Carseat Advice Please!

Updated on November 28, 2010
S.B. asks from Chicago, IL
17 answers

My son does not fit into his carseat anymore. It's snug when he's just in his clothes, but I can hardly buckle it with his winter coat on. We need to switch to a convertible carseat, but my head is spinning with all the choices out there. I want to make sure we don't compromise on safety, but the fact is we just cannot afford the Britax, which seems to be the one getting the highest ratings from everyone. So, I'm wondering if anyone can recommend an affordable alternative to the Britax. Also, we drive a Hyundai Sonata, which does not have a whole lot of room in the back seat and the ceiling is kinda low, so we can't get a huge seat because it won't fit. Thanks for your help!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the great advice mamas :) I don't know how I didn't know that he wasn't supposed to wear his coat in the seat... Last winter we used the Bundle Me when he was a tiny baby, but he's a little too long for that now. We put the bottom part of it on the seat anyhow and dress him warmly, then carry him out wrapped in several blankets. It seems to be working for now. I'm going to look into getting the Graco MyRide65, that seems to be more in our budget, and our current seat is a Graco and I like it a lot.

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answers from Chicago on

don't have him wear his winter coat in the carseat - it's not safe

secondly, let me tell you a story. When my oldest was almost 1 and we needed to get a forward facing carseat I did a lot of research. Britax was the best back then (2000). I got to the store confident that that was safest and then saw the price tag and about died. I called my husband and said, "honey, it's $200 after the coupon!" He said, "so, buy it." I argued it was too much, he said, "Is her life not worth $200?" We bought it and never regretted it.
There are other options now, that are just as good. Since you have a snug place to fit the seat I recommend a Radian. They are very narrow and very safe. I have two since I do daycare and they can go from infants up to 65 (or 80 if you get that one) lbs.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Do not buy an Alpha Omega. They are terrible booster seats and for the money you can find a car seat that will harness your child for much longer anyway. Its sold as the 'last car seat you will ever need' but its not.

Here are a list of car seats you can use for your little one. Remember rear facing is best, and the AAP, NHTSA and safekids recommend children remain rear facing until they reach the rear facing weight limits of their convertible car seat (35-45lbs depending on model, and until there is less than one inch of hard shell above the childs head.)

Britax Roundabout 50 ($160 at Target) will harness to 35lbs rear facing, 50lbs forward facing.

Sunshine Kids Radian ($200+) will rear face to 40 or 45lbs, then forward face to 65 or 80lbs.

Graco MyRide65 ($150) will rear face to 40lbs, forward to 65lbs. This is a great extended rear facing seat.

Evenflo Triumph Advance ($130) will rear face to 35lbs, forward to 50lbs.

Evenflo Symphony65 will rear face to 40lbs and forward to 65lbs.

First years TrueFit ($180-$200) will rear face to 35lbs and forward face to 65lbs. My 3yr old is currently rear facing in this seat at 36" tall and 28lbs. :)

Remember NO BULKY CLOTHING in the car seat! It will compress in a crash and leave yoru child basically unrestrained! Always take the coat off and buckle your child, then cover with a blanket or put the coat on backwards. I live in Minnesota and I have three kids, ages 8 (booster) 5.5 (harness) and 3.5 (rear facing harness) and NONE of htem wear jackets in teh car seats! Its takes an extra minute to take the coat off and put it back on when you get out ,but that extra minute could save your childs life in a crash. Every car seat manual will state that you cannot use a bulky clothing in the car seat.

For rear facing the harness slot should be just at or below the shoulders. The harness should be snug as a hug and the chest clip should be level with the armpits.

For forward facing the harenss should be just at or ABOVE the shoulders. Again harness snug as a hug and chest clip level with the armpits.

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answers from Gainesville on

I'm not sure of a Britax alternative but wanted to offer that while it's inconvenient and a pain, it's best to remove the bulky winter coats before buckling the little ones in.

Also, if your little one is under *2*, yes 2, you need to find a seat that will keep him rear facing until at least age 2. That is the latest recommendations for safety based on the latest research and is endorsed by the AAP. Children are far, far safer rear-facing in the event of a crash. Watch the crash test videos if you need further convincing or take a look at:

My 2.5 year old is still rear-facing, 95th percentile for height and fits perfectly comfy rear-facing.

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answers from Boston on

First off you should NEVER buckle a child into a seat with a winter coat on the coat can compress in an accident allowing the possibility for your child to be ejected from the seat!
How old is your son?
If you need to rear face still (recommended until at least 2) I suggest a graco my ride 65. If your son is big enough to forward face I suggest a graco nautilus its cheaper then a britax but will allow you to harness for a long time (65 lbs or 52 inches) then to use as a belt positioning booster or backless booster to 100 lbs.
the alpha omega seats make horrible boosters and they don't allow you to harness long because of where the top harness loop is. I would invest in a much better seat then that one. We used one and my son outgrew it rear facing max height before he was even close to the 30lbs it is supposed to accommodate infact he barely over 20lbs when he reached the max height don't waste your time with it.

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answers from Champaign on

We had a Britax and are getting rid of it because I hate it. We now have a Graco MyRide 65. It is much better for us and I don't feel that I am compromising my child's safety at all. It is not as tall as some of the others so it still fits well in our small car. It is rear facing to 40lbs and then forward facing to 65 lbs so it will last us a long time.
You shouldn't be putting baby in the car seat with a coat on, we do something I have heard called the "coat trick" where we unzip their coats then get them all buckled in and then zip their coat back up over their harness. The best way to tell if something is too bulky to wear in the car is to put it on and get them all buckled nice and snug, then take them out with out loosening the harness, then take off the coat and buckle them back in. It should give you a visual of how loose the harness is and how much their coat would compress in a crash.
Don't buy a floor model or used, you don't know what has happened to it, BabiesRUs lets people try things out in their car and it could have been abused or dropped or in a crash and could fail if you were in an accident.

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answers from Seattle on

Babies r us will let you try seats in your own car. has super good deals on britax seats, sometimes you can get last year's models for really cheap. Or try buying "new in box" or NIB on eBay! I got a marathon on eBay for $125! Britax is worth it, we were in a fatality accident with one and my daughter was fine. Plus they have really high weight and height limits, so you can use it for a long time. He will outgrow some cheaper ones sooner, making them not worth what you paid. They aren't supposed to wear thick coats in carseats, doesn't allow them to be buckled in as tight and securely as they should be. Just put it on again when you get out!

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answers from New York on

It is best to take off the coat and put it on backwards after he is buckled in. It is very dangerous to buckle a child in with a thick coat.
Maybe you can find a used britax. Just make sure it is not more than 5 years old of in any of the britax recalls.

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answers from Dover on

Just besure it is one w/ a decent rating, in your price range, the is rated for his height and weight w/ a 5 point harness. If your son has already exceeded the height/weight limits of the seat he is in, you need to make the switch very quickly.

Also, keep in mind that the winter coat is too bulky and should not be worn in the carseat because even when secured properly, the coat allows too much play in the in straps if/when their is an accident.



answers from Chicago on

You can get a Graco My Ride from Amazon with free shipping and no tax for $129.99



answers from Chicago on

Hi. We were in your same position. We did end up getting a Britax on super sale at Babies-R-Us w/ coupon too. We bought the floor model. You should inquire w/ a store associate as to how to get the most discounts on a Britax car seat. They have a trade in program too. I think we ended up getting 50% off or so. Also, just as a side note......we had our car seat installed at a fire station and the fireman told us never to put our son in the car seat w/ his winter coat on. He said it was unsafe as the straps aren't secure enough around the child. We always heat our car up first and try to layer our son in a few shirts. Good luck to you! I hope you find the perfect car seat.



answers from Chicago on

We got the Graco MyRide65 for $130 on sale at Babies R Us.



answers from Chicago on

For a more compact yet great car seat, look for sunshine kids.



answers from Kansas City on

We have an Alpha Omega Elite which has pretty much the same ratings as the Britax. They are really good carseats and my brother who is a certified car seat puter-inner bought it for us, so I trust it.

I also have an Evenflo Triumph for my other child and the only reason I like it better is the fact that it has a crank system instead of the pull sytem to tighten it and I think it rocks. They are pretty bulky though, so it might not work for you, but check it out.

Also, I agree with what TJ said about the heavy coats. It is not recommended because you can't buckle them well enough. What I do for both my kids is buy a medium weight coat that they pretty much wear all the time and it fits pretty well in the car seat. I usually get a super sale on winter coats or get a hand me down or used for a "real" winter coat if we want to play in the snow, etc. I find that for toddlers and preschoolers, they really aren't outside all that much and don't need that big of a coat anyway. I prefer my lighterweight coat method so that I can still fit in the car seat without constantly dressing and undressing my kids!



answers from Chicago on

Hi S.,

You might want to check out the Cosco Scenera. It runs about $50. My mom bought one for her car, and I'm pretty familiar with it (we have a Britax Roundabout). It doesn't have as much padding as the Britax, and the straps are a tad more difficult to adjust, but according to the book "Baby Bargains" it gets decent ratings (in safety and usability). It fits in the back of our Toyota Corolla (I've borrowed it a few times for carpooling purposes, etc.) It's easy to install, too.




answers from Chicago on

Hi. We layer fleece on our DS rather than a bulky coat. We got our seat at Buy Buy Baby -- a Marathon and used the 20% off Bed Bath and Beyond coupon. We figured it was worth it -- at least for us. I've heard good things about the Graco My Ride. I wouldn't buy a used car seat -- you really wouldn't know the history and at least in my opinion my son's safety is paramount. I'd suggest going to a store and trying out the various CS options in your car. I know BRU and Buy Buy Baby will let you do that - it will help you find the right seat. Also, please consider rear facing until your child is at least 2!



answers from Washington DC on

I've got the Alpha Omega seat and LOVE it! I kept my son rear-facing until he was 15 months in it. The harness is for up to 50 lbs and then it can be used as a high back booster to 100 lbs. For under $200 we got a great carseat that he's comfortable and safe in and we will never need another one!

You shouldn't put a bulky coat on them inside the car seat. We layer our son in shirts, fleece and a jacket.

I've got the Alpha Omega seat and LOVE it! I kept my son rear-facing until he was 15 months in it. The harness is for up to 50 lbs and then it can be used as a high back booster to 100 lbs. For under $200 we got a great carseat that he's comfortable and safe in and we will never need another one!

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