Car Seats for Toddlers

Parent Q&A

  • Looking for a new carseat for our 24 month old. I see online they go for upwards of $400. Does anyone have experience w/ current models and have one to recommend, that is not tip top of the line luxury style? Also, is there a local bay area business we could support when we do purchase? Thanks in advance. 

    I highly recommend Tot Tank in Alameda! They're a family-owned business and are very knowledgeable about all baby/kid gear, etc. We've bought several of our larger baby/toddler items from them -- car seats, strollers, wagon, etc. They also do car seat installations/checks throughout the life of the car seat to make sure it's properly installed.  

    Hi, we are very happy with our Diono brand carseat. It has metal in it, instead of just foam and plastic, which feels more secure if there were a side collision. We bought it from Tot Tank on Park St in Alameda and were extremely happy with them. The employees were very knowledgeable and helped us pick the right carseat for us, and then they have an approved/certified person to install it correctly and show you how. I highly recommend them. 

    We have been very happy with the Graco 4ever DLX. I like it cause it converts to a booster seat eventually and you can take the cover off to wash it without having to take the whole seat out. Got excellent safety ratings and is comfy too. Amazon has it for around $260 at the moment. Unfortunately Im not familiar with any local Bay Area owned businesses - that is mom and pop shops. We got ours at buy buy baby Pleasanton.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Choosing a carseat for an 11-month-old

Dec 2006

I am getting ready to buy a new car seat for my 11 month old. I keep hearing about Britex and while doing the research I can not figure out why they are $100 or $150 better than the other ones that seem to fit my needs and have so many of the features that people keep raving about. (E.G. The harness is controlled by a roll switch, baby can be left rear facing in a RECLINED position for up to 30lbs Very important to me)When I have questioned people I know that have these car seats the overwhelming response I get is that everyone likes them and there is an assumption that because they are more expensive they MUST be best. But when I look at consumer reports and AAP reccomendations, they speak well of Gracco and Evenflo.....ANy one have any REAL reason I should spend the extra money? OR experiences with the less expensive ones that bear sharing? Good or bad? Also one friend of mine said her Britex isn't convertible? Are there some that go from this stage to booster seat that I'm unaware of??? HELP! Thanks in Advance. Shelly

Hi there, we've been using a Britax Roundabout with our *big* 7 1/2 month-old since she was born. I did all the research too and decided to get the expensive seat after 1) figuring that we'd have a big kid, and it wasn't worth getting the carrier seat only to replace it a quarter of the way to two years old, and 2) more important: recommendations from two extremely safety-minded cousins, one of whom is an ER doctor and sees lots of car accident victims. Here's why I think people like them better, besides their excellent rating -- my conclusion after our girl sat in similarly-rated 5-40 lb rear-to-front convertible seats made by Cosco and Graco when visiting grandparents. The Britax is shaped so that your kid sits securely, no matter how little they may be. It's narrower at the place where your kids waist/hips end up when they grow, so when their shoulders are narrow, there's less room to wiggle. We never even really needed to put rolled towels in there. I know you're shopping for an 11-month-old, not a newborn, but that's what I've noticed with our daughter. You might want to look at a Marathon or something even bigger that will grow with your kid. I think that Rockridge Kids would let you sit your kid down in their display models so you could see which one to get. happy britax purchaser

I have often wondered the same thing about the Britax carseats. They are very expensive, and the price isn't backed up by the consumer reports crash tests. We got the Evenflo, which is always ranked higher than or the same as the Britax, and costs less than 1/3 of the price. When I asked around, I found that people assumed that because Britax was more expensive, it had to be the ''best'' or that people got the Britax because everyone else had it. In any case, we've loved our Evenflo so much that we got a second one for our second child. It can be used rear- facing and reclines- in fact, we used this carseat for each of our children from birth, and we were able to keep our taller / heavier than average children rear facing until 14 or 15 months. Happy Carseat Owner for $70

One of the main reasons I bought Britax after going through a few carseats was comfort for my daughter on long car rides. She used to complain that her bottom was hurting on longer car trips. When I took a look under the carseat cover, I realized there was minimal padding and she was pretty much sitting on hard plastic and then there are also parts where the plastic is shaped so that there are like holes (kind of hard to explain). I looked everywhere and all carseats were the same. Britax was the only one I found that had a layer of padding and also used styrofoam to fill those holes so that it was an even surface. I also find that the straps for the britax tend to get tangled up less frequently. Finally, I feel that the covers look better longer and hold up to spills and cleaning a little better. I don't know if that justifies $100 more, but for me it did. I am very happy with my Britax carseats Liz

We thought the same thing -- can the Britax really be THAT much better than the others? -- but we bought the Britax Boulevard after test-installing the less expensive seats in our car. All cars are different, but at least in our station wagon it was much easier to install properly than the others were. So we paid for ease of use and a good tight fit -- the best safety features you can have. (We also got a great price online, at Amazon I think, on a discontinued fabric.)

By the way, a convertible seat is one that can be installed rear-facing and forward facing; it has nothing to do with booster seats. Our Britax is the larger size and can accommodate taller and heavier kids than most convertible seats, so we will use it in place of a booster for years to come, another economy. Nicole R.

Probably not exactly the advice you are looking for but I did a lot of research on the Britax. One of the tools I used was Consumers like you and I post opinions of products they buy. I was seriously considering a Evenflo Triumph as a second carseat. I already had a used Britax Roundabout that I really liked. As with many products I sort by highest rating and then lowest. Many people had similar concerns in the lowest category. They said that it was very hard to adjust the straps and entire seat needed to come out. I knew that would be an issue for me so decided to continue w/ the Britax (which I still love). I bought two used Britax, one was stolen w/ my car. Thus, had to buy second new one. One thing I considered is that I can probably recoup some (maybe nearly 1/2) of the cost if I sell the seat later Jennifer

We have both a Britax Marathon and an Evenflo Titan. The Britax was a very generous gift, we bought the Titan because the Britax is way too huge to be practical for traveling--something we do with our daughter several times a year.

Here are my opinions about the pros and cons:

Britax: Seems to be a very comfortable ride--much more comfortable than the Evenflo. My 18-month-old almost never falls asleep in the Evenflo. She does still fall asleep in the Britax. She's also less likely to fight getting into it. However, even though it is FAA-approved (most five-point harness carseats are), it's far too big and unweildy to travel with if you plan to use the car seat in an airplane. We bought the Evenflo so we wouldn't have to muscle it through any more airports or onto any more planes.

Evenflo: It's a manageable size to travel with, but overall if I were looking for a second carseat again, I'd try to find another brand. Biggest con--the straps are actually one long strap that connects underneath the seat, which means that every time our daughter gets out of her car seat she pulls one strap longer than the other and thus it has to be readjusted every time she gets into the car. The sides also seem to get uneven as we ride, so sometimes when I take her out she's in a bit sideways, obviously being pinned down on one side. Before I bought this carseat, I wouldn't have given this design feature a second thought, but it turns out it's a really bad idea. The posture in the seat also looks pretty uncomfortable. I hope this helps Pam

We have two Britax Marathons and they seem very comfortable and safe for our big boys. One reason I got them was because our boys are tall, and they go to the largest height for a convertible seat. I did notice that Britax came out with a Fisher Price car seat this year that is more reasonably priced, the Safe Voyage Deluxe Convertible Car Seat. They have it on Babycenter for $144, plus free shipping. Maybe this would be a good compromise anon

Car seat for big 2 1/2 year old?

March 2006

My son is just a couple of pounds from outgrowing his Britax Roundabout. I don't think he is ready for a booster seat. Also I would like to keep him in a 5 pt. harness for another couple of years. We travel a lot and the bulk of the Britax Marathon just seems overwhelming. Has anyone tried the Radian Car seat from Sunshine Kids? It looks like it will meet all our needs, but I've read that it is very difficult to install using seatbelts. (Latch seems to work great.) I'd appreciate your comments or suggestions for other alternatives.

Try the Cosco (not Costco) Summit. Available at Rockridge Kids for about $60? I can't remember. But, it's got the five-point harness for now and can be removed when he's more responsible - about age 4? (Depends on the kid, I guess.) Ask for Christian. He's the best and he'll even install it for you! -Love RR Kids for Carseats!

We use the Ride Ryte booster and Kid Y Harness ( GN

car seats for 40-60 lb. Kids

From: Wendy (8/98)

We just went thru the ordeal of purchasing a forward-facing car seat for our daughter (now 1 year), so maybe some of what I learned might be useful...

Britax is considered one of THE best carseats on the market; they are new to the US (only been available for a year or two), but have been in the European market for quite a few years. They are designed to meet/exceed European standards (re: height/weight), which are actually 'higher' than US standards... kids are expected to be in REAR-FACING carseats until at least 30 lbs, instead of 20, and in some sort of carseat/booster seat until 5 years of age (instead of 4 yrs/40 inches). Or, so I've been told, but by multiple sources, so I'm comfortable that it is reasonably accurate.

I looked at many carseats, and kept coming back to the Britax... it's a bit more pricey, but seemed WELL worth it. They make a booster-seat for kids that are bigger (both height and weight) that seemed MUCH more comfortable and well-made (and easier to install) that some of the others I saw (Century, Evenflo) -- but, since that wasn't what I was looking for, I didn't pursue this style, so unfortunately, I can't recall the model name. If you have the time, I would take a trip to Lullaby Lane, out near SFO (San Bruno Ave) -- their staff is very well-informed, and are ALWAYS happy to spent time talking to you about the various carseats (as well as other items they carry). If you've done some prelim research, it helps; otherwise, you can expect to spend at least an hour, probably more, learning about the various models. But, it is well worth it!

Anyway, hope this helps! Happy shopping....

From: Charlotte (9/98)

The Britax Roundabout is available at the new Berkeley Baby store in Berkeley for $189. I like the store and the owner a lot.