I still remember car shopping when I was pregnant with my third child, trying to figure out which cars for big families would be right for me. As in, I didn’t want a minivan, and I wanted my car to safely fit three car seats, for my three kids under four. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea where to start, and it turned out to be something that dealers really didn’t know too much about either. Not fun.
If only I could have thought to check out our newest partner, Cars.com, which is a tremendous help for families who are car shopping. It actually features a wealth of well-researched and very easy-to-understand information that parents will appreciate, from family car reviews and side-by-side comparisons, to vehicle listings and resources to help busy parents buy, sell, and service their cars as easily as possible.
Browsing through the site this week, I was thrilled to discover that Cars.com has an entire section featuring impressively comprehensive car safety checks for a huge range of vehicles, rating them based on their LATCH systems, and as how well they accommodate various car seats — infant, child, booster.
I’ve never actually seen that before.
So in an effort to help families in a way I wish someone had helped me — and even make the whole car shopping process a little more enjoyable — I’ve put together 8 fantastic 2015 and 2016 vehicles for big families that safely fit three car seats in the second row, all based on extensive testing from their certified child safety seat installation technicians.
You’ll definitely want to double check info on their 2019-20 models if you’re shopping today.
Consider this a good resource if you’re looking for a deal on a certified pre-owned car from a few years back
(top image: 2013 Nissan Armada)
The newest car on the list so far, the snazzy Volvo XC90 (which also happens to be the Cars.com Best of 2016 winner) scores amazing marks across the board for all kinds of child seats, including both rear and forward-facing convertible seats. Three seats easily fit in the second row, but the third row is best used for booster seats, so while this is a great option for lots of big families, it’s not for those of you with quintuplet toddlers. Other nifty features: it has a big vertical touch screen panel replacing the traditional audio and climate controls (ooh) and even has its own pop-up booster for when your kids outgrow the car seats.
If you’ve got a partner who might not yet want to let go of his (or her) free-wheeling, pre-kid days, you might be surprised to find that minivans aren’t your only option if you need to fit three car seats in the back seat. In fact the 2015 Dodge Charger, with its Hemi V-8 engine, is one of only two sedans that make the cut, making it a choice worth considering for families with three kids — or just two kids and that one friend who you’re always carpooling around.
I know, I know, it’s a minivan…but I was surprised to learn that not all minivans can safely fit three car seats in a second row, plus I’ve always been impressed with Honda cars and service. The Odyssey is not only quite sleek looking, but it fits two child seats in the second row just fine, and you can add a smaller infant seat as well — then two more in the third row. Great carpooling potential! It also happens to have a vacuum cleaner, and a cooler for drinks, which, while not as important as the safety features to me, might just help make this crossover driver a minivan convert.
One of the most popular cars for big families, the Ford Expedition lives up to its reputation, fitting five car seats comfortably; you can easily get three car seats in the second row, and two in the back, though the Cars.com testers were just a few inches short of squeezing three back there too. Impressive! I’d say if you have lots of little ones, you definitely want to give the Ford Expedition a good look.
In case you need a car that can handle rough terrain, the 2015 Toyota 4Runner can do just that, all while your kids are safely buckled in. You can even add an optional third row to increase total passenger capacity to seven, though this might be a better option for older kids in boosters, since there are some issues with the accessibility of the LATCH system.
Who said parents can’t drive swanky cars? This is the second sedan that passes the test, and from the looks of the exterior, I still can’t believe you can fit three child safety car seats in the back! Bonus: You don’t even need to scooch the front passenger seat forward for the rear facing seats to fit in the back, which is something I didn’t even know was possible in a sedan. Wow, just think of how much room your kids will have back there when they’ve outgrown the seats entirely.
The 2015 Ford Edge SUV won a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Cars.com child car seat installation experts seem to agree. It’s a sleek-looking car for an SUV, and there’s plenty of room for three car seats and their passengers, especially if you’re working with a combo of infant seats and convertible child seats.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a perennial choice for families who want a five-seat midsize SUV and don’t necessarily need a third row in the back — but do need to accommodate three kids who are still in car seats. And a convenient rear seatback recline makes it super easy to access those LATCH hooks when you’re installing your kids’ car seats.
Thanks to our partner Cars.com for making car shopping so much easier for families. Visit the site for car seat checks and ratings, millions of new and used vehicle listings, as well as the most recent models best for large families.