When it comes to car seats the feature I’m asked about the most is “Which is the narrowest car seat?” or “How to fit three car seats across?”
So I’m going to talk about the benefits – and drawbacks – of narrow car seats, and also provide some recommendations for each car seat type to suit all ages and budgets.
If you’re looking for more general advice on how to fit 3 across your back seat – check out my article “How to fit three car seats across your back seat”. This contains more advice about configurations, where to put each seat, and tips and tricks to make them fit together in a way that is practical and usable for your family.
Is It Better to Get the Narrowest Car Seat?
Before I dive into narrow seat recommendations, I do want to just press pause for a moment and suggest checking in with yourself about why you specifically want the narrowest car seat. Just to make sure you’re not limiting your car seat options without gaining any real benefit. There are so many great car seats out there, that offer a range of great safety features that you would be missing out on if you only look at narrow car seats (that’s not to say that there aren’t also great narrow car seats, but why limit your options for no reason.)
If you’re wanting a narrow car seat specifically to fit three car seats across, or to future proof yourself in case you need to fit three across at some point – go right ahead, skip reading this section! That’s a perfect reason to get a narrow car seat.
Though if you’re wanting a narrow car seat to have two children in seats and use the third rear passenger seat for an adult to ride in the car as well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you have an absolutely huge car with a very wide flat back seat, it’s probably not going to be possible or safe to have two car seats and space for an adult passenger to fit. You can try it, but personally I’ve never seen it work in a way that you’re going to want to use for any more than a 2 minute drive. (I’m happy to unpack why it won’t work, comment below if you’re interested and I’ll explain in more detail.)
Narrow VS Length Front To Back
If you’re looking for the narrowest car seat because you have a small car – keep in mind the width of your car seat isn’t the most important factor when it comes to a small car, it’s the depth or length front to back when in a rearward facing position. However, narrow car seats tend to be more compact all round, so the suggestions below will absolutely be relevant to your car situation, but the number you’re looking at isn’t the centimeters wide, it’s the centimeters deep.
For example, the Infasecure Attain is 42cms wide and 54cms from front to back when rearward facing, whereas the Graphene is 44cms wide and 52cms from front to back. So for a small car I’d suggest the Graphene is more suitable than the Attain, even though the Graphene is technically wider. Makes sense?
Okay! Now what I’m sure you’re actually here for – some recommendations.
Narrowest Infant Capsules
The Maxi Cosi Citi is the smallest capsule on the market, and also the narrowest infant car seat. Though keep in mind your baby will outgrow the capsule in 6 months, so it’s not a great long term solution, however, given it’s itty bitty size, this little capsule might be a good way to delay having to buy a bigger car, as it’s going to give you quite a bit of space compared to other capsules or 0-4 convertible car seats. That said, it is a very basic capsule in terms of features, fabrics and safety benefits. But I have seen this capsule fit where no other car seat could.
I’ve included the Maxi Cosi Mico/Mico AP/Mico Plus on this list, for context. Capsules typically aren’t as wide as 0-4 convertible car seats. Though as above, they are only designed for newborns and so your baby will only last about 6 months in their capsule. So if you’re just looking for narrow for the sake of narrow, then capsules aren’t necessarily a bad option.
When people talk about capsules being big, they’re referring to the space they take up front to back. The challenge with capsules though if you’re trying to fit three car seats across the back is being able to lift them easily in and out of the car, if all your car seats have been expertly tetrised together.
Narrowest 0-4 convertible car seats
In terms of size and dimensions the Britax Compact, Brava and Graphene all have the same hard shell. The Britax Graphene is the best option of the three, offering Side Impact Cushion Technology in the shell, and also the Active Head Restraint in the head rest (essentially a bicycle helmet). Whereas the Brava has the Active Head Restraint, but not Side Impact Cushion Technology in the shell. And then the Compact basically just ticks the boxes of minimum safety standards in Australia
If you’re trying to fit three across though the Compact or Brava might be better for you than the Graphene, because without that extra protection in the shell, you can push neighbouring car seats right up into them, making space that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.
The Maxi Cosi Vita Smart/Vita Pro are fractionally wider than the above options, and with the shell of these car seats fully filled out, there’s no extra space that can be gained if every centimeter counts. However, if you read my full Britax Graphene vs Maxi Cosi Vita Smart I personally prefer the Maxi Cosi Vita Smart. However, if the mission is the smallest possible car seat, it may not be the perfect choice. But it is a great example of a compact car seat with no compromise on safety.
Infa Secure are known for their extremely narrow car seats. While they may not be as popular as the Britax and Maxi Cosi brand, they do have two car seats in their range that boast being the narrowest car seats in Australia. The more premium of those options is the Infa Secure Attain. For safety the Attain offers “Air Cocoon Technology” – which is throughout the shell of the car seat, as well as “Secure Air” in the head rest.
While the Infa Secure Quattro is the same width as the Attain, it is 4 centimeters deeper when rearward facing, so that may be something to take into consideration for a very small car. The Quattro offers the same Air Cocoon Technology through the shell, but doesn’t have the Secure Air in the head rest, so it’s a small step down in terms of safety features. The other thing to keep in mind with the Infa Secure Quattro is there are several different fabric styles for this car seat which all have different names. There is a Infa Secure Quattro Caprice, Element, Astra and Go, then each of those fabric styles come in a range of colours as well. However, anything with the “Quattro” in the name is the exact same car seat in terms of shell, mechanics, and safety features.
Mother Choice Adore – 45cms wide and 55cms deep rearward facing
The Mother’s Choice Adore may not be the most compact option on this list, but it is the most budget friendly, especially if you can pick them up on sale. Mother’s Choice is manufactured by Maxi Cosi, so it has some of the Maxi Cosi features – like Air Protect in the head rest – but for a fraction of the price. So it’s a great option if you’re not just tight on space, but also working with a tight budget.
Narrowest Harnessed Forward Facing Car Seats
Britax Maxi Guard – 46cms wide
The Maxi Guard is my go-to forward facing car seat recommendation to anyone who’s wanting to fit three across. It’s a great car seat that will accommodate your children until they’re 8+ years old. If you’re already having to invest in 3 car seats you want to be sure you don’t need to buy any more because they’ve outgrown them before they’re done. The reason I love the Britax Maxi Guard isn’t just the overall size, but it’s super easy to use, easy to adjust, and can be positioned on a sem-recline – which isn’t just comfortable for your child, but also might help with squeezing those three seats across. Also, like the Britax Compact and Brava, there is space in the shell that can be utilised by the neighbouring car seat.
The Infasecure Achieve is an interesting car seat. Firstly, because it’s actually not just a forward facing car seat, it’s actually from birth until 8 years. Though it does take up quite a lot of room in the rearward facing position, and I personally don’t love this seat for newborns. The reason I’d recommend it is because it is the narrowest “forward facing” harnessed car seat available. It also offers the same safety features as the Infasecure Attain, just with the option to accommodate a much older child.
There’s not as much to say about Convertible Booster Seats (and regular booster seats). The benefits of the convertible booster seat is that it will accommodate from forward facing (around 1-2 years old) and then converts to a booster seat without the harness around 4 years of age – so these are very budget friendly options for parents. While these are narrow options, once your child reaches the booster seat mode, you’ll be struggling with their seat belt if you’re trying to squish three car seats across.
- Infasecure Visage – 44cms wide
- Mother’s Choice Kin AP – 45cms wide
- Britax Maxi Rider – 46cms
Of these booster seats, while the Infa Secure Versatile is the narrowest option – and sometimes the only option that will fit (See my own experience fitting three across) it’s really not ideal for everyday use, as it’s a very basic car seat. The Infa Secure Aspire boasts being the tallest booster seat on the market, so while the price point is a little higher I think it offers great value with longevity. The Mother Choice Tribe AP is a good budget friendly booster seat.
- Infa Secure Versatile – 40cms
- Infa Secure Aspire – 44cms
- Mothers Choice Tribe AP – 45cms
I’m going to give the Kid Guard an honorary mention in this list though. It is not by any definition a “narrow” booster seat, in fact it’s the widest option on the market. However, it’s great for fitting three across if you absolutely must use a booster seat rather than a harnessed car seat, because it doesn’t have the side arm rests that other booster seats have which means you can actually reach the buckle. I know I go on about being able to do up the buckle of a booster seat when you have three car seats in the back – but I’ve been there and done that. Please learn from my mistakes!