Product Review: Convertible car seats

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Convertible car seats are something everyone has to think about, sooner or later.  Some are cheaper and others cost as much as a monthly car payment!  With that being said, i polled our HDYDI writers for some great info on their favorite car seats.

Now before i go through all the important info.  I want to state something that is true to some.  If you can’t afford the BEST car seat out on the market, you buy what you can afford!  Although, i myself, have what the consumer reports say are the best and safest car seats, I have to say, a car seat is a car seat, and even the cheapest car seat is better, than not having one at all.  The reason i am saying this, is because, i know from personal experience, that some people can’t afford an expensive car seat.  I won’t mention names or people, but i have seen a few people in my days, that just can’t afford a nice car seat and have opted to, instead, just plop their little tiny babies in the back seat without a car seat AT ALL.  I can say, i have REALLY seen this happen before.  I felt so horrible, i wanted to go out and buy a few families i know, a car seat, just so the poor baby wasn’t hunched over in the regular car seat.  And, YES it is totally ILLEGAL to not have your child in a car seat.  BUT, if you can’t afford one, what do you do???  If you had a choice between, feeding your child & putting a roof over that child’s head, it’s not just so simple to go drop a few hundred dollars on a car seat.  SO, with all that being said, here is a summary of what our HDYDI writers had to say:

  • Best car seat is Britax(per consumer reports) and everyone else.

-there are many different kinds to choose from and they vary in price and go up to right around three hundred dollars each.  I say, before you purchase one, you should really check around.  Babies R Us gives a twin discount, but you have to ask for it.  ALWAYS ALWAYS ask for those discounts…i ask everywhere i go.  What is the worst that could happen, they say NO?   Also, check on line.  Albeebaby.com is a really great website to buy big ticket items & I’m sure there are MANY MANY other websites out there that do the same.  I personally know albeebaby.com is great.  They didn’t charge shipping either.

I could actually write a novel on car seats, which are the best, which are not so great, which have the safest ratings, and such.  But the problem with that, is that everyone has a different want in a car seat.  SAFETY is always number one.  BUT, size, price, weight, comfort and many other different things also apply to a car seat.

I’m going to do a bit of a summary on each Britax car seat.  I’m also going to go through a few cheaper car seats that work just as well, per consumer reports.

Britax ROUNDABOUT – which is the least expensive of the Britax and is one of the safest car seats on the market.   These car seats are not very hard to install and if you have a later model car, chances are, you may have those cool metal hooks that make hooking the car seat in a breeze.  Then always remember to anchor the car seat down with the other hook going over the back of the seat if you have a suv(not sure about cars).   You can use this seat rear facing for children up to 33lbs(which is actually a higher weight for a rear facing seat).   Front facing, these car seats will hold children up to 40lbs.  SO, if you have larger children..you may want to think about the marathon or Boulevard(which both hold children up to 65lbs).  One reason to buy the roundabout is because they are cheaper AND smaller(which is better for people with compact cars).

The Marathons are the larger version of the roundabout.  I think most of our moms have either this seat or the roundabout.  I, myself, have three of these and love them.  What i can say personally, is that they are pretty easy to get in and out of cars.  These are larger and heavier than the roundabout.  They are patented for the HUGS system, which is a type of harness that helps evenly distribute the weight of the child evenly in a crash.  I have never had any problems with the harness system, personally.  Per consumer reports, they do not do as well rear facing, on the car seat crash test b/c of the anchor.  BUT, forward facing, they are one of the best.   The cover also comes off easily.  The straps are fairly easy to adjust but you have to take the entire seat out of your car.  Also, here’s a lesson i learned on a long trip from TX to MO.  BUY A EXTRA CAR SEAT COVER FOR YOU CAR SEAT!  We went on a long road trip a few years ago and my daughter ended up getting rotavirus on the road and i won’t go into details.  BUT, we ende up in the ER and my hubby had to hose down the nasty car seat.  If we had just had an EXTRA seat cover, we would have been much better off.  Every trip since then, we carry a extra seat cover.  You can order them on line or buy them at different speciality stores.  They are semi-pricy, but definitely worth the money to me.

Britax Decathlon & Boulevard are the best of the best.  The Boulevard has some extra padding along the inside of the car seat for added head protection on side impact.  This foam is head adjustable.  There is also a belly pad, infant liner.  There are a few other bells and whistles on the Boulevard, but the one that really jumped out at me is that it has a new knob for adjusting the height on the straps w/o having to rethread them as your child grows.  This is not a huge deal, but just a small inconvenience for those of us that own the roundabout or marathon.

The Decathlon is mostly the same with the only change being three positions for the crotch belt, so it can be positioned further away or closer to the child.  Otherwise, everything else is the same.

Now, after reading some more info on consumer reports.  I also found that the Evenflo Triumph 5 is just as good as the britax and much cheaper(120).  I won’t go into to many details about this car seat.  But in a nutshell, consumer reports said that this seat rates just as high forward facing, although rear facing it was not as safe as a Britax.  This seat goes up to 40lbs, so like the roundabout, if you have larger children, you may want to opt out of this car seat and choose one of the larger britax that are able to hold a child up to 65lbs.

A New car seat out there is the Sunshine Kids Radian 65.  This car seat has yet to be tested by consumer reports, so they can only go with what parents are saying on different reviews.  These seats are right around two hundred dollars per seat.  This one is for children up to 65lbs and has only been reviewed in the forward facing position.

There is also a Sunshine Kids Radian 80, which holds a child up to 80lbs.  These are a bit more expensive, but if you have a larger child, this may be the way to go.  These seats run about 280 each, give or take a bit.  A few things to know about the Radian seats is: they are fold-able(makes it easier to carry these around and travel with them), they are also narrower and have a steel frame(unlike the plastic frame from Britax).  A few cons would be that they are heavier(b/c of the steel frame), the crotch strap is to restrictive & they both have height limits of 49 inches.  So, even though the radian 80 is for heaver children, their is a chance that they child can outgrow the height limit before they hit the 80lb mark.

Here’s a tid bit of info i found on consumer reports about these car seats:

Sunshine Kids Radian Granite Convertible Car Seat

Price Range: $199 – $200 at 3 stores

Sunshine Kids’ Radian Convertible Car Seat was conceptualized and designed around a set of strict safety and performance parameters. Radian positions the child’s center of gravity as low and as far back as possible on the vehicle seat for optimal restraint performance, especially in oblique-angled crashes, which is how most car accidents occur. The Radian Car Seat’s EPS safety foam around the child’s head, torso and seating area, providing increased safety for impact protection. The Radian Car Seat has 3” more interior shoulder width of any car seat in its class. Its unique design is more than 2” narrower on the outside making it easy to fit 3 seats across. A 3” longer seat bottom and the forward-facing recline option provides increased comfort for longer rides and more leg support for the older child.

With all that being said, i feel that there are different car seats out there, to fit different needs for each individual.  With my situation, we have a big car, so seat size was never a big problem.  Our problem was having to purchase a bench seat so that all three of our children were in the middle seat.  The third row of our car is now non-existent.  Since our first child was so young when our twins were born we had to put her in the middle and the girls on the side.  It was easy when the girls were still in their infant car seats.  We’d load her up in the middle and then plop the car seats in the bases.  After we bought our big car seats and faced them backwards, it became a challenge of how to get our middle one into the car.  She learned to climb underneath the rear facing car seat and hop into her own middle seat.  Then i’d get into the car and turn around to strap her in her seat.  Sometimes i’d get so frustrated, i’d just take her in through the front seat and let her climb from the front seat into the her car seat.  The other problem for us, was the Britax are SOO big and my husband is so tall he’d ram the back of the seat into the back of the rear facing car seat.  The really bad part of this was that we have t.v.s in the head rests of the front seats.  After it was all said and done and we flipped the girls car seats to forward facing, we found out he ended up breaking the drivers side head rest t.v.!  I guess if we had been smart, we would have just poped the t.v. out of the head rest for a few months.  Maybe my story will save someone else some money.  If you too, have t.v’s in your head rests and your babies are still rear facing, simply pop the t.v’s out if your hubby keeps ramming them into the back of the car seat!  :)

Lastly, here are a few tips to remember about car seat safety:

1. Don’t buy used car seats.  You don’t know where they are coming from and if they’ve ever been in a wreck or not.

2.  If you have a wreck, always replace the car seat.  Do NOT reuse it after it’s been in a wreck.  You have no idea what has been done to the seat during the crash.

3. The safest place for a car seat is in the back middle seat.  Obviously for those with more than one, that just isn’t an option.  I would do my best to keep them in the middle seat and not put children in the back seat if you have 3 rows.  Of course if you have more than three children, you don’t have an option on that one either.

4. A five point harness is much better than a regular safety belt.

5. Always keep the receipt when you purchase a car seat.  Just to make sure you know that the seat works in your car.

6. BRU lets you take the car seats out before you buy, go there if you are not sure if the car seat will fit in your car.

7. Always fill out the paperwork that comes with the car seat and send it in.  That way, if there are recalls, etc, you will receive a note in the mail notifying you of the recall.

8. Check reviews on the car seat of your choice.  Actually, i do this with EVERYTHING i buy now.  That way you know what other people think about the item you are planning on purchasing.  Those reviews are awesome.  I can’t tell you how many times i’ve backed out on purchasing something b/c of bad reviews.  Also, if you find something you don’t like about a car seat, etc.  Leave a review and help others out.  I write reviews on items all the time.

Lastly, here is the consumer report website for car seat reviews.

http://www.consumersearch.com/www/family/car-seats/review.html

BTW, if you find a car seat you love or dislike, leave a comment here to help others out.  OR, if i’ve missed something you think is imperative to know about a car seat(purchasing one, etc), please leave a comment.  I did my best to cover as much as possible, but like i said before, i could write a book on car seats(pro and cons of each one).  There are soo many out there and everyone has different wants, so there just isn’t a short way to cover every want of every parent.

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8 thoughts on “Product Review: Convertible car seats”

  1. We have Britax Marathons and so glad we didn’t go for the other one that holds the bigger kiddos because we’ll be ready for the boosters when they are ready. These seats were very comfy for our 1200-mile trip. Got ours reasonably priced through BabyAge. Great deal. Great seats. Like a good wedding photographer, I felt good car seats were actually a good investment.

  2. The Evenflo Triumph goes up to 50lbs now. It has gotten the same safety ratings as the Britax but is much cheaper.

    All of the car seats have to pass the same safety checks so don’t feel bad if you are reading this and you can’t afford any of the 5 britax seats mentioned. There are a lot of others out there.

  3. You didn’t mention the Graco Comfortsport at all. These are working great for us and the price is right. I wouldn’t recommend them if your twins are on the larger side, because the upper weight limit is 40 pounds. But these seats will last my peanuts a good long while.

  4. Thanks Enail5, that is a great website and makes me feel even better about the Radians. We actually bought both the 65’s and 80’s. The 65’s for the hubs car and 80’s for mine. We figure they will use the ones in my car more and longer so we got the 80’s with the extra head and body pads. I love these seats! For convertable carseats they aren’t huge but still feel very safe. They are able to be top tethered in the rear facing position for added support and you can push the front seat as far back as you can and almost “wedge” the car seat in without effecting the safety. Plus they are narrow enough that a third person(adult) can sit in the seat next to two radians. 4 out of 6 of the twin moms in our small group bought them and are very happy. I was also able to get them all on sale with a little research. I paid $212 for the 80’s and $169 for the 65’s.

  5. We have Britax Marathons, and I will swear on anything that they saved my daughter’s life in an accident. In fact, we escaped with just one teeny tiny scratch on her chin, even though the door was crumpled in on her carseat.

  6. I’m not sure it the store Big Lots is nation-wide, but I bought all three of my car seats there. They are brand new, with very recent manufacturing dates. I bought the Cosco Alpha Omega convertable for $80 while the EXACT same model at a large chain store was $160!

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