Since more people are buying pickup trucks as family vehicles in 2022, we figured it might be worth taking a look at which pickup trucks are best for car seats – especially since the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) points out there’s a high percentage of misuse when using and installing these seats.
So, which trucks not only fit child safety seats but also make it easy to install?
The good news: All full-size trucks will fit three car seats. The bad news: According to IIHS, none of them get higher than an “Acceptable” ease-of-installation rating.
Because fitting a a rear-facing car seat in an extended cab truck is going to be a tough fit, we are looking only at crew cab iterations of the full-size truck for the purpose of this story.
Thankfully, IIHS and Cars.com both do car seat tests, so in pooling those two resources together as well as looking at crash test ratings, here’s how the full-size truck segment stacks up in our book.
The Ram 1500 is one of two full-size pickup trucks on IIHS’s Top Safety Pick list, yet it only gets a Marginal rating for child seat anchors. On the outboard positions, the tether anchors are hard to find, and other hardware could be confused for an anchor. But on the plus side, they aren’t too deep in the seat, and it’s easy to maneuver around the anchors. Unfortunately, Cars.com hadn’t reviewed car seats in a Ram since 2015, but at that time gave the truck A and B grades, with the big ding going against forward-facing convertible car seats.
While the Ford F-150 is the other truck that makes IIHS Top Safety Pick list, it only gets a Marginal rating for child safety seats. Not only are the tether anchors hard to find, but IIHS also notes other hardware could be confused for an anchor. In contrast, Cars.com gives the pre-redesign 2019 F-150 mostly A grades, citing easy of installation. They did have to consult the owner’s manual for the Latch system, and forward-facing convertible seats got a “B” because of the confusing tether loop.
Because the Tundra is new, no one has rated the 2022 model yet, but hopefully Toyota didn’t break what worked. This truck was the only one to get an Acceptable rating from IIHS in the car seat test. In fact, the only real ding it gets is that the tether anchors in all three seating positions are hard to find. Cars.com, however, gave the previous-gen Tundra a B grade across the board, stating installation required two hands and the seat cushion blocks Latch access. We bumped this to third on the list because it doesn’t get a Top Safety Pick rating and because Cars.com didn’t give it any top marks.
Though the GMC Sierra gets an IIHS Marginal rating, like Ram and Ford, it gets bumped down lower on the list because it’s crash-test ratings are lower and, even though you can fit a car seat in the middle, there aren’t any lower anchors available. So, it’s less ideal if you need to fit three seats in the back. From the Cars.com crew, we see three A’s and a two B’s, but that’s not enough for us to push it higher on the list because crash tests.
Though we have Chevy Silverado below the Sierra, that’s just semantics as they’re basically the same vehicle with different badging. IIHS gives this truck the same crash test and Marginal child seat ratings, so it’s same, same. The last Cars.com put child seats in a Silverado was the 2015 model year, when it got mostly A’s. But we’d be more apt to say the booster rating got knocked to a B in the redesign just like it did for the Sierra.
Maybe we’re being a bit unfair to the Nissan Titan by putting it last, but neither IIHS nor Cars.com have looked at car seats in newer models. So, we dropped it to the bottom mostly because it’s the only full-size pickup truck to get a Poor rating from IIHS on anything – in this case it was headlights. However, if all you care about is how the car seat fits, when last Cars.com looked at the Titan in 2017, it received mostly A’s. The only ding was for the booster seat, which got a B because of floppy seat belt buckles.
When carting around kids, safety is of the utmost importance, which is why we looked at overall safety ratings as well as the ratings for child safety seats when ranking the best full-size trucks for this story. We linked to each rating from IIHS and Cars.com to make it easier for you to follow up on our research, and we strongly recommend that if you have one, two or three car seats, you should bring them with you when you test any vehicle – not only to ensure they fit but also to understand the proper installation before you buy.
And whether you’re a new parent or simply getting a new vehicle or car seat, we strongly recommend you get your car seat inspected by an expert. You can find the closest inspection station with certified technicians on the NHTSA website.
Editor’s note: Featured image courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales and its Buckle Up For Life partnership.