Skinny is in high demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also very hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when many Americans are downsizing their vehicles – increased laws and awareness are keeping more kids in carseats and boosters longer. The combination of these two factors is creating a real space problem.
We need more seats that can fit in narrow seating positions and in those tricky 3-across situations. Manufacturers really need to work to address this issue because if I see one more Turbobooster without armrests because they’re trying to make it fit next to another carseat – I’m going to lose my mind!
Suggestions for CR Manufacturers:
For those parents and caregivers who can’t wait for future seats – the Cosco Scenera NEXT is a neat little convertible that is going to work in a lot of tight situations. But it’s very compact and really meant for infants and small toddlers.
The Evenflo Tribute convertible can be a saving grace in many 3-across scenarios too but again, it’s not that big and many kids will outgrow it by height before hitting 40 lbs.
The Safety 1st Guide 65 convertible is narrow and will last longer before being outgrown but some parents wind up dismayed when their child falls asleep and has “head slump” – an issue caused by the tilted headrest.
The Diono Radian models have built their reputation on being narrow and working well in a lot of 3-across scenarios but they have their quirks and incompatibility issues in some cases. Whenever possible, you should “try before you buy”.
I’ve seen the Harmony Defender forward-facing combination seat recommended for people looking for a slim seat but not everyone wants a carseat that has to be assembled like IKEA furniture.
The Graco Tranzitions (aka Graco Wayz) is often recommended for families on a budget who need a slim forward-facing seat but it’s really not that narrow (although it does have a low profile) and it can be incompatible with some seatbelt installations once the child is over the LATCH weight limit.
The brand new Chicco MyFit forward-facing combination seat is being released this month and seems very promising since it’s only 17.5″ wide! We are currently evaluating its abilities and will have a full review posted soon.
The forward-facing only IMMI GO is a narrow option that some parents may want to consider but it’s not a traditional carseat and it lacks solid, side structure and head support. Plus, you really need to install it in a seating position with a full set of LATCH anchors (lower anchors & tether). It requires tethering, installs quickly and easily with lower anchors but is generally incompatible with most seatbelt installations.
Another non-traditional product for kids 3+ who weigh at least 30 lbs. is the Ride Safer Travel Vest. The vest is available in 2 sizes; small (30-60 lbs.) or large (50-80 lbs.). There is an optional tether strap that can be used with either size vest and there is also a narrow backless booster (Delighter) that can be purchased for use with the vest.
In the last two decades, the industry has been very focused on bigger and wider. No doubt this is due to the fact that American kids are getting bigger and wider, not to mention they’re staying in carseats and boosters for much longer than in the past. Plus, there has been a strong, steady demand for higher-weight carseats and boosters that can accommodate bigger/older children. This is all well and good but you can’t focus exclusively on bigger and wider because if the bigger seats don’t fit in smaller vehicles, then what?
What do you think happens when a family of 5 trades in their Tahoe for a Prius? And what happens at a check event when a car pulls in with 3 kids in the back of an old Corolla and all 3 need to be in seats? My CPS program stocks Evenflo Tributes, institutional models of the Maestro and Harmony Youth Boosters but sometimes it’s not enough and parents are forced to make those “tough choices”. Do you put a kid up front? Let the oldest ride without a booster in back even though he clearly still needs one? This is reality. This is what we’re dealing with at events all across the nation because of space issues.
Manufacturers, you can help those of us in the trenches (and those who are personally in these predicaments) by meeting these challenges and making more 3-across-and-small-vehicle-friendly seats. We also desperately need more affordable options for our CPS programs that work in these tight situations! I know we can’t fix or solve every incompatibility that we encounter but this particular problem seems to have some possible solutions that are realistic and within reach. I hope you’ll agree.