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Can I fit three child car seats in my car?

How well do child seats fit?

By Lisa Galliers

Article 1 of 5

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Can you fit three car seats in the back of a car? That's a question we get asked a lot, and it's not as simple as it sounds. We tested typical family cars to find the answers.

Cars that fit three child car seats

Every child from birth up to the age of  12 years old (or 135cm in height) needs to be in a car seat, by law. Most cars fit one or two car seats without any trouble, but if you've got a third baby on the way - or twins, or triplets - you'll need a car that can fit three car seats easily. 

Many popular family cars are claimed to be the answer to your problems - but are they really? We've tested them to find out, so read our guide before you splash out on a 'family' car. We've tried to install three popular child car seats, from Maxi Cosi, Britax and Cybex, in a range of typical family cars to see what pitfalls might arise.

On the next pages we take a look at popular medium cars, large cars, five-seat MPVs and seven-seat MPVs. We give you a summary of each car, plus a detailed breakdown of each seating position, and a rating for each installation method the car uses. 

Need another car seat? We crash test each car seat we review. Find out which ones are the best car seats.

What we did

We attempted to install a baby car seat, a toddler seat and a high-backed booster seat in the the back of typical family cars, from Audis and BMWs to Fords and Peugeots. 

We looked at 27 different makes and models of medium cars, large cars, five-seater MPVs and seven-seater MPVs. 

Our car summaries reveal the problems you might face when transporting your little ones and your big ones at the same time, and illustrate the sorts of fitting problems real parents face every day.

Car seat laws - find out everything you need to know.

The child car seats we used

Baby car seat

Maxi-Cosi Cabriofix with Easyfix base 

Group 0+  (birth up to 13kg)

Installation method: Rearward facing, Isofix base with support leg or the three-point adult seatbelt.

Toddler seat

Britax Duo Plus

Group 1 (9-18kg) 

Installation method: forward facing, Isofix mounts, or the Isofix mounts plus the top-tether belt (three point), or with the three-point adult seatbelt.

Child seat

Cybex Solution X 

Group 2/3 (15-36kg)

Installation method: forward facing, three-point adult seatbelt.

In some cases, where we couldn't fit all three seats across the back seat, our experts were forced to use a backless booster seat in the middle position. We don't recommend backless boosters, as they're not the best choice to transport your child safety.   

What our guide tells you

We'll tell you which of the family cars we checked are suitable for fitting three car seats in, and which might cause problems. 

Our main aim is to see how well all three fit in the back row (called the second row in seven-seat MPVs). Can you fit them in easily without any issues? Can you close the car doors? Are the Isofix connectors hard to get to, the seatbelts to short, or will a top tether strap restrict the driver's vision? 

We tried all three car seats mentioned above, in each seating position as recommended by the car manufacturer. 

We also looked at the front passenger seat (only where recommended), and the third row of seats for any seven-seat MPVs, to see how suitable these positions were for a child car seat.

Our guide tells you: 

  • the number of seats in each car
  • the total number of children each car can actually carry
  • how suitable each seat position is for a car seat
  • A rating for each of the attachment options (Isofix, top tether or seatbelts).

Seating positions

We paid particular attention to checking seats installed on the middle seat of the back row (or second row in seven-seat MPVs) which is the safest position for a child car seat. We also checked those on the two seats either side, which is generally the most popular position used by parents. 

We look at whether there's enough space for all three seats, the accessibility of Isofix mounts and top-tether strapping points, the length of the adult seatbelts, and whether installing seats could compromise other aspects of the car’s use. 

A short seatbelt doesn’t mean you definitely won’t be able to fit a seat, but it's a clear indicator that there may be a cause for concern.

What we found

Some popular medium family hatchbacks and some supposedly 'large' family estates aren't suitable for carrying a child in the best position, ie the middle seat of the back row (or second row for seven-seat MPVs).

Our findings also show that the front passenger airbag in some top-selling MPVs - heavily promoted to families - can't be disabled, which means you can't use a baby car seat in this position.  

Try before you buy

We'd always recommend you try any seat in your car before you buy. Get your car seats expertly fitted, but do some research beforehand so you know a bit about the car seats and are fully aware of what to ask about. 

How to fit a child car seat - read our guide for expert fitting tips