Comfortable/safe Car Seat for a Toddler?

Updated on February 09, 2010
J.T. asks from Youngstown, OH
15 answers

Hello. I am looking to find a comfortable---yet safe, carseat for my 2 year old son. My younger son is 10months and we are going to transition him from rear to face forward seating very soon. However, I am going to need a different carseat for my 2 year old, since his little bro will be getting his. I have a GRACO Triumph now and I don't like it, it says it reclines, which I don't use and it seems like I can never snap the straps in the TINY BELT between his legs...I mean there is no give. We are having a snowstorm here...and if I were to bundle him up in a snowsuit and buckle him in---well let's just say we would be staying in b/c he seems barely comfortable wearing a sweater in that thing. Please, any mommies out there---please tell me a brand or style that actually works well. I am all ears. My son turned 2 in october and he is approaching 30lbs...I think he will need this carseat until he is over 40lbs? Like I said, I'm all ears. Thank you! Thank you!

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answers from Cincinnati on

I had a Britax Roundabout for my daughter which was fabulous, and then when she outgrew that (it only goes to 40 pounds), we bought a Graco Nautilus. I LOVE the Nautilus. It's a 5 point harness up to 65 pounds, and then it transitions into a booster seat. My daughter loves it as well, and we haven't had any issues with her coat.

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answers from Washington DC on

We have the Cosco Alpha Omega for our son. He hated the infant carrier so he's been in it since he was 7 months. We kept him rear facing until he was 15 months. We have him forward faacing and have the seat reclined.It is rear facing to 40 lbs, forward with a harness to 50 lbs, and then is a high back booster to 100 lbs. We will never need another car seat. If/when we have another child, we are using this seat from the beginning and skipping the carrier.

Also, keep in mind, they aren't supposed to be bundled up in thick/heavy coats/snowsuits while in the car seat. I know its a pain but we just use a fleece lined windbreaker for my son and he stays plenty warm. (when we're going to be outside for a L. playing in the snow...we layer him up, but only for outside,but for most errands, etc. his jacket is plenty.)

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answers from Los Angeles on

My sons are 5 & 6 we have the Britax Frontier for both of them. The good, it is a 5 point restraint seat that will last until you son is 100 lbs! The bad, it is pretty expensive ($200+). Our kids love their seats, we let them pick out the colors they wanted so we have red and beige. the have cup holders that get a lot of use and the arm rests move up and down so they can get in and out easily. There is also a movable headrest that will adjust based on the height of your childs head in the seat. The straps are very easy to adjust and you will have your son in a very safe 5 point restraint seat for the next few years. Both of my boys weigh enough to be in boosters but we want them to have the benefit of 5 point restraint as long as possible. Unfortunately these seats have been accident tested in our car. We were hit by a school bus in June (he was driving 50+ MPH). The boys were completely uninjured. The cup holders popped out of the seats due to the impact, but the seats did their job and neither one got hurt. We went out and bought 2 new Britax Frontier seats the same day. Most of the other 5 point seats are only good to 40 lbs, a few go to 70 lbs I think. Good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You already got many replies to your question. But I wanted to add that I also put my son forward facing once he was big enough (and he was so tall that he hit the back of the seat). I personally do not agree with the whole have them rearfacing until they are in preschool and in a booster carseat until high school laws. How degrading for a child's self- esteem when you are trying to teach them that they are getting older and independent!

Anyway. I have an Alpha Omega Elite from safety first which is a convertible seat from rear facing to booster (I only ever wanted to buy 1 seat) I like it and it is comfortable for my son. I have seen them at Costco for $40 less than Baby's R Us. If you are so unhappy with the car seat you have... you might just want to buy 2 new ones.



answers from Indianapolis on

Oh, please keep your little one in the rear facing seat for a few more months! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping them that way for 2 years (which we didn't do with either of our kids) for their safety. At the very earliest, I'd at least wait until 12 months. Our daughter was so scrunched and uncomfortable at 10 months in her rear facing position, but it really is the safest.

As for car seats for your son - we went with the Graco Nautilus.

He loves that he has a cup holder, and it's been really comfortable (plus is convertible for the next stage). There's another one at Target (don't know the brand) that's based upon air cushion technologies that's getting good reviews. It's pricey, but I would spend it on our kids if we needed a new seat today.

Also, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the Britax car seats. They're consistently rated highly for their safety. I know several families that have their 5-6 year olds in them.



answers from Indianapolis on

We did a lot of research and went with the Britax Boulevard when my son came out of the infant rear-facing seat. Wish I had done more research first because the Boulevard is also rear-facing. But it goes up to 65 pounds (I think) so this is all he will need till the booster. He is always comfortable and we are very happy with it. Adjustments are extremely easy. Safety rating was the highest I found which is what helped us justify the price. Yes, it's quite expensive, but something like a safe car seat for your child shouldn't be bargain shopped. That said, you can find last year's models at significantly lower prices. Just remember the seven-year rule. I checked google shopping and saved nearly $100. The only downside was limited color choice which I was more than happy to trade for the money! We have another child coming any time now and will purchase another for him/her with no hesitation.



answers from Muncie on

I love the britax Frontier. It converts between a carseat and a booster. WE haave driven cross country withit as a carseat 3 times and have never had a problem with it. you do not have to change the position of the straps to adjust them it is a one handed adjustmen. The crotch buckle has additional slots so you can move it. it is very sturdy and built to last. That said it is a little pricier but After using it I would not second guesse my purchase. My son loves that it has arm rests (they are great for holding straps out of the way when putting your little one in) and cup holders (they can move in and out so you have more room if you need.I have never had problems with it.



answers from Nashville on

I got an Evenflo Triumph Advance which was only about half the price of a Britax, and has similar features like the harnesses that adjust easily from loose to tight, or up and down as they grow. I think it's just as good. It is very user friendly and got really great ratings. My son seems very comfortable in it. It goes up to 50 pounds forward facing, and 35 pounds rear facing. I've also heard great things about First Year's True Fit but haven't used one myself. I would not personally get any of the Costco or Eddie Bauer lines, they have a ton of recalls.

I used a few websites for research : ; and consumer You can get a trial membership for free to look stuff up. I also went the consumer products saftey commission recall website and just kinda looked at how many recalls one brand had versus another. I don't know if there were any with no recalls, but some had double or triple the amount of others. All carseats are considered "safe" so you won't find ratings systems for safety, just ease of use, comfort, etc. But being easy to use is important, you won't use it correctly if the instructions are poorly written or it is difficult to install, etc.

Consider leaving him rear-facing as long as possible. Like the previous poster said, the guidlelines have changed and it really is safer. Being rear-facing is probably more important than the seat as far as safety goes. Good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

We have the Recaro Signo. It was a about the same price as the Britax Boulevard. Safety is VERY important to me. Both of these have received high ratings. I went with the Recaro because it can be rear or front facing. It has a very high upper weight limit.... Something like 70lbs. And finally Recaro is a very well known name in race car seats. They KNOW seats. We lve it. It is comfy, easy to use, easy install.

We are expecting twins now. When the time comes.... We will be gettng at least one more, possibly two if our daughter is still using the one we have.


answers from Minneapolis on

Oh where to start....

First off, you want to leave your baby rear facing as long as possible. He is nowhere near ready to forward face at 10mos old, so don't bother starting that transition. The old recommendations of 1yr/20lbs are ancient recommendations, and they have changed. the AAP recommends rear facing to 2 and 30lbs, or to the limits of the convertible car seat. Every car seat manufacturer recommends using the seat to the rear facing limits. THe Triumph (Its Evenflo, not Graco) will rear face to 30lbs, but it has an EXTREMELY short shell that is outgrown before age 3 with most all children. Please google EXTENDED REAR FACING for more information. My youngest rear faced until he was 33lbs, 42" tall, and 3yrs old. He was perfectly safe and comfortable. Do some research, google EXTENDED REAR FACING and JOELS JOURNEY. Bed, Bath, and Beyond has the Graco MyRide 65 for $99 right now, it will rear face to40lbs, forward face to 65lbs. Its a GREAT comfortable seat with amazing side impact protection, and at this price its a total steal! Target carries it for $122 right now, and Wal MArt has it for $120 right now.

For your 2yr old, he could easily still be rear facing too at only 30lbs. The Graco MyRide65 would be perfect for him as well. My 4.5yr old still easily fits in this seat rear facing, and he's 42" tall and all torso. If you want to continue ot forward face this child, I would recommend the Graco Nautilus ($150). It will harness to 65lbs (most kdis can use hte harness to age 7 in this seat) and then it becomes a good high back booster seat to 100lbs, and eventually a no back booster. This is a great value, truly the last seat he will ever need, and it makes a good booster seat, unlike some of the 3-in-1 seats like the Alpha Omega, which failed miserably as a booster seat over and over again. STEER CLEAR of the Alpha Omega, Eddie Bauer 3-in-1, safety 1st 3-in-1, etc. They are a total waste of money, and they make horrible fitting booster seats.

So what I would recommend is you do some research on Extended rear facing, and get your baby the Graco MyRide 65, and rear facing him until hes at least 2yrs old. He could use this seat then forward facing until hes 5/6, and then could easily move to a simple high back booster seat until he's 4'9" and can ride in the adult belt.

For your 2yr old, if you want to rear face him again, get the MyRide for him as well. If you want to forward face him still, get the Graco Nautilus. This seat will harness him until he's 6/7yrs old, then he can use it as a booster until he's 4'9" and can sit in the adult belt alone.

Some more things to consider when using a car seat-
Only use LATCH OR the seat belt, you cannot use both together. One or the other, neither is safer than the other, use whatever gets the best install and is easiest for you. LATCH in most vehicles cannot be used after 40/48lbs, read your vehicle manual. AFter 40/48lbs, you MUST USE THE SEAT BELT to install the seat.

When rear facing, the harness should come from at or below the shoulders. Rear facing is outgrown when the child has less than 1" of hard shell seat above the head, or when the rear facing weight limit is reached. Long legs are NOT a problem and there has never been a documented case of broken legs while rear facing (however one of the most common injuries in forward facing children is broken legs, even in minor collisions).

When forward facing, the harness should come from at or above the shoulders. Forward facing seats are outgrown when one of three things happens; the child goes over the forward facing weightl imit, the shoulders go over the top harness slot, or the ears are level with the seat back.

Chest clip is just that, a chest clip. It should be level with the armpits, not down by the belly.

Harness should lay flat to the body, no twists. It will not work properly if its twisted up.

No bulky clothing, winter jackets, buntings, or bundle me covers in the car seat! These will re route the harness, make the harness too loose, and subject your child to ejection or severe injury in a crash.

Children should remain rear facing as long as possible beyond 1yr. The AAP recommends children remain rear facing until at least age 2 and 30lbs, or until the rear fcaing weight limits of the convertible seat are reached.

Children should remain in a 5pt harness until a BARE MINIMUM of 4yrs AND 40lbs. Children under 40lbs and 4yrs old are 75% more likely to suffer abdominal nad head injuries in a crash if they are in a booster seat vs a 5pt harness.

The current laws (1yr and 20lbs to forward face, 4yrs and 40lbs to boosteR) are BARE MINIMUMS. Your children (not you specifically, you as in everyone reading this) are worth more than the bare minimums! Its your job to install the seat properly, use it properly, 100% of the time. Just having it in the car is not enoug hto protect your child in a crash. It has to be used 100% properly. You may only need yoru car seat one time, but that one time you need it 100%, and your childs life depends on it.


I also wanted to add, that neither of my children have suffered from being safe in the car. My oldest was in a harness until he was 7.5yrs old, 60lbs, and 52" tall. His self esteem is very much in tact because we taught him the importance of safety, he knew why he was in a harness, and why he remains in a booster seat to this day. Most of a childs self esteem comes from their parents, so if mom and dad are calling car seats 'baby seats' or making them seem stupid or unnecessary, the child will think the same. When you know better, you do better. Its proven children are safer rear facing, its proven children are safer being harnessed as ong as possible, and its proven that being in a booster until the adult belt fits properly is safer. Why compromise your childs safety, especially that of a toddler or elementary age child, because a parent doesn't think its 'cool'? It doesn't make sense. putting your child is the car is the single deadliest thing you do daily, why risk it?



answers from Chicago on

We also have the I love it as well, it is easy to release the straps and re-tighten.

Keep in mind you are not supposed to put them in a coat rear facing. That is what the police station who installed our car seat told us. And when they are forward facing you should have them in a lighter coat, not so thick, or it can allow them to move if in an accident.



answers from Indianapolis on

I highly recommend the Britax line of carseats, especially the Marathon. You will pay a lot more for it, but its a top rated brand in safety and can be used up to 60lbs. Check online for deals, they usually have sales in Spring online for much cheaper than list price.



answers from Columbus on

Seeing that you have received a lot of responses, I will try to be brief. For my first child, we initially purchased the Britax Marathon and used this seat after the infant carrier. When I needed to move my second child from the infant carrier to a car seat (at 12 months), I moved her into the Marathon and purchased the Britax Frontier for my older child (almost 3). I did quite a bit of research for both purchases and have been very pleased with both decisions. Both seats will be sufficient for quite awhile. The Frontier is very adjustable (heighth, strapes, etc.) and also converts to a booster with a back. I am hoping that the only other seat that I may need to purchase will be a basic booster when my second child is ready to move into the Frontier. Good luck, I know it is a very important decision!



answers from Phoenix on

I know the standard just a few years ago was forward-facing at 1 year, but The American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other groups are now recommending keeping a child in a rear-facing seat until they reach the height/weight maximum for that seat (so around the age of 2). I would recommend keeping your baby rear-facing in the convertible car seat for as long as you can, since it is safest. For your 2 year old, I'd look for a toddler seat that has a removable 5-point harness and converts to a booster/backless booster that he can use for many years to come (booster use is recommended until 4'9" or 100 lbs.). Try the Graco Nautilus, Britax Frontier, Evenflo Symphony65, or others like that. I also agree that you should try to avoid too many layers between your child and the carseat as that can interfere with the proper positioning of the safety belts and can make the difference between safety and disaster in an accident. Good luck!



answers from Detroit on

We have a First Years True Fit and love it! It has a high weight limit, gets five stars for ease of use (all seats are considered safe, so you won't find ratings on safety), no recalls, and is super comfy for my DS. We live in Michigan and have to deal with snowsuits, too-this seat is easy and fast to transition from car to car, and to buckle our kiddo into in the cold. Weather. Keep in mind that the AAP recently recommended children be rear-facing as long as comfortable, not just till 20lbs and 1yr.

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