Rear center seat LATCH anchor

New parents are often surprised by how much there is to learn about child car seats. After research, many first-time parents learn that the safest configuration for car-seat installation is often the rear middle seating position. But that's only true if they can achieve a secure installation with either the center seat belt or lower anchors (found in the seat crease).

U.S. vehicles aren't required to have dedicated lower anchors specifically for the center rear position, and so many don't. Federal regulators only require two rear seating positions to have dedicated lower anchors with a standard spacing of 11 inches, which is enough room for a child seat.

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But some automakers that produce cars without dedicated middle-seat lower anchors have an anchor from each outboard seat position that can be used to securely install a car seat in the middle; you essentially "borrow" an anchor from each side. Check the owner's manual to make sure the automaker offers this as an option. In this case, the spacing between the anchors could be wider, so the specific car-seat manufacturer also needs to allow for this type of installation. 

Consumer Reports’ car-seat experts explain what you need to know, and the safety implications.

Car Seat Q&A

Are “lower anchors,” “LATCH,” and “ISOFIX” the same thing?
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It includes the lower anchors found at the seat crease and the top tether anchor often found on the back shelf or behind the rear seat. A LATCH installation generally means attaching the car seat with the lower anchors, not the seat belt. The top tether should be attached to the tether anchor for all forward-facing car-seat installations, whether using the seat belt or lower anchors. ISOFIX is the term used for the LATCH system in Europe, so owners of European cars will often see it accompanying the lower anchor icon in their vehicle. (Refer to the top image of the article.)

Seat base shown borrowing LATCH anchors.
An infant car-seat base installed in the rear center seat by "borrowing" lower anchors.

What does it mean to “borrow” lower anchors?
When a rear center seat doesn't have its own dedicated lower anchors, the two innermost lower anchors from the outboard seating positions (one from each side) can be “borrowed” for a lower anchor installation. These anchors typically can't be used at the same time to install a car seat in the outboard seating positions. 

Rear seat showing LATCH anchors.

What about the standard spacing between the anchors?
The standard spacing between the anchors is 11 inches. But when borrowing lower anchors for a center seat installation, the spacing no longer adheres to the regulated 11 inches. It’s important to know just how widely spaced the anchors are in your car. You can refer to the Child Safety section of the vehicle owner’s manual to determine the distance between the innermost lower anchors. 

Why can’t I assume lower anchor borrowing is allowed in every car?
Federal safety regulations specify strength requirements for lower anchors. For each vehicle, the lower anchors must pass federal forward and lateral strength tests for each designated seating position with dedicated anchors that are 11 inches apart. Because the spacing between "borrowed" anchors can vary from vehicle to vehicle, and the standard test fixture can only accommodate an 11-inch spacing, each manufacturer must do its own testing to "confirm performance," says Jennifer Pelky, senior engineer of vehicle safety at Toyota Motor North America. So make sure to consult the owner's manual.

To determine whether you can install a car seat in the center seating position with lower anchors, CR offers the following advice:

  • Check your vehicle owner’s manual. It’s important to determine whether the automaker allows for the innermost lower anchors to be borrowed for a center seat car-seat installation. The automaker will often specify the distance between the inner anchors.

  • Check your car-seat manual. “Not all car-seat manufacturers allow for installations with nonstandard spaced lower anchors—especially if your car seat comes with rigid LATCH connectors,” says Michael Bloch, Consumer Reports’ Child Seats Project leader. “Some manufacturers will allow for the nonstandard spacing to a limit, so be sure to read carefully to know the distance limit.”  

Use this interactive table to determine compatibility between your vehicle manufacturer and car-seat manufacturer for a center-seat installation with borrowed lower anchors. If you don't see your car seat or vehicle manufacturer listed, then lower anchor installations with spacing greater than 11 inches aren't allowed.

Exceptions: Graco excludes convertible, harness-to-booster, and all-in-one car seats with push-on LATCH connectors. Britax allows for center lower anchor borrowing with car seats produced before 2015 and only if specified in the car-seat manual.

Brand Model YearModelLower Anchor Spacing11 or More Inches (Cosco, Safety 1st, Maxi-Cosi, Graco, Harmony, Phil & Teds)11-22 Inches (UPPAbaby)11-20 Inches (Britax, Cybex, Evenflo, gb, Urbini)
Acura2018-2019ILX 15YesYesYes
Acura2019RDX16.3YesYesYes
Acura2018-2019RLX16.9YesYesYes
Acura2019TLX15.4YesYesYes
Chrysler2011-201420015.4YesYesYes
Chrysler2015-201720017.7YesYesYes
Chrysler2005-2008Pacifica-******
Chrysler2005-2010PT Cruiser15.4YesYesYes
Chrysler2004-2010Sebring sedan15.4YesYesYes
Dodge2008-2014Avenger15.3-15.7YesYesYes
Dodge2004-2006Caliber15.3-15.7YesYesYes
Dodge2005-2011Dakota Quad Cab-******
Dodge-Dart17.3YesYesYes
Dodge2004-2009Durango-******
Dodge-Nitro15.3-15.7YesYesYes
Dodge2004-2006Stratus15.3-15.7YesYesYes
Ford-C-Max18.1YesYesYes
Ford2009-2011Crown Victoria>22YesNoNo
Ford-EcoSport15.7YesYesYes
Ford-Edge18.1YesYesYes
Ford2001-2012Escape15.7YesYesYes
Ford2013-2019Escape18.1YesYesYes
Ford2009-2010Explorer>22YesNoNo
Ford2011-2019Explorer20.5YesYesNo
Ford2009-2010Explorer Sport Trac>22YesNoNo
Ford2009-2019

F-150

>22YesNoNo
Ford-Fiesta15.4YesYesYes
Ford-Flex20.5YesYesNo
FordUp to 2011Focus17.7YesYesYes
Ford2012-2019Focus18.1YesYesYes
Ford-Fusion18.1YesYesYes
Ford2019Ranger Crew Cab>22YesNoNo
Ford2009Taurus X20.5YesYesNo
Ford2014-2019Transit Connect>22YesNoNo
Ford2000-2003Windstar (3rd row)12YesYesYes
Honda2018-2019Accord15.4YesYesYes
Honda2018-2019Civic15YesYesYes
Honda2018-2019Clarity15.1YesYesYes
Honda2019Fit14.1YesYesYes
Honda2018-2019HR-V14.1YesYesYes
Honda2019Insight15YesYesYes
Honda2019Odyssey (3rd row)16YesYesYes
Jeep-Compass16YesYesYes
Jeep2005-2010Grand Cherokee18.9YesYesYes
Jeep-Liberty15.3-16YesYesYes
Jeep-Patroit15.5YesYesYes
Jeep2018-2019Wrangler18.5YesYesYes
Jeep-Wrangler JK19.1YesYesYes
Jeep-Wrangler Unlimited19.1YesYesYes
Lexus-RX 350 L18.1YesYesYes
Lexus2017-2019RX35018.1YesYesYes
Lexus2017-2019RX450h18.1YesYesYes
Lexus-UX15.6YesYesYes
Lincoln2017-2019Continental18YesYesYes
Lincoln2000-2005LS19.7YesYesYes
Lincoln-MKC18.1YesYesYes
Lincoln-MKT20.5YesYesNo
Lincoln-MKX18.1YesYesYes
Lincoln-MKZ18.1YesYesYes
Lincoln2009-2011Town Car22.8YesNoNo
Lincoln-Zephyr18.1YesYesYes
Mazda2013-2016CX-516.5YesYesYes
Mazda2017-2019CX-516YesYesYes
Mazda-CX-715.75YesYesYes
Mazda-CX-919.7YesYesYes
Mazda-CX314.2YesYesYes
Mazda2011-2014Mazda215.35YesYesYes
Mazda2016-2019Mazda214.2YesYesYes
Mazda2004-2013Mazda315.75YesYesYes
Mazda2014-2019Mazda317.4YesYesYes
Mazda2003-2013Mazda618.3YesYesYes
Mazda2014-2017Mazda617.4YesYesYes
Mazda2018-2019Mazda616.9YesYesYes
Mazda2001-2003Protege15.75YesYesYes
Mazda-Protegट15.75YesYesYes
Mazda-Tribute16YesYesYes
Mercury2009-2011Grand Marquis>22YesNoNo
Mercury-Mariner15.7YesYesYes
Mercury-Milan18.1YesYesYes
Mercury2009-2010Mountaineer>22YesNoNo
Scion2016iA14.2YesYesYes
Subaru2015-2019Crosstrek-******
Subaru2015-2019Impreza-******
Subaru2015-2019Legacy-******
Subaru2015-2019Outback-******
Subaru2015-2019WRX-******
Subaru2016-2019Forester-******
Toyota2019Avalon16.9YesYesYes
Toyota2017-2019C-HR16.1YesYesYes
Toyota2018-2019Camry16.1YesYesYes
Toyota2019Corolla15.6YesYesYes
Toyota2016-2019Prius16.1YesYesYes
Toyota2019RAV417.3YesYesYes
Toyota-Yaris14.2YesYesYes
Toyota2017-2019Yaris iA14.2YesYesYes
The 2019 LATCH Manual, Safe Ride News Publications; Vehicle Owner's Manuals.
  1. * If no model year is provided, borrowing allowed in all model years.
  2. **If no lower anchor spacing provided, measure distance from mid-lower anchor to mid-lower anchor and compare against car seat manufacturer tolerances

What if my vehicle and car seat are not compatible for this scenario?

You have two options, both of which are safe. 

  • Secure your car seat in the center seat with the vehicle seat belt. There can sometimes be a misconception that installing with lower anchors is safer than with the seat belt. This isn't true. As long as your car seat is installed correctly and you can achieve a secure installation with either the lower anchors or the seat belt, it is safe. You can have a certified child passenger safety technician check your installation. Visit safekids.org to find an inspection station near you.
  • Install your car seat in an outboard seating position with the lower anchors. A properly-installed car seat is always the safest one, no matter which seating position it’s in. So if it’s too tricky to get that seat belt installation in the center seat, we recommend trying to install the seat using the lower anchors in the outboard seating position. Remember, a securely installed car seat should move no more than one inch forward-and-back or side-to-side when pulled at the belt path with your non-dominant hand.