Choosing a car seat that fits well in a small car (especially next to other car seats) can feel like putting together a puzzle with pieces of another puzzle mixed. To find the best car seats for small cars, Scary Mommy reached out to Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians Britney Schroeder and Joshua Dilts for more information on what to look for when buying a compact car seat model.
Britney Schroeder is a Nationally Certified Child Safety Technician (CPST). It owns and operates Buckle and Latch, LLC, a car seat safety education company in Seattle, Washington, that also provides virtual consultations. A mother of a toddler herself, she wants to make parents feel empowered, informed and confident in their ability to both properly install their child’s car seat and place their child safely in it every journey.
Joshua Dilts is a passionate advocate for child occupant safety, serving as a certified child safety technician and a lead product manager for car seats at chicco. Josh, father of three, provides constant inspiration and motivation to create solutions that make it easier for families to travel safely with car seats.
What to consider when choosing the best car seats for a small car
While looking for a car seat for a compact car, Schroeder says, “Some infant car seats are more compact than others (the Chicco KeyFit 30 comes to mind) and may fit better in smaller vehicles.” There are even models specifically designed to fit (hopefully) three in a row. For your convenience, below are the dimensions of each car seat so you can quickly measure what will fit in the back seat of your car.
But it’s not just a matter of choosing the most compact car seat – the size and shape of the car seat must fit well with your car and any existing seats. “The fit of the vehicle is one of the most crucial parameters that contribute to good crash performance for a car seat,” explains Dilts.
As a father of three, Dilts knows the battle is real when it comes to selecting and install a car seat. “It can be challenging to install a car seat up close,” he says. When it comes to proper installation in a small car, both Dilts and Schroeder warned of the same problem. Schroeder explained that in smaller vehicles, it’s critical to “watch out for rear-facing car seats” [are touching] the rear car seat […] the backrest of the driver or passenger seat.”
Dilts underlines: “This practice is dangerous and can affect the way the child car seat will behave in an accident.” He says you should be able to slide a piece of paper through the space between the front seat and the car seat.
He points out that a driver who needs more legroom “can limit installation options to the center or passenger side of the rear seat.” In this scenario, he recommends “choosing a car seat that offers plenty of reclining options.” [which] increases your chances of finding a good match.”
While there is no magic infant or toddler car seat that will fit perfectly in every vehicle (or stay miraculously clean), “the safest car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, fits your budget, and that you use correctly every time.” can use,” says Schröder.
All of our picks below are compact seats that reviewers say fit perfectly in their small cars. Also, don’t be afraid to get help installing your new chair! Find a Safe Kids inspection station or certified technician with the National Child Passenger Safety Certification program in your area.
1. The overall best car seat for small cars
The Chicco Keyfit 30 is one of the thinnest infant car seats on the market and is rated 4.9 stars on Amazon after more than 5,400 reviews. Designed to be easy to install, it has two level indicators and a spring-loaded adjustment foot, as well as Chicco’s patented locking system for the most secure fit. Multiple reviewers report that the size and shape of this seat were key to getting three car seats in a row. At 27.5 inches deep, one reviewer said, “It fits much better in my compact SUV behind the driver’s seat while sitting next to my other convertible car seat.” Another reviewer said it fit her 2011 Mini Cooper perfectly.
This Juvenile Product Manufacturers’ Association (JPMA) certified seat features a machine washable seat cushion and removable head and body support insert for newborns. It is also compatible with Chicco strollers.
Helpful review: “I installed this in my 2012 Honda Civic and 2002 Ford Explorer, the car seat is narrow enough to fit 3 car seats in the back of my 2012 Honda Civic. The base is easy to install, the car seat is easy to adjust to the size of the child and the car seat is easy to carry.”
Maximum weight: 30 £ | Dimensions: 27.5 x 16.75 x 24 in (L x W x H)
2. The Best Car Seat for Shallow Seats
Although a little wider than the Chicco Keyfit 30 (half an inch), the Cybex Aton 2 is 2.5 inches shallower in depth. The seat also allows use up to 35 pounds. It features technology in the breast clip that alerts you to problems such as uncomfortable temperatures, if the baby is unbuckled, sat too long or accidentally left behind. A linear side impact protection system that extends to your vehicle’s door promises to reduce side impact forces by up to 25% and a height-adjustable load leg that extends to the floor of your vehicle can reduce impact forces by up to 25%. % Reduce. 50%, according to the brand. The seat can be installed with or without a base via the European belt guide system, making it a solid choice for those who frequently travel by taxi or share rides. It comes with a newborn insert and is compatible with: Cybex Strollers.
Helpful review: “I bought this because of the low profile design. My daughter is now 15 months old and has almost outgrown it. It lasted well and I loved that it had a base to click in. Most bases don’t fit in a MINI [Cooper S.] It is also a comfortable car seat that will last a long time. Would recommend 10/10 for anyone with a compact or 2 door car. […] It fits next to my older daughters car seat.”
Maximum weight: 35 pounds | Dimensions: 25 x 17.25 x 12.25 in (L x W x H)
3. The Overall Best Convertible Car Seat for Small Cars
One of the best toddler car seats for small cars, this convertible car seat is suitable for children from 4 to 65 pounds. Parents love this chair, which has a 4.9 star rating with over 65,000 reviews. The Graco Extend2Fit allows rear-facing up to 50 pounds thanks to a four-position extension panel that provides up to 5 inches of additional rear-facing legroom. Small car reviewers rave about how well this rear-facing seat fits, even in small cars like the Nissan Leaf, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris. With a height of 23.5 inches and a depth of 21.5 inches, this chair can solve the car seat puzzle for many vehicles. The push-button locking system allows for quick and audible installation into the base, and you can adjust the height of the headrest and harness in one move without re-threading. It also has easy to read level indicators and a machine washable seat cushion.
Helpful review: “5 stars all the way! […]I hate that my passenger seat is so far forward, leaving little room for a front passenger’s legs, so I spoke to a CPST about a narrower seat. She recommended the Graco E2F as one of the narrower seats on the market. […] For reference, I drive a 2010 Jeep Liberty. Before installing the E2F, I put it on the other side of my back seat [and] could see it was noticeably narrower than the Evenflo [Symphony,] so I knew it would work better. […]”
Maximum weight: 50 pounds rear-facing; 65 pounds forward | Dimensions: 21.5 x 19.5 x 23.5 in (L x W x H)
4. Another great convertible car seat that even folds up for travel
The Diono Radian 3R is specially designed to fit three car seats neatly in one row. With a width of only 17 inches and a depth of only 16 inches, these slim car seats for small cars can be a great solution! One reviewer raved: “We can? […] fit two of these car seats and a child seat in a Prius – not a big car. Much cheaper than buying a new car for three small children!” This all-in-one chair can be used from birth (with the newborn insert, sold separately) up to 120 pounds as a high-back booster seat, meaning you can use one chair for about ten years. It also has a machine washable cover. Safety features include side impact protection, expandable side wings, SuperLATCH connectors. Customers say it is easy to install. Bonus: it is pleat to travel.
Helpful review: “We have three kids, two cars and six Diono Radians because they are great for putting three kids in the back seat if you don’t want to upgrade to a bigger vehicle and pay a bigger car. We drive a Subaru Forester and a Kia Niro and have a 5 year old, a 3 year old and an 8 year old. […] Since there are no cup or snack holders, the rear of the car is so much cleaner with these seats too! All three kids can take a nap here for family outings.”
Maximum weight: 50 pounds rear-facing; 120 pounds forward | Dimensions: 16 x 17 x 28.5 in (L x W x H)
5. The best car seat for small cars
This one of Italian make booster seat is ultra-slim and fits kids from 40 to 120 pounds. It avoids static cup holders to keep the seat narrow and has two fold-out cup holders under the seat. The chair has a custom fit because the adjustments to the headrest, upper backrest, side wings and bottom of the seat all work independently of each other. The booster has a sturdy integrated LATCH system for safety, five recline positions and stain-resistant fabric. Multiple reviewers pointed to the lack of armrests as a huge plus for promoting independent chair buckling. The chair can also be folded for storage.
Helpful review: “I’m a car seat psychologist (for safety) and I’ve tried multiples of each seat version (baby, convertible, HBB…) to find the very best of the best. After 3 different HBB’s, this Peg Flex is the holy grail. Here’s why: It doesn’t have armrests, so your kid can do the buckle themselves. […] The Flex has a narrower footprint than others because it has no armrests. Need 3 kids to ride? Do you need 2 to sit next to each other? You are golden. You can park the Flex next to different seats without any problems. […] The Flex can be adjusted in 4 directions, so your picky big child can decide exactly how the seat is best for him or her. […] This chair is no more expensive than its competitors, but it looks and feels like it should be. […]”
Maximum weight: 120 pounds | Dimensions: 17.25 x 22 x 26 in (L x W x H)