Safest Family Minivans and SUVs for 2019 with 3rd Row Seats


Safest Family Vehicles for 7 or 8 Passengers in 2019

Are safety and seating at least a few kids your most important considerations when selecting a new vehicle?  You aren’t alone!  Sure, it looks great that the model you want has an IIHS Top Safety Pick “Plus” award, but for many vehicles, this award only applies to top trim levels with options packages that may cost a fortune if you can even find one on a dealer’s lot.  Plus, a top IIHS rating doesn’t always mean top crash test results from the NHTSA.  SafeDad helps you shorten the list of dozens of very safe 7+ passenger vehicles to just a handful of the safest and most family friendly models for 2019.  We also identify which ones can be inexpensively equipped with the necessary features to qualify for top safety awards, such that you can find one properly equipped at a local dealer.

For 2019, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety not only requires a “Good” result in the driver-side small overlap crash test to qualify for a “Top Safety Pick+” rating, but now also requires a “Good” headlight rating as well a “Good” rating in the newer passenger-side small overlap crash test.  Models that earn an “Acceptable” headlight or passenger-side small overlap test rating can earn the “Top Safety Pick” rating only.  The IIHS also demands a front crash prevention system.  These systems are not all created equal; some are only basic warnings that no longer qualify for an award, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and some are more likely to avoid a crash than lesser systems.  To earn IIHS awards, an auto-brake system with an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating is still required. The IIHS claims that most automakers have pledged to make these features standard by 2022 or earlier, though some already do.

The NHTSA ratings remain the same in 2019, with a 5-star overall rating based on two frontal crash tests, four side impact tests and a non-crash rollover risk rating.  It’s not always clear how the individual crash test results affect the overall rating, so we must rely on the overall rating to separate our qualifiers from the rest of the pack.

Subaru and Honda have set a nice trend for inexpensive advanced safety feature packages available on low and mid trim levels.  This year, we again recognize Toyota for making all these features standard on all trim levels of nearly all of their vehicles. That means even the least expensive Highlander and Sienna models now have advanced crash avoidance features for 2018 and 2019, making these important improvements to safety easy to find on dealer’s lots!

Many publications only use either the NHTSA crash tests OR the IIHS ratings as the basis for their recommendations, leaving an incomplete assessment of overall safety.  Some are subjective and apply different standards based on personal preferences or corporate sponsors.  So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards?  It’s very simple and completely objective:

What 3-row vehicles make the cut to qualify for our awards?  Even with new IIHS Top Safety Pick requirements, a record 14 make the cut in this review, up from 10 in last year’s guide.  Some models simply lack test results and may be added later. For example, many very safe luxury models like the Volvo XC90 have not been tested in the newer IIHS passenger-side small overlap crash test or the NHTSA crash testing.  Other very safe 3-row vehicles miss our requirements simply due to a “Marginal” headlight rating that prevented them from earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick award.  The Audi Q7, Volkswagen Atlas and GMC Acadia AWD would all be standout qualifiers other than this minor shortcoming.  Slightly larger than many other midsize crossover SUVs, these models are all definitely worth considering as well.  Our threshold for qualification is high, but based upon objective IIHS and NHTSA ratings that are well known to manufacturers.

As a testament to how safe all these vehicles are for families, we recommend nearly all of the 2019 qualifiers as well as those Honorable Mentions that fell a little short, usually only in terms of the IIHS headlight ratings. The exception is the Mitsubishi Outlander, due to its relatively small size and various restrictions that make installations of multiple carseats more difficult than the others on the list.  If your vehicle is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe!  That said, here are the finalists:

  1. 2014-2018 Acura MDX
  2. 2017-2019 Chrysler Pacifica
  3. 2018-2019 Honda Odyssey
  4. 2016-2019 Honda Pilot
  5. 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe
  6. 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe XL
  7. 2017-2018 Kia Sedona
  8. 2018-2019 Kia Sorento
  9. 2018 Lexus RX
  10. 2018-2019 Mazda CX-9
  11. 2017-2019 Mitsubishi Outlander
  12. 2019 Nissan Pathfinder
  13. 2019 Subaru Ascent
  14. 2017-2019 Toyota Highlander

For our top pick, we give preference to models that have already received a “Good” result in the newer passenger side small overlap crash test.  A top-rated frontal crash avoidance system that earns a 6-point “Superior” rating is also an advantage, as are STANDARD active crash avoidance features and flexible seating for passengers and car seats.  For our runners-up and honorable mentions, we do not place as much emphasis on non-crash test results, such as headlight ratings.

And the Safest 2019 3-row Family Vehicle is:

2018-2019 Honda Odyssey. The 2018-19 Odyssey is among a handful of qualifiers to receive a “Good” IIHS Small Overlap frontal crash test result for both driver and passenger sides.  In addition, it has stellar results in all the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.  Its long overdue “Superior” front crash prevention system avoided crashes in both IIHS tests and is STANDARD on the EX trim level and up starting in 2018.  The Odyssey’s only blemish is headlight coverage that kept it from an IIHS TSP “Plus” award, as it earned an “Acceptable” rating on Touring and Elite trims only.

While the EX and EX-L trims have only a “Marginal” headlight rating, they are still an impressive value for excellent safety with standard front crash prevention and top crash test results for around $34,000.  Also, in our opinion, the Magic Slide feature is very handy, and Odyssey is still the best family hauler on the market in terms of fitting multiple child safety seats.  In that regard, it’s also one of the few 3-row vehicles to earn the IIHS “G+” rating for ease-of-use with its plentiful top tether and lower car seat anchors.  The increased weight and larger dimensions may also be a benefit in terms of crash safety over a midsize SUV, while that added interior space makes those SUVs pale in comparison when looking at flexibility for passengers and cargo.


Valentines for Nerds with a Passion for Safety


Are you searching for the perfect Valentines but not finding anything that really captures your passion for vehicle safety? Do you believe the best way to say “I love you” is with an abundance of tire tread and some new brake pads? Then we have the perfect Valentines for you!

Browse through them, then print out your favorites to give to the people you love and want to keep safe.

From all of us at CarseatBlog, have a Happy & Safe Valentine’s Day!

Finding a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST)


We recently held a big child passenger safety education and carseat giveaway event in my city where we gave out 241 carseats. It was awesome reaching so many families and making sure that their children are riding more safely than before they came to the event. Many of the parents told me they had only heard of the event that morning on the news, which was great, but we had been heavily advertising it on social media and at the school where it was held. I was disheartened because we had been heavily advertising the event, but we hadn’t hit our target audience. How can parents find the help they need?

We’re fortunate to have regular monthly carseat checkup events in my city. I know in many places, weather makes it so that events have to be cancelled during the colder months (we dial it back during the hot months!). That means parents, caregivers, and professionals who work with them come to expect these events and know they’ll be taking place. But what about other locations around the country? How do you find CPS technicians or events to help you?

I bet you’ve heard to go to the fire department or police station to have your carseat installed; however, many firefighters and police officers aren’t trained. In fact, they’ve probably installed their own carseats incorrectly! In my major city, we have 0-zero-zilch currently certified firefighters and 1 city police officer, though we do have many highway patrol and school police officers certified as technicians. Though every community is different, we’re pretty average when I compare notes with other CPSTs around the country. Some communities may have a few firefighters and cops trained, but on the whole, the budget isn’t there to pay them for events.

So how do you find someone in your community to help you with your carseats if you can’t run to the nearest fire or police station?

First, look for a Safe Kids coalition near you; they will often have checkup events. Not every coalition has checkup events, though, and not every checkup event is sponsored by a Safe Kids coalition. As long as you have certified technicians on hand to check your carseats and educate you, you’re good to go!

Even though police and firefighters may not be trained as CPS technicians, they partner with us because they want everyone to be safe. Following their social media pages makes it more likely that you’ll hear about which events they support.

Following the social media pages of local mom and playgroup groups can give you a heads-up on events happening too, though you have to be really careful because it seems bad child passenger safety advice on these groups spreads like wildfire while good advice spreads like a molasses spill. However, when we have events, we try to spread the word to these groups because we want *you* to know about them.

One way you can find carseat help is through an inspection station. Inspection stations are “permanent” locations where you usually make an appointment with a CPST. They can be anywhere that has a CPST on staff, such as a retail store, AAA location, hospital, or a family resource center.

For those of you who prefer to have a customized experience at home, there are techs who will take an appointment with you, either for free or for a fee. Usually you’ll hear about these techs through word-of-mouth or they’ll filter through your social media feeds. Another way to find a tech is on the National Child Passenger Safety Certification website. The key to using this search engine is to be as broad as possible; the more specific you are, the more likely you are to confuse the search and not find someone near you. For instance, enter your county and state only instead of your zip code. CPS Certification also posts facts and other tidbits on their Facebook page: .

The internet is obviously a way to get personalized help with your carseats and our forums at are the OG place where techs used to hang out. There are Facebook groups to handle carseat questions, but you have to weed through well-intentioned responses that may not have accurate information. Some manufacturers offer help in the form of video chat so you can show their techs up close your carseat installation and child fitting in their carseat. Since more manufacturers add this support feature each year, check with yours but Evenflo and Dorel are currently two of the manufacturers who actively use it.

There are a tens of thousands of us across the US and Canada (and around the world!) who want to help you keep your children safe as you drive each day. We’re out there and we’re not hiding!

New Chicco GoFit Plus Booster – a very stable, genius, new feature!


I’m convinced that the engineers at Chicco know how to make everything easier. Maybe they could rewrite our tax codes, or invent an easier way for me to get out of bed in the mornings? Well, the getting out of bed thing is probably asking too much but they did make their awesome GoFit backless booster “latchable”, which is what everyone had hoped for. But they couldn’t just stop there, they’re Chicco!  So they asked themselves, “how can we make this easier”? And their solution was genius, in a very stable way! 😀

Introducing the brand new Chicco GoFit Plus

Chicco GoFit Plus Booster Specs & Features:
  • Backless booster: 40-110 lbs.; 38-57″ tall; at least 4 years old
  • Quick-Release premium push-on LATCH connectors
  • Ergonomically contoured seat
  • Double foam padding
  • Padded armrests
  • Space-saving “cup folders”
  • Shoulder belt guide clip (optional)
  • Carry handle for easy transport
  • MSRP $49.99


The GoFit Plus is a welcome new addition to the Chicco lineup. For those of us who desire a nice backless booster that can be secured with lower LATCH anchor connectors, it’s an easy winner. Plus, for your school-age carpooling kids, it’s going to bring you peace of mind knowing that they can easily secure and use this booster properly even when you’re not around to supervise.

GoFit Plus fashions: Iron, Avenue


GoFit Plus is available now from Amazon, Target, BuyBuyBaby, and