Preeti’s Car Seat Guide for Family SUVs & Minivans
Shopping for a family car is complicated. Throw in the need for children’s car seats, and your mind may explode.
After searching, and still being in the process of buying our second car, I decided to write a guide on car seats on SUV and minivan models (we don’t want a sedan so they are not included). This includes both 2 row and 3 row vehicles.
With nearly ZERO car manufacturer websites being transparent regarding car seat placement, the burden is left entirely on the consumer to figure this out.
Some questions families with children (from infant babies to toddlers to kids) have to ask:
- Does the second row come with BOTH lower anchors and back seat tethers?
- Does the second row middle seat have lower anchors?
- Do the third row seats have lower anchors? If so, which seats?
- Do the third row seats have back seat tethers? If so, which seats?
- Does the third row lack any child seat safety tethering?
That’s a lot of information to figure out. And even on the internet, it is disjointed. However, there are a couple websites to absolutely check out.
First is The Car Seat Lady – she covers just about every car make, model, and year and tells you which car seats can fit. Rear facing, forward facing, booster, etc. Bless TCSL and her team because it is THE MOST THOROUGH resource on the web for car seats.
Second, is A Girls Guide to Cars. The car reviews are detailed and helpful, though the breath of car seat reviewing is limited.
Last, and where I obtained all the below diagrams, is IIHS – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization that is funded by auto insurance companies. Their safety information is up-to-date for most cars though some, most notably the Chevrolet and GMC car models stop in 2017.
After you have perused the above and feel seriously overwhelmed, it’s time to get a cup of tea and review your intentions with buying a SUV. I wrote a pdf on questions to ask yourself (and your partner) on what is most important in your car purchase.
I also have a spreadsheet comparing pricing, engine power, anchor options, vehicle dimensions for 20+ car models. I manually pulled this data from car manufacturer sites, Edmunds, Car & Driver, and Google excerpts. It is by far the most comprehensive spreadsheet you will find comparing family size SUVs. As I work to complete the list and add new car, you’ll be able to see the changes. I very much hopes this helps you in your car buying process!
Then, figure out how many children you have/plan to have and how many children you want to fit in the car. For anyone with 1-2 children, every SUV/minivan is available for you.
If you have 3 or more children, then you need to do some planning. How many kids will be in rear facing seats, and how many in front facing seats? Do you want to squeeze another kid in if you’re doing car pooling?
Once you’ve written down your needs, the below diagram of 20+ car models will get you going in the right direction.
Each of these diagrams is from the IIHS, so please visit their website for more information. Also, I’m not a car seat expert and I cannot vouch for the information provided. Car manufacturers can change their info at any time.
I reviewed 25 cars that are both two row and three row options. Some of the interestings findings are:
- Many car manufacturers do NOT have lower anchor latches in the third rows. This is puzzling to me as bucket seats (used for babies and infants), car seats (rear or forward facing) and booster seats (for older children) all have lower anchor clips.
- Yet, many of these third rows have back seat tethers, which clearly mean front facing car seats *can* work IF you use the seat belt. Yea, I’m confused by this logic.
- Fiver seater cars do not usually have the rear middle seat with lower anchors. This means that slot needs to be a booster or a front facing car seat using a seat belt.
- Subaru as a car manufacturer is a winner hands down for all the larger car models. Personally, I dislike the interior finishing quality, but by golly, they know how to put down car seats.
- The Audi Q7 is the only car model that has lower anchors and backseat tethers for EVERY car seat slot. (If there is another model out there, please let me know!)
The list of popular car models and their car seat options
2019 Acura MDX
2019 Audi Q3
2019 Audi Q5
2019 Audi Q7
2019 BMW X-5
2017 Chevrolet Tahoe
2017 Chevrolet Traverse
2017 Chevrolet Suburban
2019 Ford Edge
2019 Ford Escape
2017 Ford Expedition
2019 Ford Explorer
2019 Ford Flex
2019 Honda CR-V
2019 Honda Odyssey
2019 Kia Sedona
2019 Mazda CX-5
2019 Mazda CX-9
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander
2019 Subaru Ascent
2019 Toyota Sienna – Not as versatile as the Honda Odyssey for car seat position, the Sienna does a better job than most other SUVs. Oh, and it comes in all wheel drive option too.
2019 Toyota 4Runner
2019 Subaru Outback
2019 Subaru Forrester
2019 Volvo XC-90
Any reason why the Lincoln Navigator was not taken into comparison?
Hi Poonam! Only reasons I didn’t include the Navigator is that I honestly haven’t the had time to research more into it because it’s not one of the top selling vehicles for 7 passengers. Also, the price tag put its at and above the Audi Q7, so it definitely is a luxury marketed car.
However, I would love to review it so if time permits, it’s on my list.
Would you please suggest a compact suv best for family with single child.
We have a sedan and it doesn’t hv much features in it yet we are happy but now looking for Suv for safety reasons.
We have Honda CRV in mind , what do u think?
Also we are thinking on Mazda CX5 or Santa fe sport.
Which one you would go for?
Those are all great options. You have the most flexibility when it comes to just one child (therefore one car seat configuration). I recommend test driving all the cars and deciding which drives best for you.