Can You Install a Child Car Seat in the Rear Center Seat?

Child car seats are an essential part of vehicle safety for many parents, but you would be surprised by how confusing these seemingly simple tools can be. Anyone who has installed a car seat can attest to the small nuances that are essential to ensuring the safety of your child, from belt placement to the way the car seat is attached to the vehicle. For parents who are traveling with more than one child, there is the potential for needing to move the car seat around the back seats, but is it safe to place a child car seat in the center of the back seats?

Some vehicles are designed for this

child car seat
A mother removes removing a child car seat | RICARDO ARDUENGO, AFP, Getty Images

While almost every vehicle with a backseat is designed to secure a child car seat with the use of anchors, the number of seats that have this safety equipment can vary based on several factors. Some vehicles, for example, have a rear seat with a center seat designed with its own car seat anchors, but, according to Consumer Reports, this is not a requirement for vehicles designed to be sold in the US market, so not every vehicle is equipped with dedicated car seat anchors in the rear center seat.

Borrowing car seat anchors from the side seats

child car seat
Car Seat | Araya Diaz, Getty Images, 4moms

In some vehicles that are not equipped with dedicated car seat anchors in the center rear seat, manufacturers have designed a way in which you can essentially ‘borrow’ the car seat anchors from the seats on either side without compromising safety. Standard spacing between the car seat anchors provided by the side seats is 11 inches, but that isn’t necessarily the distance between the anchors on either side of the center seat if you are looking to borrow the anchors and install the car seat there. Overall, some vehicles are just considered more car-seat friendly than others altogether, and that may be something to keep in mind when purchasing your next vehicle.

Things to keep in mind with car seat installation

On the other hand, not every vehicle is designed to provide drivers with the option to safely ‘borrow’ car seat anchors to install a car seat in the center rear row, making it an unsafe option. The first step is to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for instructions and guidance on whether or not your vehicle is suited for installing a car seat here. The second step is to ensure that the car seat itself is capable of safely using anchors that are spaced apart a standard distance, as some are not. When borrowing car seat anchors, the distance between the anchors are considered non-standard and is only possible for some car seats.

When it comes to car seat installation, the first and foremost important thing to keep in mind is safety, and cutting corners on install can prevent the car seat from working properly. Because of this, it is crucial to take the time to ensure that, when necessary or desired, the installation of a car seat in the center rear row is a safe option for both your vehicle and car seat.

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