We love figuring out what will work in tight spaces! If you’re tall and need to sit with the front seat all the way back in order to drive comfortably, and there’s a car seat directly behind you….you must choose that car seat carefully. We’ve created a list of seats that take up the least amount of space front-to-back. These will best accommodate taller front seat occupants or vehicles without a lot of front-to-back space.  Some of these seats are also good for travel situations, where you may be renting a smaller vehicle or traveling in taxis/uber where you won’t be able to choose how much space you’ll have. We think all of the seats on this list are also user-friendly in terms of installation and daily operation. 

4.5y 38lbs 3 across all RF in Cleks in superhero wonderwoman costume

Rear-Facing Only Infant Seats

liing

Clek Liing basics:

The Clek Liing features superior safety technology on its base (rigid LATCH and a load leg) and a very easy to use carrier. It fits quite nicely behind taller front seat occupants and is a great choice for smaller vehicles. Can be installed in the center using the seat belt and usually load leg. A top pick!

Note: Rigid LATCH installation is generally only possible on outboard (side) seats.

Who should get this seat (from a space saving perspective:)

The Liing is great for families who:

  • want an easy-to-use car seat that outperforms others on crash tests
  • need a seat that works on the side or in the center
  • don’t mind the higher price point

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Shorter front-to-back than many other seats: The Liing fits well behind tall adults, making it a nice choice for both smaller vehicles and tall families.

Choose your installation method: The Liing installs tightly and quickly using either the seat belt OR the rigid latch. Our first choice installation method would be rigid latch (due to its safety benefits), which limits placement to the side seats, as usually only these seats, and not the center seat, have the required anchors. However, the Liing base also installs quite easily and nicely with the seat belt! That means it can also be installed on the middle seat. Why does this matter? Having both methods work well means the Liing can continue to work in different seating positions in the car as a family grows and seating positions become occupied by additional people or car seats. Note: If you have a choice of installation locations/methods, Clek recommends using the rigid latch and load leg.

Visual indication that carrier is locked into base: No need to wonder if the carrier is locked properly–the seat tells you! 

Environmentally friendly: Various fabric options are Greenguard Gold certified and free of halogenated (brominated and chlorinated) flame retardants while still meeting flammability standards.

fit2

Chicco Fit2 basics:

The Fit2 is long lasting and easy to install both with and without the base, often works great in 3-across situations. Space-saving due to its ability to easily and securely install with the base in the center of most vehicles, where it nestles nicely between the front seats. Excellent for baseless installation, where it takes up even less space. Best for center installation, not a great option for a side installation with base if space saving is a concern.

Who should get this seat (from a space saving perspective):

Because of its longevity and installation versatility, the Fit2 works for a lot of different needs and is a great option for families:

  • who need to install the car seat in the center position
  • who have a hard-to-fit vehicle set up, like 3-across in a smaller car, who want to maintain the usefulness of their vehicle for as long as possible
  • without their own vehicle 
  • who want to maximize longevity of the infant car seat, including those who want to take taxis/uber very frequently for as long as possible
  • who plan to travel overseas through the baby’s second year

Chicco Fit2 details:

Why we love it for tight back seats:

It fits in the center seat! The Fit2 base typically fits in narrow, rigid or otherwise strange seating positions where other seats don’t work. It’s great for small cars since it almost always fits in the middle seat, nestling in between the two front seats. The Fit2 is also a great choice for 3-across scenarios since it tolerates being slightly off-center.

Longevity! The Fit2 will last about a year longer than most other infant car seats. For city-dwellers and those who travel frequently, that extra year is amazing! Having a stroller-compatible, portable car seat with a 30 second taxi installation makes getting around with a 12-24 month old baby so much easier. This longevity makes the Fit2 our top choice for families that don’t have their own vehicle. 

What we don’t love:

Long length: Not a great choice for placement behind very tall front seat occupants, since it’s fairly long and can’t touch the seat in front of it. Still a great choice for small vehicles though, if it can be placed in the center (it will almost always fit there)

Weight: The Fit2 carrier is heavier than the other infant seats on our list, but that’s because it’s big enough to last a year longer than the others. We think the longevity is well worth the extra pound or two. 

Lacks load leg and rigid latch: We wish the base had these features (we wish all infant seats had them!)

chicco-keyfit35-cleartex-cove

Chicco Kefit35 basics:

The Keyfit35 is long lasting and easy to install both with and without the base, often works great in 3-across situations. Space-saving due to its ability to easily and securely install in the center of most vehicles, where it nestles nicely between the front seats. Not a great option for a side installation if space saving is a concern.

Who should get this seat:

The Keyfit35 is a great option for families who:

  • Want an eco-friendly, Greenguard Gold certified fabric option (ClearTex model)
  • Need or want the car seat in the center position
  • Don’t have their own vehicle
  • Have a hard-to-fit vehicle set up, like 3-across in a smaller car

Chicco Fit2 details:

Why we love it:

It fits everywhere! The Keyfit35 base typically fits in narrow, rigid or otherwise strange seating positions where other seats don’t work. It’s  great for small cars since it almost always fits in the middle seat, nestling in between the two front seats. It’s also a great choice for 3-across scenarios since it tolerates being slightly off-center.

Affordable environmentally-friendly option: The ClearTex fabric is Greenguard Gold certified and meets flammability standards without added chemicals. Cheaper than many other seats boasting no-added-chemicals.

What we don’t love:

Long length: Not a great choice for placement behind very tall front seat occupants, since it’s fairly long and can’t touch the seat in front of it. Still a great choice for small vehicles though, if it can be placed in the center (it will almost always fit there)

Lacks load leg and rigid latch: We wish the Keyfit35 base had these features (we wish all infant seats had them!)

gracosrsl

Graco Snugride Snucklock 35 Elite basics:

The Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite’s base fits easily in tight spots and has an easy-to-use carrier at a lower price point than other car seats with similar user-friendly features. 

Who should get this seat:

Great for families:

  • on a tight budget
  • who have their own vehicle
  • who need to fit the infant seat behind a tall front seat occupant or in a smaller vehicle. (It also fits well in the center.)

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 details:

Why we love it:

Note: Our recommendations include ONLY the Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite model. This model has the base shown in the above photo, with a gray u-shaped Snuglock arm. Other models of Snuglock 35 have a different base and are not recommended, because the u-shaped Snuglock arm is significantly easier to operate than other similar (but not identical) Snuglock base designs. 

Easy and flexible installation with the seat belt: Thanks to the Snugride’s Snuglock belt tensioning and locking device, this base often tolerates a seat belt installation positioned closer to the door than other car seats, which is necessary if you are trying to install this car seat next to another car seat or passenger.

Easy LATCH installation: Smoothly pulling LATCH adjustment strap is easy to make tight.

Longevity: One of the longest lasting infant car seats. 

Fits behind tall drivers. The Snugride Snuglock takes up less space from front-to-back compared to other infant seats, so it tends to fit better behind taller drivers or passengers. This means its more flexible in where you can install it in the vehicle–you are not limited to a behind-the-passenger position (for this reason anyway).

Super safe: Crash test results show it’s one of the the safest infant seats in the US 

What we don’t love:

Harder to use Euro belt path: While the Snugride Snuglock uses a European routing path when installed without the base, we find the Liing, Fit2 and Keyfit35 are easier to install with this method. If you plan to use the carrier without the base regularly, consider the Fit2 or Keyfit35 instead. 

Lacks load leg and rigid latch: We wish the Snugride Snuglock base had these features (we wish all infant seats had them!)

Rear-Facing Convertible Seats: Center Installations

Rear-Facing Fllo basics:

The Fllo fits in the center of many vehicles, nestling in between the two front seats. This means it’s great for many 3-across situations. Long-lasting when used rear-facing, user-friendly and chock-full of safety features. Note: Not space saving for a side installation-we do not recommend it for a behind-the-driver or passenger installation in this situation.

Who should get this seat (from a space-saving perspective):

The Fllo will work well for families who want to maximize space and:

  • aren’t limited by a budget
  • want the seat installed in the center
  • have a tight 3-across set-up
  • want an anti-rebound bar and Australian-style tether

Clek Fllo Rear-Facing details

Why we love it for tight back seats:

Fits well in the center seat due to seat belt installation: Because it comes with built-in seat belt lockoffs, the Fllo fits very nicely in the center seat, where a LATCH installation is not usually possible. The built in lockoffs mean the seat can be placed slightly off-center to accommodate another car seat or passenger next to it. Great for installation next to other car seats and when used in the center, usually allows both front seats to come all the way back. A seat belt installation also means there’s no need to worry about LATCH weight limits when used rear-facing. The Fllo will accommodate a rear-facing child for a long time and will usually not affect visibility out the rear window when installed in the center, even as the child grows.

Note: The Fllo does take up a lot of space front-to-back. It’s a great choice for the center because it can nestle between the front seats without obstructing the driver’s view, but it is not a good choice for the side seats in many vehicles and especially in those with tall front seat occupants or in vehicles that are small front-to-back. We do not recommend the Fllo for a side installation when front-to-back space is a concern.

Extremely narrow on the outside but still super comfy: The Fllo is narrow and streamlined on the outside to maximize space in the car but very roomy and comfy on the inside, even for bigger kids. 

Longevity: The Fllo can be used rear-facing until a child is 44 inches or 50 lbs. This means even a 95th percentile boy can use this seat rear-facing until his 4th birthday. The anti-rebound bar is optional, but when used will give your child a lot of legroom. The seat has a 9-year lifespan from the date of manufacture.

Can be used for a newborn: The Infant Thingy, sold separately, makes the Fllo suitable for newborns. This is particularly helpful for vehicles that don’t have enough room to fit an infant seat in a 3-across set up. Note that the seat must be very reclined when used for a newborn, but this is possible in a center installation.

Rear-Facing Convertible Seats: Side Installations

Rear-Facing Extend2Fit basics:

This seat fits super nicely in small cars or behind tall people! It’s very easy to install and use, and accommodates children rear-facing for longer than most any other seats out there. Note: Works best rear-facing when installed with Lower Anchors, meaning it is often not a good choice for rear-facing in the center–see more on this below.

Who should get this seat (from a space-saving perspective):

The Graco Extend2Fit will work well for families who want to maximize space and:

  • want the seat installed on the side
  • want a very easy installation
  • don’t need to fit 3-across in a small vehicle
  • want to maximize extended rear-facing for as long as possible

Graco Extend2Fit Rear-Facing details

Why we love it for tight back seats:

Good fit in smaller vehicles or behind tall front seat passengers due to leg extender and multiple recline options: The Extend2Fit works really nicely behind taller adults and in smaller vehicles! The leg extender can be extended to accommodate a child’s long legs, or can retract to allow a tall adult to sit in front of the car seat. Likewise, the seat permits multiple recline positions. With many options–reclined with foot extender out, upright with foot extender out, reclined with foot extender halfway out, etc,–you are likely to find one that works for both the child and the adult in front of them. Extremely high rear-facing capacity: The Graco Extend2Fit can be used rear-facing until a child is 49 inches or 50 lbs. This means even a 95th percentile boy can use this seat rear-facing until his 4th birthday. Often 5 and 6 year olds will fit comfortably rear-facing in this seat.

Very easy installation with LATCH (especially the 3-in-1 model): The Extend2Fit and Extend2Fit 3-in-1 install quite easy and quickly with LATCH on the side seats. The 3-in-1 model is slightly easier to install because of a nicely designed slit in the fabric cover which allows you to pull the lower anchor strap easily with more leverage. However, it installs this way only until 40 lbs, while the Extend2Fit goes to 45 lbs (which can be a whole extra year of use.) Both seats permit rear-facing when installed with the seat belt until 50 lbs, but we find the seat belt installation causes the seat to tilt over time, so we recommend installing with LATCH when rear-facing.

Longevity: The Extend2Fit has a 10 year lifespan so it’s also a good candidate to pass down to younger siblings.

Optimized for a LATCH installation: We find this LATCH installation very easy for parents to master. However, it means the car seat must usually go on the side seats and not in the center.

Budget-friendly: Definitely more budget friendly than some of our other recommendations!

Rear-Facing Foonf basics:

The Foonf fits easily in tight front-to-back spots and is also great for 3-across. Long-lasting, user-friendly and chock-full of safety features.

Who should get this seat (from a space-saving perspective):

The Foonf will work well for families who want to maximize space and:

  • aren’t limited by a budget
  • want the seat installed on the side
  • have a tight 3-across set-up
  • want an anti-rebound bar and Australian-style tether
  • won’t be moving the seat frequently (it weighs 37 lbs!)

Clek Foonf Rear-Facing details

Why we love it for small back seats:

Fits well behind the driver or passenger: The Foonf can sit fairly upright so it’s a great choice for placement behind even a taller driver or passenger. (Older kids often prefer to sit more upright in the car) Note: Because it sits quite high off the vehicle seat, the Foonf can cause an obstructed view out the rear window when installed in the center of many vehicles, especially as a child grows and the headrest moves up. For this reason, if you plan to put the seat in the center, we do not recommend the Foonf.

Fits in very tight side spaces due to seat belt installation: With built in seat belt lockoffs, a rear-facing Foonf can be placed slightly over towards the door to accommodate another car seat or passenger next to it. A seat belt installation also means there’s no need to worry about LATCH weight limits when used rear-facing.

Extremely narrow on the outside but still super comfy: This seat is narrow and streamlined on the outside but very roomy and comfy on the inside, even for bigger kids.

Longevity: The Foonf can be used rear-facing until a child is 44 inches or 50 lbs. This means even a 95th percentile boy can use this seat rear-facing until his 4th birthday. The mandatory anti-rebound bar means your child will have lots of legroom. (It’s also great for forward-facing, but that is a different category!) The Foonf expires 9 years from the date of manufacture, so great for passing down to siblings as well.

Forward-Facing Convertible Seats

foonfingrey1

Forward-Facing Foonf basics:

The Foonf fits forward-facing easily in tight front-to-back spots because it sits quite upright and is high off the vehicle seat, maximizing space for the child’s legs and for the adult in front. Long-lasting, user-friendly and chock-full of safety features.

Who should get this seat (from a space-saving perspective):

The Foonf will work well for families who want to maximize space and:

  • aren’t limited by a budget
  • want the seat installed on the side in a position with lower anchors (LATCH)
  • want true rigid lower anchor connectors
  • won’t be moving the seat frequently (it weighs over 30 lbs!)

Clek Foonf Forward-Facing details

Why we love it for tight back seats:

Upright and tall design maximizes space: The Foonf can be installed in an upright position (recline angle 1) which positions the car seat quite close to the vehicle seat back behind it. This means the child will sit further towards the back of the vehicle than they would in a more reclined forward-facing seat. The Foonf also sits high off vehicle seat. This provides the child with more leg room, because the child’s legs can hang straight down rather than pointing out into the front seat. This translates to more space for the adult in front, and less likelihood of getting kicked!

Assured super tight installation, even in a 3-across situation (as long as the Foonf can be installed, it will be tight): Because the forward-facing Foonf uses Rigid LATCH and therefore plugs into the vehicle’s lower anchors, you’ll never need to worry that it’s installed too loosely. This is important in a 3-across situation where you must be certain that all three seats are independently tight, and they don’t just seem tight because they’re smack up against each other. The Foonf is the only forward-facing 5 point harness seat sold in the US to feature Rigid LATCH at this time.

Extremely narrow on the outside by still very comfy: The Foonf is narrow and streamlined on the outside but very roomy and comfy on the inside, even for bigger kids. 

Longevity: The Foonf can be used forward-facing until about age 6. 

Note: Great option for the side seats, NOT the center: Because the Foonf uses Rigid LATCH, it’s best placed on the side seats. It often fits nicely next to a rear-facing Clek Fllo in the middle seat. The Foonf is not a good choice for a forward-facing seat in the center because most vehicles do not have lower anchors in that position. 

Other things we like, besides the space-saving parts:

  • Works well rear-facing too
  • Has smooth pulling straps that don’t twist.
  • 9 year lifespan  so great for passing down to siblings
  • Kids can’t access button used to loosen straps (if you have a curious preschooler you’ll know why this matters)
  • Gives the child more leg room, because the child’s legs can hang straight rather than pointing out into the front seat (because it sits high up off the vehicle seat)
  • Accommodates protruding vehicle head restraints better than other forward-facing car seats. 

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FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this page. No monetary compensation was provided, however, some of the reviewed products were supplied by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate the review. All opinions are those of The Car Seat Lady LLC.