Toddler to Booster Seat Advice Needed

Updated on August 06, 2009
X.C. asks from Natick, MA
6 answers

My 3.5 year old is getting close to the height limits for his rear facing to forward facing car seat. So its time to shop for a new car seat for him. Hoping some of you have done this research already and can give me some good advice. From the little I've read so far I "think" I want a convertible forward facing toddler seat to booster seat so I can keep him in a five point harness as long as possible. This is safer, right? What models do you have and do you like it? I'm seeing the Britax Frontier mentioned frequently in what I've read so far - anyone have that and have an opinion (good or bad) on it? I've read they are big - would two fit in a Toyota Matrix (my 2 year old will eventually need one too in a year or two so we'll have two in there at the same time eventually)?
Thanks - any and all advice on this subject would be so helpful!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all the great replies! We bought four Graco Nautilus car seats last night (we have two cars and one of us drops off at daycare and the other picks up, so needed 4 for our two kids). All of your advice and posted links were so very helpful.
Decided to go with the Graco Nautilus rather than the Britax Frontier for a few reasons. The Britak has a higher weight limit, but they both have the same height restriction. I have tall skinny kids, so the weight restriction is not as much of a concern. From what I've read, the Graco is much easier to install, which is good on its own, but also means we're more likely to install it correctly. The Graco's harness straps can be moved up in position from the front - gasp - meaning no need to uninstall the seat to do that - oh my - I'm in love! :) The Graco is smaller so more likely to fit two in our small Toyota Matrix (which is like a Corolla/Civic size car). The Graco is about $100 cheaper than the Britax and since we had to buy 4 that is a big difference ($400). Cupholder and hidden snack/toy compartments seemed better in the Graco when we went to look at the two also.

NOTE - We saved $200 last night when we bought the car seats. Knew we'd go to Bagies R Us so googled "babies r us printable coupon" and found a 15% off ALL car seats coupon for them. Printed that and brought it. Then asked for the twin discount. Any time you buy more than one of something large at Babies R Us, ask for this discount. They dont advertize it. You do NOT have to have twins. We dont. Its supposed to be 10% off, but our place got confused and gave us 15% off! So 30% off in all! It was awesome!

Anyway, thanks everyone!

More Answers



answers from Boston on

I highly reccomend the graco nautilus 3-1. It has everything that you are looking for )converts from 5 point harness to seatbelt booster, to backless booster. It has very high safety ratings, was reccomended to us by the installer at the police station, and is MUCH less expensive and smaller than the britax. I should add that I have two britax car seats and loved them too but wish I had bought the graco nautilus long ago instead.



answers from Boston on

I,too, am looking and love all the input and advise. I apprecaite the ttechnicians information.

I was reading website This family has posted several seats they are working on to adhere to the new guidelines they are trying to put into place for toddlers/preschoolers. I have found it very informative. Although the Frontier was not in the price range I was looking at, I am so happy with all the comments, longevity and reviews I have seen about it.
So many ppl I know are getting the seat belt positioning boosters and I am just not comfortable doing so, based on all that I have read on safety.

THANK YOU all for your info and I hope the website provides more info to you all.



answers from Boston on

We have the Britax Frontier and we love it. Highly recommend it, although I agree, it is expensive. We have a Nissan Altima and felt the Britax provided the best side-impact protection while at the same time not being too big. I am not familiar with your vehicle, but I do know that two of the Britax Frontiers would definitely fit in our car. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

also try posting your question to, they have technicians, moms and others with advice specific to car seats. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

I asked a similar question recently. I ended up getting the Britax Frontier and so far we are happy with it and my 3 y/o loves it to-especially the fact that he has arm rests ;) I brought it to the police station to have it installed. They is it is safe and doesn't move within the belts, but there is a lot of movement of the seat in general. I'm used to the Marathon that felt really solid once installed. That is the only thing I don't like about it.

I found this response to be the most helpful to me in making my decision:

I'm a Child Passenger Safety Technician and I have used both these seats.

Firstly, they're both wonderful, and I would recommend either of them without reservation. That being said, they both have their little lists of pros and cons.

The Nautilus has a 65 lb limit on the harness while the Frontier has an 80 lb limit. However, they have identical top harness heights. Both seats will be outgrown before most kids reach 60 pounds, because a seat is outgrown by height when the shoulders reach the top harness position.

The Nautilus has a 6 year expiration as a harnessed seat and a high back seat, and the backless booster portion has a 9 year expiration.

The Frontier has a 9 year expiration overall, and does not convert to a backless booster, however, as a high back booster it adjusts higher than any other booster on the market today, and will fit most adult women comfortably.

The Frontier is LATCHable in booster mode, the Nautilus is currently not (although Graco has flipflopped on this a few times).

The Nautilus has a wonderful cupholder, and the Frontier's cupholder is middling.

The Nautilus has four harness positions and the Frontier has nine, this means the Frontier will get you a more precise harness fit more of the time than the Nautilus.

The Nautilus is EXTREMELY easy to install in almost all vehicles, and the Frontier has some definitely installation quirks.

The Nautilus requires 100% of the base to be on the vehicle seat, and the Frontier requires only 80%, so the Nautilus isn't a good fit for pickups with small back seats.

Now that you are moving your 14 month old to the Marathon, remember that she should still be rearfacing. We don't recommend forward facing at 1 and 20 anymore. Most kids should fit rearfacing till around 3 to 4 years depending on size.

Also remember that if you bought the Marathon when your son was a baby, it will expire in three years or so. :)



answers from Boston on

Hi, I also have a 3.5 year old and we got him a Graco Nautilus. It has a harness up to 65 pounds and then it can be used as a seatbelt positioning booster until 100 pounds. I have it in a minivan so it fits fine, but it also fit fine in my husbands Nissan Altima. It has a nice cupholder and my son nevers complains about it. Good luck and I hope you find a seat that works for you!

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