Cars that fit three kids across the back seats aren't as easy to come by as you might think. The problem is that many child seats (which you must use until a child is either aged 12 or 135cm tall) are just too wide to fit three abreast.
Suitable cars do exist, however, and you don't have to pay the earth for them – cue our list of the ten best cars to fit three child seats in a row, each for under £10K.
Why used seven-seaters tick the most boxes
Each car here is a seven-seater, as these tend to offer three full-size seats across the middle row, giving the best chance of fitting three child seats here. Some of these models are also available as five-seater cars, but we reckon it's worth paying a bit extra for a much more versatile car.
To keep each car under £10,000 we've chosen used models, but these include several cars that should look and feel as good as new if they've been well cared for. We've also recommended models that offer the best balance of power and equipment for the money, on the most recent number plate – the fewer miles a car has done, the less wear and tear it's likely to have suffered. However, it's up to you if you want to compromise in one area to get more from another – for example, an older or higher-mileage car will be cheaper, or allow you to afford a higher spec.
Getting the right fit
Bear in mind that not every trio of child seats will fit across all of these cars, and the slimmer your models of child seat, the better your chances. In particular, booster cushions are a slimmer alternative to high-backed booster seats.
Remember too that, even individually, not every child seat will fit properly in every car. The angle of the car's seat back and base may not suit the shape of your specific child seat; Isofix points in the car can be positioned too high for your child seat's Isofix connectors. Your child seat's manufacturer can often tell you if a their seat is compatible with a particular car. If not, the only way to be sure is to try out your child seats in any car you're interested in, and know what to look for; or be prepared to replace some or all of your child seats when you buy the car.
How much to pay
The prices we've given with these cars are what you can expect to pay at a dealer, who in most cases will operate an approve-used scheme which includes a wide range of official checks on all used cars before they go on sale and includes some sort of warranty. You'll pay less privately but the car will be sold as seen and you won't get any back-up if something goes wrong. Either way, you can always try to negotiate
We've also specified the age of the cars you'll need to look at for a £10,000 budget, using the car's registration figures – for more information on what these figures mean, click here
Petrol or diesel?
For each car, we've recommended both a diesel and petrol model, depending on your driving habits. A diesel car will be stronger, so it's the best choice if you're likely to travel fully laden with seven passengers and their luggage on a regular basis; diesels are also a good option if you travel over 12,000 miles a year, where the extra expense of buying a diesel car will be offset by its better fuel economy. However, diesel cars are often fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), and these can get clogged up, leading to engine failure, if they are not given regular runs at higher speeds to clear them out. If your driving is mainly urban, petrol may be a safer choice – you're unlikely to miss the oomph of a diesel round town, and you'll also avoid problems with a DPF.
If you're not sure which will work out cheapest for you, read our guide to petrol vs diesel
including our downloadable calculator.
Reliability and used cars
Reliability is a key issue for anyone who regularly relies on their car, and the reality is that few used cars are without their problems. We've highlighted particular issues to watch out for with any of these cars, and if you want to make life easy for yourself you should demand that any problems are fixed before your buy – or walk away and find a car in better condition.
Always check on the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) website for any recalls that have been issued, and check that the problem in question was fixed by a main dealer.