We’ve already written a how to choose a convertible car seat post but that was nearly 2 years ago and since then we’ve reviewed several more convertible car seats and just gotten wiser (and older) as parents. I should start by saying that we still LOVE our original choice, the Britax Boulevard but since then Britax has come out with a new line of their convertible car seats which we love equally as much, much more to come there.
First things first, when to switch from a rear facing infant seat to a convertible car seat? Most convertible car seats can actually double as infant car seats i.e., the minimum weight is 5-7 pounds. So really, anytime during the first year that you feel like your child is ready you’re free to go for it. Most people do it around 1 year and those with taller/larger babies may move sooner because there is more room in a convertible car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your child rear facing until at least 2 years of age and/or 20 pounds. However, children are 5x safer rear facing and it is really suggested to keep your child rear facing as long as possible. Many of the seats we are talking about today are made for extended rear facing which we are big, big supporters of!
Secondly, if you have a convertible car seat, the general rule is that it shouldn’t be more than 5 years old for the simple fact of the always changing regulations surrounding car seats. And if you have a seat that has EVER been in an accident, even a minor fender bender you should get a new seat. This is one of the reasons why we don’t suggest purchasing or accepting a used seat from an unknown source. Of course, if it is an awesome hand me down from a close friend or family member (i.e., they know the history of the seat and you trust them) – by all means!
In our original post, we mentioned three considerations for choosing a convertible car seat: Safety, Lifestyle and Budget. We still think all three hold true today but have a few new insights….
1) Safety. Again, this goes without saying. But as we have mentioned more times than we can count, you can buy the safest seat on the market but if it is not installed properly the safety features don’t mean much. You can always locate a car seat safety tech to install the seat for you if you are at all confused and we strongly encourage you to do so. One great seat on the market today that takes the guess work out of your car seat install is the new line from Britax we mentioned earlier, the ClickTight. Install is so easy here with a lap belt (eliminating the new LATCH regulation concern). On of our favorite seats on the market right now, the Clek Foonf has a straight forward installation with indicators on the LATCH (forward facing) to help ensure you have the seat in the correct position. When you are looking for a seat be sure to fully understand all the pieces of install. Almost all seats have a tether that if it is not a necessary part of install it is one that is strongly suggested. The tether is a strap like piece that attaches to an anchor on your car to provide additional stability some seats have them for both rear and forward facing others for just forward facing.
In terms of features, we highly suggest looking for seats with some sort of steel structure/frame. In our opinion if this box isn’t checked we’d reconsider your purchase. The Foonf, Diono Radian, Britax and Peg Perego models are just a few that meet this requirement. In addition to the steel structure, look for headwings to protect your little one’s head in the event of a crash as well as a shell lined with energy absorbing foam. We also love the anti-rebound bar of the Clek Foonf for use in rear facing mode. The anti rebound bar provides additional stability in the event of a crash actually stopping the rotation of the seat protecting your little one’s head and neck even more than other seats. As we mentioned in our previous post, there are all different variations in the amount of foam, size of headwings, etc but if the seat has these features you are in the right ballpark for safety.
Our choice: These days our girls are riding around in Clek Foonf’s. One rear facing and one forward facing. You can see our in depth VIDEO review of the Foonf for all the outstanding safety features but safety is the #1 reason we choose the Foonf but we enjoy many of the other features as well. Our editor, Lisa, loves the Britax ClickTight line and you can find her son Harrison riding in his Marathon. Our editor, Hannah is a big fan of our Peg Perego seat.
2. Lifestyle. You need a seat that works with your lifestyle. If you travel a lot and are planning on taking this seat on an airplane, the Diono Radian RXT is a great option because the seat itself folds in half making it somewhat easy to transport through airports and the like. There are even travel straps available for purchase which make this seat even more portable. A Britax travel cart is another option for air travel.
Another lifestyle consideration is your car size and other seats to install in your car. If you have more than one child you may be doing 2 or 3 across. The Diono Radian RXT and Clek Foonf can both accommodate three across because the seat base is more narrow than most of the other seats on the market. Both of these seats also accommodate an infant car seat next to it/them nicely (depending on the infant seat). We say it all the time, but definitely measure your car against your chosen model before purchasing!
Our choice: We currently live in NYC and don’t have cars. However, we do rent a car from time to time and put our Foonf’s in the car each time. They are easy to install making it easy to put it in/take it out. However, the Foonf’s are HEAVY and we do have to get a luggage cart to get them down to our garage where we can conveniently rent a car. We don’t ever take taxi’s or car service’s that we are putting these seats in mostly because it would be extremely impractical to tote around 32-36 pound car seats! Lisa loves that the ClickTight is so easy to install and can easily switch from her car to her husbands and the fool proof install, gives them confidence that Harrison is safe each and every time.
3. Budget. Convertible car seats aren’t cheap. Sure there are cheaper ones but many of the super cheap ones we would try to avoid if you can (their frames are often plastic). Keep an eye our for diapers.com 30% off sales, Babies R Us trade in programs and just deals in general. You’ll generally make the switch to a convertible car seat around the 12 month mark (some taller children move sooner, smaller can stay longer in an infant seat). Start keeping an eye out a couple months before you may need one so you can snag a deal on a good seat. I always recommend that when registering, you register for a convertible car seat , return it and SAVE the gift card. Then when it comes time to buy a seat you have some money set aside to put towards the seat you want.
Our choice, the Clek Foonf is a budget buster and they don’t go on sale too often. However, the remaining 2014 can be found on Amazon for a slight discount. For us, the cost of the Foonf is one that we can justify and adjust our monthly expenditures to accommodate such a purchase.
While we are currently using and loving the Foonf, here are our favorites that we recommend considering:
Why we love it:
The safety features are amazing and Clek is definitely an industry leader in making new advances in car seat safety in our opinion. Just a few of our favorite safety features: steel structure, energy absorbing foam, anti rebound bar in rear facing mode, rigid LATCH connectors in front facing mode & many more, see the full review, here. The ability to use this seat for an extended period of time in rear facing mode, up to 43 inches or 50 pounds is fabulous. Did you know kids are 5 times safer when rear facing? We mentioned the Foonf is easy to install and from an aesthetics perspective it is nice to look at and comes in pretty and fun colors.
Why we love it:
Britax has taken the guess work out of car seat installation with their newest models. The ClickTight line is so easy to install and in a world where 75% of car seats are installed incorrectly this is a major plus. The easy to adjust harness height (no rethreading) make the ClickTight an all around dream of a seat to use. The safety features are excellent: steel structure, seat lined in energy absorbing foam, the SafeCell energy absorbing harness and base, the list goes on in the full review, here. An added bonus is the sleeker, more breathable fabrics in the ClickTight line. Our editor Lisa, loves hers and we use them in grandparents cars.
Why we love it:
The Peg Perego Primo Viaggo Convertibel Car Seat meets all of our requirements for a great convertible car seat (their infant car seat is one of our favorite, too). It is awesome safety features, a frame consisting of steel, energy absorbing foam device crumples upon impact, absorbs shock and reduces stress to the child’s head and neck to name just a few. The Primo Viaggo has super breathable and soft fabric and some really handy elastic loops to keep the straps out of the way genius!). The non re-thread harness tops off why this seat is a serious consideration. You can see the entire review, here.
Why we love it:
While we haven’t had a chance to “real mom” test this seat from Diono we know it is a great one. We hear from parents, friends and The Car Seat Lady that it is a fabulous seat. It is one of the only seats with an entirely steel frame and all of the other awesome safety features add up to the Radian surpassing federal crash test standards. With a rear facing ability up to 45 pounds and ability to convert to a booster with use up to 120 pounds the Radian is a no brainer for serious consideration. We hope to bring you a full “real mom” review, soon!
What convertible car seat do you have or are you considering? Any other considerations enter your decision process?