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Best Car Seats for Small Cars of 2024

Compact car seats for your small car.

We know what it’s like to try to wrestle a car seat, or multiple car seats, into a vehicle with a tiny back seat. It can be really challenging to find a narrow seat that fits well, is easy to install, and is still comfy for your little one.

While many manufacturers are now designing seats to fit better in smaller vehicles, there are still a lot of bulky seats. And some narrow-design seats still sit too far back, pressing into the seat in front of them and making it uncomfortable for the driver or front-seat passenger.

So we’ve dug into the details of dozens of models to come up with this list of the best car seats for small cars. We recommend these seats because of their narrow design, comfort level, safety features, additional functions, and affordable price tags.

Read on to learn how to choose the right option for your vehicle, and check out our reviews of the best models currently on the market.

Our Top Picks

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Product Comparison Table

Product Image of the Diono Radian 3RXT
Best for Newborns
Diono Radian 3RXT
  • Approved for air travel
  • Substantial steel alloy frame
  • Uses EPS energy-absorbing foam
Product Image of the Maxi-Cosi Pria
Most Comfortable
Maxi-Cosi Pria
  • LATCH system is easy to use
  • Offers multiple recline positions
  • Built-in harness strap holders
Product Image of the Cosco Mighty Fit 65
Best Budget Buy
Cosco Mighty Fit 65
  • Only 14 pounds
  • Side-impact protection
  • Easy to care for
Product Image of the Graco SlimFit 3-in-1
Best for All Stages
Graco SlimFit 3-in-1
  • 4-point recline
  • Easy-to-adjust harness and headrest
  • Rigorous safety testing

The Best Car Seats for Small Cars of 2024

Here are our top four favorite car seats for small cars.

Diono Radian 3RXT Convertible Car Seat

Best for Newborns

Diono is the brand that launched the original “three across” campaign. And this model was specifically designed to take up little space in the car so that three seats can sit comfortably in the back. It’s suitable for a wide variety of cars and can be used rear-facing or forward-facing.

This car seat is suitable for use by children who weigh at least 5 pounds. It can be used rear-facing until your child is 45 pounds.

Forward-facing, it works as a car seat through 65 pounds. After that, it converts to a booster that’s safe for children weighing up to 120 pounds.

This unit is approved for air travel and is available in multiple colors. The harness and seat are both adjustable to suit your child. When you’re not using it, it folds flat for convenient storage.

What We Like

Extended Period of Use

You’ll get years of use out of this. You can put your baby in it for the first time when you’re leaving the hospital. It’ll still be appropriate for them to use seven years later when you’re driving them to school.

Approved for Air Travel

This car seat is great for daily use in your car. It’s also approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airplane use. This means you won’t need an additional car seat when traveling.

This narrow seat fits well in a plane seat and through small aisles. However, it’s worth noting that this seat is heavier than most. If you choose to use it for travel, you’ll want to look into using a cart with it.

Substantial Steel Alloy Frame

To beef up the stability and security, Diono created this with a heavy-duty steel alloy frame. Not compromising on comfort to achieve optimal safety, Diono also made sure this model is heavily padded. An additional newborn insert is included to provide little ones with even more comfort and stability.

Uses EPS Energy-Absorbing Foam

EPS energy-absorbing foam is designed to take the bulk of any impact force. It helps absorb and disrupt the force, better protecting your little one in an accident. While comfortable, this also serves to offer excellent side-impact protection.

What We Don't Like

This Unit Is Heavy

The steel alloy frame helps create a sturdy and substantial car seat that works to keep your child safe. It does add significant weight to the car seat, though, so you’ll want to factor that into your choice. This is especially true if you are moving the seat frequently or plan to travel with it.

In addition to weighing more, this car seat is unevenly heavy. It won’t free-stand when not installed. To minimize dirt exposure, always prop it against something when it’s not in your vehicle.

Does Not Have Armrests

This seat is narrow, which is great for small spaces. One of the compromises you’ll make is that there are no armrests.

This may be a problem for long rides where your little one may need a nap. It may also be an issue if you have multiple children in the back seat. A lack of separation between children may encourage bickering or pestering.

Product Specs

Weight 28 pounds
Dimensions 16.14 inches by 16.93 inches by 28.35 inches
Child Minimum Weight 5 pounds
Child Maximum Weight 120 pounds
Additional Features SuperLATCH system, expandable leg rests, multiple shoulder and buckle positions, non-slip rubber base

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
Safety Features
5 / 5
Ease of Installation
4 / 5
Weight Range
5 / 5
Total Rating
4.5 / 5

User Experience

When I first received this car seat, I was impressed by its sturdy and safe design, but I did notice some changes in the fabric compared to previous models. My toddler is super comfortable in it, and the fact that it can grow with them is a huge plus. However, the fabric seems thinner and less durable than the one on my older Radian RXT, which is disappointing considering the premium price. Additionally, installation can be a bit of a challenge, but once it's in, it's very secure and fits well in a variety of vehicles.

Maxi-Cosi Pria All-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

Most Comfortable

This car seat works in a rear-facing or forward-facing position. It is suitable for babies who weigh at least 4 pounds.

Older children can use this car seat forward-facing until they weigh 65 pounds. Its G-Cell car seat technology helps provide excellent side-impact protection, while an easy-to-adjust harness helps give a good fit.

This car seat meets all safety standards. It’s available in multiple colors, and you can remove and wash the cover as needed. Afterward, you can place it in the dryer, making cleanup quick and easy.

What We Like

LATCH System Is Easy to Use

The LATCH system helps keep installation fast and simple. The tether clips offer an easy-to-use buckle that’s used in the same way as a seat belt buckle. Proper installation can take moments if your car is equipped with the LATCH points (most new vehicles are).

Offers Multiple Recline Positions

The proper recline position can make installation easier. It can also make it easier to get your little one in and out and provides a comfortable ride for your child.

This unit offers three preset recline positions to suit your child and space needs.

Comfortable for Long Trips or Naps

This car seat has an adjustable headrest and harness for the best fit. In addition, the padding gives a cozy and comfortable ride. A cushioned headrest encourages relaxation.

The material used on this car seat is also comfortable and not prone to collecting sweat or dampness. Designed to be machine washable, the fabric is easy to care for.

Uses Built-in Harness Strap Holders

Built-in harness strap holders help make fastening your child in just a little easier. There’s one on either side of the car seat. Simply open the harness and latch it onto the holder.

After you’ve placed your baby in the car seat, strap them in like usual. With the harness holders, you don’t need to search for the harness trapped under your child’s body. It makes buckling in faster — and more comfortable for your child.

What We Don't Like

Not as Comfortable for Taller Children

Though this unit is rated for a significant amount of weight, it’s not ideal for a taller child. This is more prominent when rear-facing, even when fully reclined. If your child is on the taller end of the spectrum, you may need to consider a different model.

Product Specs

Weight 22.4 pounds
Dimensions ‎25.3 inches by 23.6 inches by 20.3 inches
Minimum Child Weight 4 pounds
Maximum Child Weight 100 pounds
Additional Features Integrated cup holder, one-handed adjustment, machine washable

Our Ratings

4 / 5
Safety Features
4.5 / 5
Ease of Installation
4.5 / 5
Weight Range
5 / 5
Total Rating
4.5 / 5

Personal Perspective

This Maxi Cosi Pria All-in-One car seat has been a fantastic addition to our family, providing safety, quality, and style for our 13-month-old. Installing it using the latch method was quick and easy, and the seat feels very sturdy once in place. Our little one loves the extra moving room in the sides and the convenient cup holders for her water cup. The only drawback is the strong chemical smell upon unboxing, but overall, we are very happy with our purchase.

Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat

Best Budget Buy

This car seat from Cosco has been designed to perform well while taking up little space. Some car seats that work in a smaller car can be pricey, but this one makes a great budget purchase.

This unit features a simple aesthetic and trim look. Cushioning through the seat and headrest helps keep your child comfortable during trips. The headrest is adjustable, and you can attach or detach the included cup holder as needed.

This model may be used rear-facing or forward-facing. It’s for use with children who weigh 5 pounds and up. It’s rated for rear-facing through 40 pounds and forward-facing through 65 pounds.

What We Like

Easy to Customize a Good Fit

The seat has a five-point harness that you can easily adjust from the front of the unit. In addition, it offers five harness heights and allows for three buckle locations. This can help ensure your car seat is comfortable for your little one, whatever their size or age.

It also features an adjustable headrest. This helps support your little one’s head and neck during trips. The movable headrest helps ensure your child is comfortable and safe as they grow.


This unit is lightweight, weighing only 14 pounds. If you’ve been searching for a seat option that’s easy to move between cars, this may be worth considering. It’s also approved for use on planes, so it can be a good option for traveling.

Side-Impact Protection

It features additional side-impact protection through the headrest and upper body. This helps provide complete protection for your little one if you experience an accident. The headrest provides additional support and keeps your little one’s head centered and protected.

Easy to Care For

It’s soft and comfortable, and you can remove the cover from the car seat to wash it when needed. After washing, you can even place the cover in the dryer, which helps make cleanup a no-fuss process.

What We Don't Like

Doesn’t Offer Adjustable Recline

Though this unit does offer an adjustable harness and headrest, it doesn’t allow you to change the angle of recline. A set position can make fastening your child difficult when rear-facing. Being limited in recline adjustment also may not provide the most comfortable position for your child.

Product Specs

Weight 14 pounds
Dimensions 17 inches by 22 inches by 23.5 inches
Child Weight Minimum 5 pounds
Child Weight Maximum 65 pounds
Additional Features LATCH system, side-impact protection, adjustable headrest, machine washable

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
Safety Features
4 / 5
Ease of Installation
3.5 / 5
Weight Range
4 / 5
Total Rating
4 / 5

Community Feedback

My experience with this car seat has been fantastic, especially for my 12-month-old who is rear-facing and quite tall. Installation was a breeze, and I even had my son kneel on it to tighten it securely. This car seat is not only comfortable and safe for my grandchild, but it's also lightweight and easy to travel with, making it ideal for taking on airplanes and fitting in smaller vehicles like our Subaru.

Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 Car Seat

Best for All Stages

As the name implies, the Graco SlimFit was designed with compactness in mind. This seat is worth checking out if you have multiple children in car seats and limited back seat space.

While many slim car seats leave out the cup holders to save space, Graco developed a unique rotating cup holder design to save space while still allowing your child to keep their drinks close.

The SlimFit seat reclines in the rear-facing position, and you have four recline levels for maximum comfort. So you won’t have to worry about your little one’s head falling uncomfortably to the side every time they drift off to sleep.

The headrest is easy to adjust with one hand, and the attached harness adjusts with it, so you don’t need to remove the seat and rethread the belts every time your child hits a growth spurt. This is also great because this seat will grow with your child through all of their car seat years.

You can use it in the rear-facing position from 5 to 40 pounds, forward-facing with the harness from 22 to 65 pounds, and as a booster seat from 40 to 100 pounds.

With its steel-reinforced frame, your little one will be extra safe in this seat. Graco’s crash-testing protocol is thorough, testing seats in every position to help protect little ones in an accident.

And the cover on this seat is easy to remove to wash and dry, which is a bonus if you plan on using this seat for years.

The InRight LATCH adjustment allows you to click the seat into place easily, and the prominent push-button release allows for easy seat removal when you’re in a hurry.

What We Like

4-Point Recline

Unlike some other slim-fitting car seats, this one allows for four recline levels. The position indicator helps you adjust it to the right level for your little one’s maximum safety and comfort.

Easy-to-Adjust Harness and Headrest

As we all know, kids grow at an unbelievable rate. With the one-hand adjustable, 10-position headrest and harness, you can ensure your child is always positioned correctly within the harness. It takes only one or two seconds to grab the headrest adjustment button and slide the headrest and harness to the best position.

Rigorous Safety Testing

Graco’s ProtectPlus system ensures this car seat is engineered to the safest standards. Its steel-reinforced frame provides maximum support, and Graco tests the seat in rear, front, side, and roll-over crash positions.

InRight LATCH System

The LATCH connectors on this seat are easy to pop into place and even faster to remove. No more fighting with trying to unhook the attachments. Simply press the button and the LATCH connector pops right off, saving you time and hassle, especially if you have multiple seats in a row.

What We Don't Like

Challenging To Use With Shoulder Belt

This seat can be difficult to use in the rear-facing position with a shoulder belt. The belt must be threaded under the cup holder, making for an awkward angle and difficulty securing the car seat tightly to the vehicle seat. If you don’t have LATCH anchors, this may not be your best option.

Product Specs

Weight 19.5 pounds
Dimensions 19 inches by 20 inches by 21 inches
Child Weight Minimum 5 pounds
Child Weight Maximum 100 pounds
Additional Features 4-position recline, LATCH system, rotating cup holders, easy-adjust harness and headrest

Our Ratings

4.5 / 5
Safety Features
4.5 / 5
Ease of Installation
4 / 5
Weight Range
5 / 5
Total Rating
4.5 / 5

First-Hand Impression

I'm thrilled with these car seats for my kids, as they're not only slim and easy to fit in our car, but they also have convenient features like dual cup holders and the ability to grow with the child. The adjustable pillow support ensures safety and comfort, and it's a bonus that this seat works well in smaller cars like hatchbacks. While there might be a slight learning curve when it comes to cleaning and reassembling after a messy incident, overall, it's an excellent car seat that I would recommend to others.

Product Comparison Chart

Product Award Weight Dimensions Min. Weight Max. Weight Features
Diono Radian 3RXT Best for Newborns 28 lbs 16.14″ x 16.93″ x 28.35″ 5 lbs 120 lbs SuperLATCH, leg rests, buckle position
Maxi-Cosi Pria All-in-1 Most Comfortable 22.4 lbs 25.3″ x 23.6″ x 20.3″ 4 lbs 100 lbs Cup holder, one-hand adjustment
Cosco Mighty Fit 65 Best Budget Buy 14 lbs 17″ x 22″ x 23.5″ 5 lbs 65 lbs LATCH system, side-impact protection
Graco SlimFit Best for All Stages 19.5 lbs 19″ x 20″ x 21″ 5 lbs 100 lbs 4-position recline, LATCH, easy-adjust harness

How to Choose a Car Seat for a Small Car

When picking out a car seat, you’ll want to keep the following in mind.

  • How often will you use it? Are you looking for something you’ll occasionally use as a backup or an everyday car seat? Identifying your expectations will give you a better idea of what won’t work.
  • What features do you need? Have a child who’s on the taller side? Can’t compromise on a cup holder? Identify what you must have so you can rule out which car seats to pass on.
  • What is your budget? Car seats are available at many price points. Car seats designed for small cars can be considered specialty car seats and have a markup. If the price matters, make sure you decide that before you start shopping.
  • Is it easy to maintain? A car seat is likely to be with you for a while. Ensure you can easily clean it if it gets dirty — because it will!
  • How easy is it to install? Smaller cars frequently need to fulfill multiple roles. You may be putting the car seat in and taking it out frequently. To make this as painless as possible, choose something easy to install.
  • Has it been safety tested and approved? Above everything else, you want to ensure your child is safe while on the road. Always choose a reputable brand that’s been thoroughly tested and approved.

Need help installing your car seat? Your local fire department or police station can ensure your seat is ready to go. Check with your local providers for assistance, or search National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for an inspection spot near you (1).

Small Cars and Car Seats

Car seats and small cars aren’t the best combination, and here’s why.

Some car seats are equipped with oversized bases. This can help give great stability and may allow for more customization and recline options. Many car seats also come with plenty of cushioning, which can help your little one ride in comfort.

However, these bases, the extra cushioning, and a greater choice of positioning can all lead to a bigger car seat. Padding takes up space, so to carve out room for your little one, the width of heavily-cushioned car seats is greater. The ability to recline further can result in a car seat that’s too deep for a small car or bench seat.

Don’t forget to consider the shape of the backseat, either. Some car seats may fit properly, but it may be difficult for you to get your little one in and out of it. This can be especially common with rear-facing car seats.

Cars likely to experience difficulty accommodating car seats include those with shallow back seats and little legroom. Compact cars, sporty cars, and cars with little headroom may also be difficult to fit. And cars with two doors instead of four are instantly out — unless you’re a contortionist who can somehow manage to get that car seat back there.

If you have a car you think will be difficult to fit a car seat in, make sure you try some out ahead of time. Install the car seat exactly as it would be used. Don’t forget to have any drivers adjust the seat as they’d need it to be to ensure a good fit.

Car Seat Types for Small Cars

Fortunately, some car seats have been designed with small spaces in mind. Depending on your child’s age, you may be in the market for an infant-only car seat or a booster seat. Convertible car seats consistently offer the most versatility and the smallest footprint.

Because of this, we’ve focused on them. Convertible seats are usually one piece. This can make them a good choice for smaller vehicles, and you can use them rear facing and forward facing.

This means you may be able to make a one-time car seat purchase. These seats offer plenty of options to help you customize the car seat to your child’s needs.

Each car seat will have a weight recommendation for forward- and rear-facing use. Sometimes, these weight ranges will overlap. Each state creates its own laws regarding rear-facing age and weight. Ensure you follow those laws correctly (2).

Convertible car seats are designed to be used for an extended period. We chose the narrowest car seats best suited for children from infancy through elementary school. While they are great for small cars, these are comfortable and versatile enough to be used in larger vehicles as well.

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Reviewed by

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN is an oncology nurse navigator and freelance medical writer. Mary has 4 years of experience as an officer in the Navy Nurse Corps. including emergency/trauma, post-anesthesia, and deployment medicine.