For families with three or more children or families that prefer a smaller vehicle, narrow car seats and narrow booster seats are essential to fit everyone in the vehicle. However, searching through all the products in the market to find the right narrow seats may be a challenge. Consider the maximum width, price, safety ratings and user ratings when selecting a narrow car seat or narrow booster seat.
The good news is that some of the narrowest car seats are also among the top convertible car seats.
|Best Narrow Car Seat||Why It's Best||Mom Rating|
|Diono Radian 3R Convertible Car Seat||16 in. Wide. This made-for-3 across seat is our top choice because of quality, price and safety.||♥♥♥♥♥|
|GRACO SlimFit 3 in 1 Convertible Car Seat||18 in. Wide. The most popular convertible car seat this year and also a narrow choice.||♥♥♥♥♥|
|BRITAX Grow with You ClickTight Plus Harness-2-Booster Car Seat||21 in. Wide. This top-quality seat has all the award winning Britax safety features, supports kids up to 120 lbs with a slim fit.||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Maxi-Cosi Rodifix Booster Car Seat||17.5 in. Wide. Simple, comfortable and cost effective.||♥♥♥♥♥|
|COSCO Finale DX 2-in-1 Combination Booster Car Seat||18 in. Wide. Simple, functional and lower cost high back booster.||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120, high back booster||16 in. Wide. Simple, stylish and effective booster seat that works well in a tight fit||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Encore||17 in. Wide. Award winning infant car seat for safety and usability.||♥♥♥♥♥|
|Evenflo Big Kid AMP High Back Booster||16.5 in. Wide. Very low cost high-back seat||♥♥♥♥♥|
The Narrowest Car Seats
Infant car seats tend to be a bit wider than boosters because they have to handle the sometimes bulky handles and shell shape for those removable seats. Convertible car seats also tend to be a bit wider. But there are still quite a few of both kinds that are 16 inches wide, and some a bit wider that we’ve listed below.
The Diono Radian 3R is the lower cost, neater version of the go-to narrow car seat, the Diono Radian 3RXT. This convertible car seat is still only 16 inches wide. Diono calls it one of the “original 3-across car seats”.
It’s at a lower price point than the Radian 3RX, 3RXT and the brand new 3QX and 3QXT convertible car seats as it is a more basic model. But we’ve listed it first here because it is a very high quality seat for a great price. This car seat is rated for kids up to 40 lbs in rear-facing mode whereas the other models go up to 45 lbs.
This has been named our best car seat for twins, in case you are trying to fit this in a car for twins or multiples!
We can’t talk baby products without offering a Graco model. The Graco SlimFit Convertible car seat is Graco’s option for small spaces. The product dimensions say this car seat is 19.9 inches wide, which isn’t very narrow. However, this seat is designed with dual integrated cup holders that rotate away, making the seat 10% slimmer.
The Chicco brand offers great safety features and quality. The Chicco Key Fit 30 Infant car seat is no exception. Not only does it work well with small spaces at 16.75 inches wide, but it offers other great features like a removable newborn insert, is compatible with Chicco strollers, and is the top-rated infant car seat in America. It also makes a great travel system, and here is our full list of top travel systems.
While the Britax One4Life is not the narrowest car seat on our list at 19 inches wide, we include it as a versatile alternative. As the name implies it can be used from infancy to children up to 120 lbs in many different modes.
It is Britax’s latest seat with all the safety innovations they have developed over the years. It will fit in 3-across situations for medium to larger vehicles when side-by-side with booster and forward-facing car seats.
- Fits children 5 to 65 pounds, then up to 120 pounds in booster mode
- 17 inches wide
- Removable infant insert
- Rear and forward facing
- Converts to booster seat
At 17 inches wide, the UPPAbaby Mesa Infant car seat fits well in smaller vehicles. This car seat was awarded the NHTSA 5-Star rating for ease of use. The UPPAbaby MESA car seat is perfect for premies as its adjustable harness and crotch strap settings allow it to securely fit infants as small as 4 pounds.
Check out all the best car seats for preemies.
If budget is not a concern, the Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat is an awesome choice. This narrow car seat is definitely an investment. However, it is only 17 inches wide and has a sleek modern design. The manufacturer also says it fits difficult seating positions. Think about when you need one rear-facing seat and two forward-facing seats.
This seat also boasts GREENGUARD certification meaning it is made without harmful chemicals. The Clek Foonf is a great option for families searching for a narrow car seat.
The Combi Coccoro Convertible car seat is one of the narrowest options at 15.5 inches in width. In spite of its small size, it has Tru-Safe side impact protection and is FAA certified for travel. It also features a washable cover and tethered connecter strap. This is a great choice to fit those really small spaces.
I love the Chicco brand. At only 17 inches wide the Chicco Key Fit 30 Zip Infant Car Seat is a great narrow car seat option. The Zip is a higher-end version of the KeyFit 30 mentioned above. One difference is that the seat pad and accessories zip off for cleaning!
The seat includes the car seat base and works with the Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller Frame for easy transitions.
The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat offers a budget-friendly infant car seat option for smaller vehicles. At only 17 inches wide, this seat works well to fit three child safety seats in a row. Even at the more affordable price point, the seat offers a five-point harness, easy and safe installation, and compatibility with all Graco Click Connect strollers.
The Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible car seat is the budget option for narrow car seats. At 17 inches wide, this seat will fit three across in most vehicles. Asa budget seat this is a great option for a daycare provider or second smaller vehicle. I would not recommend this as a primary car seat because I don’t believe it will hold up in quality against the constant wear and tear.
We’ve talked about the Clek Foonf, which is narrow. But the Clek Fllo is a still-narrow but simpler version of the Foonf. It has a steel-reinforced frame, a rebound bar, and GREENGUARD certification. Plus, it comes in at just under 17 inches wide, which is ideal for a three across back seat situation.
Once again, Graco offers a quality car seat option for narrow vehicles. While the Graco Milestone All-in-One Convertible car seat is slightly wider at 17.5 inches, all-in-one car seats are typically larger. The seat is a 3-in-1 model that transition from a rear-facing infant seat, to a front-facing car seat and then to a booster seat.
The Safety 1st OnBoard 35 Air is only 16.5 inches wide. It has 5 different safety layers for a deep, but narrow design. It has thick padding and works from 4 pounds all the way up to 35 pounds. It’s lightweight and meets/exceeds all US and European safety standards. It makes a beautiful pair with the matching stroller in the Safety 1st Smooth Ride Travel System.
Did you know that all 2 of the above car seats-the Chicco and UPPAbaby, made our list of best infant car seats? They may be narrow, but they are pillars of infant car seat safety. Click to read the article’s in-depth reviews.
The CYBEX Aton 2 Child car seat is a rear-facing infant seat only 17 inches wide. The unique feature of this infant seat is that it can attach to the vehicle seat without a base using unique shoulder belt routing behind the carrier. This is useful for travel. However, the seat does also include a base for regular usage.
The gb Asana 35 LTE Infant Car Seat is part of the GB Lyfe 4-In-1 Travel System. This infant seat is also only 17 inches wide. The travel system and infant car seat are priced lower than some of the other European-style models and it has very solid ratings as well.
Britax is the standard for convertible car seats. At 18.5 inches wide, the Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible car seat is not the narrowest model, but it will still fit in most cars with three child seats across. I would be remiss not to include Britax when talking car seats. You cannot beat the quality and safety options.
The Narrowest Booster Seats
Especially when you are adding a new baby to the family, switching an older child from a convertible car seat to a booster seat is a great way to make room in the car and save money. Booster seats come in models with backs and backless. See all the best booster seats in this article.
The Maxi-Cosi RodiFix booster seat is another top quality, higher priced option. Like the Peg Perego, it is worth the investment especially if you will be passing this down to younger siblings. It’s also designed to make it easier for children to buckle themselves in with a belt routing system to help them learn.
The Cosco Finale DX is a bit wider in absolute dimensions than the other choices in this list but it is specifically designed to fit 3 across in most cars. The bottom of the seat is about 17″ wide and the upper part is just over 18″. It is also a bit heavier than some at about 11 lbs.
The armrests and sides are specially shaped so that they can fit snugly together. There is a single cupholder built into one of the armrests.
The latch system can be used up to 50 lbs.
The Evenflo Big Kid booster seat is only 16 inches wide making it a perfect option for narrow vehicles. The seat back is removable to transition to a backless booster seat. This is also a budget-friendly option with great customer ratings.
The Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120 is not only narrow, it’s moisture-wicking plush seat is comfortable. At 16 inches wide, this is a great option for a third child seat. The price is higher than some lower-end models, but it is worth it in quality, style, and comfort.
- 19 inches wide at wings and cupholders, but only 17 inches wide at the base with cup holders tucked in
- FitKit system features removable layers for every stage
- SuperCinch latch
- Lots of safety and comfort features
- Fits children 40 to 120 pounds
- Transitions from high back booster to backless booster
- Aluminum reinforced frame
- Adjustable at many different points
The Evenflo Chase Harnessed Booster Seat is just over 17 inches wide, which includes the two cup holders. This makes it a great narrow booster seat option. The seat can be used as a harnessed booster or a high back booster seat. Although there is no backless booster option, this is another budget-friendly booster seat.
Hifold – The Fit and Fold Booster
From the makers of the Mifold Booster (see our full Mifold Review!) comes the Hifold, a completely adjustable booster seat. There are 243 points of adjustment to make this work for any kid from 33 to 100 pounds. Plus, it can fold down into a cube for storage. The base can be anywhere from 12.8 inches wide to 15.6 inches wide, depending on your settings. Talk about narrow!
Narrow Car Seats by Manufacturer
Narrow car seats are available from many different brands, yet some brands have more narrow selections than other. Many of the higher priced, top-rated brands offer a variety of narrow child safety seats.
The Diono brand specializes in quality child seats. Diono is an award-winning, safety-focused brand founded in Seattle, Washington. From birth to elementary school, Diono offers the perfect narrow seat selection for your family.
Almost all Diono car seats are designed at 16 inch widths and to fit in small cars 3-across.
Chicco offers some of the top-selling car seats on the market. They’re known for chic and stylish design, impeccable safety, and car seats that are more compact.
Peg Perego also offers quality, narrow child safety seats. This Italian company makes an array of highly-rated child products. Their narrow car seats and narrow booster seats are great for infants and children.
The Graco brand is a top maker of baby and child products across all categories. Thankfully, Graco also offers child safety seats in narrow options. These selections hold up to the expected standards of the Graco brand.
Britax is the top brand in child safety seats. They’re known for their quality and safety standards. While Britax does not specialize in narrow child safety seats, most Britax car seats will fit three across.
Narrow Car Seat Types
One of the challenges of making car seats fit side by side in a vehicle is that children are at different stages and often need different types of car seats. Infant, convertible and booster seats have different shapes and installation mechanisms, which means they often don’t fit snugly side by side.
In our recommended seat lists above you can find products of every type that are in the 17 inch to 18 inch width range, which are most likely to fit 3 across.
Infant Car Seats
Infant car seats have a base that stays permanently attached to the vehicle seat, usually using the LATCH system. The infant seat itself snaps easily into and out of the base so that you can carry the car seat around without taking your baby out of the seat.
Infant car seats are rear-facing.
Infant car seats are made with a handle for carrying. They are usually rounded on the base to be easily rocked (although you don’t want to leave an infant in the car seat too long, for safety reasons). And they are made to be compatible with strollers, so they can be snapped into the stroller, just like they snap in their base.
The limitation for narrow cars is that they may be shaped slightly differently than other car seat types. Also, because you are having to heave the seat in and out of the car, most people want to keep the infant seats by one of the doors.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats can be used rear-facing and then switched to forward-facing when your child reaches the appropriate height and weight. Parents opt for convertible car seats so that they don’t have to purchase a separate infant car seat.
3-in-1 and 4-in-1 Car Seats
3-in-1 and 4-in-1 car seats are also convertible car seats. The numbers mean that they can be used as 1) infant seats 2) forward-facing seats 3) booster seats and 4) backless booster seats.
The appeal of these seats is that they can be used from the infant stage until the child no longer needs any kind of car seat.
When children can pass the 5-step-test and have outgrown forward-facing, harness seats, they sit in a high-backed booster seat.
The child is belted in using the vehicle’s seat belt which is threaded through a guide, called a belt positioner or adjuster. The positioners make sure the lap belt falls across the child’s hips, not the abdomen or thighs. It also puts the shoulder belt positioned across the chest and shoulder, not the neck.
High-back boosters have head and torso protection. The newer seats are very adjustable, where the side protection can not only move up and down but also expand to be narrower or wider to suit the child’s size.
How Do You Choose the Best Narrow Booster or Car Seat?
Check the Width
Ideally the seat width will be between 16 inches and 17.5 inches. The Diono Radian convertible car seats are only 16 inches wide.
The Chicco Keyfit 30 infant car seat is only 17 inches wide and it is an excellent choice for both quality and safety.
There are several good choices for booster seats in that 16 to 18 inch width range as well. For big kids, there are several narrow, backless boosters available that make it much easier to get 3 across.
Plan How the Seats Will Be Arranged
You’ll want to figure out how the seats will be arranged. If you are trying to fit 3 seats across, check in the crack of the vehicle seats to find the location of the LATCH’s and if there are seats that don’t have any.
Take a look at your existing seats and note things like whether the infant car seat handle sticks out to the side, if there are cup holders that stick out and take up space.
For belt-positioning boosters, make sure the vehicle seat belt and buckle are accessible.
You may not be shooting for 3-seats across, you may just want the narrowest seats possible to accommodate older passengers sitting with those in car seats.
Car seat manufacturers know that parents have small cars and they’ve been adding features to make the seats fit better.
- collapsible cup holders, those that squish in when not being used
- straight sides
- seats that are narrow at the base but may be wider higher up
- infant seats without a lip that sticks out on the sides
- adjustable seats like the innovative hi-fold
Use LATCH and Vehicle Seat Belts for Installation
If all the kids are using some form of harness, then the vehicle seat belt buckles don’t have to be easily accessible. That makes your life a lot easier.
So, where possible, choose seats that can either be installed one-time with the LATCH system, and/or are connected to the vehicle with the vehicle seat belt (and remain that way). This way the child or adult doesn’t have to be able to find the seat buckle between seats each time they buckle up.
Of course, if you have kids who are too big for harness systems, then you’ll need to make sure the car seat that is in the middle seat of the car is as narrow as possible so that the buckles remain exposed.
How Wide are Car Seats and Booster Seats?
|Narrow Car Seat||Type||Width|
|Diono Radian 3R||Convertible||16 inches|
|Graco SlimFit 3-in-One||Convertible||18 inches|
|Britax One4Life ClickTight||Convertible||19 inches|
|Diono Radian 3RXT All-In-One||Convertible||16 inches|
|Clek Foonf Convertible||Convertible||17 inches|
|Combi Coccoro||Convertible||15.5 inches|
|Cosco Scenera NEXT||Convertible||17 inches|
|Clek Fllo||Convertible||17 inches|
|Graco Milestone All-in-One||Convertible||17.5 inches|
|Britax Marathon ClickTight||Convertible||18.5 inches|
|Chicco Key Fit 30||Infant||17 inches|
|UPPAbaby MESA||Infant||17 inches|
|Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35||Infant||17 inches|
|Safety 1st OnBoard 35 Air||Infant||16.5 inches|
|CYBEX Aton 2||Infant||17 inches|
|gb Asana 35 LTE||Infant||17 inches|
|Maxi-Cosi RodiFix||Booster||18 inches|
|Cosco Finale DX 2-in-1||Booster||17 inches|
|Evenflo AMP Big Kid||Booster||16 inches|
|Peg Perego Viaggio HBB 120||Booster||16 inches|
|Chicco KidFit||Booster||19 inches|
|Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Shuttle Plus 120||Booster||16 inches|
|Evenflo Chase||Booster||17 inches|
|Hifold The Fit and Fold||Booster||13-16 inches|
Are There Safety Issues with Narrow Car Seats?
The car seats mentioned in this article are safe. They have met or exceeded governmental safety standards.
The core safety features like head and side-impact protection are not as related to the width of the seat as they are to the materials and design.
Narrow seats may have 3 layers of head impact protection, steel frames, energy absorption mechanisms, seat tethers, and the many other features that reduce the motion of a child in an accident and absorb energy into the seat itself.
Narrower doesn’t necessarily mean less safe. However, some of the luxury model car seats with the very most safety features are the bigger, heavier seats.
Car seat designs that aren’t targeting a narrow fit may add in extra layers of impact protection. Some features like anti-rebound bars (ARB’s) or load legs may be available on narrow or wider seats, you have to look at them individually.
While you may be concerned that a car seat doesn’t have every safety gadget ever invented, don’t be! You’ll be a lot more satisfied buying a car seat that is practical and convenient. Keep in mind that the majority of safety issues are related to installation and misuse, not seat design.
Size of Your Car
Based on the narrowest widths of car seats being in the 16 to 18 inch range, to get 3 seats across, you need a vehicle rear seat width of at least 50 inches, and 55 or 60 inches makes it much easier.
Smaller cars, just aren’t quite wide enough.
The second row of the Honda Civic if 47.3 inches wide at the hip and 55 inches across at the shoulders. Toyota Corollas have hip and shoulder widths of 51 inches and 54 inches. The Ford Focus comes in at 52.7 inches of hip room and 54.7 inches of shoulder width.
Compare those numbers to larger vehicles. The Honda Odessy minivan’s second-row seat is 63.5 inches across at the shoulder and new Ford Explorers are 61 inches across.
Midsize SUV’s are similar. For example, the Ford Edge is 61 inches, the Jeep Cherokee is 58 inches, the Subaru Ascent is 60.3 inches and the Nissan Murano is 58.8 inches across.
The best approach to find out the width of your back seat is to measure it yourself. However, if you want to do some research, just search on the car model and “second row hip room”
Can you use a booster seat in the front seat?
Front airbags are designed to protect adults, not children. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children under 13 ride in the back seat.
Are booster seats smaller than car seats?
If it’s backless. The backless booster is more appropriate to older, taller children. In other cases the full booster is safer, since it provides more protection and can be anchored. The full booster may be less bulky than your child’s last car seat and still bigger, since it must accommodate an older, taller child. The booster’s purpose is to boost (raise) your child into a higher position so that the shoulder strap fits correctly.
Is it OK to buy a used car seat?
It’s far safer to buy a new one. Car seats do expire, and, if a car seat has been through an accident, it may be damaged. You should not use a car seat without it’s user manual or without all parts. Last, you must check for any recalls on the seat. If you choose to buy or inherit a used car seat, the seller must know the full accident history for the seat, and you must have all parts and the manual.
You must check the expiration date and recalls. In order to do this, you will need make and model, model number, and date of manufacture. These should appear on a small label on the car seat. The expiration date may appear, imprinted on the plastic, on the bottom of the seat.
Do booster seats need to be anchored?
Most backless boosters cannot be anchored. Some boosters with backs can be, and this provides more security for your child in an accident.
Can a 4-year-old use a backless booster seat?
No. The child must be ALL of these:
- at least five years old.
- 40 pounds
- Able to sit up and reasonable still, without playing with the shoulder strap, climbing onto knees, or slouching.
- AND the seat must be installed where the car provides both a shoulder and lap belt.
Are high back boosters safer than backless?
Yes. They provide more protection and can often be anchored, better securing your child. Backless boosters, on the other hand, are more appropriate to older children, less expensive, more transportable, and easier to install. They often have higher weight minimums than high-back models.
Things To Consider
Buying child safety seats can quickly become overwhelming. The market has such a large selection that finding the perfect seat takes time and research. However, once you understand your needs, you can begin your search.
Before you buy, consider how the car seats interact with each other. While the seats you like may be narrow, make sure they work side-by-side to fit your needs. For example, does a rear-facing infant seat fit between two front-facing convertible seats? The seats must all work well together for the seats to fit.
Another consideration is whether your booster seat child can reach the seatbelt buckle to latch it. Do the other child safety seats block the seat belt? If so, you may need to opt for a booster seat that includes a harness.
Also, always consider your budget when purchasing a narrow car seat or narrow booster seat. The lowest priced item may not be the best financial choice. Read the reviews to ensure good quality. You don’t want to have to buy a new seat every year because it gets easily damaged. Buy a quality car seat from the start that will last you until it expires.
Car seat width is a big concern for large families and families with smaller vehicles. Thankfully, it is now easy to find options for every budget.
As always, safety is a top priority when choosing a car seat. Read up on the latest safety guidelines before you shop. Our Car Seat Safety article will answer all your car seat safety questions.