Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where Shall We Sit?

It's months away, for sure, but just like nearly everything else I've done involving these children, I've begun researching their next car seats.

Their current car seats didn't take much thought. Their cousin had outgrown his infant seat, so we had a free one at our disposal. To make life easier, we just needed to buy one new car seat. Done and done. But now I have to really think about this. To what kind of car seat are the girls going to graduate? There are a few factors to consider, of course: size, weight and height limits, comfort, size, features, and did I mention size?

You notice how I didn't mention safety ratings? Well, contrary to popular belief, infant and toddler car seats do not have safety ratings. The five-star ratings you see advertised are for ease-of-use as rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A car seat is on a pass/fail system. If it's in stores, it's safe. If it proves not to be safe, it can no longer be sold. End of story. Some companies, just like with cars, go above and beyond the safety standards to allow for even safer seats, but all seats are crash tested and approved by the NHTSA.

Now, on to the seats...

The front-runner right now is the Combi Coccoro. It comes in an array of nice colors, costs just under $168 on Amazon, and is smaller than the average convertible seat. According to the website, the compact size "[a]llows up to 3 seats across the rear seat of most vehicles." With the width being a slim 14.65 inches, I can believe it (especially since our current seats measure 16.5 inches across). Right now, a very skinny person could sit comfortably in the back seat with the girls. I'm sure an average sized person could fit too, but they wouldn't be comfortable or buckled in properly, so we just say that we don't have room for someone back there. If we all of a sudden had another four inches opened up, I'm sure we could get someone in the back seat.

The downside to these seats is that they are compact, which means they have a lower weight and height limit (front-facing 40lbs and 40in). Since both Lillie and Dani have been hovering around the 50th percentile for both height and weight, I would say that they would get a good bit of use out of these seats, and we probably would just graduate to boosters after they outgrew these. But that's not a guarantee, and we may be buying a third seat if either of them decide to have a growth spurt.

Our next choice is on the opposite side of the spectrum. It's the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Seat. It's not compact in the slightest. At 20 inches wide, we can say goodbye to that middle seat in the back. It has tons of features unlike the simple Coccoro. It is also only a forward-facing seat, so it would not be a good choice for us if the girls reach the height limit on their current seats before they hit the weight limit. (I would like to keep them rear-facing as long as possible.) It does, however, come in a nice array of colors.

It's just under $180 on Amazon, so the price difference isn't too bad, especially since it will be the girls' second and last car seat. It works for a child from 20 pounds up to 100. Starting as a regular front-facing seat with "extended 5-point harness for children 20-65 pounds" then it "converts to high-back belt positioning booster for child 30 pounds to 100 pounds." The back can also be removed so it's a simple booster seat. Oh, and check out the cup holders! Plus it has a three-position recliner and storage pockets. It's also been side-impact crash-tested, which is not a requirement for car seats.

Graco also carries the My Ride (TM) 65 Convertible Seat, which is a rear-facing and front-facing convertible seat. It has the same side-impact crash test standards as the Nautilus, plus the girls could stay rear facing an extra five pounds past their current seats.

It has dual cup holders and a removable headrest. It's the same width as the Nautilus, so we still wouldn't get our rear seat back, and it also has a very deep recline, which may make it non-ideal for our car. I mean, we did have to buy a new vehicle so that the car seats and Tim could fit inside at the same time. Alas, it does have one of the lowest price tags at just under $150 on Amazon ($130 for the god-awful purple at Wal-Mart). As with the Coccoro, the girls would probably just graduate to a booster seat when they outgrew this one, but they would be in this seat (height willing) an extra 25 pounds before we would have to move on.

Speaking of price, we've also looked at the Evenflo Titan Elite DLX Convertible. At the low, low price of $94.99 at Sears, it is the best deal I've seen thus far on car seats. (OK, that's not true, but the one I saw for $55 looked like plastic with some cloth thrown over it.) At 18.5 inches, it's slimmer than the Graco set, and it still totes a cup holder!

Its maximum weight is 50 pounds, so it would last longer than the Combi but not longer than either Graco. There are many colors to choose from, but they're all a variation of black, gray and tan. I guess you have to pay extra for those bright colors. I'm sure the other seats have this feature, but this is the first one that says the cover is machine washable, which is a nice, nice feature (and oddly rare on lots of fabric-covered baby items).

I know that not all things can be judged by their price. Sometimes price comes with a name, but sometimes price comes with quality. I've seen the Coccoro and the Nautilus in person. I have yet to see the My Ride or Titan Elite. For pure space reasons, I really like the Coccoro, but if I would like to have a seat that will stay with the girls for a long time, one of the Gracos is probably the better choice.

Please weigh in! If I didn't want your opinion, I wouldn't write this blog.

I've now seen all four seats in person, and I believe the Evenflo might be the new front-runner. I still like the idea of regaining another seat in the back by getting the Combi seats, but with the price and the longevity, I might not be able to pass up the Evenflo. I guess we'll see for sure when the time comes.


  1. My kids each graduated from their infant seat to the seats they have now, and I like that they can each use their current carseat until they're 8. But we have a minivan, so size was not an obstacle. Also, I hated having my kids face backward (because they hated it) and turned them each around as soon as I was legally allowed to.

  2. Alex is in a First Years True Fit seat:

    We got this because we wanted to keep her backward facing for as long as we could, it's very well recommended, and came at a great price.