Eeny Meeny Miny Moe…Where should all the Car Seats Go?

You thought picking the car seat was the tough part? Now you have to decide where and how you are going to install the car seat in the vehicle. How many kids do you have? Does your vehicle allow you to install the car seat there? How does that spot effect other passengers? Can you get a good install there? Do you want to use LATCH or seat belt, does the spot you pick allow you to install the car seat with LATCH? Is there a tether anchor in that spot? The list goes on and on…and all questions are relevant!

Let’s start simple (as simple as possible): Which Position is the Safest?

This varies with child’s age/weight/height, type of seat, direction, type of vehicle, etc.

1. Back Seat Middle – Furthest from impact in any direction and away from airbags

2. Back Seat Passenger Side – Opposite side of opposing traffic, not typically on traffic side for street parking, easier to glance at child (we would rather you keep your eyes on the road), near side air bags (typically not an issue), possible side impact crash

3. Back Seat Driver Side – Closest side to on-coming traffic, typically on traffic side for street parking, not easy to glance at child, near side air bags (typically not an issue), possible side impact crash

4. Front Seat – Near windshield, near front airbag

Try not to be too hard on yourself if you can’t install your child’s car seat in the center! Although we would like all seats in that position…it’s not possible.

Reasons for not using the center that we have encountered:

1. You don’t have a center seat (captain’s chairs, bucket seats)

2. Your vehicle does not allow car seats to be installed in the center

3. You have more than one child and they can’t all go in the center

4. Two children and the car seats do not fit side-by-side

5. Needing to seperate children for various reasons

6. Physical limitations with reaching the center

7. Can’t get a tight install in the center (no more than 1″ of movement when checked at the belt-path)

8. Broken center seat belt

9. Parent wanting to use LATCH, but LATCH is not allowed in the center

There are certainly more, we could go on for days! Just to touch on a couple of things:

  • Just because you cannot use LATCH in the center (which is common) doesn’t mean you can’t install the car seat there. You do have the option of using the seat belt. LATCH is not necessarily worth giving up the added protection of the center seat. LATCH is not safer than the seat belt and vice-versa. They are both designed to do the same thing. One does become safer than the other if you cannot install the seat correctly using one or the other.
  • Three row vehicles: 2nd or 3rd row? Remember the 3rd row is often times near or in the rear crumple zone. This is the area that crushes if you are rear-ended. If you can put your kids in the 2nd row, that may be a safer choice than the 3rd. Again, don’t be too hard on yourself if all rows need to be used…everyone needs a seat :) Also, 3rd rows  typically have limited top tether anchor options, if the option exists at all. And, talk about compact! 3rd rows lack leg room, thank goodness children are typically flexible and like to cross their legs!

ADD ON (2/7/13):

Crumple zones are placed at both the front and rear of the vehicle, are designed to absorb the energy of a crash, better protecting the occupants inside the passenger compartment. Some 3 row vehicles have very small cargo areas, as the 3rd row would be the cargo area if there were only 2 rows. For example: 2008 Tahoe with 3 rows has an estimated 27-30 inch deep cargo area. It is a VERY small zone, especially for crashes with higher speeds and greater force. A Suburban is going to have a larger cargo area, even with 3 rows. Passengers can safely ride in the 3rd row, but having passengers closer to the center of the vehicle is optimal, just as it is optimal to place your child’s car seat in a center seat.


  • When you have multiple children, typically putting the child with the least protection in the center is favored. Example: you have a new born infant, rear facing and you have a 3 year old, forward facing. Placing the 3 year old in the center may be the better choice because the infant is already safer because they are rear facing. Additional reasoning: keeping that curious 3 year old away from the doors/windows, and the 3 year old can get out of the seat on their own after you unbuckle them, relieving pressure on your back. Now, the rear facing child  may go better in the center if the recline of the car seat pushes the front seats too far forward! There are TONS of things to consider, which is why visiting a child passenger safety tech is so great! It’s FREE & we can help you sort through all the options and decisions that need to be made.
  • Two-seaters: Just give us a call…lol

We could go on FOREVER! Just remember, correct use of any restraint is just as important as having one! Schedule an appointment with a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician TODAY! EVERYONE should buckle up EVERY trip, EVERY time! Join hands with Lexlee’s Kids in caring for your kid’s safety. If you have questions or comments about car seats or child safety, post here or contact Lexlee’s Kids at 225.372.3991.





  1. This is really awesome! Car seat placement in the vehicle can be a huge deal! I can’t tell you how many people return a car seat, an incredibly safe car seat even, just because they can’t use there LATCH system, or because it wouldn’t work were they wanted it to.

    Thanks so much for this!

  2. Thank you for reading and the kind words Tasha! We try to think of things that give trouble & give different views/choices for parents. where there’s a problem, there’s a solution right?!? Thanks again for supporting Lexlee’s Kids.

  3. So very true! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. I have a 7 yr old, 3 yr old and 3 month old. The babies rear facing is in the middle but leaning & bending in to get him in & out is really hard on my back, i have my 3 yr old on the passenger side and 7 year old on driver side. How can i change that up to where its still safe?

  5. I have a 3 year old and 2 month old. Both rear facing. Currently the 3 year old is center and 2 month old is behind the driver.
    do I need to change anything? Is it safer for my toddler or the baby to be on the outside?

  6. I have a rear-facing two year-old and a newborn, and I’m trying to figure out where to place the car seats in our Lexus RX 300 (small SUV). Should we put them behind the passenger and driver side, or try to fit the car seats next to each other so that the newborn is in the center? I know the sides aren’t as safe as the center, but I’m worried the car seats won’t fit side-by-side. Thanks!

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