Toddler Carseat Recommendations

Updated on April 29, 2010
K.S. asks from Encinitas, CA
19 answers

Hi Moms! My son (17 months old) has outgrown his carseat & we're looking for a new one. Preferably one with a 5-point harness and then as he grows older one that will just use the seatbelt. I've looked in several places and found a few brands/styles I like, but I would love to get some feedback from those of you who've already been using them. Which ones do you LOVE, which ones do you hate? And is there anything I need to know?
Thanks so much!

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So What Happened?

Thank you Everyone for all your responses. I was so impressed with how quickly everyone jumped in to help me with my question. It seems by an overwhelming majority that Britax is the way to go. I'll be picking one up & having it "installed" by the police department (they're experts & they did my install when we got the infant seat). Now I know I will have be best carseat for my son & it will be installed properly. Can't ask for much more! Again, thank you all for your recommendations, comments & help!!

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K.M.

answers from Boston on

You said "Preferably with a 5 point harness" but please note that you must legally have a 5 point for a kid under 40 lbs in most states.

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J.C.

answers from San Diego on

BRITAX, BRITAX, BRITAX!!!! Most of all, as you noted....a 5pt. harness.
http://www.kyledavidmiller.org/
They have recommendations on here, and for a good reason!

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K.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

We just bought the Britax Frontier based on the recommendations of several friends. It's a 5 point harness up to (I think) 80 pounds and can convert to a booster for use with a regular seatbelt. It can be kind of hard to install, but once it's in the car, it is a great seat.

It cannot be used rear-facing, so if you haven't turned your son around yet, you'll have to now.

K.
http://www.discoverytoyslink.com/karenchao

1 mom found this helpful

B.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

Is he rear facing or forward facing? The AAP recommends children remain rear facing until they outgrow the convertible car seat, or at least age 2 and 30lbs. There are many many great options on the market that will allow him to remain rear facing for much longer, and then forward facing in the harness until he's mentally and physically mature enough for a belted booster seat (usually around age 6).

Graco MyRide 65 will rear face to 40lbs (most kids to age 4) and forward face to 65lbs (most kids to 6). Its $150 and a GREAT seat that will last your child until he's ready for a booster seat.

Evenflo Triumph Advance will rear face to 35lbs (most kids to 2-3yrs) and forward face to 50lbs (most kids to age 5+). Its $130 and again ,a great seat that will last your child until booster age.

First Years TrueFIt will rear face to 35lbs (most kids to age 4) and forward face to 65lbs (mostk ids to 6+) Its $170 and everyone woh owns this seat loves it, as do CPST's.

Sunshine Kids Radian will rear face to 40-45lbs (depending on model, most kids to age 4) and forward face to 65-80lbs (depending on model, most kids to age 7). They run from $200-$300 and are great narrow seats, fold for travel, and they can be tethered rear facing!

Britax Marathon or Boulevard will rear face to 35lbs (most kids to age 2/3) and forward face to 65lbs (most kids to 6). They run $250-$300 and also can be tethered rear facing, super easy to install and use as well. These are also the easiest seats to remove the cover for washing.

A rear facing car seat is outgrown when the child goes over the weight limit or there is less than one inch of hard shell above the head. Feet touching the seat is NOT a problem and not reason to turn a child forward facing, as there has never been a documented case of broken legs in a rear facing child. On the contrary, one of the most common forward facing injuries is broken legs. The AAP recommends children remain rear facing until at least age 2 and 30lbs, or until the convertible car seat is outgrown rear facing. When rear facing, the harness must come from just at or below the shoulders. This prevents ride up in a crash and keeps the child perfectly in the seat.

A forward facing car seat is outgrown when one of three things happens; the child goes over the weight limit, the ears become level with the seat back, or the childs shoulders go over the top harness slot. When forward facing, the harnss should come from at or above the shoulders. THis prevents spinal compression and allows the child to move appropriately in the seat during a crash.

The harness should be 'snug as a hug' and the chest clip should be level with the armpits.

Avoid the 3-in-1 type seats like the Alpha Omega, Safety 1st, Eddie Bauer, etc. These are ok rear facing but are outgrown way too fast forward facing in height, and they are awful booster seats, they've failed every single crash test because they are too wide and hold the belt up on th childs belly, not the hips. Its best to avoid these seats, they are not worth the money because you can purchase a better seat now that will last in the harness rear facing longer and forward facing longer, and then purchase a simple booster down the road when your child is mature enough mentally and physically for a booster seat.

If your child is forward facing, there are a couple seats that work best and last the longest.
Graco Nautilus will harness to 65lbs, then becomes a high back booster to 100lbs, and then a no back booster. Its $150, and is a really great seat.

Britax Frontier will harness to 80lbs and then becomes a high back booster. Its $270 and again, GREAT seat.

Evenflo Maestro will harness to 50lbs and then becomes an ok booster. Its $70 at Sears.

Evenflo Generations 65 will harness to 65lbs and then becomes a good booster. Its $99 at Babies R Us. my friend has two of these and I really like them.

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K.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

We have loved all our Britax car seats. They get the best safety ratings. As many others have posted ~ 5 point harness is the safest way to go!
It's also very important to have it installed properly, it should not move more than an inch at the base. Steve Lung does an excellent job at baby proofing and he's an expert in car seat installation. You can contact him at ###-###-#### or
[email protected]____.com

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T.G.

answers from Los Angeles on

Britax Frontier! 5 point harness that can be used to 100 lbs! We use it for both our boys (5 & 6). They got to pick their own colors, love that the seats have armrests that move up and down (just like mom & dad's seats) and their own cup holders. They are on the expensive side, ours were around $250, but we were in an accident last year and both boys were completely uninjured. Not sure I would be able to say that with a booster seat using just a seatbelt. We went out the same day and bought 2 more and will have both boys in the 5 point as long as we can.
Also, one thing you don't have to worry about yet, but is worth mentioning. The LATCH system doesn't work past a certain weight on car/booster seats. Be sure to check your owners manual to see how long you can install your seats with LATCH.

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M.D.

answers from Los Angeles on

We use a Britax marathon and LOVE it. My son out grew his infant car seat at about 6 months and we switched to the Britax, I used it rear facing for a long time, the great thing is when your done with the rear facing and ready for the babe to sit forward, just turn it around and buckle it in. I know they are one of the more expensive brands but let me just tell you I have ZERO regrets about the purchase. We were in a pretty bad car accident the end of last year and my son was sleeping at the time we were hit, his seat didn't move an inch as matter of fact he didn't even wake up and the hit was on his side, that's how secure these Brtiax are.
Another plus is that I believe you can use it as an infant seat as well, so if your planning on having more children I am sure you will get many years out of this Car seat!

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D.D.

answers from Denver on

Britax. Their Frontier 85 model fits the child until he is 65 inches, 120 lbs. My husband is an automotive engineer, and he did a lot of research before we bought seats for our son. He picked Britax BECAUSE it has the 5-point harness, which is the safest way for children to ride. He did not even look at the seats that used only the car's seatbelt. He says that we would all be wearing 5-point harnesses when we are in a car, but we (the general car driving and riding population) wouldn't stand for it. 5-point is the safest, that's why race car drivers have them.

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L.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Our daughter was in the Britax Roundabout until 40 pounds (LOVED it!) and we've now moved on to the Britax Frontier, which is still a 5 pt. harness. LOVE it, also and it will last her for many years to come!

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L.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

I loved my Britax Marathon. It was great. Check out consumerreports.com. They have the latest safety ratings on different brands. Britax always has high ratings and they have different price levels. Britax also comes in lots of different fabrics if you search on line you can find the one you like the most.

Good luck!

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S.O.

answers from San Diego on

Both my kids started in a Britax Marathon. My son who is 5 just recently moved up to the Britax Frontier because he got too tall for the Marathon. I LOVE the Marathon! Easy to install, easy to wash, and very comfy for both my kids. I like the Frontier, but the LATCH doesn't install as tightly as the Marathon. But from what I hear that is part of the Frontier safety design because the Frontier is meant for older/bigger kids than the Marathon. What I do like about the Frontier is the cup holders on both sides and the head rest adjusts so as your child gets taller, you just move it up a notch. And it accomodates kids up to 100lbs, I think. The law in CA for carseats is 6 years and 65lbs. Neither of my kids will be 65lbs before they turn 6. But my son is very tall for his age, so that's why we switched to the Frontier. My daughter is short for her age, so she will be in her Marathon until she turns 6 for sure. Also all Marathon seats are FAA approved for travel on planes and trains. Not all carseats are FAA approved, so if you plan on travelling with your carseat, make sure it's FAA approved.

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A.N.

answers from Las Vegas on

I have a Britax marathon and a Sunshine Kids Radian 65 (for travel, it folds up) for my 20 month old son, and both are great. Both have awesome rear facing limits (you want to keep your child rear facing as long as possible for safety reasons), and the Marathon goes up to 49 in and the Radian goes up to 53 in, with both good for 65 pounds (this is all using the 5 point harness). If you plan on traveling a lot, or having a lot of kids, the Radian is good because it folds up, and you can fit 3 of these side by side in many vehicles. The Marathon is more sturdy, and our every day seat, we have only used the Radian for one week (not rear facing as there is an extra piece needed we didn't want to fly with), but both are great seats with great reviews.

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A.P.

answers from Las Vegas on

I recommend the Britax Boulevard. My 18 month old is still very comfortable rear-facing, and it will last us a very long time. I wish we had bought this one from the get go. We had an infant seat that just barely lasted her first 12 months.

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M.C.

answers from Honolulu on

- Pretty soon he will want to buckle himself - get one that he can actually accomplish this feat.
- get sturdy straps that won't twist easily.
- Potty training is coming soon, and accidents will happen - make sure that you don't need an engineering degree to remove, clean and replace the cover!
- cup holders are important to kids
- for us, when they were bigger and could use a booster, we switched to a seat only booster - WAY easier to switch between cars, keep an extra one handy for bringing extra friends home, and travel with. Also, pretty cheap at $20 or so.

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K.G.

answers from Fort Wayne on

how much are you willing to spend? Riccaro makes a great car seat that grows with child. check out all reviews. we found ours on amazon for $212. we started out with the first step brand but our dd is growing really quickly and we needed to up grade.

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K.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

I love our Britax Marathon and the Graco Nautilus. The Nautilus does convert to a booster, but I think a 17 month old would be too small for that seat.

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D.T.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have the Evenflo Triumph Advance Deluxe for my 13 month old son and really like it. It is very easy to use. I also use the Safety First AirProtect car seat for an 11 month old girl I babysit, and I do NOT like it. It is very difficult to get in my car properly (there is not enough room for it to be properly level and I have a 2003 4Runner) and it is difficult to use and adjust the belts.

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C.T.

answers from San Diego on

We love our Recarro young sport (which goes from car seat to booster seat) and our Britax Boulevard. Excellent seats for comfort, safety, install, and cleaning. Both rated super high. hope that helps.
C.

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S.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

We have three Britax car seats (installed in different cars) for our 2.5 year old son: Marathon, Regent and Frontier. They're all great (rated slightly differently for height/weight). However, there are a few differences. The Marathon seems to have firmer straps, but the buckle is sometimes seems the most annoying because it requires that both buckle ends be inserted and pushed in at the same time. The Frontier, on the other hand, seems to have "floppier" straps, which consequently seem to twist easily, which can be a bit annoying. The Regent's straps/buckle system seems to be somewhere in between the other two. However, if you want to minimize the number of carseats you buy during his young childhood, I would recommend the Frontier. The seat back/head rest area can be raised up/down and seems to provide the best and most comfy side-to-side support of my son's head (we currently have the back/headrest at the lowest position), plus it has cup holders and other features as other posters have noted below.

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