The Ultimate Family Vehicle for Three Car Seats

When people talk about the best family vehicle for 3 car seats, the most common suggestion is either a minivan or a large SUV, such as a suburban.   There are many great arguments for why a mini-van is the ultimate vehicle for families with small kids, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to drink the mini-van Kool-aid.  But, I promise not to think you are uncool if do take the mini-van leap or have already.  In fact, if I ever see you whip out the handy vacuum hose attached to the inside trunk of your mini-van to clean up the crumbs on your seats, I will be super jealous.  With the mini-van option out, we briefly considered upgrading to a large SUV but decided that making the move from a midsize SUV to a large SUV was a financial jump we didn’t want to take.

When our first son was born almost 4 years ago, I drove a small SUV. Shortly after our 2nd son was born, I upgraded to a mid-size SUV, a 2015 Nissan Pathfinder.  The Pathfinder was great for family road trips with our 1 year old and infant.  At that time, I was using my bin system for packing for road trips and it worked well with the Pathfinder.  I still use that same bin system, and it has been key for traveling with all the extras that make traveling and staying in hotels possible with severe food allergies.  But, when we found out the exciting news that we were pregnant our 3rd baby, we tested out 3 car seats in the Pathfinder and ultimately decided it was best to look for a new ride.

Our three car seat test consisted of a Graco infant car seat and two Britax Boulevard convertible car seats.  They did all fit but they were pushing up against each other quite a bit.  Now, it probably would have passed a car seat inspection, but ideally cars seats shouldn’t have anything pushing against them that would prevent them from moving the way they were made to move during a collision.  To solve that problem, we purchased a Diono RXT car seat, which is known for it’s heavy steel frame to protect from impacts, as well as for being a narrower car seat when there is limited space.  When the car seat arrived, it did alleviate some of the pushing, but there definitely still was not space between.  Though it wasn’t the solution to our problem, we decided to keep the Diono RXT because we really liked it and we knew we would eventually need 3 convertible car seats anyway. But, because the lack of adequate space between the seats was still an issue, we ruled out having all 3 car seats in the same row.  Our Nissan Pathfinder had 3 rows so we toyed with the idea of putting our oldest (3) in the third row by himself, and the younger two in the 2nd row.  But that was a short-lived idea.  For one, at only three he could climb in himself but couldn’t do the buckle safely himself so we would have to awkwardly reach over the second row to do it every time he got in and out, which was make even more awkward due to the limited amount the 2nd row seat could be moved forward because there was a stationary infant base or a convertible car seat on each side preventing it from being moved forward to adequately and conveniently reach him in the third row.  Now if it were just a convenience issue, we probably would have kept the Pathfinder, but there was also a safety issue at play.

If we had our 3 year old in his convertible car seat in the third row, then we wouldn’t have enough room behind him in the trunk for a double stroller unless we laid the other half of the third row down and slid the stroller in next to him.   But, after trying it and knowing what would happen in accident, that route was out too.  So, a hunt for a new vehicle we went. 

Our Pathfinder was out.  A mini-van was out.  A large SUV was out because the next class of SUV sizes would be a large jump in payment that we didn’t want.  Then, we found it.  Now, I should first tell you that I already once owned my dream vehicle – It was a bright orange Hummer 3 with a full chrome package that I purchased shortly after college.  BUT, I would say this new vehicle is a runner-up.  Okay, I hope I didn’t get your hopes up and you’re thinking I have some fancy $70,000 dollar vehicle because that is not the case.  My new ride is a 1 year old Ram 1500 4-door crew cab.  We gained 9 inches across the backseat and there is now a solid 4-5 inches between each car seat.  Not only was it perfect to fit all 3 car seats across, but the monstrous leg room in the back seat made it easy to climb into the cab to buckle the one in the middle car seat.  And, BONUS, we have room for more bins in the truck bed when road tripping.  And, EXTRA BONUS, because we love finding spots for picnics when we are traveling, the truck gate provides a great spot to hang out and eat if we didn’t want to take out our travel picnic table. 

At first, I had hesitated on the truck because I didn’t know what if would be like to travel without internal cargo space.  It so far hasn’t been an issue, even in the winter and we get COLD winters.  The plastic topper insulates it enough where neither warm or cool temps have been an issue for our luggage, even on longer road trips. 

I’m thinking RAM needs to do a marketing campaign selling their Crew Cab trucks as family vehicles.  I know so many people who have had or have the vehicle dilemma for needing room for 3 car seats plus room for the cargo that they riders of those car seats require. I’m telling you, pick-ups are the new Mom-mobile!

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