Whether you have 3 kids of your own or spend some time carpooling or otherwise hauling around more than two kids, you're in for some surprises the first time you try to fit 3 car seats in a row into a normal sized vehicle (like, not a Suburban!). When it comes to squeezing three in a row, you want to make sure that the kids are comfortable and safe, and that you won't be spending 15 minutes scraping your hands and fingers trying to buckle seat belts that are being mashed between two giant car seats.

Cars that are probably OK. If you drive a minivan (like the Sienna, Odyssey, or Caravan), full-size car (like the Taurus, Avalon, Impala), midsize SUV (like the Grand Cherokee, Pilot, Highlander, Traverse, Flex, or Explorer). or full-sized SUV (like the Tahoe, Sequoia, Expedition, or Armada), three seats should fit just fine into the backseat with some strategic placement. And if you have the third-row seat, you're in even better shape. Most of these larger vehicles will accommodate even the bulkiest setups, like having 2 rear-facing car seats along with a front-facing convertible, or 3 front-facing convertibles in a row.

Cars that are probably not OK. But for most of us, who happen to drive from compact to mid-size sedans, crossovers, and relatively compact SUVs (like the RAV4, CRV, Escape, CX-5), you might find yourself having some difficulty trying to squeeze three car seats into the back. For instance, we recently tried to squeeze 2 boosters (the Graco Highback and Evenflo AMP) into the back seat of our 2010 RAV4 along with a Britax Marathon front-facing convertible seat. Together, they could fit if the convertible was in the middle (using the shoulder belt to secure it in place), and the two boosters were on the outside. But it was a very tight fit, and parent assistance was needed during each booster buckle-up (even with a 6 and 8 year old) because the seats were squeezed up so tightly to each other that fitting two hands down in to the slots to buckle was basically impossible. The trick was to slide the boosters out toward the door a bit, buckle them, then slide them back in and close the door. This made for some frustrated kids and, as you can imagine, somewhat frazzled parents.

Some options. As you've probably figured by now, there are only a few ways around this situation. The first is to figure out whether you can get a third-row seat into your SUV or crossover. For instance, the RAV4 and CRV can fit a third row seat, either from the dealership or a company like this one that makes aftermarket third row seats for many SUVs. The second is to consider purchasing a different vehicle, either a larger one like a full-size sedan or SUV, that will fit three wide, or a minivan that will fit up to 2 adults and 6 kids. The final option, and likely the cheapest and best, is to be strategic about which car seats to purchase, and how to arrange them in your existing vehicle. To help you out, below we list some of the narrowest yet best rated seats on the market. Rather than give you long-winded technical reviews of each (like we usually do), we are going to focus on a few things. First, the width of each car seat, and second their versatility.

The secret fit. The secret, as we've come to find out, is to figure out the right combination of shoulder belt, LATCH, and 5-point harnesses that will make life easier for everyone. The ideal situation is to have every seat using the LATCH or shoulder belt to secure it in place, and then the kid only has to use the integrated 5-point harness. So instead of using a booster that relies on the vehicle's shoulder belt, the better option is to use a narrow convertible that can gets secured to the seat using the LATCH or shoulder belt, and then the kids can use its integrated harness. This is for a couple reasons. First, no matter which car seats you choose, when there are three in a row they will be squished up so tightly together that it will be very hard for kids to buckle their own booster with a shoulder belt. Second, you will have much more flexibility in terms of where to place a rear-facing versus front-facing seats if you're relying on the LATCH and shoulder belts to secure them in place. But just as important, we've also come to find out that seats vary tremendously in terms of width, with some being upwards of 20-21" wide, while others are down around 17" wide. In the below list, we only consider car seats that are 17" wide or less (at their widest point). Be careful about car seats that list the width of the base but then get larger as they go up - like infant car seats have especially wide handles even though the base might be skinny, and some boosters have wide shoulder and head supports even though the base might be skinny.

Here are the best narrow convertible car seats:

dionoradianrxt1._Diono Radian RXT Narrow Convertible Car Seat. This car seat comes in around $300 for most color options, and up to about $500 for some limited release colors. The beauty of this car seat is exactly as depicted in the image: you can fit three wide without issue in most mid-size vehicles (like the Accord, Camry, RAV4, CRV, Fusion, Altima, Passat, etc), as it is only 17" wide (note the the included cupholder is removed for this fit). The key here is having a car seat that is not only narrow at the base but actually continues to narrow toward the middle and top. Many boosters and car seats actually get excessively wide in the middle and have enormous side impact wings at the top, reducing the chances that you'll be able to squeeze three in a row into your back seat. For instance, the Diono Olympia is also 17" at the base but it gets much wider toward the top (and thus is not recommended for fitting three in a row). The second important feature is having the option to secure the entire car seat to the vehicle with either the LATCH or the car's shoulder and lap belts, and then having the kids use the integrated 5-point harness. This is the best way to go, because then they don't have to jostle themselves and the seats around to try and squeeze the buckle and their hands into the little gaps (and better yet, the parents don't have to help with this awful process!). This particular convertible car seat can be rear facing from 5 to 45 pounds as a narrow infant car seat, then front facing from 20-80 pounds using the 5-point harness as a narrow convertible car seat, and finally up to 120 pounds using it as a narrow booster with the car's shoulder belt. So this is one of the few convertible seats on the market that is only 17" wide and can go from infant car seat (using the infant insert as pictured), to convertible car seat, to a full-on booster seat with or without the back. It has side impact protection, includes a top tether, and uses the Diono SuperLATCH system. It's an extremely well-built, durable, reliable, and safe car seat. As an added bonus it also folds flat for easy transport. This is a bit pricey for a mainstream convertible car seat, but for those who need to accommodate 3 in a row, this is the best option out there!

dionoradianr1002._Diono Radian R100 Narrow Converible Car Seat. No, we don't own stock in Diono or benefit in any way from including their seats at the top of the list. The reality is that they make the best narrow convertible car seats around, and this one is no exception. This more basic Radian seat is more limited than the RXT above, but it comes in at a more reasonable price point around $240. Just like the RXT, this car seat is only 17" wide, allowing you to fit 3 wide in most mid-size cars and SUVs. The basic frame size and shape is highly similar to the RXT, with only a few noticeable differences. First, it only has one layer of side impact protection (rather than two layers in the RXT). Second, it doesn't include an infant insert so it does seem quite roomy when used rear-facing with an infant, unless they are over about 15-20 pounds or so. Third, its weight capacities are a bit lower than the RXT: it can support 5-40 pounds rear-facing, 20-65 front facing with the 5-point harness, and up to 100 pounds using it as a booster with the car's shoulder belt. For most situations the weight capacity and range differences will not affect your use of the product. There are very few situations that require using a booster with a child over 60-70 pounds. The good news is that it is the same overall footprint as the RXT, also folds flat, uses the LATCH or belt to secure to the vehicle, and costs over $50 less than the RXT. To us, this equates to a lot of winning features and specifications to make this the best option out there for those who don't need the infant insert, are not overly concerned with doubling up on side impact padding, and don't anticipate being affected by the weight range differences. If you really need that infant insert, but don't want to pay the RXT premium, check out the Radian 120, which is similar to the R100 but includes an infant insert and a higher weight capacity (120 pounds). Though this does not come in nearly as many cool colors as the RXT, it does come in two similar colors, Stone and Shadow, that use a nice quality microfabric feel cloth.

clekfoonffllo

3._Clek Foonf and Fllo Narrow Convertible Car Seats. Here is another 17" wide convertible car seat option that is very well constructed, safe, and comfortable. It is also very modern in its styling and frankly quite expensive, coming in at around $380 for the Fllo, and $480 for the Foonf. These seats have some great safety and convenience features. For safety, it uses a steel and magnesium reinforced frame, energy absorbing foam, an anti-rebound bar (standard in Europe) to reduce seat roll and whiplash risk, and a 5-point harness. For features, it uses very high quality and soft, Greenguard-certified fabrics for eco-friendly and low-emissions fabric manufacturing, fully adjustable (no rethreading) headrests, and some truly adorable colors and patterns! Not only is the seat itself only 17" wide, but the base where the seat is raised off the vehicle seat is only 13" wide, which makes life much easier for very narrow installations. So the foonf is the more expensive option, and includes a few additional features: it uses the LATCH system to make installation easier, has a convenient recline function to ensure proper installation and comfort, and is approved for aircraft travel. The fllo is about $100 cheaper and has only a flip-up foot to assist with recline for rear-facing situations, does not include the LATCH system, and is not approved for air travel. Other than that, the two are very much the same. The weight ranges and capacities are 14-50 pounds for a rear-facing narrow infant car seat, and 22-65 pounds for a front-facing narrow convertible car seat. Notice how it doesn't quite go low enough to accommodate most newborn babies, doesn't include an infant insert, and the upper limit is nowhere near as versatile as the Diono Radian. But is definitely is the more attractive and stylish of the bunch, so we'll let you make the call!

gracoslimfitbig4._Graco SlimFit Narrow Convertible Car Seat. This is Graco's narrowest convertible car seat. Not nearly as narrow as the Diono or Clek models, but pretty close coming in at just about 18" wide. This will help you fit three in a row in a larger vehicle, like a full-sized car, SUV, minivan, or truck, but it might not help you fit three car seats in a row in a relatively normal-size vehicle. If you can squeeze another inch out of your back seat, this is likely a great option for you, especially given the reasonable price point around $175. There are some great safety features with this seat, including crash and side-impact testing of its double-layered side impact protection, 5-point harness, EPS energy absorbing foam, and InRight LATCH system. It also has some great convenience features, including an adjustable harness and headrest that adjusts across tons of positions, an infant insert to support babies as light as 5 pounds, two cupholders that can swing in to meet the 18" wide requirement, 4-position recline, and the versatility to go all the way from infant car seat (5-40 pounds), to convertible car seat with harness (20-65 pounds), and then to a belt-positioning booster (30-100 pounds). We loved the soft-touch fabric that was easy to spot wipe clean, and easy to remove for machine washing. We also liked the big plush side impact protection, the swing-in cupholders, and the fact that our test kids were really comfortable in the seat. It's an overall excellent narrow convertible car seat for a great price, and we highly recommend it!

combicoccorobig5._Combi Coccoro Narrow Convertible Car Seat. It shouldn't be surprising that there are so many European companies on this list, such as Combi, Clek, and Cybex, with their modern European styles. The reason is that Europe has tons of small cars, VWs, Fiats, Renaults, Skodas, Peugeots, and small Toyotas, so the market for narrow car seats is really large. The Combi Coccoro is perfectly suited for fitting into even the tiniest vehicles. The smallest convertible car seat on our list, the Coccoro is only 15.5" wide, which is the same width as our narrowest infant car seat! This convertible car seat is super comfortable, stylish, high quality, and safe. It has the Combi Tru-Safe side impact protection with very deep side walls, EPS energy absorbing foam, a 5-point harness with a visual indicator to show its buckled, and a tether connection for rear-facing tethering. It also has built-in lock-offs for a good vehicle seat belt connection, and easy to use (second generation) LATCH connectors. With rear-facing use, the seat accommodates babies as tiny as 3 pounds (with included infant insert) and as large as 33 pounds. That lower weight limit makes it a great car seat for premature babies. There are 4 harness heights that are easily adjusted. Front-facing can be used from 20-40 pounds, making this the most restricted convertible car seat on this list. So while it's the narrowest by at least an inch, it also cannot support children greater than 40 pounds. That means you'll need to purchase a convertible or booster seat around the age of 4-5 years. So while this seat has a lot going for it, we only really foresee it being useful to you for two reasons: first, if you really need to squeeze another 1.5" out of your back seat, and you're willing to pay the $250 to achieve that goal. Second, if you have a premature baby and constrained rear seat space, this could be a great option for you. Outside of that, it's super narrow but also super limited in functionality for most families.     

Here are the best narrow infant car seats:

chiccokeyfit30

1. Chicco KeyFit 30 Narrow Infant Car Seat. Near the top spot on our best overall infant car seats list (here), this is an awesome, highly functional, safe, well-built, and stylish car seat. It is on the slimmer side coming in at 17" wide, but it is not anywhere near as slim as the UppaBaby option (15.5" wide!). Though we've placed the Chicco at #2 on our overall best infant car seat list for 2017, let's be clear that realistically you will likely be very happy with this seat, and it's considerably narrower than our #1 seat, the Britax B-Safe. The Chicco KeyFit comes with a base that attaches into your car using either the Latch system or the conventional seat belt, it only weighs 15 pounds, and it comes in some adorable patterns and colors. It supports babies from 4 pounds (using included infant insert), up to 30 pounds. The Chicco KeyFit has multiple shoulder strap positions, but it only has one crotch buckle position, which can make things a bit tight for bigger babies. The shoulder straps are adjustable without rethreading, and we found the straps and buckles easy to use, and the straps were nice and wide which makes them less prone to twisting. The canopy is a big small, but very functional, and the engineers at Chicco were smart to leave ample space for your hand to fit between the canopy and handle, to make carrying comfortable even when the canopy is up. It really has all the features you'll want in an infant car seat, and it's only 17" wide, making it one of the narrowest infant car seats on the market. The Chicco KeyFit 30 sells for about $200.

uppababymesa

2. UppaBaby Mesa Narrow Safety Infant Car Seat. This is another narrow infant car seat option, with a base coming in at under 15" wide at the bottom (where it matters most), and then the entire seat (with the handlebar levers sticking out on the sides) coming in at only 17" wide. It's overall a fantastic car seat and is included in our list of best infant car seats. This is slim-line infant car seat makes squeezing 3 in a row into the back seat a bit more possible, even in smaller vehicles. Note that, however, they make up for some of the narrowness in its length, so it does stick out quite a bit from the seat making for a tight squeeze between the back of the front seats and the edge of the car seat. It fits babies from 4 to 35 pounds (up to 32" height), using the included infant insert for the littlest ones. In our testing, we found this seat to be very plush, comfortable, have generally high quality materials, and some great functionality. It clicks into and out of its base with ease, the harness straps are wide and don't become easily tangled, the handle is comfortable, the harness and headrest height-adjusts without rethreading, it includes the LATCH connectors, and it weighs less than 10 pounds. So it has a ton of great things going for it. It does have some drawbacks though. The drawbacks are: the fabric isn't so soft and doesn't seem to breathe well, the sunshade and handle interfere with each other a bit, and it's a bit pricey given these drawbacks, coming in at around $300. Outside of those issues, if you need that extra space, this is an excellent narrow infant car seat option that will definitely prove comfortable, safe, and reliable. To read our complete review, see here.

cybexaton2infantcarseat3. Cybex Aton 2 Narrow Infant Car Seat. This is an extremely lightweight, ultra-portable infant car seat with some excellent safety features, reputation for high quality, and european styling and comfort. We didn't get our hands on an Aton 2 car seat until earlier this year, and we were very impressed. Coming in at only 8.8 pounds and 17" wide (17.5" with handle), the seat supports babies from 4 up to 35 pounds (with included infant insert). It has fantastic safety features, including a load leg to reduce rotational forces during a crash, side impact protection, and LATCH capability. But for all that style, portability, and safety, you'll pay a steep price. Usually it's around $300 for just the seat, with the base coming in at another $160 or so. And the canopy is really small, and getting it into and out of the base isn't as easy as with the UppaBaby or Chicco. So, this is another 17" wide option for infant car seats, but we don't highly recommend it. In our opinion, you'd be better off with the Chicco KeyFit and save yourself about $250.

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