Time to Buy a Car Seat for My Growing Toddler - What Do You Recommend?

Updated on August 03, 2010
C.W. asks from Chicago, IL
16 answers

Hi - - - I would really value your input on car seats for toddlers. (Our little one is 18 months and will continue to sit 'rear facing'. She is just growing out of the 'infant' car seat and we need to move her to a better fit.)
Why did you buy what you bought? what do you like about it?
Did you look for a 3 - 1? (which converts to a booster and then a backless booster)?
Thanks for your insight

(the Graco Nautilus looks like a great seat - - - but I've just started the search)


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So What Happened?

Hi everyone - your insight and suggestions were incredibly helpful. Here's what we decided to do . .
buy the Graco Nautilus for our 3.5 year old and transition her Britax (convertible) carseat to our 1.5 year old (so she can continue to sit rear facing). Problems solved! Thanks again for the suggestions.

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answers from Denver on

Be very very careful in the 3-1 seats some are great as 5 point harness but really really lose protection in the booster position. If you are going this route I would def do a lot of research. I had a graco alpha omega and i hated it as a booster. We used and are using a britax marathon with my son and daughter and when my son was older we went to a better top rated high back booster.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My 2.5 year old is in the britax marathon, goes up to 65lbs, my 5.5 year old can still use it! We also have the britax frontier booster, keeps them harnessed to 85lbs (always safer in a 5point harness as long as possible!) then is a booster to 100lbs. Expensive yes, but considering we never have to buy another seat it makes sense. We have been in a fatality accident with a britax marathon and have done extensive research, I wouldn't buy anything else! Good deals can be found at www.albeebaby.com and eBay. Good luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

If he's 18mos and still rear facing, leave him there! A rear facing car seat is outgrown when one of these things happens... the child goes over the rear facing weight limit or there is less than one inch of hard shell above the childs head.
If he's in an infant seat, purchase a CONVERTIBLE car seat and keep him rear facing. Here are some good ones.

Cosco Scenera is $50, will rear face to 35lbs (new ones to 40lbs), forward face to 40lbs, and is a good bare bones seat. Its a good safe seat for a low price. Its not padded much but its still very safe and should last most kids to age 3 when another higher harness weight seat should be purchased.

Evenflo Triumph ADVANCE is $130 and will rear face to 35lbs and forward face to 50lbs. Great seat, no thread harness adjustments! Will fits most kids to age 5 forward facing, its a really nice padded and lots of features seat for a low price.

First Years TrueFit is $170-$230 will rear face to 35lbs and forward face to 65lbs. Nice tall seat that fits older kids well, most kdis can use to age 6/7.

Graco MyRide 65 is $150, will rear face to 40lbs, forward to 65lbs. EXCELLENT seat for extended rear facing and is a big comfy padded seat. Fits most kids to 4 rear facing and 5/6 forward facing!

Sunshine Kids Radian is $200-$300 will rear face to 40-45lbs, forward face to 65-80lbs (depending on model) and is a narrow seat, fits three across and into smaller cars easily. NICE seats.

Britax Marathon or Boulevard is $270-$300 will rear face to 35lbs (new ones will to 40lbs) and forward face to 65 (new ones will to 70lbs) I love our Britax seats ,the yare well made, easy to use and install too.

If you are insisting on moving him to a forward facing seat, the Graco Nautilus is a great seat. It will harness to 65lbs, booster to 100lbs. Its $150 and will be the last seat he will need.

The Evenflo Maestro is $70, will harness to 50lbs, and then becomes a booster seat. It is a great seat for the price and makes a good booster seat.

The Evenflo Generations 65 is $99 and will harness to 65lbs and then booster. Again a great seat for the money.

Britax Frontier will harness to 85lbs, but yoru child must be 2yrs old before using it. Its $280 and a great seat, will booster to 120lbs.

Consider keeping him rear facing longer, google EXTENDED REAR FACING and JOELS JOURNEY for more information. IF he's in a convertible check to see if he's outgrown it by reading what I posted above. If he's still within the limits of the rear facing seat, leave him there, or purchase a convertible to keep him rear facing longer. If you are insistent that he go forward facing, look for one of hte four I recommended, they will last the longest and are the best.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

It's hard to make a recommendation when we don't know the height and weight of your child. I would recommend keeping the toddler rear facing but if the child is already forward facing Nautilus is a great seat and does make for a wonderful booster when the time comes. You state your child is a toddler but depending on age, weight, torso length that will determine the best seat for your child. Always keep a toddler in a 5 pt. harness.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I work at a baby store. The two that I recommend are the Britax Boulevard or the Recaro. Britax is very well known and makes a great seat. The head rest and straps adjust with the turn of a knob. It has extra head protection as well. The Recaro car seat is great too. They are newer to making carseats, but have made Nascar seats for some time. And the carseats are getting great reviews. You can put them both rear facing, then turn around to forward. My son got the Boulevard at 8 months and is still in it at almost 3. These are more $ then the others, but I believe it is for the quality and features.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lafayette on

Britax is my absolute favorite carseat! I know it's a little pricey but it's sooooo great! You could check kidssurplus.com and ebay for some cheaper priced ones.... Hth

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

We've loved our Britax Marathon for the last 2 years. We've just moved baby into it and bought a Britax Frontier 85 for our toddler and we're loving it too. They're pricey but they seem very comfortable, their safety record is one of if not THE best, they've both been easy to install and they're easy to use. My daughter LOVES the cup holders in her Frontier. Perfect for drinks, small snacks and small toys. And it's the last car seat we'll ever have to buy since it converts to a booster, up to 120 lbs. Greatness.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Nashville on

I bought one at walmart for like 40 dollars and it reclines. Always make sure you get one that reclines so you babys head dont fall forward when they sleep and you can take the cover off and wash it as well. My daughter likes it expecially when she falls asleep in the car.



answers from Chicago on

I don't think the Graco Nautilus can be placed rear facing. I bought the Graco My Ride65 instead.



answers from Chicago on

We have the britax marathon and love it!



answers from Chicago on

My little boy outgrew his carrier seat at 8 mos. We opted for a 3-in-1 convertible seat. I was going to get the Graco Nautilus as well but I read that the buckle between the baby's legs was too shallow so we opted for the Evenflo Symphony65 instead. I LOVE it. Super comfy and easy latch system and it will grow with our little guy until he's 100 lbs. He is 13 mos. and still rear facing and the seat will accommodate him that way probably until he is 2. For my daughter, I had the Britax Marathon and I loved that too - but it only goes until 65 lbs. and my son, I think, will be bigger! :) Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

For a non biased, fact based opinion buy the book Baby Bargains. They have recommendations for all types of baby gear.

I had a Chicco Key Fit 30 for my daughter. I took her out of it at 11.5 months because she outgrew the length. We moved her to a First Years True Fit. I really like the carseat because it is not too bulky and has a high height limit, even rear facing. (we are rear facing until two as well). The only negative was installation. It is a bit hard to get the latch belt tight enough (for me). I needed my husband to help, for extra strength.

Good luck in your search!




answers from Chicago on

The Graco Nautilus is awesome, but it can not rear face. My older son has that one when his younger brother outgrew the infant seat. They both sat rearfacing in a convertible car seat - an Evenflo Triumph. Now that i have finally figured out how to loosen the straps when the knob is stuck (instead of pressing on the lever to loosen, turn the knob like you are tightening and then press on lever), I love this seat! Very roomy, great rear and forward facing. Like all convertible car seats it's very heavy, but unless you are going to take it on an airplane trip, that's not a big deal.

Use a convertible seat until 40 lbs and then get a Nautilus! It's the best seat ever for forward facing!!


answers from Detroit on

i would suggested buying the car seats that can also turn in to a booster seat once it;s needed. that way you don't have to go out later and buy a booster seat. and make sure it has a washable seat cover so it can make it to being a booster seat.lol. i know costco makes one cause i have it. good luck.


answers from Los Angeles on

I bought the Graco Naitilus and love it, so does my 17 month old. Best thing about it, we will never have to buy another car seat again. Converts to a high back booster, then a backless booster. It has a ton of room, and cleaning it is pretty easy. If you want your baby to continue rear facing this carseat does not rear face. It is forward facing only.
Good Luck =)



answers from San Diego on

why do you need a new seat already? Can you turn the current seat around?

The Graco Nautilus is awesome. I am so glad I won't have to buy another seat b/c it is 3 in 1 with high weight limits, and it is a nice price. It installs easy. The crotch strap is long enough so we never pinch a leg. Daughter loves the cubbies. Good side protection while still allowing toddler's visibility. Safety steel reinforced, but makes it heavy, so I wouldn't use it for lots of traveling. I only wish the harness straps didn't need rethreading to change the height, but not a flaw.

My daughter was 23 months RFing and then went to the Nautilus FFing. She was in a First Years-True Fit which is my other favorite seat (and her little sister is in it now), but it is a convertible, which I assume you already have.

I do NOT recommend the Alpha Omega/Elite types--they are much harder to install and don't have as much side protection.

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