adding seats to large suv

tablefor10

New member
Hi. We have eight kids and I'm looking for advice on adding seats to a large suv, specifically a 2005 ford excursion. Our regular family vehicle is a ford transit 12 passenger van but we need something to use when we need to tow as well as for icy weather when the rear wheel drive van gets difficult to handle and four wheel drive would be better.

Our options are:

-swap out the driver and passenger seats for a front row bench. It would only seat nine so we would have to take two cars if we all go somewhere together but I could use it myself with all the kids, a cost of about $700

-have another third row third row bench added to the cargo area by a conversion van company which would be a factory seat but the kids would be right up against the rear window, center lap belt and no headrests at all, a cost of about $2800

-get a rear facing seat made by little passenger seats, would have three shoulder belts and three headrests which would also hang over enough to function as headrests for the third row bench seat (we've priced out headrests for that row and it's nearly $600 to have them retrofitted), a cost of about $1200

Our kids are in:
-rear facing britax advocate clicktight with anti rebound bar
-forward facing britax boulevard clicktight
-another ff britax boulevard but non clicktight
-ff britax marathon
-ff britax pavilion
-high back britax booster whose name escapes me
-low back booster
-12 year old who no longer needs a car seat

A few other things:
-a newer/better 4x4 vehicle is not in the cards
-yes, we will be using the van whenever possible
-I'd prefer not to have to buy a bunch of new car seats
-the youngest will not be forward facing for about another two years
-the third row only has one single tether anchor
-the little passenger seats stuff do not have tether anchors and car seats are not recommended to use with them but they're smaller seats and younger kids can step out of car seats earlier with them
 
ADS

ketchupqueen

CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
The Little Passengers seats are absolutely not safe.

I'm fairly sure the option of adding seats to the cargo area by a conversion company, while the seats themselves would maybe be safer, is still unsafe for many of the same reasons- placing people inside the crumple zone, using attachments in an area not designed for those forces.

The front row bench I don't know enough to comment on, but I'd hesitate to do it for my family. There may be airbag as well as structural issues.

Unfortunately I think there is not a way to do this I'd feel comfortable with.
 

tablefor10

New member
The Little Passengers seats are absolutely not safe.

I'm fairly sure the option of adding seats to the cargo area by a conversion company, while the seats themselves would maybe be safer, is still unsafe for many of the same reasons- placing people inside the crumple zone, using attachments in an area not designed for those forces.

The front row bench I don't know enough to comment on, but I'd hesitate to do it for my family. There may be airbag as well as structural issues.

Unfortunately I think there is not a way to do this I'd feel comfortable with.

I intend this to be polite, sorry if it doesn't come off that way. What data do you have to back up the claim that little passenger seats aren't safe? No, they haven't been crash tested but that just means there isn't information, not that they are unsafe. Stating they are unsafe is just a personal opinion and should be presented as such rather than as a fact.

I guess thanks anyway but these are my options and simply saying nothing is good enough isn't helpful.
 

TechnoGranola

Forum Ambassador
With an SUV full of people and the weight of extra seating, it's highly likely you will not be able to tow anything of significant weight as you are going to be close to/over your vehicle payload. That means you won't have any room left for tongue weight. Or if you do, not enough to tow anything more than a pop-up trailer.

I am unsure of what you are needing to tow, but it's something you will want to look into. Being over payload affects your vehicle's handling and braking, puts your tires and suspension at risk, etc.
 

TechnoGranola

Forum Ambassador
I intend this to be polite, sorry if it doesn't come off that way. What data do you have to back up the claim that little passenger seats aren't safe? No, they haven't been crash tested but that just means there isn't information, not that they are unsafe. Stating they are unsafe is just a personal opinion and should be presented as such rather than as a fact.

I guess thanks anyway but these are my options and simply saying nothing is good enough isn't helpful.

I only took a 30 second look at the Little Passengers web site, but I think the "absolutely not safe" comes from a few things that are evident on the web page and not just "personal opinion":

  1. The testing they say they have done doesn't have any crash testing with child passenger dummies, or any dummies at all. From what I can see, there has been no passenger testing at all.
  2. They are a rear facing seat so cannot be used with any car seat if your child needs one.
  3. They are designed for age 4+. There are very few 4 year olds that can sit properly in a seatbelt safely.
  4. They are in the cargo space of the vehicle. The vehicle was designed for this to be NON passenger space. This means that it was not designed to protect passengers sitting in that space. Their testing did not crash test every (or heck, even ANY) vehicle on the market with their seat in it. So if you should be in a collision, your child is the crash test dummy for these seats.
  5. They recommend that you have your child's fit inspected by "highway law enforcement". Not a CPST, but by a profession that may or may not be certified in child passenger safety (and from what I understand, being that it isn't the primary focus of their position, many police officers are not certified in child passenger safety). So they clearly don't even know what direction to point you in to get your child's fit checked out. And of course, even if the seatbelt fits, there are still some of the items I listed above that are of concern.
  6. They admit that "that there are no requirements that we do any safety testing in order to market our seats", and don't go into enough detail about what they have done for passenger testing to make me feel warm and fuzzy about making my kid a potential crash test dummy.

Like I said, I did just do a 30 second peruse, so if they sent vehicles to NHTSA and IIHS to crash test passenger safety with their seats installed, and I missed it, I apologize for not noticing.
 

TechnoGranola

Forum Ambassador
Was the bench seat an available option on that SUV? If so, that is the option I would consider and I'd talk to the manufacturer as then you can find out if was an available option on your model and would work with the specific trim level you have. I would be concerned about the middle passenger, would this be lap belt only? If so, I think you would be limited to only a forward facing harnessed seat in that position. And then you'd need to get a tether anchor added which is likely to be in a place that was designed by the manufacturer. Likely better than no top tether, but not optimal.

I guess thanks anyway but these are my options and simply saying nothing is good enough isn't helpful.

The reality is, sometimes none of the options are good enough. It sucks, but it can be the truth.
 

ketchupqueen

CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
Sometimes there just isn't a safe way to do what you want. I agree that the bench seat is one to investigate further but you'll need to talk to the company about safety and feasibility.

In addition to the accurate list Techno posted of reasons Little Passengers aren't safe, the attachments they use, I have on good authority (vehicle engineer), won't hold up in a crash because they are attaching to structures and areas not designed to bear that much weight. There are also some concerns about both the fit and the structural integrity of the anchors of their belts.

Also, when asked politely to see proof of the claims they were making or challenged on claims by multiple CPSTs including me, they simply blocked us and renewed their claims instead of addressing the concerns. Not a company I'd trust with my family's safety even if I wasn't so concerned about so many points of their product.
 

tablefor10

New member
With an SUV full of people and the weight of extra seating, it's highly likely you will not be able to tow anything of significant weight as you are going to be close to/over your vehicle payload. That means you won't have any room left for tongue weight. Or if you do, not enough to tow anything more than a pop-up trailer.

I am unsure of what you are needing to tow, but it's something you will want to look into. Being over payload affects your vehicle's handling and braking, puts your tires and suspension at risk, etc.

This is a vehicle that can tow 11,000lbs. An extra seat with a couple kids on it won't change what it can tow any more than putting some suitcases in the cargo area would.
 

tablefor10

New member
The reality is, sometimes none of the options are good enough. It sucks, but it can be the truth.

The reality is that this is the vehicle I have and this is what I need to be able to do with it. I'm looking for the best way to go about it. As I said before, thank you but saying nothing is good enough doesn't help.

I've been reading on these forums for years but never needed to post until now. I know people are trying to help but too often the advice is for someone to buy a new car, spend a thousand dollars on new seats, find a friend to drive some of the kids, or hire a sitter whenever they need to leave the house. This isn't practical or realistic for most people and it ends of pushing people away since they find themselves thinking 'I'm never going to be able to make it perfect so why am I bothering?'. That's when you get four year olds in low back boosters because it's technically legal.
 

TechnoGranola

Forum Ambassador
This is a vehicle that can tow 11,000lbs. An extra seat with a couple kids on it won't change what it can tow any more than putting some suitcases in the cargo area would.

I think you need to do some research on towing then. What a vehicle is rated to tow and what it can actually tow, are two different things. Go read the yellow sticker inside the drivers door panel and see what your payload is. Max tow capacity is typically with a driver only. If your vehicle is full of passengers, your payload is reduced, which reduces what you can carry on the tongue. Plus check your max tongue weight which will be in your manual (don't go by what's stamped on the tongue as that's numbers that don't take into account your specific vehicle).

It seems to me you're looking for validation rather than information. I urge you to investigate towing info on other forums before you assume you can tow what you can tow. Rv.net may be a good starting place.
 

TechnoGranola

Forum Ambassador
The reality is that this is the vehicle I have and this is what I need to be able to do with it. I'm looking for the best way to go about it. As I said before, thank you but saying nothing is good enough doesn't help.

I've been reading on these forums for years but never needed to post until now. I know people are trying to help but too often the advice is for someone to buy a new car, spend a thousand dollars on new seats, find a friend to drive some of the kids, or hire a sitter whenever they need to leave the house. This isn't practical or realistic for most people and it ends of pushing people away since they find themselves thinking 'I'm never going to be able to make it perfect so why am I bothering?'. That's when you get four year olds in low back boosters because it's technically legal.

I gave a suggestion on which option you presented that I would look into. I don't really know what you want people to say here? I'm not going to tell you to go out and tow a 35 foot trailer whether you have 2 kids or 8. Cargo, which includes people, reduces towing limits. I can't change that fact. And I'm not going to tell you that putting kids in the cargo area is safe, as it's untested. Have you called IIHS or NHTSA and asked their opinion on the safety of where to put your kids? They are car crash experts and do passenger safety testing.
 

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