Car Seat vs Car

There is an underground fighting match in the world of newborns and parents. It is something not talked about by many, but it is a big-scale Pay Per View worthy match. It goes by one name: Car Seat versus Car.

Car v Car Seat -

You think I’m joking? Unfortunately, no I’m not. It is an issue that plagues hundreds thousands many of us, yet it goes unspoken in the New Parent community. I am here to become a voice to the issue.

Let me explain.

We wanted really good car seats for our babies (we did fall under the First Time Parent epidemic of wanting the best for our first babies). We fell in love with the stroller first (Baby Jogger City Select Double), and when we found out that the Maxi Cosi Mico AP car seats fit in the stroller perfectly, it made our decision that much easier. Plus, with a range of adorable colors, an updated design, extreme light weight, and an amazing safety rating, that was the car seat for us. Check a big one off the list.

We ordered the car seats with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, one of the colors that we wanted was backordered (as were the two extra bases we ordered for Tim’s car), but it was scheduled to arrive right before our scheduled induction date. Phew!

Well, the babies came about a week early, and so we depended on our parents (thank you so much!!!!!) to pick up the seats from the store, get them installed in my Toyota Highlander, and then go to the fire station for testing. They were able to do that wonderfully, and Tim’s parents came back with some directions for us as to how far back the seat could be adjusted and where the handles needed to be sitting when the car was in motion.

When we were released from the hospital, I wasn’t yet cleared to drive, so Tim and his 6’1″ frame was behind the wheel of my Highlander. We thought we would be fine. We thought it would be a great car for us to use for years with the kiddos. After all, I had owned it since my sophomore year of college, and I was in love with this car. Worn in, almost 100K miles, but still going strong! Then, I looked over at Tim and saw that his knees were practically rubbing the steering wheel. No matter how he adjusted the seat, he was still cramped. No, no, this would not do!

In the days to follow, Tim tried to install the car seats (with bases) in his car- a Honda Pilot. Now, we bought his car 2 years earlier when we knew that babies would be in our near future. It was larger than my car, so surely it would have plenty of room for our little ones.


Tim’s car was even worse. After he installed the bases and set his seat to be configured with it, he had even less room. What?!?

Ok, this is when we stopped to think: what was going on here? Why was this such an issue?

We went to the store and fire station to talk to the firefighters and salesman ourselves. Were we installing the seats incorrectly? No, they were perfect. Was there a set of directions we were missing? No, everything was followed to a T. How much extra room do the car seats need between the tip and the back of the driver/passenger seat? A finger width. Where do the handles need to be? They can be anywhere, as long as they are clicked and locked in place.

So, with all of these questions answered from the horses’ mouthes, we tried to figure out why we were having such problems with our seats. Both the driver and front passenger seats had absolutely NO leg room in either of our SUVs. What the what?!?

We did what any exhausted, half-delirious, hormonal couple would do: we trekked to Babies R Us to look and measure their car seats and bases. Our car seat MUST be extra-long. THAT’s why it won’t fit in our cars!

Wrong again!

Our car seats were the exact length as every other seat on the market. Shoot. There goes that solution.

So, being the hormonal mess I was, I almost broke down right there in aisle of the Babies R Us. I would NEVER be able to get out of the house with my babies because I could never travel in my car with my husband. We would never be able to take another road trip to Charlottesville, our lake house in Alabama, the beach, New Jersey, or Cleveland. I was homebound. Stuck. Helpless. Pitiful!

Then, we took a step back from the situation and figured out the answers to our dilemma. While we weren’t doing anything wrong, here were some of our discoveries:

  1. The newer SUVs have a third row of seats. This gives the 2nd row less leg room. While it is unnoticeable with normal passengers, it is very evident when you have to account for every spare millimeter of space with car seats. My Highlander only has 2 rows, so that is why my car is slightly better-off than Tim’s Pilot.
  2. Most people only have one child in a rear-facing car seat. They can put this car seat behind the passenger seat if the space is really a problem for the driver. With twins, we don’t have that option. Both front seats get smushed.
  3. Car seats are becoming safer, but they are also taking up much more space.
  4. Tim has really long legs (and I must too). This may not be a problem with someone with shorter legs.
  5. If we installed the car seats in a car without the bases, it took up less room. It is no less safe, but it just takes a while to install them (instead of just one click and we are ready to go).

What to do?

Well, due to some thinking and generous parents, we did some car switching with our families. I sold my Highlander to Tim’s mom (so my dear, dear car would stay in the family), and with a generous gift from my parents, we were able to start looking at alternative cars for us. We played around with many options first:

  • Keep the Highlander for Dory as the Mommy Mobile, and Tim would get a different car for family trips.
  • Keep the Highlander for Tim and Dory would get a different car for family trips and as the Mommy Mobile.
  • Keep the Pilot for Dory as the Mommy Mobile, and Tim would get a different car for family trips.
  • Keep the Pilot for Tim and Dory would get a different car for family trips and as the Mommy Mobile.

We inevitably went with the last choice for a few reasons: Tim’s car is a newer car and a larger car. We also like the size of the trunk (compared to the Highlander) and the ability to cart around lumber or trash. With the Highlander, it is harder to do that. When we got a larger car, we knew that we wouldn’t want to put too many dirty items in the trunk, so we liked the utility of the Pilot. Plus, the Pilot really felt like “Tim’s Car,” whereas the Highlander didn’t feel like it would be a good fit for him. Finally, we found out that the car seats would fit in the Pilot without the bases, so as long as that wasn’t the primary car, it would still work for occasional trips.

So, once we made this decision, it was time to go car shopping. Now, here’s where we went on the most unique car shopping trip in the history of the world. Tim brought one of the car seats (with base attached) with us to CarMax (where they have the row of different styles of SUVs). We put the seat in the car, Tim sat in the front seat and adjusted the seat. If it hit the car seat incorrectly or Tim was squished in the driver seat, we crossed that car style off the list. Additionally, we had Tim sit in the passenger side and do the same seat adjustment to see if it needed to be off the list.

Seriously, we did this with every car. And we were left with just a few choices: the Buick Enclave, the GMC Acadia, and the Chevy Traverse. Each of these three are considered sister cars, as they are the same body with different makes. There were also larger sized SUVs, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the size of them, so we kept them off the list.

With a limit on time, we came back to test drive another day, when I fell in love with the inside of the Buick. I was shocked. I had always sworn that I would stay with Toyotas or Hondas (or one of their luxury brands such as Lexus) or even Ford. I couldn’t believe that I was willing to go outside my comfort zone. I was in love.

We realized that the reason why the car seats worked so well was because of the ability of bucket seats in the middle row. SUVs with a bench seat in the 2nd row don’t have the room that they need for the seats behind the driver or passenger. With a bucket seat, that 2nd row is now adjustable, which helps so much!

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