The “3 Kids in a Row” Challenge
The search for the best narrow convertible car seats is one that many people have to struggle with. As more and more safety features have been added to car seats over the years, they have had a tendency to get wider and wider. For those that need to be able to fit 3 kids in a row on the back seat of their vehicles, this can be a real headache.
Although family sizes in developed countries are generally on a downwards trend, many people still choose to have at least 3 children. I have 3 kids under the age of 6 myself and, although it is a wonderful blessing, it does bring with it certain logistical challenges that parents of one or two children simply don’t have to deal with.
The Safety Features vs Width Dilemma
Very often the car seats with the most safety features (like the Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT) “wings” that are found on the Britax Advocate ClickTight or the Britax Pinnacle 90) are usually not an option for those that drive around in standard sized family vehicles. They are simply too wide.
For example, the width of the Britax Advocate ClickTight comes in at a whopping 20.5 inches and I can assure you that, unless you have some sort of Scooby-Doo van, you won’t be installing 3 of those side-by-side in the back seat.
So, do you need to compromise on safety features and chooses a non-premium convertible car seat?
Fortunately, the answer is NO because there are at least 3 very good alternative convertible car seats that manage to combine premium safety features with a narrow profile.
Before going into more details about the dimensions of these 3 seats, there are a couple of other matters that you ought to consider when finding the right seat for your child.
Although it is common for car seats to have a recommended lifespan of 6-8 years, the Diono Radian RXT and Diono Rainier are said by the manufacturer to be capable of lasting 10 years with careful usage. This is another bonus for those with large families since replacing car seats is a very expensive business, especially if you need to replace 3 or more at one time.
One other thing to bear in mind though is that, even if you are buying a car seat for your first child, it is worth considering at this stage whether or not to buy one of the narrower models. If you already know at this early stage that you would like to have at least 3 children as part of your family, I would advise you to buy a slimmer car seat so that you don’t have to incur the expense of having to replace it at a later stage because it can no longer fit in the back of your vehicle next to 2 other seats.
The 4 Best Convertible Car Seats for 3 Kids in a Row
In my opinion, there are 4 obvious candidates for this accolade and they are both made by Diono.
I have already reviewed these car seats in more detail and in this post I am just going to concentrate on their physical dimensions rather than their full list of safety features.
If you want to read my in-depth reviews of these seats, just click on the links below:
#1 Diono Radian RXT
The width of the Diono Radian RXT is just 17 inches (3.5 inches less than the Britax Advocate & 1.5 inches less than the Britax Marathon).
So, not only is the Radian RXT narrower than the models that have the SICT side wings attached, but it is also slimmer than the standard non-SICT Marathon model. A difference of 1.5 inches might not sound like much but, when you have 3 of these seats in a row, that combined 4.5 inches extra width can mean the difference between installation success and failure.
#2 Diono Rainier
The width of the Diono Rainier is also just 17 inches at the base. However, it is slightly wider than the Radian RXT towards the top front side part of the seat due to the added side impact wings. I have heard some of the first owners of the Rainier commenting that you would probably need more space in your vehicle due to this added width at the top of the seat.
If you already have a couple of Radians and are looking for a seat to go in between them for a younger child, I would probably try the Rainier and just return the seat if it didn’t fit. I don’t think you would have too much difficulty with a Radian-Rainier-Radian configuration in most standard sized family vehicles.
#3 Clek Foonf 2017
Clek Convertible Car Seats in Canada
Diono Car Seats in Canada
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
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