so I thought I'd stick it here.

The issue:

I'm about to have a third baby and I can't figure out how to safely fit all three kids in the back seat of my Toyota Corolla. My kids are 5yr/45lbs, 3yrs/37lbs and soon a baby. Connecticut Law has just changed and now my 5 yr old needs to be in a booster seat until he weights 70lbs - so I need to fit two booster and a baby seat in my small back seat - there's no way with the current car seats I have.

So - does anyone else have three kids and not have a SUV/Mini Van? How do you do it? Are there any brands/types of car seats that are small enough to allow me to fit three in the back seat or should I just start car shopping?

post #2 of 61
I'm not in that situation, but would it work if you got the 'booster only' booster seat? I know there are the booster seats that are like the boosters in restaurants, but with a shield over the lap? I hope you know what I'm talking about- I'm certainly not explaining it well. I don't even know weight limits on them. If you put the 5 yr old in that, the 3 year old in the smaller 5 pt harness booster, and then the baby seat in the middle - that might work.

I would probably use it as an excuse to go car shopping, but getting different boosters (if they fit) is a much more economical choice.
post #3 of 61
Thread Starter 
Thanks. We actually have two booster seats like that for the 5 and 3 year old. still won't fit, may be car shopping time.
post #4 of 61
Yep--when we knew we were going from 2 to 3 kids we knew we had to switch over to a mini-van. We bought the Ford Windstar. It actually is much better than a car because the oldest is in the back row, the 2 girls in the middle row, and we are up front in the captain seats---I find the kids don't fight nearly as much in the car because of all of that "personal space" they have now. We also splurged and put a flip down screen (it is attached to the roof) so the kids can watch videos on long drives. I use to dread our 8 hour drives to the see the inlaws in Los Angeles, but now it goes by relatively quickly with the VCR and each of the kids having plenty of room to color and look at books in their car seats. Even my 9 year old is still in a Britax booster, and it helps me feel more secure about his safety.

We traded in our Subaru Forester and they gave us a pretty good deal on it. My husband has a smaller car for work.

Good luck,
post #5 of 61
When we just had the three girls, we only had our Eagle Summit, which is actually a bit wider than most small cars. But we had a small booster (which just positioned the belt) for my oldest, the baby seat in the middle (no base, but I just left it belted in all the time) and a booster with a shield (which is not recommended anymore) on the back passenger side.
post #6 of 61
We've done it in a Tercel. We got a Britax booster, which is really narrow. I forget the make of the other seats, but we had a booster and two five-point car seats in the Tercel (a tiny two-door), and later a Camry.

Now my boys, 10, 6, and 4, are in the back seat of an Opel (slightly smaller than the Camry), with three car seats: two boosters like the Britax, and a five-point seat. Shop around, it can be done. (Unless you're looking for an excuse for a new car. )
post #7 of 61
I have a similar problem, my Dh picks my son up from day care, and when our new one arrives he'll pick up the new one too. He drives a truck, with only the one bench type seat - I don't know HOW we're going to fit in two car seats + DH. I'm not sure what the weight limit is on a booster, but we'll probably try a booster for my son and then the baby/car seat.
We can't afford to go car shopping at this point, and the truck has NO payments (I have payments on my car still).
post #8 of 61
Those booster sheilds got recalled, none of them are safe, I'll see if I can find a link. You can use the boosters without them if you have a shoulder belt. And you don't want to put a child w/o a car seat next to one with one, as they can be crushed in a collision.

We got an old station wagon with a way-back seat that seats 7 altogether. We have four kids and this works for us, a new/er car was just out of the question, but on the bright side our insurance rates are low and we only have to carry Liability. I spend less per year on upkeep than I would if I had a car payment, even on a newer used car. It's a Chevy Celebrity Eurosport (89), and got great reviews and safety ratings when it came out. It was my ILs car, and they took very good care of it. It's a good car all around. We will top 200,000 miles for sure. You can get Oldsmobiles and Volvos with way-backs, too.

I ONLY buy used cars, it's a matter of recycling for me.
post #9 of 61
Don't have anything to add....just wanted to say HI
good luck on your birth! I'll be thinking of you
post #10 of 61
Thread Starter 
Thanks! I'm going to check out a Britax seat. Also - does anyone have the recall info on the booster seats with the arm b/c we have one of those - I didn't know they were no longer safe. I'm also going to try the idea of using the baby seat with no base.

We could buy a new car, but then we'd have to live on a very tight budget - I think dh would like the excuse to get the new car - I'd rather have a little extra money each month.


Oh good to see ya Missgrl
post #11 of 61
My understanding is that most shield boosters have not been actually recalled, but they are *not* safe. For children under 40 lbs they are far less secure than a seat with a harness, and they are not intended for use with kids over 40 lbs.--kids are ejected from them and in far too many cases, are injured or die. We had an acquaintance whose child (under 40 lbs) died in one (major internal injuries), and we stopped using ours right after that. Here in Sweden they don't sell shield boosters because they are considered unsafe. Here's an article about the conflict over banning shield seats:


Regarding boosters, the narrowest Britax booster we found three years ago was th Star Riser Comfy. It is much narrower than most other boosters, and last I checked had an excellent safety record. My ten year old still sits in a similar Swedish seat. http://www.epinions.com/kifm-Baby_Eq...ats-All-Britax There's a list of many of the Britax seats. They are not cheap, but if you compare them to the price of a new car...
post #12 of 61
here's the site I was talking about, scroll down for a discussion about the seat...it's a very comprehensive site about carseats, and gets updated regularly, you might want to put in your favorites


jaylind is my source for this info, and is chock full of great info about carseat safety. You can pm her with any questions, etc... and you are right, they didn't officially recall it, they just sent out notices saying to "throw it out" :
post #13 of 61
Thread Starter 

Thank you for those links! I'm freaking out that I've been carrying my children around in these seats for so long and they are so unsafe. My god - why are they alloud to sell them?!?

So I'm probably off to buy some Britax car seats today - as they do seem like the narrowest out there. If they still don't fit with the infant seat in the middle it's looks as if my dh will get his wish and I'll conceed to getting a new car.

Also I'll pm jaylind and see if she has any ideas.

Thank you ladies for helping me keep my boys safe!
post #14 of 61
i got your pm i don't hang here a whole lot so if you pm me and don't hear back, you can rattle my cage via email costumesplash @ hotmail.com (no spaces).

ok....three in the back of a corolla. not impossible, i know a lady who gets 3 in the back of her neon and i think they are about the same size. i have an escort and can also get three in the back. the trick is getting the right seat combination for your car.

i guess the first question i'd have for you is, which seats in the back have lap/shoulder combinations? two? three? none? depends on the age of your car. the second important question is, do the seats have headrests or other head support for kids that might be sitting in backless boosters? if a child's ears is not above the vehicle's seatback, that is adequate head support. if their ears are above the seatback or headrest (if there is one), you need additional head and neck support that a high-backed booster will provide.

i will tell you that if you can get away with a backless for your oldest, that will generally take up less room. a nice inexpensive one is the evenflo right fit. IMO the rightfit is the same as a britax starriser (NOT the starriser comfy with the back on it, which indeed is quite narrow if you are wanting a high-backed booster). here in oregon we have thousands of rightfits available for free or a small donation from low-income families so you can check to see if your state has such a program. here is a link to CPS contacts in your state: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/inju...ontactList.cfm speaking of state contacts, here is a locator for seat inspections, you might take whatever seats you get and have someone there check it out or offer ideas since i can't see what you have going on...i'm sure i'll miss something: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/inju...acts/index.cfm

ok...what else? once you have figured out which seat will go where, in my experience, if you start installing with the middle seat first, you

ok i'm gonna post this because at the moment i have a high risk of losing it all to my 14 mo old LOL
post #15 of 61
ok LOL sorry about the interruption

ok...what else? once you have figured out which seat will go where, in my experience, if you start installing with the middle seat first, you will have the best luck in getting them all in there. say you are putting a harnessed carseat in the middle. when you have that middle carseat installed, you have a little wiggle room. remember that the seat needs to be tight AT THE BELT PATH. this means that the part of the seat where the belt goes through, you have to have it installed such that that part of the seat doesn't move more than one inch side to side. an inch of movement is ok and that's where you have a little wiggle room. also the rest of the seat will probably more more than an inch (if you grab the back or sides of the seat and wiggle) and that's ok. it's the beltpath where it has to be tight. get it as tight as you can and then i'm guessing you will still have some wiggle. 1 inch is acceptable.

then you can go about installing the other seats. your under 40 lber should still be in a harnessed seat...it will take a 37 lb 3 you a loooong time (sometimes a year or more) to get to 40 lbs so you can keep that one in a harnessed high backed booster. i have a century breverra ascend and it's not the best seat as far as twisty straps (you have to be VIGILANT about smoothing them out every time) but it works. any kind of high backed booster with a harness is fine, you might try to find the the narrowest one. britax doesn't make a harnessed high backed booster unfortunately and since your little is still 3 lbs under the limit for most harnesses i would get him something other than a britax. ok anyway, you can install that seat next to whomever is in the middle, just be sure that when you are installing you get it tight INDEPENDENT of the other seat. sometimes the edge of one seat will hang up on another and that can leave slack in the belt in a crash. when you are done installing, it's ok if the seats touch (i can't see how they won't in a corolla) but you must be sure they don't hang up on each other.

and a smaller backless booster should fit on the other side for your other kiddo, provided you have all the head support i mentioned earlier and of course a lap/shoulder belt.

for me, when i put 3 in the back, i put the high backed harnessed booster in the middle, a britax convertible (advantage) on the outside, and another backless booster on the outside. try lots of different combinations, you should be able to find one that works for you. if i had to use another high backed in place of the backless, i could fit another narrower one in there (not another century, it's a tad wide).

hope that helps a bit! lots of factors to consider!
post #16 of 61
Originally posted by dotcommama

Thank you for those links! I'm freaking out that I've been carrying my children around in these seats for so long and they are so unsafe. My god - why are they alloud to sell them?!?

So I'm probably off to buy some Britax car seats today - as they do seem like the narrowest out there. If they still don't fit with the infant seat in the middle it's looks as if my dh will get his wish and I'll conceed to getting a new car.

Also I'll pm jaylind and see if she has any ideas.

Thank you ladies for helping me keep my boys safe!
it's ok to put the infant seat on the outside. in fact, your infant will be better protected in the infant seat than your toddlers will in the boosters because of the high side "wings" of the infant seat. i have a 3 yo and a 14 mo and i actually have my 14 mo on the outside (have since his birth) because his convertible seat has deep side wings whereas the high backed booster doesn't, so my 3 yo is less protected in a lateral (side impact) crash. don't be afraid to try different combinations in seating. it's ok to put the baby on the outside (counterintuitive, i know....).

edited to add that YES i am a certified CPS technician...i got my certification last november when i realized how easy it is to misuse seats. at least 8 out of every 10 seats are installed incorrectly or misused in some other way. and of course, internet advice is never the same as having someone actually look at your seats and your car. have your seats CHECKED by a technician. i posted a link above.
post #17 of 61
Thanks for posting all this, jaylind, you are such a great mama

One more question, if it's safer to have the infant on the side and the booster in the middle, what do I do if I have only a lap belt in the middle? Would he be better in the way-back where I have a shoulder strap?
post #18 of 61
Just wanted to say what we found worked -

DH has a Cavalier (read: TINY backseat) and we had no van when we were expecting DD#3.

We measured all the high back boosters (the safest option) and they were all the exact same width! Even the ones that seemed REALLY wide were took up the same amount of space in the back - so we kept the same carseats we had.

As for the infant seat - two measured smaller --- a Peg Perego Primo Viaggio (which is pricey) and a Century Avanta. The Century Avanta was at Baby Depot (at Burlington Coat Factory) and had a really skinny base. It sat up much higher than most and because of that the girls on either side couldn't mess with the baby too much.

Another important point is to use a base and the harness on the highback for as long as possible. (My DD's carseat allowed her to be in the seatbelt at 30lbs, but we opted to continue to use the 5pt harness instead). The car seats are all SOOOO close together, it is VERY difficult to get to the seatbelts. This is the same reason you *do* want to use a base for an infant seat - you will not have to worry about properly installing it every time you put the baby in (which I don't find you can do with the baby in the seat at all, since you have to depress the seat to get a tight fit).

So, with us, we had our 5 year old in a highback booster with the seatbelt on the left...our baby in the Century Avanta in the base in the center...and the 3 year old in a high back booster with the five point harness on the right.

Hope that helps!

Edited to add: When placing the boosters, keep in mind where the center seatbelt "female end" is - the place where you clip it in. The high-back booster with the harness in use is the one you want next to the clip from the infant seat because you'll never have to access those seatbelts (except for occasionally checking their tension). The five year old's booster will need to use the seatbelt, and he/she will have to access the clip to get in and out - TRUST me - the child WILL unbuckle the baby's base if they are side by side - it is such tight quarters that I've even done it once or twice. So, make sure the five year old can ONLY get to his/her seatbelt clip.
post #19 of 61
Thread Starter 
jaylind - you are a goddess of carseat knowledge! I want to thank you for posting so much good information.
sunmountain - I have the same problem - I only have a lap belt in the middle so the baby is going to have to do there. Both sides have shoulder belts and a regular back seat with no special head rest.

jaylind - i have two more question for ya - I hope you don't mind.

#1 - Is it true it's not safe to buy a used car seat. All the car seats I've had for my kids have been bought second hand - I never thought it was a problem, but while doing all this research I've seen a couple of things mentioned about it being unsafe b/c if that car seat ever was in an accident then it should no longer be used.

#2 - After reading all this info about the unsafety of those booster seats that I've been using I went out and bought two Graco Travel Booster Seats. http://www.netkidswear.com/gracturcarse.html

Have you heard of them - are they safe? They seemed like the Britax that a lot of people mentioned here, but they are good from 30lbs - 100ish I think. Anyway, I know you mentioned that only a five point harness would be best for my 3 yr old, but this seemed okay for his weight. I put them together and had them do a test sit in them and it seems like they are way more secure in these seats then they ever were in the booster!

Okay - I think I'm done for now! Thanks!
post #20 of 61
Thread Starter 
momschooling - thanks for some ideas. I'm going to check out those two infant car seats and see if they might fit.

The problem seems to be there is a slight slope to my back seat - so when the baby seat is in the middle the other seats sit at an angle next to it - doesn't seem very safe. Right now with the two new safer and even narrower older child car seats I still only have out 5" max to squeeze a baby seat it.

Oh and very good point about the 5 yr old accessing the baby car seat belt - I can totally see how that would happen.

Man - I never thought this would be so complicated!!!!
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