When I had one kid, my child's car seat was in the middle of the back seat, so this was never an issue. We have had two kids now for six months, and I have been stumped about this for all six months.
I am talking about getting a rear-facing child seat to fit in a car, while leaving enough room for the front-passenger to be comfortable. I am not talking about a huge car seat, either: I am talking about your typical, run-of-the-mill Graco brand rear-facing infant seat (carry baby in it; put into base which stays in the car).
I see hundreds of families with these car seats in all sizes of cars. When we went shopping for my wife's car last winter, the ONLY non-huge car that we could fit the car seat in and still fit in the front was the Saturn AURA. When we went car shopping for me, the only cars (instead of getting another AURA) I could fit it in were the DeVille/Crown Vic type of full-size cars.
Well, now we are car shopping yet again, and dealing with this all over again. My wife isn't that tall, or maybe she is (5'7"), but we can't find any cars other than her Saturn where we can put the infant seat behind her, yet leaving her enough room up front to be comfortable. We have tried these cars, NONE of which work:
Vibe; Camry; Impala; Grand Caravan (2008); G6; Taurus (2008); Focus; Sonata; Grand Prix; Bonneville; xB; Maxima; Malibu Maxx; Forester; Outback; Mazda5; Mazda 6; Volvo-something; and a bunch others I can't think of off the top of my head. I have a spreadsheet of 26+ cars we have tried over the past year, all with notes saying things like "car seat doesn't fit w/ room for front passenger."
Yet, at the same time, I see people with the above cars using rear-facing car seats with front passengers all the time. So, why does it work for them, but the same cars and same car seats don't work for us? AM I CRAZY???
The only thing I can think of is that people have the car seats installed incorrectly (e.g. not leveled); or maybe people of my wife's size are okay with being totally cramped? I must also admit that in some cars I feel fine being in front of the car seat as a passenger while my wife feels cramped; maybe she just needs a ton more space to be happy? She's 5'7" and "average" for size.
So, what am I doing wrong here? Not to sound too picky, but my wife won't drive a minivan (after testing them for 9 days), and an SUV feels tighter than a car, honestly (except the huge ones, which are out). I was thinking of just getting a smaller infant car seat, but once it's leveled correctly, they don't seem to take up any less space.
So, what do people with families with a 6'4" dad and 5'7" mom do? All of my friends with kids are rather short...my sister and my friend each have two kids and each have a 2002 Cavalier and they are fine, but they are tiny people! My neighbors have their daughter in a Mountaineer, but when they drive down the street the passenger looks absolutely miserable. My co-worker has his kid in a Grand Prix, but again, he is barely 5'5" and his 3yo is tiny, too. My friend's husband is 6'4" like I am and he has a G6, but they just don't put car seats in his car--they use their VUE, and the wife is only 5'3". After this, I realize that I don't know many tall people with kids!
Any thoughts, insights, or help setting me straight with this? We need another car (not a minivan, SUV, luxo-yacht, or matching AURA), and want to spend $15000 or less on a 2008 or newer vehicle. I usually get asked for car-buying advice--I usually never ask for car-buying advice myself--so this is tough for me, so be nice.
[This message has been edited by SonataInFSharp (edited 08-23-2011).]