Three’s a crowd

How I wish we would have thought ahead a little better. But how would we have known we would have three kids in three years? Even so, we knew we were having multiple kids, therefore should have put a bit more forethought on some of our gear purchases. The big one has been Car Seats. At the time Araiya was born, we poured over Consumer Reports and chose a super safe convertible seat, the Evenflo Triumph. It is a great seat, and we have been very happy with it. So when Tallis came along, we simply bought a second. The downside, the one clincher, is the seat flares out at the armrests, so at nearly 22″ wide, two seats along the back bench leaves too little room to utilize the middle seat. Impossible to fit a third car seat.

It isn’t that this is a car issue. Even if we bought a minivan, most require that the safest configuration restricts you to put only a traditional booster in the rear-most seats, not a car seat with a full harness. We purposefully bought a very compact Subaru Wagon for Urban mobility, 4-wheel drive and efficient gas mileage. Our previous car was an Outback Wagon, we were surprised to find our new ’08 Impreza Wagon has several more inches of useable seat space across the back bench, even though it is a smaller car. Still, we found ourselves in a position where we needed to purchase not just an additional car seat, but THREE entirely new car seats that would work in a configuration to place them all in a row. Most car seats, especially convertible car seats, tend to be really darn big.

It has taken a lot of searching, research and advice to figure out what to do about this dilemma. Friend’s of ours have three kids even more closely spaced than ours will be and also drive a wagon. They told us about Sunshine Kid’s Juvenile Product’s Radian Car Seats. These have turned out to be one of the narrowest and most compact seats we looked at- a mere 17″ wide. They also can be used for an incredibly long time, Birth through 65lbs or 80lbs, depending on the model. We were also impressed by the foldability feature of the seat, which increases the use of this seat for travel, especially on an airplane. I know there are other seats in the 17″-19″ range, including some Britax seats which other friends are having good luck with in the back of their Subaru Forester, so luckily there are other options as well. These were the ones that continue to pop up the most shown as three across the backseat. The seats were very easy to install using both the LATCH system on the side seat and the seatbelt install on the middle seat. Araiya, (who is now almost 3 and is in the middle), can buckle herself in, but because the seats are so narrow, it is very easy for me to reach in to unbuckle her when we get out of the car. The seats are very compact installed in the Impreza, very minimal and low profile off the seat-backs, keeping lots of additional space on the floor in front and visual space out the side windows, something the Evenflo’s infringed on.

The original consideration was to purchase 3 of the Radian 65’s, but the more we measured and deliberated, we realized in our compact car, the back of the seat is really darn high for it to be rear facing. We feared it would create a bad blind spot in the backseat window and interfere with the function of where one of the front seats could be. Placing it in the middle would have lost our access to the other two kids if they needed anything while we were driving. Our kids are on the small side, so we knew that whatever rear-facing seat we got for baby g.3 would be in that position for more than a year until she reaches 20lbs. Araiya is not heavy enough to go into a real booster seat either, and it is just far safer to keep her in a 5-point harness as long as we can. Considering this, we went ahead and purchased a used Infant Seat (or Baby Bucket, as I call them) for baby g.3 because they are more compact than a convertible seat rear-facing and in about 15 months time Araiya will have turned 4 and we can then safely purchase her a booster-type seat, extending the longevity of our car seat system. We have never had a Baby Bucket before, I always thought it was kind of silly to haul a huge piece of plastic around that weighs more than the baby does. Not to mention the notion that an infant spending long periods of time in a semi-reclined position can impact spinal development. Car Seats are intended for use in a car, so I suspect our new Baby Bucket will reside permanently in it’s base. 

The infant seat is a Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Infant Car Seat that is less than a year old. Since I have never used one, we were a little concerned during the installation when we couldn’t tighten the seat down nearly as securely as the other convertible seats, the base rotates up around the belt towards the seat back. Apparently this is something called Rebounding. I know it is designed to help protect neck whiplash in an infant, but it is still a little concerning that the seat moves around so much. Regardless, it is still a very safe seat and offers some of the best side-impact protection, which tends to be the majority of car crashes anyways. We installed it on the right window seat, as that is also the least likely place to get hit (that is why Subaru places the gas tank on that side too). It also allows me to access that seat directly, rather than reaching over a seat to get her buckled in the middle. Currently with the infant seat out of the car, we retain an entire seat-space for an additional passenger, something that has become a bit of a foreign concept in the last year.

And now we are set. Three seats that fit in such a way that is functional and safe in our little Wagon:

threeinarow

Of course, one of the biggest factors here is cost. We have already put out several hundred dollars on Car Seats, so that is my biggest regret in not thinking ahead in figuring this out when we made those purchases. Because of the original seats we chose, we had no choice to replace them at a projected cost of around $600. Ouch. With the exception of this, the third kid would be really cheap since we already have everything we need. A little time and effort helped cut that down though. The infant seat we bought used, primarily because Baby Buckets are used for such a short period of time, often far less time than they are designed for (we purchased it off a family who’s little boy exceeded the weight and hight in less than 6 months so they had to buy a rear-facing convertible) and they don’t retain their value long. We knew this would be our filler purchase, something to get us through baby g.3’s first year. Then we did a ton of scouring the digital marketplace and found an online store with a 20% off coupon (found via Retail-Me-Not) in addition to No Tax and Free Shipping. That reduced the price of the two Radian’s from $198 each to $314 total and delivered to our door. Adding in the used Peg Perego we stayed under $400. We do expect to in a little more than a year be needing to get a booster for the oldest, but at least this way we can spread out the outgoing capitol of this large expense.

I am not a car seat expert and I know there are other solutions out there, but this is what will be working for us. I wish three years ago someone would have spurred us to really think through the future of what are car travel would look like, it would have saved us a lot of headache over the last few months as we had to hash this out.

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~ by gdesign on July 15, 2008.

6 Responses to “Three’s a crowd”

  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  2. Great great great great post. we get a lot of calls about how to fit so many car seats in a car. Sunshine Kids is a great brand, too.

    I’d just say that you are mistaken on one point. The safest place for a car seat is in the MIDDLE of the back seat, and not the side. You have to compromise a bit because you have 3 seats, but the middle tends to be safest because in the event of a side-impact collision (the deadliest sort of collision), the force has a little time to taper off before reaching baby. A bit ugly to think about, yes, but still worth mentioning for those with only one car seat.

  3. Sally-

    Thanks for the feedback. I did just want to reiterate that our reason for not putting the infant seat in the middle was because I would have had a hard time getting baby in over another side seat and it would have blocked access from the front passenger seat to the other two girls. I don’t think that connection was as clear as it could have been in the post text. Our decision to select the rear right of the car was based on that is the safest SIDE to put a carseat if it needs to be installed somewhere other than the center. Additionally, Subaru’s are made with LATCH anchors in the lower seat crevice for only the two side positions but provide top LATCH anchors for tethering in all three seat positions. Hope that clarifies what I was trying to say above!

  4. […] the doctor, there will be an injury reported in the crash which will require us to replace both our brand new car seats. Thankfully that will all be covered by the Cadillac’s insurance and regardless I am going to […]

  5. […] Three’sa crowd […]

  6. […] used car seats gdesignjournal.wordpress.com […]

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