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Old 08-22-2011, 11:14 AM   #1
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3 seats across in a small car

I have a Toyota Corolla & curently have my 3 & 5 year old in car seats in the back. We expecting another baby & trying to decide what to do with vehicles. The options basically are to fit 3 seats across-probably moving my 5-yr-old into a booster in the middle, get narrower car seats if needed or to replace the car with something larger. Financially we could replace the car, but I like the one we have & we would definitely have lower fuel economy on anything larger. I've heard that sunshine radians are the narrowest seats, but I don't believe anywhere locally carries them & I would hate to order them online & then find out that even they don't fit. Have any of you tried this with a Corolla or something similar? I'm pretty sure we will be able to cram some combination of 3 seats back there, but how do I know if they are safely installed? If the seats are touching would that cause safety issues? If my daughter is in a low-back booster between 2 car seats, could the car seats slam into her during an accident? My son's seat has a pretty high base, so I think part of the booster might sit under his seat & possibly under the baby's seat as well. Would that be safe?


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Old 08-22-2011, 12:50 PM   #2
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Re: 3 seats across in a small car

There are definitely people who have successfully used 3 car seats in a Corolla. Check the 3 across thread at, and keep in mind that the model year of the car can make a difference. If you're not sure whether a different model year is basically the same as yours or not, check MSN Autos. For example, all Corollas 2003-2008 are basically the same, so if something works in a 2005 Corolla and you have a 2007 Corolla, then it will probably work in yours. (Make sense?)

It will probably work better to have the 5 yo in a harnessed seat, because, first of all boosters often aren't narrower than harnessed seats, and second, with a booster you need to buckle/unbuckle all the time. A harnessed seat, once you get it in there, it's staying!

ETA: It is fine if car seats touch each other as long as each one is installed tightly, without depending on the other seat to make it tight.
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Old 08-22-2011, 05:26 PM   #3
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I just did a three across install in a corolla (2000) 2 weeks ago.
We ended to with her 3 year old behind the driver in a FF classic marathon.
5 year old in the center in a highback graco turbobooster.
Newborn will be behind the passenger in a RF'ing scenera.
The marathon and scenera are both on somewhat of a base and the turbo fits under the lip of each side. She had access to buckle the booster by lifting the inside of the scenera cover at the beltpath and reaching through the hole of the scenera. I'm not sure if that made any sense!
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Old 08-22-2011, 11:47 PM   #4
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Re: 3 seats across in a small car

I don't have much to say except your 5 yo needs to be in a high back booster at her age not a low back booster. The high back will help position the seat belt correctly over her shoulder.
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:33 PM   #5
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Re: 3 seats across in a small car

We have a 2005 Corolla and a 2007 Prius (which, I think, have pretty comparably sized back seats), and have done three across with the Prius. We put a Radian in the center (seatbelt install), a EFTA outboard RFing, and a graco HBB outboard. It was tight but it worked.

I would keep the 5YO harnessed if you can -- if you could afford 3 radians I'm pretty sure they'd fit great in the back based on my radian install (two radians and an infant carrier like the keyfit would probably work well also). And a booster in a 3 across situation in a small car is a PITB, since you have to buckle/unbuckle every time and usually there's very little clearance for that (for our 3 across, I had to carefully loosen the belt far enough for my nephew to snake into the booster but not so far as to lock it).
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Old 08-23-2011, 06:19 PM   #6
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Re: 3 seats across in a small car

I have a '09 Corolla. Right now I have a Evenflo Symphony (RF) and a Britax Boulevard (FF). I definitely have enough room for another Britax back there.
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:25 PM   #7
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Re: 3 seats across in a small car

Two radians and a Graco infant seat fit across my 06 Civic hybrid (which I think is one of the smallest backseats for 3). Once the new kid (due in October) is out of the infant seat we will do 2 radians and a harmony dreamtime booster (for my then 6 year old). Infant will remain outboard on the passenger side since mommy is 5'10'' and can't have the drivers seat pushed all the way up as well.
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