Three’s Company – car seat edition

Car Seats 04
where we were a month ago

Come and knock on our door…

Just don’t make it the car door. We’re maxed out on space.

Hard to believe that just over a month ago we were still parents of two, that we hadn’t met our wonderful, second daughter, nor knew that she was even going to be a girl (we like the surprise), and that at the time we were still lamenting over how we were going to make three children (and three carseats) work in our existing (and paid off) cars.

New cars (even new-used) weren’t an option as the money just wasn’t there for monthly payments. So we read, and read, and read. And we ordered, and purchased, and tried, and returned.

And we’ve hit upon something that, lo and behold, seems like it’s working.

Meg owns a 2009 Kia Sportage, while I have a 2011 Chevy Cruze – two very different vehicles, but the parameters we’re challenged to make work with.

We knew that with a newborn baby, we didn’t want to be picking the baby up and down to get into the car if we didn’t have to, so keeping the Graco click and connect ‘bucket seats’ were huge on the priority list if we could make it happen.

We even called in my dad, who we jokingly call the master of spacial relations, honed through years of enjoying Tetris on the home computer. And between all of us, here’s what we came up with:

2009 Kia Sportage

new car seats 03
three seats, one Sportage

The Graco bucket seat placed in the middle means a bit of a reach to get the baby in an out, but was necessary to get our son’s Graco Highback Turbooster seat on one side for the shoulder strap seat belt that it requires. On the other side is a Diono Radian R120 Convertible Car Seat for our two year-old girl. The Diono proved to be skinny enough to help make configurations work but well-built and sturdy enough to feel secure.

Now, all that said, it’s important to note that it IS a tight fit between the booster and the infant bucket seat. I say this because, of course, the thing with a booster is that you’re using belt buckles like you would elsewhere in the car, not latch systems like you do with the Diono on the other side. And it DOES take some maneuvering to get the buckle into the latch. Having the bucket seat base next to the booster, though, does provide some maneuverability to finagle the belt into the latch as needed. Due to where the seatbelts all fall (on the same side of the car), it meant this was the only configuration where this would work – bucket in the middle, Diono behind the driver and booster behind the passenger. Otherwise, we could in no way get the booster’s belt buckle in to click. Regardless, it does mean that for the time being, we adults will have to buckle him in and out versus doing it himself, but it works for the situation we were faced with. And will change as the baby grows and moves into other seats herself.


2011 Chevy Cruze

new car seats 01
The amazing disappearing back seat!

Faced with an even smaller backseat than the Kia Sportage, my Chevy Cruze proved a bit more challenging. But I’m glad to say that we made it work and yes, kept the Graco click and connect bucket seat for the infant in the mix.

With the bucket seat in the middle, we used two Diono Radian R120 Convertible Car Seats on either side for our little guy and now the eldest of our two girls (still weird to say that). The Diono’s thin but sturdy frame meant it fit within the confines of the backseat. It just meant that we had to ditch using a booster in my car (you’d never get to the seat belt) and use the Diono on either side and their latch system.

So, there we have it. Three seats for three kids in both cars. Yes, there was the expense of buying three new car seats (the Dionos) and one Graco booster, but that cost far outweighed what would be new car payments for each of us every month. And while we’ve been primarily using my Chevy Cruze in our daily travels since the conversion, it has (knock on wood) gone rather well.

While every car is going to be different, I hope this proves useful, and maybe provides a few options to someone out there who may have been in a similar situation.

Published by thedorkydaddy

So many people say they want to be "the cool parents," but I have no such delusions about myself. I'm as nerdy now as I always have been. Only my perspective has changed. I am what I am. I'm the dorky daddy.

4 thoughts on “Three’s Company – car seat edition

  1. I saw your post on the Graco Facebook page and clicked through to your blog post. I’m a certified child passenger safety technician (aka car seat tech). Figuring out 3-across set ups in smaller cars is definitely one of the more challenging aspects of parenting and being a CPST. I’m also the mom of 3 (ages 8, 5, and 2). It looks like you may have a few errors in your current installations. For both of your cars, the center seat needs to be installed with the vehicle seat belt as the vehicle’s LATCH lower anchors are only permitted for the side seats. Using seat belts instead of lower anchors for all 3 seats will often buy you a bit more usable width for installing as well. The top tether strap for the forward-facing Dionos should be routed under the vehicle head restraint as noted in the Cruze owner’s manual on page 3-52. If you’ve never had your seats checked by a certified CPST, I’d highly recommend it. Best of luck with the newborn and life with 3!

    1. Thank you for this, Ashley! We’ll make sure to have it checked out by a CPST (we’re fortunate to have frequent seat-checks by various law enforcement agencies in our area) to get things corrected!

  2. Hi! I have the same Kia and am currently going through the same situation. I’m curious if you tried rear-facing the Diono Radian with any luck? Also, did you take measurements of the back seat and car seats to see what might fit, and did you find any other car seats that might be possibilities?

    Thanks so much! This post was so helpful!

    1. We haven’t tried rear-facing the Diono Radian, only front-facing, so unfortunately I’m not much help there. As for measurements when we were figuring it out, though, we looked up the measurements of the Kia’s backseat online and then used that to look at car seat measurements as we tried to figure out what worked best and that’s how we ended up with the Diono. I don’t recall coming across any others, quite honestly, that had slim enough measurements that we felt would fit.

      I’m so glad the initial post was helpful even if my follow-up here may not be so much! Good luck to you!!

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