Shopping for a new vehicle can be an exciting experience! If you have 2 kids in car seats, finding a new car is easy. You can prioritize all the extra features you want, like air-conditioned seats, state-of-the-art media capabilities, and the perfect color, without compromising safety or practicality. However, if you’re working with 3 car seats or more, the car-buying process becomes a whole lot more complicated.
When you need to fit 3 car seats in your vehicle, your best options are generally minivans and SUVs. Though lots of mothers love the convenience of a van, some prefer the looks of an SUV. A sport utility vehicle has some benefits over a minivan, including better visibility, elevated safety features, 4-wheel drive, and more towing capacity.
All that being said, not every SUV works well for 3 car seats. There is a lot to consider before making a purchase! To help you out, we’re sharing a roundup of SUVs that can comfortably fit three car seats.
6 Best SUVs for 3 Car Seats
Looking for a smaller SUV that can fit 3 car seats in one row? The Mercedes-Benz GLE might be the perfect choice for you! With 60 inches of hip space in that second row, getting 3 of those car seats into the rear row should be no problem! Of course, you need to have a car seat compatible with a 3-across situation first. You can find our list of 3-across car seats here.
One of the reasons the Mercedes-Benz GLE is a good vehicle for 3 car seats is its removable headrests and stable buckles. When your child transitions to a front-facing mode or graduates to a booster, headrests can be problematic. If they stick out too far and can’t be removed, it may be impossible to get a safe install. But in the GLE, they can be adjusted and removed! The stable buckles are helpful because they make it easier for your child to buckle independently, especially when they’re in the middle seat.
Plus, there’s a lot of cargo space in this smaller SUV at 33.3 cubic feet. Keep in mind, however, that the GLE may not work for every car seat (Get advice on where to put your car seat here). There are only top tethers on the two outer seats, meaning forward-facing harnessed car seats can’t go in the middle seat. A mid-size SUV is not always the most practical SUV type for 3 car seats, but the GLE is definitely worth considering.
The Acura MDX is a third-row SUV that’s very family-friendly. First of all, we love that all the second-row seats have lower anchors and top tether anchors. It means you can put your seats in any configuration you want! The headrests can’t be removed. But if you raise them up, they do not seem to interfere with most forward-facing car seats and high-back boosters. That middle bench is 57.8 inches; however, the middle seat can be folded down for easier access to the back seat.
The third row has no top tethers, so it can only be used for rear-facing seats and belt-positioning boosters. That is definitely a downside since rear-facing seats in the third row are not ideal. This is especially true since the back-row access is obstructed if a car seat is installed, which makes the opening into the third row very narrow. However, this may not be a problem depending on the 3 types of car seats you need.
Though the Acura MDX may fit all your kids, it may not fit your groceries. The trunk is only 16.3 cubic feet, with the third row up. If you travel often or need to stow a wagon/stroller regularly, this may not be the best choice. All around, though, the Acura MDX is a good option to consider when looking for a vehicle to fit 3 seats.
The Volkswagen Atlas boasts easily accessible third-row seating and a unique feature that makes getting into the third row a breeze! If you install your car seat with the lower anchors, you can tilt the vehicle seat forward to access the third row while the car seat is installed!
Every seat in the second row has lower anchors and tether anchors. And the third row has two top tether anchors and removable headrests, allowing you to install any car seat in any of the vehicle seats in the second row and third rows. It’s not the most spacious, but not the least, either!
Additionally, the car also has stable buckles for independent seat belt use and the trunk is 20.6 cubic feet, making the Volkswagen Atlas a versatile and practical choice for families!
Honda Pilot and Honda Passport
The Honda Pilot and Honda Passport are sister vehicles: they’re basically identical in the first and second rows, but the Pilot adds a third row too! The second row has 3 sets of lower anchors and top tether anchors and removable headrests, which makes installing car seats of any kind very easy. If you get a Pilot for that third-row space, those rear seats have two top tether anchors and one set of lower anchors. However, it’s a narrow squeeze to get back there.
Another downside to the Honda Pilot/Passport is the floppy buckles. It means buckling takes two hands, and the buckles can easily fall behind the child seats. Because of this, you may have to help your booster-seat child get buckled up too, which isn’t ideal if you have two other children in car seats.
If you go without the second row, you’ll have 48.5 cubic feet of cargo space. And, if you have the third row up, it’s only 22.4 cubic feet. That’s still more than the Atlas and Acura, which makes the Honda Pilot an even better option for some when searching for a family car that can haul your kids and all their stuff!
The Chevy Suburban is the largest vehicle on this list. If you need lots of cargo space, passenger seats, and towing capacity, the Chevy Suburban may be your perfect SUV. And if you need passenger space without all the cargo room, the Chevy Tahoe is a great alternative! There are 3 rows of seats, and you have the option of a captain’s chair or a bench seat. Opting for the bench seat gives you a whopping 61.3 inches of hip space. And while the third row is much narrower, it’s still possible to achieve 3-across if you choose three narrow car seats — and that’s quite an accomplishment because there aren’t many vehicles that can easily accommodate six kids in car seats!
There are two sets of lower anchors on the two far seats, but all 3 seats have top tether anchors. The third row has no lower anchors, but like the second row, it has 3 top tether anchors. This gives you a lot of configuration options! However, the second-row headsets are not removable and have been an issue with some forward-facing and high-back booster seats. But the small headrests in the third row don’t have the same installation problems. The biggest downside of the Suburban is that the 2nd and 3rd row center seats do not have a headrest at all! This means that a child in a backless booster or an adult cannot sit in these positions. Everyone in the car should have head support to at least the top of their ears in order to prevent neck injuries in a crash.
Other things we love about the Suburban are the easy access to the third row, lots of legroom in the front seats, an impressive 41.5 cubic feet of cargo space (though the Tahoe has less), and the stable buckles for those booster riders in that back row. However, the second row has floppy buckles. That, combined with the non-removable headrests, almost makes the third row a better place for car seats than the second, depending on your configuration.
The Ford Expedition is another spacious SUV with three rows of seating and 62.6 inches of hip space in the rear row. The second row has 3 sets of lower anchors and top tether anchors. And the third row has 2 lower anchors and 3 top tether anchors, allowing for, hypothetically any car seat to be installed in any of the rear seats.
While removing the second-row headrests helps with installation, unfortunately, the fixed headrests in the third row sometimes make fitting some high-back boosters and forward-facing seats difficult. Also, the third row has floppy buckles, which isn’t ideal. Despite these downsides, the Ford Expedition has a huge second row and tons of legroom, making it a great option for those who want the extra sitting room of a large SUV without driving an extremely long vehicle like a Suburban.
Side note: Some models of the Ford Expedition have the option to add on inflatable seat belts. These are not compatible with most car seats, so don’t get this added feature in the rear seats.
Fitting three car seats in one vehicle can be a challenging task.
When you purchase a family car, you shouldn’t do it haphazardly. It’s not a quick decision or a simple online search. You need to consider how the car will work for you from both a safety and practicality standpoint. Ask yourself questions like: Can I install all my car seats? Can I easily get into the third row? And can I lift my child into the vehicle? Consider every part of your day-to-day life when choosing a car!
When you do narrow down your vehicle search, make sure you test every SUV with your car seats. That’s right, take all 3 of your car seats to the dealership and install them, use them, and drive around with them. This will give you the utmost confidence that any of these vehicles are the one for you!
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