The Safest Car Seat Placement Within Your Car

This was a interesting topic that recently came up in a conversation on Twitter, and it gave me a moment to pause and think. What are your best options for seating placement when you have multiple car seats, at multiple ages, in the same car? Most people are faced with this question at some point or another, whether it be for a single child, or adding some to the existing mix.  In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, I am going to do my best to help solve this problem for you!

Here are two key factors to keep in mind when trying to figure out how to position your child(ren) in your car.

  • In the past, I have discussed the importance of rear-facing and gone through the facts on how much safer it is for your child. If you have not read this article, please do so here. I always (and passionately) recommend that if your child is within the two year old range, that you keep them rear facing up until them, or longer if your seat allows it.
  • A child placed in the middle seat is at a 43% lower risk of injury than those in either side position.
  • Always check with your car’s manual for their guidelines and recommendations, unfortunately, not all cars are built to accommodate a car in the middle position.

So how do you decide how to place your children throughout the car, for the safest fit? below are a few scenarios and how, in my opinion, they should be seated.

  • Single child, rear facing OR single child forward facing – Middle seat.
  • Infant in a bucket seat OR rear facing toddler and a toddler in a forward facing seat – Infant on the outboard seat (passenger or drivers side), with the forward facing toddler in the middle seat beside them. Reasons behind this are because the rear facing child is already 80% safer, just by being RF and you automatically give the forward facing toddler more protection by keeping him in the middle seat.
  • Two forward facing toddlers and one rear facing toddler OR infant in a bucket seat – if you are in a 5 seat vehicle: rear facing toddler or baby on the outboard, with the two forward facing toddlers on the other side, one in the middle and one on the outboard. If you have a 7 or 8 seat vehicle: Rear facing toddler or infant on the outboard, forward facing toddlers in the front and rear middle seats.
  • Two rear facing toddlers OR Infants in bucket seats and one forward facing toddler: Rear facing kids on the outboard with the forward facing toddler in the middle seat.

Another question I am frequently asked is: ‘Which car seats have the best fit for 3 across?’ As of right now, the Diono (previously called SunshineKids) Radians, and the soon-to-be-released Clek Foonf (which I am SO insanely excited about) are the only seats on the market that have a narrow enough base to fit three across. If you are looking to add a infant seat to add into the mix the Chicco Keyfit and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP has been getting some solid recommendations.

Ideally, you would like to have all the car seats properly installed, by a CPST, using the LATCH system, but in older model cars, and even some newer ones, it’s just not possible. If you do not have access to a LATCH system, please make sure you have your seat installed professionally and you learn how to do it properly yourself, for future references.

I hope this takes some of the guess work and frustrations out of keeping your children safe in your vehicle. I know that adding a child (or two!) to the mix, can be a tad daunting, especially if you are trying to plan for the future. My best piece of advice for first time parents is to always keep the future in mind when choosing your car seat. If you know you want at least 3 children, make sure to pick the car seat that will accommodate that set up, in order to avoid having to buy new seats later. Perhaps this insight will even cause you to change around your current seating set up, and if so, I am always happy to help! As usual, if anyone has questions in regards to car seat safety, please please please feel free to contact me (Twitter, Facebook, or email me, or leave a comment below.

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  1. 1


    I would like to note that our CPST told us that we could not place any child seat in the middle seat because it is too narrow and the car seat would not be able to perform safely as expected with the narrow connection points (seat belt or latch). This isnt the case on all cars, but was for us. The CPST told us that your cars owners manual will tell you where you can place car seats. Ours does state no middle backseat placement for car or booster seats – supporting the CPST’s warning. He also stated that we needed to be able to run a hand between the front seat back and the rear facing seat without touching either seat back or carseat. This caused us to have to place our rear facing seat on the passenger vs driver side for clearance reasons. Ahh the joys of having a small sedan.

    • 2


      ABSOLUTELY! I did mean to add that you should always check with your vehicle’s manual. I have heard from a few people in the past, where it is not recommended to have a car seat in the middle seat. Thank you so much for reminding me of this important fact, I’ll add it to the post. :)

  2. 3


    There are several types of car seats available, and as your child grows you’ll buy several to maintain a consistently safe and comfortable fit. Of all the things you’ll buy for your baby, a car seat should be at the top of your list.

  3. 4


    I’m very happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.

  4. 8

    Kelsy Valentine says

    What about a rear facing toddler seat and rear facing infant seat? I only see that above combined with a forward facing toddler seat but what if there’s only two rear facing? Thanks!

    • 9

      Krystal says

      Hey Kelsy, for that set up, I would suggest putting the baby in the middle, and the toddler on the side. Reason being that the toddler is older and bigger, therefor could withstand more physically. God forbid that would ever happen, but that is the general rule of thumb. Hope that helps you :)

  5. 10

    James morris says

    Hello Krystal,

    First, thank you for all the valuable information you provide.

    My wife and I are expecting our 2nd child very soon, in addition to a 23-month old. The older one has been in a RF seat in the middle, but will go to a FF outboard position when number 2 arrives. The baby will, of course, be RF, but in the middle.

    My question concerns this section you wrote:

    “Infant in a bucket seat OR rear facing toddler and a toddler in a forward facing seat – Infant on the outboard seat (passenger or drivers side), with the forward facing toddler in the middle seat beside them. Reasons behind this are because the rear facing child is already 80% safer, just by being RF and you automatically give the forward facing toddler more protection by keeping him in the middle seat.”

    If our oldest will be FF regardless, having her in the middle only improves her protection from side crashes, right? Being in the center would not go improve the protection from a frontal crash. So why should the younger be exposed to greater dangers from side crashes simply because he will be more protected (being RF) than the older one from frontal crashes?

    Thank you,

  6. 11

    Laurie says

    I have 3 children, and per age/seat requirements their carseats are as follows; backless booster, convertible car seat using 3 point seatbelt as restraint, and (recently) foreword facing convertible carseat using 5 point harness…what would be the appropriate seating positions in car? Our SUV has 3point seatbelts in all three rear seats, but latch system at the window seats only.


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