Car Seats, Which One?

Updated on March 15, 2010
F.V. asks from Columbia, SC
10 answers

So I went to Buy Buy Baby and spoke to someone about car seats. He told me that the best seat to buy for safetly was Britax. He said the others were good but Britax had the most safety features and tested well in crash tests. There are so many different brands, some look safe and comfy and some do not. What do you think? I don't want the off brand but do I need to spend $300 x 2? Also, how long do you keep your baby rear facing? I know the law says 1 year but I have heard it is better to keep them rear facing in case of an accident. HELP!!!

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answers from Orlando on

I have 4 kids. I have tried them all it seems. Evenflo Triumph rated the highest in safety, so that is what we bought last time, but I hate, perhaps even loathe, the straps. They are difficult to work with. Plus, if you have to move the car seat back & forth between vehicles or travel with it, it's VERY heavy.

I love GRACO's ease of use. Keep 'em rear facing as long as you want. The GRACO we had said you could keep them rear facing up to 30 lbs. if you wanted to.

I think with the Britax, you're not necessarily paying for are only paying for the expensive plane ticket to get it here.

Bottom line: GRACO is the way to go!

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answers from Madison on

First...a seat is only safe if it is installed correctly. You can get the "best" seat on the market and if you don't have it installed correctly then it won't make a BIT of difference.

When you are talking about safety ratings you need to realize that there are SEVERAL different "tests" and studies being done...and different brands are at the top of each test. Also different tests place different values on different things. i.e. one test might place a lot of weight on "ease of installation" while the next test may not even factor it in. I would not even factor in Consumer Reports...too many claims of potential tampering, buy-offs, etc. Stick with the tests done by reputable public, non-profit organizations such as the NIHS. Also when looking at testing data make sure that they incorporate installation and use into the ratings...

I am a car seat junkie. I have a done a LOT of research and plan on becoming certified when a course comes to my area. Knowing that...take what I am about to say as you wish.

There is nothing wrong with Cosco seats. Are they the "best" out But they have met all safety standards and are reccommend by Car seat techs as a viable, economical option.

I have personally used Graco seats in the past. I have never had a strap twist...not any more than any other seat. I wouldn't put my child in a ComfortSport...but that is just my personal choice. There are safer seats on the market for the same amount of money. I feel the same way about the Evenflo seats...though I know that many use them and love them. The Graco Nautilus is a great seat for forward facing only...reasonably priced and an average install. The My Ride is also a great option. Easy install, 40 lbs. rear facing.

Britax seats are safe. There is no denying that. Are they the "safest" on the market? That depends on the install and Britax seats are VERY easy to install. They are a great seat. VERY well made. The argument against them is that the shells (the plastic seat that the cover goes over) are pretty small. My child grew out of her Boulevard right around 18 months and she is of average height/ weight. The shells are short and children can outgrow them rather quickly. I spent a lot of money on my Britax's only to have to replace them with seats that would last longer...They were wonderful while they lasted. But that being said, I wish that I had known that they would not last long so that I could have saved some money and gottem longer-lasting seats up front.

Other options? One of the safest on the market is Sunshine Kid's Radian (the XT, 80 or 65) GREAT seats. The only one made with steel so it is super tough (and rather heavy...). Very slim in design so it would work well if you needed to fit more than one in a back seat. The newer models rear-face to 45 lbs.! We have an XLT and we love it. The downside to the Radians (and why they don't get better ratings...) is that install can be a pain. They have a SUPER tall shell and will last kids a LONG time...but because the shell is so tall they take up quite a bit of room rearfacing. My daughter is 32 months and we just turned her forward facing this weekend. She has a good 6+ inches of shell height before we would need a new seat. The install forward facing was super-easy...just as easy as a Britax.

Another option that I would seriously consider that might fit the bill for you is the First Years True Fit. Great seat. super cushy. Kind of on the larger side and a bit heavy, but no bigger/ heavier than a Britax. The install is average...not too tough, not as easy as a Britax, not as tough as a Radian. The seat retails for about $180 to $200. The shell is very tall...this seat will rear face to 35 lbs. and forward face to 65lbs....and because the shell is such a decent size, I really do believe that this seat will last a very, very long time. We use this seat in our second car and my daughter really likes it. It is very plush and comfortable and it even has a cup holder. You really can't go wrong with this seat and it won't break the bank.

I know of a LOT of car seat techs that have their kids in Radians and True Fits....A LOT. You can't beat that reccomendation...if the pros use them with their own kids then that is good enough for me!!! If you have other questions just check out and the message boards/ forums. Lots of great info and lots of certified techs to get questions answered.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I have the Britax Boulevard and really like it. It's nice and comfy for baby and I can rest easy knowing its one of the best ones out there in terms of safety in case an accident does occur. It should last for a few years at the least so I think $300 is a good investment (though I think you can find it for a bit cheaper if you search online). Just don't get used b/c its never reliable to get a used carseat.

In terms of rear-facing, they say 1 years old but I heard its best to keep them rear-facing up to 2 years old or even, as long as possible because thats the safest position in case of an accident.


answers from Minneapolis on

A child cannot legally face the front of the vehicle until at least 1yr AND 20lbs. Even if your state does not have a specific car seat law stating 1yr and 20lbs, all states have proper usage clause, meaning you have to use the seat to the manufacturers specifications, and there is not one seat on the market that allows forward facing before 1yr of age and 20lbs, and most seats have a height minimum for forward facing too, of 34" tall.

If your child is outgrowing the infant bucket seat, purchase a CONVERTIBLE car seat, which will rear face to 35-45lbs (depending on model) and forward face to 40-80lbs (depending on model). NHTSA, car seat manufacturers, and the AAP all recommend children remain rear facing until they hit the rear facing weight limits of their convertible car seat. A rear facing car seat is outgrown when the child goes over the rear facing weight limit or there is less than one inch of hard shell above the childs head.

PLEASE PLEASE google 'internal decapitation', 'extended rear facing', and 'Joels Journey' for more information.

There are so many great seats on the market now, car seat manufacturers are catching up and making seats that not only keep children rear facing as long as possible, but also in a harness as long as possible!

Graco MyRide65- $150 will rear face to 40lbs and fits most kids rear facing to age 3, and forward facing to 65lbs and fits most kids forward facing to age 6. I liked this seat... its sturdy, tall, and has amazing side impact protection. My youngest would have been able to rear face in this seat until he was 4yrs old!

First Years Trufit- $170 will rear face to 35lbs and fits mostk ids rear facing to 3, and forward facin to 65lbs and fits most kids to age 6/7 forward facing. I haven't played with this seat much but most techs really dig this seat. ITs tall, easy to use (infinite adjust harness!) and very comfy.

Evenflo Triumph ADVANCE- $130 will rear face to 35lbs/around age 2/3, and forward face to 50lbs/around age 5/6. Infinite adjust harness and taller shell, very nice seat, just make sure you don't get the regular Triumph, that one is a waste of money, and way shorter in the shell than the ADVANCE.

Britax Marathon- $270 will rear face to 35lbs/around age 2/3, and forward face to 65lbs/around age 6. My youngest rear faced in thsi seat until he was 3yrs old. It has a 17" top harness slot, and fits most kids to age 6 easily. My super tall oldest was able to use it until he was almost 7! Its ridiculously easy to install, and can be tethered rear facing, which reduces rebound dramatically. If there was ever a reason to buy a Britax, its the ability to tether while rear facing. Its really a feature that is unmatchable with other brands.

Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL- $300 will rear face to 45lbs/around age 4, and forward face to 80lbs/around age 7. This seat can also be tethered rear facing, and again its a feature you cannot match with another brand. If there was a reason to spend $300 on a seat, its the feature that it can be tethered while rear facing.My boys would have been able to rear face in this seat until 5! by both height and weight.

These are all amazing seats that will rear face your little one as long as possible, and in the harness as long as possible. Avoid 3-in-1 seats like the Alpha Omega. Its ok rear facing but they are outgrown super fast in height, and they make horrid booster seats with the adult belt, they failed every crash test miserably in booster mode. A dedicated convertible until outgrown, then a dedicated booster seat until age 8 or 4'9" is the way to go.

A rear facing car seat is outgrown when the child goes over the rear facing weight limit, or there is less than an inch of hard shell above the head. The harness should come from just at or below the shoulders while rear facing. Legs touching the seat, crossed legs, etc are NOT a problem and not a reason to forward face, as there has never been a documented case of broken legs while rear facing, but on the contrary one of the most common forward facing injuries is broken legs! Kids can easily rear face to age 2/3 in car seats available in the USA. In Sweden, kids rear face to age 5/50lbs, and they have had less kids die in 10yrs than die in a day in the US in car accidents. That speaks volumes to rear facing and their general attitude towards car seat safety vs. the USA.

When forward facing, a car seat is outgrown when the child goes over the weight limit, the ears become level with the seat back, or the shoulders go over the top harness slot. When one of these things happens, the seat is outgrown and needsto be replaced. When forward facing, the harness should come from just at or above the shoulders. A child should remain in a 5pt harness as ong as possible, but 4yrs and 40lbs is the bare minimum, and always go with a high back booster for a younger child. No back boosters are for BIG kids, over age 6.

No bulky jackets in the car seat, no buntings, no Bundle Me covers, nothin bulky. These things compress in a crash and leave hte harenss too loose, subjecting the baby to being thrown around violently, or being ejected from the car seat.

The chest clip is just that, for the chest. It should be even with the armpits, not down by the belly. The chest clip is a pre-crash retainer, and will likely break open in a crash. ITs job is to keep the harness on the childs shoulders. That is why its important to buckle not only the chest clip,but the crotch buckle too, as they are meant to work together, so you MUST use both.

I hope this information is helpful. If you need assistance installing your car seats, or would like information from a trained CPST in your area, please visit and click on 'child passenger safety' to find an event and CPST in your area.



answers from Detroit on

We bought the Britax Boulevard. I didn’t want to spend the $$ either but we were able to get one discounted because we bought last year’s models and used a 20% off coupon at BRU so that helped. My son is 16 months and we JUST turned him around even though we could have back in November. He would still be rear facing but his little legs were crunched. Good luck with whatever you decide!



answers from Des Moines on

We have the Graco my ride. rear facing to 40lbs forward facing to 65 lbs with harness. my son is turning 2 in few days and he is still rear facing. and loving it. i love this seat, my son loves this seat. not that cup holders matter but they are molded into the seat so they dont break off :)



answers from Washington DC on

How old is your child? Britax are the most popular seats and yes they are expensive , if you are undecided about an infant carrier and are thinking about going straight to a convertable then I would say to avoid the 3 in 1 seats , they are so big and for a little new born they don't seem to fit them well , plus in a rear facing posistion they take up a lot of room in the car , so if you have a small car it may not fit anyway. I have a Britax Marathon , it's a little bulky but not as bad as some models , for my middle daughter she is in an evenflo (booster with integral harness). I would not buy a Britax just because the sales assistant told you they are the best , all car seats have to go through strict safety testing otherwise they would not be allowed to sell them , but Britax becasue of the world wide name go above and beyond with the testing (flight testing for example) , you need to make sure that whatever seat you buy fits your car correctly and you have it installed properly (local fire station sometimes do checks) , you also need to make sure you read and keep the safety/instruction booklet so you know how the straps should sit on the shoulders , how to put back together if you have taken apart for washing etc.



answers from Dallas on

personally, britax are WELL worth every cent they cost. your absolute worst brands are cosco/saftey1st/eddie bauer - avoid them like the plague. graco is just a tiny notch above them in quality and use - the straps twist horridly and they are more designed for the kid's happiness than safety(cup holders and pretty patterns). evenflo is decent if you really NEED to save the money(and i understand that some people do - and this is a great choice for the budget concious). however, britax FAR exceeds the gracos and such in safety and ease of use. the #1 issue with carseats is proper installation and the britax seats are VERY easy to properly install(even though they are heavy!). i would recommend a britax boulevard, and keep them rear facing as long as possible - a broken leg is MUCH easier to fix than a broken neck.



answers from Indianapolis on

We have 2 kids in car seats.

We chose the Britax Roundabout when they were ready to transition from the baby carrier to a bigger car seat. We've had them now for almost 3.5 years, and they're still doing the trick (for a almost 2 year old who weighs 34 lbs).

We'd researched on Consumer Reports, and as Jenny W says, the Triumph is well rated, but we just didn't like it when we went to the store.

A good car seat is worth the $$$. God forbid you'd ever really need it, that's how we justified the cost. If you think about the cost/ride, it's pennies per day for the life span.

As for front vs. rear facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics now says 2 years rear facing. My kids are huge - there was no way either would have been able to have taken a long trip scrunched-up. So, we switched both at 1 year and have been lucky to have had no accidents and no problems.

My 21 month old niece is still rear facing.

Good luck!



answers from Detroit on

We looked at the Britax seats also, but ended up buying the Evenflo. It still was around $160 (on sale + coupon). My husband researched tons of cars seats before we bought one and the Evenflo Triumph rated very high (very comparable to the Britax). We also had to buy two. My youngest is now ready for the rear facing car seat and we have to buy another seat and will again be going with the Evenflo Triumph.

With rear facing, the law is 1 year and 20 lbs. We kept my daughter rear facing until she was 16 months b/c of her weight (she wasnt' quite 20 lbs at 1 year). Good luck!

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