Car seat decision extravaganza

I’ve been researching car seats trying to decide how to handle the fast-approaching small person/smaller person car seat shuffle. We still have Peanut’s infant seat available for the first nine months or so. We didn’t get a convertible until Peanut was 8 months because he was, well, a peanut, and we wanted the removable ease of the infant carrier. We never really took it out of the car, and had him in a sling rather than carrying the car seat or clipping it to a stroller. Still worth it, though. Infant seats just seem to fit better and make babies happier than swimming in a convertible seat. Of our friends, the two who used a convertible seat from birth noted with considerable frustration that their infants screamed during every car ride, presumably because the huge seat wasn’t comfortable. That’s not research, that’s tiny sample, anecdotal take-it-for-what-its-worth data, but still. We’re glad we have the infant seat available.

For now Peanut is fine in his Decathlon, and would be for a few more years. But eventually he’ll need a booster, and I’m trying to find a way to get him into a dual-use booster or high-back booster before TBA needs the convertible.

Because we’re really cautious and go as far with AAP recommendations as we can (the AAP recommends keeping them rear-facing as long as possible and in a harness as long as possible, so we kept P rear-facing until he was two and will keep him in a harness until his seat’s maximum) I want a booster that has a five-point harness that will last until 70-80 pounds and that will convert to a backless booster after 80 pounds.

Institute for Highway Safety has recommendations for boosters, and I wish this info were available at retailers. Why should I compare based on features and colors when there is solid safety research available? Because that’s the way retailers and manufacturers want it. Sigh.

I’m also finding that more manufacturers are building convertible seats that last much longer for both rear-facing and forward-facing harnessed children. That means I’m considering getting another convertible seat, something I was trying to avoid with the whole booster solution. But the best boosters and the best convertibles cost the same, so I’m open to either solution.

For general car seat research, I’ve found a lot of info at Comparative pricing information better than a google shopping search updates often at the Car Seat Place. At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they’re only willing to tell us how easy a seat is to use, but insist that all seats are safe. Gee, federal government, thanks for using my money to tell me if the labels are clear. How about you go back to focusing on ensuring that they all do actually pass your safety tests, and leave the label reading to someone else? You’re welcome, taxpayers, for the 10 cents I just saved each of you.

Shame on Consumer Reports for making car seat reviews available by subscription only. I understand making people pay for reviews of microwaves and televisions, but car seats? Public service, y’all.

Speaking of…do, please keep your children buckled in at all times, regardless of how far you’re going or how few cars are on the road; rear facing until at least 24 months*; and in a harness as long as possible.

So we’ve decided to go with this booster, which allows a harness to 80 lbs (or 53″) and accommodates use as a booster to 100 lbs (or 60″). It’s approved on airplanes, which is important to us. Second place on our list is this convertible seat that works to 53″ and is foldable for travel and carpools. Deciding factor was the Frontier’s booster option for taller kids and higher weights, and the fact that Peanut wanted a pink car seat but not a flowered car seat. Now we’re just hoping he still likes pink when he’s 9, or that car seats can be spray painted.

[It has not escaped this blogger’s attention that she would practically fit in a child’s booster and that, according to the recommendations, she would have been in a booster through freshman year of high school.]

*Several studies show “the standard advice of turning a baby from rear-facing to forward-facing at one year and at least 20 pounds puts a child at greater risk for severe injury than if they were to remain rear facing.”

9 thoughts on “Car seat decision extravaganza

  1. Ooooh, car seat decisions, the fun never ends. We’re all about extended rear-facing in this family, too.

    We went with your #2 choice for our #1 kid when #2 came along to boot him out of his car seat. We like the folding feature – it was oh so useful for our move to Argentina. So far so good. It folds, it buckles, it confines the little monster just fine.

  2. ARGH! The car seat conundrum! I just about blew a fuse (or fifty) in my brain trying to decide.

    And I’m laughing (bitterly) because guess who got a shiny new subscription to Consumer Reports online when she had to research car seats?

  3. Hear hear- shame on those vile Consumer Reports people who make it sub-only. I find myself unwittingly sucked in to their glossy informative magazine (my parents have a sub), but I abhore the philosophy that parents are going to pay any amount of money to keep their kids safe. Of COURSE we will.
    We have always only used Britax. We have the booster for my 5-yr-old in cowmooflage, and the Marathon for the babe. Hadn’t heard of the Frontier. Good luck with your decision!

  4. This comes at a great time for me! When Destructo and Sunbeam were first born I had that Shiny Consumer Report subscription, but I don’t have money for that now! Your research and links are going to make my life a whole lot easier this week. They are getting too big for their Britax. MANY SINCERE THANKS!

  5. Thanks for doing some of my leg work. With Evan, we had a friend who was a certified car seat inspector, so I just asked her. Now that we drifted apart, I’ve been having a hard time finding reliable information on car seats. I heart Britax. Though the husband still has sticker shock over it. If you have a $50 kid, then get a $50 seat. Oh and just to let you know, on airlines, they won’t let you put a car seat on the aisle, so if you have two little ones in car seats, they have to be next to each other; while you’re on the edge. Not so fun when they like to hit each other out of boredom.

  6. Hi, all. I forgot to mention that if you hold out for a while, some online stores wind up offering 20% off and free shipping on the Britax and on the Sunshine Kids (which macando mama has made me rethink for the folding). Such a sale would bring the best car seats and boosters into the $200 range, and for a seat that last 4+ years, I can outfit my $50 kid (thanks, fae). A few favorites include and but has pretty up-to-date info on best prices.

  7. About flying – we bought one of these CARES airplane seatbelts, and sent the car seat as baggage. It was a lot more comfortable for everyone.

    (Warning: causes OUTRAGE that a) they are not provided free of charge by the airlines as a mandatory safety measure, and b) cars don’t come equipped with some variation of this. It seems that the modern-day affliction of car-seat-itis could easily be prevented, if only…)

  8. Ahhh, car seats. Last year my oldest graduated from needing one. Woo hoo!! Now we just have those backless boosters for number two and for all of her friends whom I seem to carpool everywhere. Yep, the carpooling starts in a couple of years and then you’re just praying you have enough boosters for everyone, let alone what brand they are. Good luck with your purchasing!

  9. FWIW, I used my Shiny Consumer Reports subscription to do a search on both the seats and the only thing that came up was for the IIHS recommendation for the Britax.

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