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Carseat Tetris: What Seat Fits In What Car

Sep03

by

Amy,
It’s me, the woman who interrupted your snap and go shopping this weekend at Buy Buy Baby. (Am I the only person totally grossed out by the name of that store?)
I know at the store you mentioned that you liked Graco infant car seats, and have heard good things from lots of folks about them–I was just wondering: do they fit okay in Subarus? I have been reading conflicting opinions online, but I think I remember you writing that you all are a Subaru family so I thought I’d check. We have a 2007 Forester if that makes any difference.
thanks for any advice you might have,
Bewildered in Buy Buy Baby

(You would not BELIEVE how often I get recognized by readers these days! Three times this weekend alone! I’m guessing it’s because I am 1) the circumference of a planet and visible from space, and 2) perpetually at the damn baby superstore, waddling through my target baby-having demographic.)
graco%20snugride.jpgOh yes, the Graco car seats fit FINE in Subarus (UPDATE from April ’13: see below on a reader who says that the Graco ClickConnect does not fit in her Forrester) . We used it last time with an Impreza WRX (much smaller than the Forester) with no problem. Since Noah was our only child he of course got prime safety placement (center seat, not by the window), and the despite the car not being particularly wide, the car seat didn’t significantly cramp the recline or positioning of either of the front seats.
This time we’ll be using the same carseat primarily behind the passenger seat in a 2008 Forester — poor second baby is too likely to get his little eyeballs poked by a curious three-year-old to sit in the center seat. (Jason drives the good old wonderfully reliable WRX now and will probably buy a second car seat base just in case we need to switch cars at any point.) (Runs off to add that to our shopping list, eeeeeek!) We’ve done a trial run with both seats (Noah’s in a forward-facing Britax) and while the front passenger seat can’t recline super-far, obviously, there’s still plenty of legroom for the average adult human to sit there comfortably.
If you’re still concerned, you can usually take display models out to your car to double-check. (We did this at Babies R Us [I am also totally grossed out by the stupid backwards R in THAT store's name, which strikes me as not "cute" as much as "illiterate."] before buying the Britax, since I was very worried it wouldn’t fit rear-facing in the Impreza.) Just ask a salesperson and they’ll most likely oblige — it’s not a weird request at all.
That way, in addition to checking out the fit, you can also do some real-world testing of the ease of snapping in and out. You might realize that finding the lightest seat is your priority, or the narrowest base (especially if you’re looking to fit multiple seats across one backseat), or you might hate the snap-and-release mechanism once you actually try it from the awkward sideways angle.
Now! Let’s get some reader input and bitching — tell me the make and model of both your carseat and car, and a definitive-ish yes/no/ehhhh on how well it fits. Bonus points for any tales of car seats that absolutely did NOT fit into a certain car. Double bonus points for car seat recommendations for small cars or fitting multiple seats and children into a single row. (NOTE: Bonus points not actually awarded or worth anything, other than the thrill of sharing your important car seat assvice.)
I did so much Googling before buying our carseat, trying to get a clear answer on whether the Graco Snugride fit into a Mazda RX-8. (Jason’s hot little sports car at the time — it had a small backseat accessible by suicide doors and the LATCH system, but I was still not sold on whether a rear-facing seat would really fit.) I couldn’t find a definitive answer anywhere. Turns out, YES, the Graco Snugride DOES FIT into a Mazda RX-8. A rear-facing Britax Marathon? Yes, but only if your passenger doesn’t mind sitting REALLY REALLY CLOSE to the glove compartment. Once the Britax can switch to front-facing, all is well again. Until, you know, your lease is up and your wife gets knocked up again and it’s time for the full-on sensible family car.

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s must-read weekly Pregnancy Calendar.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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32 Responses to “Carseat Tetris: What Seat Fits In What Car”

  1. Timi Sep 04 at 3:19 am Reply Reply

    We have the graco and love it. We have an absolutely teeny tiny Peugot 206 hatchback (I know they don’t sell them in the U.S., just imagine a very small European hatchback). It limits the legroom in the front passenger seat, but it is doable. The benefit to the Graco is that the base has a leg that stabilizes it against the car floor which is especially important in tiny cars because sometimes the base is longer than the seat and without the leg it’s not stable.

  2. Elizabeth Sep 04 at 7:48 am Reply Reply

    There’s actually a whole website about this issue: http://www.car-seat.org
    At one point, there was even a cool DB of user info about which seat fits in which cars, although I didn’t see it in my cursory look at the website.
    http://www.motherhood.com is also assembling this information, it appears.
    As for my data points: my mom drives a Subaru and we fit our Graco SafeSeat but it was tight. The convertible seat can only fit forward-facing. And both had to be on the passenger side, as the center position blocked my dad’s super long legs in the driver seat.

  3. Sally Sep 04 at 8:00 am Reply Reply

    We have TWO Graco Snugrides in the back of our Honda Civic, and they fit just fine. My 6 foot something husband can fit in either seat, as can my 6 foot something brother. He also has TWO Graco Snugrides (lots of babies in this family), but they don’t fit so well in his Hyundai Sonata or his really old Ford Escort wagon, so they are looking into getting a minivan or something else bigger (theirs are only two weeks old!). We are going to move up to Britax soon and I am very very nervous about fitting those rear-facing in our car.

  4. Becca Sep 04 at 9:36 am Reply Reply

    Much to my disappointment (I was really hoping both seats wouldn’t fit in the back of my car so we would have a reason to get something bigger) both a Graco Snugride and a Britax Marathon (the big one) fit comfortably in the back of my 2000 Neon. The Britax is currently forward facing, but it fit rear-facing with no trouble. There is no room for anything else back there, but the carseats fit and I fit in the front seat as does my husband, and we are both tall (I’m 5’10” and he is 6’4″. Neither of us have any legroom complaints).

  5. boofyq Sep 04 at 9:39 am Reply Reply

    We had two Graco Snugrides in the back of our 2003 Subaru Forester — they fit fine, but they really did cramp our front seats, so we ended up getting rid of the Forester and buying a Toyota Sienna. But if you don’t need a lot of leg room, they’ll fit just fine.
    Now that our twins of outgrown the snugrides, we have two Britax Boulevards in the captain’s chairs in the 2nd row of our Sienna, so there’s no real issue with needing enough room. They’re still rear facing, which takes up way more room than when we eventually turn them around.
    I don’t think the Boulevards would have fit in the Subaru rear-facing, but we never tried it.

  6. Amy Sep 04 at 9:55 am Reply Reply

    1. We had a ’99 VW Jetta, and nothing rear-facing fit in the back seat and still allowed me to drive (I’m 6′ tall, and that car had a weirdly tiny rear seat.) We traded it for a 2001 VW Passat, which now holds a Britax car seat and two boosters in the back, but is my husband’s daily and doesn’t get a lot of use. When I found out I was expecting a 3rd, we bought a Mazda 5. It totally rocks for around town driving with multiple kids. No fit issues for any car seats at all, since both the first and second rows of seats adjust fore and aft. I keep the youngest (still in his Evenflo convertible seat) in the second row for easy access, but the other two are allowed to sit in any other 2nd or 3rd row seat on boosters.
    2. Buy Buy Baby offends me too! Totally crass!!!
    3. I just know that some day I’ll run into Amalah in public. I just hope I don’t act like a total idiot fangirl when it happens ;^)

  7. Elizabeth Sep 04 at 11:00 am Reply Reply

    Our Graco SafeSeat fit in our Prius (in the middle) no problem. I think it might have been a bit of an issue if it had been behind the driver’s seat when my husband was driving, since he’s tall.

  8. kelly Sep 04 at 11:37 am Reply Reply

    As an aside, for Amy and anyone else contemplating infant car seats, you might not need the second Snugride base. We have a Grace Safeseat (bigger than a Snugride) but no car. Baby is 5 months old and we’ve stuffed her Safeseat into a wide variety of cars, including cabs, but we’ve never used the base. You can safely install an infant seat using seat belts, and when Mom friends who have two bases in two cars see me do it, they often comment that they wish they’d never bought the second base. Just a thought.
    Cars into which the Safeseat (remember, bigger than the Snugride) has successfully been strapped: Toyota Prius, Toyota Matrix, Nissan Altima, Pontiac G6, random cabs, Toyota Corolla, Jeep Cherokee.

  9. heels Sep 04 at 11:47 am Reply Reply

    We have the Britax Roundabout (LOVE that seat!!) and it has fit just fine both rear and forward facing in our 2004 Honda CR-V with plenty of room left over for two (medium-ish sized) adults to sit in back.

  10. Sara Sep 04 at 12:11 pm Reply Reply

    We drive a 2003 Jetta wagon and first used the Chicco infant seat (which I highly recommend, by the way) with no problems in a less-than-large backseat area.
    We then switched to a Britax Boulevard (big!) and had some problems with it fitting rear-facing behind my husband on the driver’s side. (For reasons too boring to go into, we can’t install it in the passenger side.) My husband isn’t particularly tall (5’10”), but it was pretty tight even in the most upright position.
    Now we’re in forward-facing land and all is well again. We love both the carseat and the extra room we have gained.

  11. Diane Sep 04 at 12:13 pm Reply Reply

    Our biggest issue with baby number 2 on the way is that our 2-year-old is still rear-facing. With the guidelines now saying “keep them rear-facing to the maximum rear-facing weight of their seat,” that puts us waiting until she hits 35 lbs. Which … will never actually happen. She’s 2 and only 23 lbs.
    We have a 2000 Chevy Impala, and the Britax Marathon fits great in the middle seat of the back, but moving it to one of the sides is nigh on impossible. We’re currently looking at mini-vans, etc., as it seems that we’re going to have 2 rear-facing for QUITE some time! Great timely post for us over here … thanks!

  12. Frema Sep 04 at 1:20 pm Reply Reply

    We have two cars: an ’05 Chevy Cobalt and a ’91 Chevy Lumina, and we love, love, LOVE our Chicco KeyFit 30 infant seat. Our carseat inspector said it’s the only *infant* seat to pass every crash test. Plus, it’s easy to install and super cute. Love it.
    Now that Kara’s getting bigger, though, we have to upgrade. We got a Britax Roundabout because we were afraid the larger models in that line wouldn’t fit in the Cobalt very well. The Roundabout is a perfect fit.

  13. Professor Art Nerd Sep 04 at 1:40 pm Reply Reply

    We have a 2005 Mazda 6, and the Chicco safeseat fits in there… okay-ish. DH has miles-long legs and gets very squished in there. I can’t wait till Lucy needs a more permanent seat! Any recommendations are appreciated!

  14. Erin Sep 04 at 1:59 pm Reply Reply

    OK, here is my question. Which non-infant carseat is the EASIEST to install with latch, and the easiest to use — easy to get them in and out, easy to tighten, and fewer strap twists?
    We have an Eddie Bauer something or other and a Cosco, and they are fine, but they get loose too often and find them too hard to tighten by myself, and the straps twist like crazy!
    Erin

  15. Melissa Sep 04 at 3:04 pm Reply Reply

    2001 Chevy Camaro and the Graco fit in the back but only if no one sat in the front passenger seat. So for 1 year +, I sat in the back seat with the baby anytime we went anywhere as a family. Which actually worked out ok because I could feed him and such on long car trips. The funny (sad) part was that if we took the dog on family trips as well, he and the husband had the front seats…it could not have been more stereotypical WT. Now that TC is in a forward facing seat, we all fit fine and in our appropriate places. Another note, we could not put the Graco in the backseat without the base. We needed the base and some Highway Patrol approved tubing to stabilize everything. But I have a truck and I didn’t use the base in the truck…the seatbelt / LAP combo fit a lot better.

  16. Laurie Sep 04 at 3:04 pm Reply Reply

    I used a Graco Snugride in the center of my 06 Jeep Liberty and on the passenger side with no major trouble. It was tight but doable. I now have babe in a Evenflo that rearfaced and can only go in the middle position. Big boys are in sunshine radian seats, as they are AMAZINGLY narrow and the only way I could fit a rear-facing plus two forward facing carseats in my Jeep and close the doors still! I love that the radian goes up to 65 pounds too, cause my 6.5 year old, at 50 lbs, is too big for most seats but a booster DID NOT fit (any booster at all) with the two carseats.

  17. Dana Sep 04 at 4:56 pm Reply Reply

    I have a forward facing toddler and infant twins, and we sit three across! When I was pregnant with the twins we bought a 1998 Mercedes station wagon, with a wide, flat backseat. We’ve had forward facing Sunshine Kids Radian in the centre with two rear-facing Perego infant seats in bases, no problem with legroom (but that car has a lot of room in the back). We now have 3 Radians across, two rear-facing, one forward facing. I think I’m going to have to put the forward facing one behind me (driver) because I’m a bit squished with the rear-facing convertible seat behind me, otherwise we’re fine. I’m only 5’5″, which helps.
    Radians are the key to getting three across: they are considerably narrower than a typical convertible seat.
    Another bonus to a big station wagon: the cargo area is immense. Holds a double jogging stroller and enough gear for a weekend away for family of 5.

  18. Nic Sep 04 at 8:56 pm Reply Reply

    Hi, I’m going to display an extreme amount of dorkitude here but I was a Child Passenger Safety Technician for a number of years. I let my certification lapse a few years ago, but this I know for sure: double check your owner’s manual before you do anything. A number of cars, some Subarus included, cannot have car seats in the middle seat because the belt anchors and/or LATCH anchors are too close together. So, even though it may look like the seat fits, it’s actually against manufacturer’s instructions and doesn’t work. There are very few car seat/car combinations that are a total NO GO. Get a seat you feel comfortable with, go to a check point to have them teach you to install it and you’ll be good to go.

  19. Jennifer Sep 04 at 10:25 pm Reply Reply

    We have an ’06 Volvo S-60 and the Graco SnugRide does NOT fit behind either passenger seat in any position anyone over 5 foot tall. Only in the middle seat and only if the handle is straight up. According to the hospital car seat expert, who was kind enough to read the manual to us, handle in the “carry position” is a legal position for new Graco SnugRides. If the handle is anywhere but “carry”, it fits absolutely nowhere.

  20. Kate B. Sep 08 at 1:04 pm Reply Reply

    Hey Elizabeth, if you’re still reading this–you mentioned that you used a Graco SafeSeat with your mom’s Subaru, and it only fit in the passenger side in order to give the driver enough room. Does that mean that it is so wide that even in the center seat, it impedes on the driver’s ability to put his/her seat back? We are leaning towards getting a SafeSeat instead of a SnugRide but have been warned that SafeSeats are bigger–I just didn’t realize that they are THAT much bigger.

  21. Angela Sep 14 at 8:13 pm Reply Reply

    We have a 2003 Camry, and are putting three seats across the back as soon as babe #3 arrives next month. We have two Radian 65 seats from Sunshine Kids that I love – narrow, easy to install (one with LATCH, one with a seat belt), and they are a 5 point harness to 65 lbs. The baby will be riding in a Chicco Keyfit 30, which is the easiest carseat I have ever installed. I had a Graco Snugride that I used for the first two, but I gave it away before it expired. The Keyfit is nice if you have a tight space width-wise – it is narrow and doesn’t flare out on the sides like the Gracos.
    Our lineup is baby behind the passenger (there is still a good amount of foot room in the front, but my husband is more comfortable driving another inch or so back) and the two-year-old on the driver’s side. My five year old is in the middle because she can fasten herself in – my back cannot take lifting and leaning to put in and buckle either of the smaller kiddos.
    Angela

  22. Julia Sep 19 at 12:49 pm Reply Reply

    A Graco Safe Seat 1 fits perfectly next to a forward-facing, center-seat-installed Sunshine Kids Radian 65 in our ’06 Toyota Corolla. Pretty sure we could fit another one on the other side too.

  23. Anonymous Oct 02 at 3:14 pm Reply Reply

    We have a 2003 Jetta and I can tell you that the GracoSnugride does not fit in the center or behind either seat if the passenger or driver is over 5 ft. tall. I’m 5’6 and my husband is 6 ft but there was no way that thing could fit without my knees being in the glove compartment. What does work? The most expensive carseat known to man, the Orbit system works pretty fantastically (Of course!!) and is easy to get in and out of the tight space. We were ready to sell a kidney and buy the thing and then we went and got a dog (hello?!) on vacation and now are reconsidering whether we can fold two adults, a baby and a weimaraner into a Jetta. Could be too much to ask, even for German engineering. I’m interested to know though if anyone has any luck getting the next size up carseat (after 20lish lb cut off)rear facing in the jetta? That is what is going to be the bear. Once it can face forward it will be fine I think.

  24. Olga Dec 08 at 12:22 am Reply Reply

    We have a 2005 Honda CRV and *two* Britax Boulevards — big sister is forward-facing behind the driver, and baby brother is rear-facing behind the passenger. NO problem, until you actually want to get a third adult in the car (we’ve had to seriously squish my poor mother-in-law).
    The Boulevard is pretty tall, so it defines how far back you can push the passenger seat; I’m still comfortable, but then I’m 5’6″. My brother, at 6’3″, was a little cramped.
    Incidentally, we also had the girl riding in the center until we discovered the LATCH attachments were not actually meant for a center carseat placement. Whoops. Something about shearing force in case of a serious accident. And the seatbelt method just refused to work for the middle seat (I failed, the official tech at the fire station failed, etc.).

  25. missy Mar 30 at 7:23 pm Reply Reply

    we have a honda civic and a toyota corolla and our peg perego primo viaggio fits great in both.:) love the seat too!

  26. Christy May 21 at 11:01 pm Reply Reply

    My husband and I have a 2006 RX-8. We read off of all of the forums that the Graco Snugride would fit in our car. We figured we would get to use the nifty LATCH system. Actually, my husband and I are both pretty short (he’s 5’5 and I’m 5’3) and the way we sit comfortably in the car (we don’t like to kiss the dash), the Snugride will not fit in the car with the base. I mean, it fits, but not properly at all, it goes way too far back into the front seats. However, if you take off the base, it will fit perfectly. But since we don’t like to sit at a 90 degree angle (and this is our only car), the top of the car seat does push slightly into the front seats, which may wear it out after a time. We do have a booster seat in the car for our daughter, and it fits perfectly and she has a ton of space. I can’t remember the name off the top of my head, but we bought it at Target. After we found that the Graco is hard to fit in our car, we went to a baby store and tried out almost every seat possible. A convertible car seat is almost impossible in our car to fit rear-facing, the are just too tall, you can’t have your front seats reclined at all. And none of the other infant carrier ones fit with the base either. We stuck with the Snugride.

  27. Kathleen Jun 16 at 11:20 am Reply Reply

    There is a database at http://www.carseatdata.org/ .

  28. Claire Jul 01 at 2:15 am Reply Reply

    We bought the Journey Premier Travel System-Connor from Babies R Us and we own both a Toyota Matrix and Mitsubishi Lancer.
    We put the carseat in the middle seat in both cars in a base. It fits… sort of. If my husband is driving and I’m in the passenger seat, my knees have to touch the glove box. When I’m driving he has to sit uncomfortably close, but not touching the glove box.
    Also, my parents drive a Dodge Ram and when the car seat is in the middle-back seat, the middle-front seat must be folded down.
    Other than that, I’m happy with the car seat.
    And this is all with the handle on the car seat folded down the the “driving” position. FOLD DOWN THE HANDLES PEOPLE. It’s in the safety manual for a reason.

  29. Leah Dec 20 at 10:03 am Reply Reply

    I know I’m like years late on this but I thought I’d add an additional Subaru data-point just in case anyone is googling. We had a ’07 Outback that we loved to death – until we had to put the baby’s convertible seat rear facing behind the passenger seat. The seat had to be pulled so far forward my back would ache on any trip longer than an hour or so. When they came out with the ’10 Outback and the ads were all “GIGANTIC INTERIOR!” I decided to go test our (The First Year’s TrueFit) convertible seats in it. Well, we ended up buying a ’10 about a month later, because not only does it fit rear-facing just fine, but it is also WIDER and I can put both seats right next to each other leaving room for an Actual Passenger in the back seat. There are LATCH connectors and top tethers in all 3 backseat positions – which was a nice little unnecessary amenity until I found out I was pregnant again a few weeks after we bought it. Now I’m thanking heaven that we bought the car and got a great deal on it then so that we don’t have to buy a new car because of our surprise 3rd kid!

  30. Debbie (grandma) Simpson Feb 10 at 6:26 pm Reply Reply

    I have a 10 month old grandson and I need to know what is the best car seat, that will grow with him, for a 2004 Dodge Neon. I drive my daughter’s car while she is at work and she drives mine which works but I’d be more comfortable in my car. Any assistance you can give me in this will be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!!!!

  31. Amy @ Baby Nosh Apr 08 at 11:46 am Reply Reply

    I have a 2006 Forrester and we tried to put the new Graco ClickConnect 40 in the backseat and it just didn’t fit! We had to move the passenger seat all the way forward so nobody would be able to sit there, much less my husband! We tried putting it behind the driver’s side, but I couldnt’ get my knees under the steering column b/c it was so far forward. So disappointed!

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Apr 08 at 12:35 pm Reply Reply

      Sorry to hear that! But, thank you for the feedback and we have updated the post to reflect your experience with the Graco ClickConnect 40. This post was originally written in September of 2008. As I can tell the Graco ClickConnect was introduced in 2012.

      I think Amalah is correct, trying out a store sample in one’s car is always the best bet.

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