Three Kids (or More) Can Fit Safely in These Cars
Most families with more than a couple of young kids at home face a dilemma when car shopping: Which offspring will you sequester in the third row for the duration of your car ownership? If you have triplets, the choice is especially unclear.
Very few cars these days have room to fit three child seats in the second row and, of those that do, even fewer offer three sets of LATCH anchors to make it easy to install and keep a child seat secure in that position. That forces families with more than two kids still in child seats into a three-row vehicle, where parents will spend a lot of time clambering into the way-back to buckle in child seats.
That raises the question: Which cars can fit three child seats in the second row? We surveyed the whole automotive market, and found that the pickings are slim.
What We Looked For
The narrowest child seats measure almost 15 inches across; 20 inches is more typical. That means a car needs to have at least 45 inches, and preferably 60 inches of hip and shoulder room in the second row – the more the better. Even then, most cars have LATCH anchors only in the outer seats, making the center seat very difficult to install, and making it more prone to wiggle loose.
Since the center rear seat is the farthest from danger in any accident, it’s the safest place to install a child seat, so we think it should have the safest system. We turned to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for a list of the cars that offer three sets of LATCH anchors in the second row. The seven vehicles below are the only ones that have enough width and enough anchors to hold three child seats across where parents can easily reach them:
2017 Honda Odyssey
If you’re doing a lot of pulling little kids out of child seats and hefting them back in, the Odyssey will save you a climb into the second row. Just duck slightly inside the big sliding doors, and every kid is within easy reach. No vehicle makes it easier than Honda’s Odyssey minivan. With 63.5 inches of shoulder room in the second row, and the most hip room of any vehicle in America (66.1 inches), securing three seats across is a cinch.
The Odyssey has two captain’s chairs in the middle row, with a foldable center seat that installs between the two to make a three-across middle seat. The outer seats can also be shoved together to form a shorter bench with an aisle down the side. The Odyssey is a much more affordable option than a full-sized SUV, starting at $29,850.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica (and Pacifica Hybrid)
The all new Chrysler Pacifica hews closely to the Odyssey’s tracks, though it’s not quite as roomy inside. With a similar center perch installed between the captains’ chairs in the second row, the Pacifica has two sets of LATCH anchors across, and delivers 63 inches of shoulder room and 64.8 inches of hip room in that row. Using seatbelts, you don’t need a third LATCH anchor in order to safely fit three car seats.
A Safe, Happy Place
Not only will the Chrysler Pacifica securely hold three kids across in child seats, its wide array of infotainment options should keep them occupied. Its dual 10-inch monitors can each play different programs and run games for kids of all ages. Prices start at $30,090 – just below the Odyssey’s.
2017 Honda Pilot
With 62 inches of shoulder room and three sets of LATCH anchors across the second row, the Honda Pilot feels almost as roomy as a full-sized SUV in back, but it’s much more nimble and handier to drive and park. Hip room in the second row comes in at 57.3 inches, so you may need to look for child seats with slightly narrower bases.
An Affordable Alternative
With front-wheel drive, the Pilot starts out just a few dollars above the Odyssey minivan, at $30,595. Most trim levels include the handy second-row bench seat, but buyers with big families should probably avoid the Elite trim, which comes with bucket seats in the second row.
2017 Honda Ridgeline
Who says the best vehicle for a family needs to be a car? The Honda Ridgeline pickup, based on the Honda Pilot, offers almost as much width across the rear seat as its SUV progenitor: 61.5 inches of shoulder room and 56.6 inches of hip room. LATCH anchors are standard in all three positions.
As a compact pickup, the Ridgeline doesn’t require such a climb up to lift kids into their seats, and it even offers concealed, dry storage in its integrated bed trunk. There are no rear entertainment screens as in its SUV brethren, but the Ridgeline costs a little less, starting at $29,475.
2017 Acura MDX
A sleeker, upscale version of the Honda Pilot, the Acura MDX falls a little short of its boxy platform-mate in rear-seat shoulder room with only 59.1 inches. It makes up for it somewhat with a little more hip room for mounting the seat bases at 57.8 inches. Three sets of LATCH anchors make it easy to secure all three seats. That’s a good thing, since the third row in the MDX is too small for most child seats.
2017 Audi Q7
Audi’s latest three-row SUV, the Q7, has everything it takes to be a great family hauler: grace on the road, maneuverable size, and most importantly space inside. Shoulder room across the rear bench measures 58.5 inches, and that seat has three full sets of LATCH anchors to make child seat installation easy and secure.
2017 Dodge Charger
You don’t have to buy an SUV or a minivan to get enough room for three kids across the back, even if they’re still in child seats. The Dodge Charger offers 57.9 inches of rear shoulder room and 56.1 inches of hip room with three sets of LATCH anchors across the back seat. Better yet, the Charger looks cool and feels sporty to drive.
Even the base $27,995 Charger is a menacing American body builder for the street. Beyond that, you can option it up with various versions of Chrysler’s Hemi V8, all the way to the ridiculously quick Hellcat, good for dusting Teslas at the drag-strip. The Charger’s little brother coupe, the street-smart Challenger also has three LATCH anchors across the rear seat, but no one’s going to call it the best car for child seats.
2017 Chrysler 300
Think of the Chrysler 300 as a street-fighter Dodge Charger wearing a pinstriped suit. The siblings grew up under the same roof, with the same DNA, but the 300’s Bentley-esque couture is classy enough to hit the town, not just the drag strip. The designer suit doesn’t come free: The 300 starts at $32,340, about $5,000 more than the Charger. You can also opt for the Hemi V8, but Chrysler doesn’t offer any alternative to the Charger’s SRT8 or Hellcat options.
More Comfort, Same Space
Sharing its underpinnings with the Charger, the 300 offers the same 57.7 inches of rear shoulder room and 56.1 inches of hip room. Both have LATCH anchors in all three spots. The bigger rear windows in the 300 will help kids see out and make them feel less confined.
More Shopping Tools From U.S. News & World Report
If you’re looking to get a great deal on one of these child-seat-friendly vehicles, head over to our best lease deals and financing deals pages. There, we’ve compiled a list of all the best incentives manufacturers are currently offering.
Once you’re ready to buy, be sure to use the U.S. News Best Price Program, where shoppers save an average of $3,279 off their new car purchase.