Yes, we have three kids in there…

9 03 2009

This blog is the second in a series I am writing about baby gear. Over the last 5 years, Mark and I have spent thousands of dollars on strollers and car seats, cribs and bunk beds, cloth diapers and baby carriers – and so much more. Along the way we have learned what works for our family. I would like to share a little of the wisdom we’ve aquired through trial and error to hopefully save our friends who are new parents a few bucks. 

Last spring, when Mark and I had a nagging feeling I was pregnant with our third son, we found ourselves at Michael’s Toyota in Bellevue. We were looking at minivans – and I was eating chocolate cookies and drinking sprite to avoid feeling morning sick. Much to our dismay, we had outgrown our Subaru and we were going to have to throw in the towel, give up, give in, and settle for the way-too-practical people mover.

After driving the Sienna, we went across the street to the Honda dealer to take the Odyssey on a spin. Half-way up the hill from Factoria to Cougar Mountain, the sales guy told my husband:

“You are going to have to slow down, sir, this is a minivan.”

Mark was done. There had to be another way to get three kids in carseats in a Subaru. Heck, my grandparents used to get 5 kids in a Volkswagon Bug: three kids in the back seat, one toddler on a wodden stool above the transmission and the baby in the trunk!

This brings me to the three things we have learned about buying carseats for your kiddos.

1. Don’t buy a baby bucket

For most families, the infant carseat – along with the travel system – is a waste of money. Many babies will grow out of the infant seat in just a few months. Most infants – if they are at least 6 pounds when they are born – will fit comfortably and safely into a rear-facing convertible car seat that can be used until the toddler is 35 pounds and 40 inches tall – about age three or four. Parents of preemies may need to buy an infant seat. Babies who are less than 6 pounds when they come home from the hospital will only fit in an infant seat. If you find yourself in this situaiton, as we did with both Micah and Zephan, we either borrowed or bought a gently used infant seat. My favorite infant and convertable car seats are both made by Britax.

2. Don’t buy a car seat unless the fabric is removable and washable (or why it is worth it to buy a Britax)

For the first 6 months of your life, your infant will spit up in her car seat. When he is able to eat cheerios, he will spill them in his carseat. When she begins potty training, she will pee in her car seat. When he is preschool age, he will spill juice in his car seat. When she has the flu, she will puke all over the car seat. Next to safety, the most important concern when buying a car seat is washability. Car seats that are not washable – as in completely remove the fabric, put it in the wasing machine while sanitizing the plastic parts washable – should be labeled Disposible. Spot cleaning doesn’t cut it. We have found that  Britax car seats last significantly longer than the cheaper brands because they are easy to wash. 

3. Don’t buy a car seat that is more than 18″ wide (unless you drive a large SUV)

Sometime over the last decade as more American families began to drive super-sized sport-utility-vehicles and minivans equipped with dozens of cupholders and entertainment systems, car seats became huge, Lazy-Boy-esqe contraptions outfitted with snack trays and toy storage.

Cool?  Yes. Well, maybe.

Practical if you own a small car and have more than a few kids? No.

With gas prices often over $4 a gallon, many families are choosing to drive smaller cars. Here is the rub: most smaller sedans and station wagons have less than 54″ hip room across the back seat. In order to fit three car seats across this seat, you need carseats that are no more than 18″ wide. If you take a trip down to Babies R’Us with a measuring tape, you will quickly realize that most car seats are too big. Fortunately, a few car seat manufacturers have wised up. Britax, SafeGuard and Sunshine Kids all make seats that are between 17″ and 19″ wide.

Instead of dropping $30,000 or more on a new minivan, we spent about $200 on a new carseat for Asher. Asher is in a Safeguard Go Hybrid Booster (17″ wide), Micah is in a Britax Diplomat (19″ wide), and Zephan is in a Britax Companion (18″ wide). Together the boys carseats are 54″ wide and yes, they all fit in our Subaru Forester!


No minivan for this mama. At least not yet.



3 responses

9 03 2009
lauren schneringer

seriously… where were you when i was buying an infant seat/travel system with caleb. the very infant seat he fit into until he was three months old. yeah…. go britax!!

10 03 2009

sara i think you are GREAT at advice on shopping and am glad you’re devoting some of your blog to this. i hate research and i can’t ever remember a blasted thing so with those two strikes i really really need a sara brinton around to tell me what to buy, where to go with my kids, and so on. i agree with you about the carseats as far as the preemies go by the way. i bet our baby boy won’t last long in his. but with the girls they went more than one year since they started so little. the advantage to the buckets was being able to transport them around if they fell asleep in the car – big plus! keep up the blogging!

25 02 2010

I really like this post. It made my crack up since my husband and I just went though a similar experience trying to figure out how to fit three carseats in a car. We really did not want to buy a minivan either!! We ended up buying a Honda Pilot!

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