Unfortunately, there are factors that can make installation of LATCH-equipped seats difficult or, in some cases, impossible.
Typically, the safest spot to install a child seat is in the center position of the rear seat. That positions the child farthest from danger in an impact. Unfortunately, most vehicles don't equip their vehicles with lower anchors in the center seats. Chrysler Group and General Motors are good at providing three sets of attachments in their larger vehicles, and Ford owner's manuals often allow for child seats to be positioned in the middle using the inner anchors from the left and right side LATCH anchors.
Access to the lower anchors varies from vehicle to vehicle; the best anchors allow the seat to quickly click or be hooked into place, while others make it awkward to attach and/or detach. Some vehicles have very firm seat cushions, making it difficult to fit your hand in to find and access the anchor. Other vehicles have soft cushions, but the anchor is recessed so far back that it's difficult to reach. Optimally located lower anchors provide enough space for an adult hand to easily access them.
Getting to the top tethers can also be a difficult and frustrating process. Many vehicles have well-positioned anchors that are readily accessible; parents can simply run the top tether under the head restraint and clip it into the top tether anchor. Never run the tether over a removable or adjustable head restraint because the soft material in the head restraint can compress and create slack in the tether strap. It is better to remove or raise the restraint and run the tether over the seatback.
Of all vehicle types, sedans generally have tether anchors that are easiest to reach, located on the rear deck behind the seats, typically set inside a small, covered recess. Wagons, SUVs, and hatchbacks with good tether anchors have them positioned midway up the back of the seats, sometimes with plastic covers that snap in place when they aren't being used. Ideal setups provide one top tether anchor for each seat location, so the straps are anchored straight back without twisting.
But many wagons and hatchbacks also have less-friendly tether anchor locations. Some place the anchors at the base of the seat where it folds. These can be a full arm's-length away, making them already difficult to reach. To access this anchor from within the cabin, it may be necessary to tilt the seatback forward--a challenging maneuver if a large child seat is already on the vehicle's seat. Other models place the tether anchors beneath carpet or covers in the cargo floor.
Hatchbacks and wagons also often have a cargo cover that protects luggage from the sun or the prying eyes of thieves. But the space between the cargo cover and the seatback is often very narrow, making it impossible to fit the tether strap through. The cover must be removed to access and install the tether strap, which is just another annoyance to deal with and adds to the potential for parents or caregivers to opt out of a crucial step.