Car seats for smaller cars, please!

Yesterday, Alex picked up our new car seat. It’s a Britax Marathon, designed to grow with the child as it grows. A smart idea. And because it’s a permanent seat (as opposed to a removable seat), we think there’s a bit more security in that.
Except for one problem: it won’t fit in the Jetta.
Alex tried several different ways of fitting it in, but all of them basically required the front seat to be cranked forward to give the child’s car seat enough room. To which I offered the following criticism:
How the hell do these seat manufacturers expect us to get ourselves in the damn car if the child’s seat is taking up all the room?
Alex’s very wise (and likely very accurate) response: The seats are designed for minivans and SUVs.
There’s a moment when you hit the point of despair. Not from difficulty in installing a car seat, or from dealing with [[More delays in the basement|concrete contractors who constantly delay your renovations]] because they couldn’t schedule themselves out of a bathroom break, or even from the fear of what will happen should I lose my job (for whatever reason) while Alex is on leave.
It’s the despair that our assoholic society trends even the safety of our children towards larger and larger vehicles. Aren’t we supposed to be going the other way?
Okay, yes, I live in Calgary, the Pickup Truck Capital of the World. That means that this city has a plethora of SLAs — so much that the overall IQ of drivers in this city dropped a few IQ points for many years. (I have a theory that you actually need to take a idiocy drug when you buy an SUV. So far, I’ve yet to be proven wrong.) Although as of late it’s gotten better, the reality is that we still have far too few small cars for such a large city.
Now I strongly doubt Britax builds seats just for Calgary. We’re too small a market for that to make economic sense. But it’s indicative of North American car-buying culture. Cars that are simply too damn big, that guzzle gas like water, and have enough room to house entire villages in other places of the world.
So for the (seemingly smaller) percentage who believe that a small car is proper and adequate, you’re just out of luck. You can’t use the “larger” car seats because they’re not designed for your wimpy little life. (And no, there aren’t any signs or notices that say this won’t fit in your Yaris.)
Of course, the biggest irony is that these seats are probably designed so that children will survive car crashes in SLAs, which tend to have more mass and wreak more havoc. Which is, of course, why people who own small cars upgrade to larger cars — to survive being hit by people driving SLAs.
I could go on yet another rant about why your average person needs to buy an $80,000, 9 foot tall, 27 foot long, 2 metric tonne monster just to drive around town. But that’s a rant for another time.
I’ve love to ask that manufacturers think about this when they design car seats, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter. We’re (collectively) too obsessed with stupidly large. So we have to downgrade to a (potentially) less safe seat so that it will fit in our car.
Maybe we should just walk everywhere and carry our child with us.

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  1. Actually, I was referring to the intelligence of people buying SUVs over regular cars. As with any theory, there are always exceptions to the majority. But I can safely say that I’ve never seen anyone in a small car do the dumbass things I normally see in SUVs (driving over medians, cutting across parks to avoid traffic) and generally people in small cars have enough sense not to do life-threatening things (darting out in front of buses or trucks without any apparent care for safety, driving “normally” on icy roads).
    And since you did raise the point, I do not believe there is a correlation between intelligence and the size of your car. I do believe there is a correlation to your social responsibility and the size of your car, intelligence notwithstanding. Mind you, I also believe there is a correlation to driving to work driving solo, people who buy high-powered vehicles for no reason, auto racing, and aversion to electric cars.
    But then there’s also a correlation to my being a jerk. 😛

  2. THis is a common dilemma parents have when buying a convertible car seat. With many people rethinking the big SUV purchase now it will becmome even more of an issue. You probably purchased a marathon because it goes up to 65 lbs with a harness. What you may want to do it take it back and get a Roundabout which is a few inches shorter in height. You loose the longevity of the seat but if you have to buy another seat later on (even a pricey one with a 5 pt harness for safety) it is cheaper than buying a bigger car.

    Britax is coming out with the Diplomat. This is a Roundabout with deep side walls in the head rest and an adjustable head support. Headrest and harness heights adjust without uninstalling child seat.

    There is also a new seat coming later in the year from Compass. It has a head rest portion that removes when you are using the seat rear facing with a younger child when you don’t need the extra height. I have blogged about it on my blog. Check it out! IT is really a cool new concept. Sorry if the info is a little late at this point.

    Richard Goore

  3. Ah, we hadn’t heard about the Diplomat. We just (today) traded in for the Roundabout, which seems to fit fine.

    Who knows, if we have kid #2 in 18 months or so, might be reason to go to the Diplomat.

    Thanks for the useful links, Richard!

  4. Can you name the truck with four wheel drive,
    smells like a steak and seats thirty-five.
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down,
    It’s the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown!
    Canyonero! (Yah!) Canyonero!
    [Krusty:] Hey Hey
    The Federal Highway comission has ruled the
    Canyonero unsafe for highway or city driving.
    12 yards long, 2 lanes wide,
    65 tons of American Pride!
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    Top of the line in utility sports,
    Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!
    Canyonero! Canyonero! (Yah!)
    She blinds everybody with her super high beams,
    She’s a squirrel crushing, deer smacking, driving machine!
    Canyonero!-oh woah, Canyonero! (Yah!)
    Drive Canyonero!
    Woah Canyonero!

  5. Did you try putting the car seat in the middle seat of the back?? That’s supposedly the safest place! And for what it’s worth – I had to move my front seat all the way up to get the Graco Snugride in – but remember, it’s only for the 1st year, then you turn them around.

  6. I believe Alex did try the middle, and it still wouldn’t fit. One of the other issues is the foot overhangs the seat “bucket” (not really bucket seats, but the square part you plant your butt) and the seats aren’t sitting quite as solidly.
    And yes, it’s only for one year, but you still have to be able to get in the car. Otherwise, kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

  7. And so we arrive at the core of my rant/argument — why should I have to? Why can I not have a good, safe car seat that fits my car? Why do I have to buy a Canyonero (as Scott suggests)?
    That said, we did get a different car seat that supposedly fits. And we’re thinking of replacing the Mini … just a matter of when.

  8. I can totally relate to your problem! I suggest replacing the car seat as opposed to the car (a MUCH cheaper idea).
    They don’t fit in SUV’s either. We tried our car seat in our Ford F150, Dodge Durango AND our Pontiac Vibe. It never fit rear facing in any of the vehicles. The only vehicles they seem to fit properly in is a mini van. My best suggestion get the infant car seat that you can remove. Not only is it totally handy when out with the little one and he/she is sleeping, but it should easily clip into your stroller and any shopping carts.
    We ended up putting Taylor in the Eddie Bauer 3 in 1 car seat at 10 months and 19lbs in a forward facing position as she was much too long for her infant car seat. Because she could easily sit up and crawl on her own I felt totally comfortable placing her in the seat a bit early. And much to my surprise after talking to lots of other parents I found they all had the same struggles and ended up placing their kids forward facing eariler then manufacturers (and doctors) recommend!

  9. We downgraded to a smaller seat that supposedly fits just fine. I’m mildly surprised it wouldn’t fit in an SUV — don’t they have more legroom (and hence more seat space) than Canada? 😉
    Haven’t heard about spinning kids around early, but that does make sense. I’m curious to see if the same thing happens for us!

  10. What type of car do you drive? I have an echo hatchback and have been told that the Britax Roundabout is the only seat that will fit without having to be squished like a sardine up front.
    BTW, I totally agree with your rants. More people need to drive small cars. Ever been to Europe? It’s small car heaven. We should be learning more from their cultures, but instead we think the bigger the better. AAAAARGH!

  11. A Jetta. Plenty big for most things. We just got a Roundabout, and it seems to fit just fine.
    Sadly, we’ll not see smaller cars here until a) we see the gas prices of Europe, and b) the small roads/parking areas of Europe.

  12. i have a 2006 jetta and have the britax marathon installed behind the drivers seat. it fits fine even when my 5’11” husband is driving. my only complaint is that it does not appear as though the seat can be installed in the middle because of how the latch anchor points are in this car. but space wise its great.

  13. This was well worth reading before I set out to buy a bigger car seat today. We have a Pontiac Vibe, so those 3-in-one seats are just not an option since they are too long when read facing. A friend who drives a Toyota Rav4 already told me to not even bother looking at those.
    I’d like to thank Richard for pointing us to his blog. That Compass seat looks perfect… too bad it doesn’t exist yet!!
    The Britax seats you are all talking about really seemed kinda pricey (~$250). I shopped all around Ottawa today and ended up choosing between two Evenflo models: Titan ($130) and the Triumph ($150), and went with the Titan because the cover seemed way better, and well it was on sale!
    I did a thorough comparison between these two and the Roundabout in the store as well as online beforehand, and they all seemed virtually the same length and all had similar features and style.
    I had a Graco bucket in there before behind the passanger seat, and had it moved up a notch. I had to move it up one more notch for this new seat. Not too bad I guess. One annoying thing so far is that there is nothing to tell me what angle to set it too… in case you find that you need this info, here it is.

  14. Frustrating isn’t it.
    Try three kids in the back. My wife and I upgraded to a Subaru Legacy (great car) last year, tried with three seats in and they worked at the dealership. In practicality, when you are trying to buckle one booster in between or even around two hard anchored seats, it gets very difficult. Getting the kid out in the middle in an emergency won’t happen quick enough. For now we are lucky, the little one is in a snap out baby seat. In six months time, we’re in trouble. We are going to try the Sunshine Kids Radian seat, which can five point to 65 lbs, and has a low profile, see how this goes.
    Failing that, I’ve got my eye on a Yukon (on this note, I’ve been told that people who drive mid or compact sized cars don’t have three kids, we’re supposed to drive minivans. Even compact SUV’s won’t work) , and I’m buying oil stocks, or setting up an ethanol still in my backyard.
    I’m sick of the lazy car seat manufacturers not actually designing a seat. All they do is lump it full of cheap injection molded chinese PVC, making it big and bulky. Does any high end racing seat manufacturer out there like Recaro make an alternative? I would rather pay $500 for a decent kids seat as opposed to $50000 for some POG (this is a kids site) GM or chrysler truckvan that gets 20MPG.

  15. Like an earlier poster, I have an Echo hatchback, and I just purchased the Britax Marathon. As I was concerned about it fitting properly in the rear-facing position due to the big size of the seat and the small size of my car, I tried it in the rear right seat before I bought it. It fit no problem. I just got the seat home tonight and installed it into my car. I couldn’t get it tight enough by itself, but Britax recommends rolling up a towel and placing it under the seat where the child’s feet would be, and I did that and it worked great. Yes, the front passenger doesn’t have the most leg room, but the Marathon seems to take up about the same amount of room as my Graco Safeseat infant seat did. I’ve heard great things about the Marathon, so don’t be worried if you have a small car. Try it out and you might be surprised how much room there actually is back there!
    And one more thing – try to keep your kids rear-facing for as long as you can, until they are either too heavy for the rear-facing weight limit, or they get too tall for the seat. It’s much safer.
    Good luck in your small cars!

  16. Thanx so much… I have a FJ Cruiser and it is the worst mistake I ever made!!! I bought it because I was thinking of security (in case of an accident) But the back door opens opposite and they call them suicide doors since u can’t open them unless you open the front door.
    I have a 19 month old that weights 30 pounds, I got on the shower a MaxiCosi and is placed on the middle and is too wide and his legs are allways on the center console…. imagine if I place the seat behind me??? he will be kicking the back of my seat…
    Now Im pregnant with my second child and we are very concerned about placing a second carseat on the back… So i found this website and while reading it I was doing research.
    All the seats that where mentioned are much wider than the ones I’m going to list in a few, except for the Sunshine Kids Radian wich is very narrow but only fits a child until he reaches 65 pounds, and is $229 in BabiesRus (too much $$ for me)
    Meassures: 27.75H x 18W x 17D
    Meassures: 25H x 18W x 20.5D
    meassures: 28.5 H x 19W x 20D

  17. We own a ’03 Pontiac vibe. I just installed a roundabout on the passenger side in the rear facing position. I was checking boards to see if anyone else had anchored it to the bar underneath the seat. Its back a few inches and will be a pain to remove, but it seams secure and won’t take up floor board space. The front seat is limited to about half its normal range, but its no worse then if you had someone sitting behind you. We also have a Marathon in the forward facing position behind the driver’s seat, with full mobility of the drivers seat. So, yes you can have two of the larger car seats in a Pontiac vibe. There is definitely not room for a third however, not even a booster.

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