The Best Trucks for Car Seats for a Fuss-Free Ride
Welcome to the A–Z Guide on Picking the Best Trucks for Car Seats!
After years of giving friends a hand with their car seat situation, I realized that some trucks just make your life easier—not all of them, though.
I won’t sugar-coat it; there’s no perfect truck for car seats. It’s a dream that’s yet to be made and probably won’t be made anytime soon if I’m being honest. So far, full-size, first-rate cabins, like the Ram 1500, are often the safest trucks for babies.
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other solid options out there. You just have to know what to look for.
For one, you’ll want a roomy cab, not-so-hidden tether anchors, intuitive tethering routes, safety features, and great crashworthiness scores. Of course, some eye-pleasing interiors won’t hurt!
I’ve looked up how the Ram 1500, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, and Chevy Silverado compare. Plus, I threw the eclectic Rivian R1T into the mix.
Show me the results already!
In a Hurry? Here Are the Top 3 Trucks for Babies
- Ram 1500: An all-around winner in terms of space and luxury.
- Nissan Frontier: An affordable, reliable truck for families.
- Rivian R1T: A solid alternative for parents willing to make the jump into electric vehicles.
Safest Trucks for Car Seats
#1 Ram 1500 — Best Overall
Back in 2015, the Ram 1500 was quite a performer on Cars’ (Cars.com) seat checks. Although they haven’t tested the all-new 2023 Ram, I can only expect it to be just as good.
Why is it at the top of my list? Here’s why:
- Ride in Style: The Ram 1500’s first-rate cabin easily puts it ahead of the competition, especially in trims with leather seats.
- Out of Harm’s Way: Four Ram trims hit nearly all the right marks on the IIHS’s 2023 safety check.
- Spacious Cabs: Depending on the cab style, the truck could be a 5 or 6-seater that accommodates up to 3 car seats.
The main concern with a lot of pickups is that the top anchors aren’t easy to find. Unfortunately, the Ram 1500 is no exception.
Plus, Ram 1500 trucks tend to be more on the expensive side when compared to other full-size trucks—the gas-powered ones, at least.
- You’ll find three full latch sets on the backseat in the 2023 Limited Crew Cab.
- There are plenty of trims to suit your style and all deliver the same high-quality interior feel.
- The cabin is roomy enough to make installation and maneuvering easy.
- You have to fold the seats over to access the tether anchors.
- Parents might confuse the ceiling hooks for anchors.
#2 Nissan Frontier — Best Midsize Truck for Car Seats
The Nissan Frontier is here to prove that you don’t always need a large truck to accommodate your car seats—yes, seats (plural), as in three car seats!
This is why it’s such an all-round performer:
- You Can Count On It: The 2016 Frontier scores a mighty 4.5 out of 5 in reliability reports!
- Safe as Houses: The midsize truck performed well in IIHS’s crashworthiness
- A Crowd-Pleaser: Aside from being a user-friendly truck, the Frontier works well for boosters, convertibles, and latch seats.
Sounds great, right? Well, here’s the kicker:
A rear-facing infant seat will fit just fine, but you might have to push the passenger seat forward. In fact, this was the main drawback in Cars’ review of the 2016 Frontier.
However, once your little one outgrows the infant seat, the legroom situation will get much better. In the meantime, you can put it in the middle.
- It balances cost and space nicely.
- It’s a widely available truck, and you won’t have a hard time with repairs or spare parts.
- There are pull loops to help you fold the seats.
- Bulky rear-facing seats tend to squeeze the legroom.
- You have to get used to the hard-to-reach top tether anchors.
#3 Rivian R1T — Best Electric Truck for Car Seats
If you’re looking for a green driving experience that keeps your babies safe, the R1T (available in 2023 and 2020 models) might be the right gal for you.
It’s an electric, futuristic-looking crew cab pickup with scratch-resistant XPEL paint films.
But enough about aesthetics. Let’s talk car seats.
Here’s why I think the Rivian R1T deserves to be on the list:
- Safe and Sound: R1T made it to the IIHS’s Top Safety Pick lists for 2022 and 2023, thanks to its excellent performance in crash prevention tests.
- So Simple… So Quick: Finding tether anchors is a piece of cake on the R1T since they’re placed on top rather than behind the seats.
- Don’t Fret About Spills: The R1T pickups come with vegan leather So, you can just wipe the spills right up.
Generally, you’ll be able to fit two large car seats on the R1T, and you can squeeze a third one in the middle if you use narrow models, like the Diono Radian 3RXT.
With all that covered, I’d like to address the obvious elephant in the room: it’s electric!
I get that not a lot of folks will be excited to jump on the idea of owning electric vehicles, but its on-road performance is not halfway disappointing.
- The truck accommodates two car seats comfortably or three with a cozy fit.
- You won’t have to dig too deep or push too hard to get to the lower anchors on both sides
- Heated four-way lumbar support front seats can keep mom and dad just as happy as the little ones.
- Dealing with an electric vehicle comes with quite the learning curve—plugging in for charging and all.
- You have to reserve a car and wait for a while before it’s ready.
#4 Honda Ridgeline — Best Truck for a Middle Car Seat
Despite its compact size, the 2023 Honda Ridgeline is said to be one of the most expensive pickups in its class. Thankfully, you’ll get a decent bang for your buck even if you go with an older Ridgeline.
Here’s what I love most about this one:
- Safety for Days: Even older Ridgelines, like the 2017 crew cab, have high safety ratings.
- Room for Customization: Turns out there’s a DIY hack to get the rear doors on older Ridgelines to open wider. This way, you’ll get leeway while installing the seats.
- Bigger Than It Looks: The truck has enough room for three car seats.
There’s one concern, though.
Using the outboard (driver’s side) anchors on the 2017 Ridgeline can be tricky—even finding them is a challenge. So, you’ll either need to spend some time figuring things out or just opt for the middle seat.
Plus, the tethering route is a little complicated. You have to pass the strap through a top guide (that’s conspicuously covered with a lid) before hooking it to the anchor.
- You get three sets of lower latch anchors in the backseat rather than the usual two.
- The flat cushions make it easier to fit a bulky car seat.
- The 2023 Ridgeline interior is a step up from the 2023 Frontier.
- The tethering route takes a moment to figure out.
- You might need tether strap extensions.
#5 Ford F-150 — Most Diverse Truck Series for Car Seats
The Ford F-150 has made the IIHS’s Top Safety lists over and over again. No wonder it’s a family favorite!
This is what stands out in the F-150’s car seat situation:
- Gas-Powered… Or Not: Maybe you’d rather set your car seats in an all-electric truck. In this case, you can opt for the F-150 Lightning.
- Cuts the Hassle: Once you figure out the tethering route, most car seat types will fit like a glove on the 2021 Ford F-150.
- Plenty of Trims: If you want a trim with enough legroom to fit an infant seat and then some, the F-150 XLT SuperCrew has got you covered.
That said, you’ll probably want to go with the newer F-series releases. Those trucks rate significantly better in car seat checks.
- Many F-150 trucks come with flat seat cushions to accommodate larger child seats.
- You can easily find a trim that meets your budget.
- Maneuvering around the lower anchors is fairly easy.
- The tethering anchor loops are hidden behind the head restraints.
- F-series SuperCabs and infant seats don’t get along well.
#6 GMC Sierra 1500 — Best Light-Duty Truck for Car Seats
When Cars reviewed GMC’s 2022 Sierra 1500 (Denali Ultimate trim), the results were pleasantly surprising.
For one, the reviewers didn’t have any significant trouble fitting rear-facing convertibles, infant seats, or boosters.
The only hiccup was that figuring out the top tether situation with forward-facing convertibles wasn’t so intuitive. So, you might want to grab a manual before installing the seat.
Still, there’s a lot to love about the truck.
- Family-Oriented: Depending on the chosen crew size, you can get up to six seats (three child car seats) in the Sierra. There’s room for everyone!
- Lap of Luxury: Just because it’s a family ride doesn’t mean it has to look cheap; the Denali Ultimate is a super-luxury trim.
- Reliable: Despite being light-duty, the truck has an impressive D. Power score of 86 for quality and reliability.
All in all, it’s a winner, but I still wouldn’t say it’s as good as the Ram 1500—in terms of luxury, at least!
- It’s a good fit for tall/tall-ish parents who rely on rear-facing convertibles and infant seats.
- Outboard latch anchors are exposed for easy access.
- The Denali trim comes with stylish leather trim that’s not a pain to maintain.
- Top tether anchors aren’t easy to find.
- Some people find the multimedia OS a little buggy.
#7 Chevy Silverado 1500 — Sierra’s Twin Sister
I saved this one for the last spot because it has a lot in common with our no.6 pick: the GMC Sierra.
Much like the Sierra, the 2016 Silverado fits all car seats well except forward-facing convertibles. However, the 2022 Silverado falls behind when it comes to forward-facing convertibles AND boosters.
Here’s where it shines, though:
- Ample Space: The 2022 Silverado is a six-person seater that can easily fit three car seats on the back bench.
- Surprisingly Fuel-Economic: Believe it or not, the full-size Silverado gets better gas mileage than the mid-sized Colorado.
- Cushy Yet Stylish: Chevy finally upped its interior game with the 2022 redesign, from the leather upholstery to the sporty accents.
One thing that makes the truck a not-so-great fit for forward-facing seats is that you have to get the strap through the loop on top of the passenger’s side and then back to the loop in the middle seat.
- It’s easy to pick up a used Silverado if you’re on a tight budget.
- You won’t have a hard time finding the lower latches.
- There’s enough legroom even with infant seats.
- New releases don’t perform as well with booster seats.
- The top tether anchor system is complex.
Buyer’s Guide for the Best Trucks for Car Seats
With all the top picks in mind, let’s see some factors that can make or break a pickup’s car seat situation.
Ideally, you want a model with four doors (that open wide to expose the back row) rather than two doors with foldable front seats.
The best backseat has to be wide enough to cover 85% of the car seat but still relatively flat. Otherwise, boosters would fit awkwardly.
The seating material doesn’t matter as long as the fabric/leather isn’t too stiff for you to dig in and reach the latches.
Tether anchors on trucks are notoriously hard to find, but the common placements are:
- Behind the rear head restraints
- Behind the seats (these are super tricky since you have to fold the seat first)
- On the side
I’d recommend giving the manufacturer’s manual a look before you dive in and lose all patience!
This one is tricky because it’s hard to balance large vehicle sizes and fuel economy. However, you can aim for a combined MPG of around 27.
Trucks like the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra can help you cut costs. Meanwhile, the Nissan Frontier seems to have poor fuel economy in comparison.
Key Takeaways for the Safest Trucks for Babies
That’s a wrap on our guide for the safest trucks for car seats.
By now, choosing a suitable pickup for your family should be easier; check the IIHS safety ratings and consult the manual for tethering routes.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the trucks on the list. Do you have your eye on one yet?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
Which trucks can fit 3 car seats?
Technically speaking, all full-size trucks (and some mid-size) trucks can fit three car seats. However, some of them can be a tight fit. Your best bets are large pickups, like the GMC Sierra, the Ford F-150, the Honda Ridgeline, and the Chevrolet Silverado.
Are trucks safe for car seats?
Yes, mid-size and full-size trucks can be perfectly safe for car seats, but you can always check the IIHS rating.
What is the most family-friendly truck?
The Ford F-Series offers some of the best trucks for a family of six. The GMC Sierra, Ram, Toyota Tundra, and Chevrolet Silverado are also family-friendly options if you’re looking for the safest trucks for babies.
Can car seats go in pickup trucks?
Yes, there’s no reason why car seats can’t go in pickup trucks. After all, most modern trucks are equipped with approved LATCH systems to ensure safety.
Can you put car seats in trucks with no back seat?
Yes, you can put a child’s car seat in a truck with no back seat (single cabs). However, it has to be in the rear-facing position, and you must switch the airbag off to avoid suffocating the baby in case of an accident.
How can you put a car seat in a truck with an extended cab?
Putting a car seat in a truck with an extended cab is much easier if you avoid the spot behind the driver. Usually, the middle position will give you enough room to install the seat, especially if you have suicide doors. Otherwise, you can aim for the passenger side.
Is there a truck that fits 4 car seats?
It’s not recommended to try to fit four car seats into any truck. Sure, you might be able to squeeze three on the back bench and set the last one in the front row. However, it’s crucial to remember that the back row is generally the safest spot.
If you really need a vehicle that fits four car seats, you can look at three-row SUVs.
What is the best vehicle for 3 car seats?
The Chevrolet Tahoe, Lincoln Navigator, Ram 1500, and Ford Expedition are among the best vehicles for three car seats.
Do you need truck car seat covers?
Yes, if you have kids on the back bench, spill-proof truck seat covers can save the day over and over again.
Are there small trucks with 6 seats?
The Dakota is the only compact truck with six seats. Generally, most pickups that seat six are either full-size or mid-size.
What is the right fit for car seats in pickup trucks?
Ideally, you want the bench to fit 85% of the car seat. Narrow benches make installing car seats in pickup trucks harder and riskier.
Last Updated on March 26, 2023 by Danny Reid