I should probably explain what I'm looking for in a seat. Every car seat on the market had to pass government standards, so every car seat is safe, but I'm looking for some extra features for extra safety. I want it to be comfortable. There are plenty of economy seats that are perfectly safe, but they have hardly any padding. If I don't want to sit on a cloth-covered piece of plastic, my girls shouldn't have to either. I also want a good headrest. When they fall asleep--and they often do--I don't want little heads bobbing and weaving all over the place. Lastly, something that fits comfortably in our Chevrolet Equinox. When we found out we were having twins, we actually had to buy the Equinox (so long, sweet Saturn L-series) because Tim couldn't drive the car with the car seat behind him. I am in no mood or financial position to buy a Traverse, so let's make sure that seat fits in what we've got.
With that said, here's the new short list:
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1
This is the new front-runner. It's more compact than the other seats. It's got a nice adjustable headrest, and it's side-impact tested with EPS foam throughout. This seat, unlike the rest on the list, is the only seat that cannot be rear-facing. This may prove to be a problem if the girls outgrow their current seats before they turn one. (The law is children must be rear-facing up until one year old AND 20 pounds.)
It works for a child from 20 pounds up to 100. You use the five-point harness for up to 65 pounds. Then it converts to a high back booster for 30-100 pounds or a backless booster for 40-100 pounds. Plus it has a three-position recliner and storage pockets. My girls will be able to use this seat for up to eight years!
If I'm not picky about color, the cheapest I can get it is at Wal-Mart for $138. Even with the twin discount at Babies R Us (an extra 10% off each seat), this is the best deal. Paying around $300 for seats that will get my girls far into grade school doesn't sound too bad to me.
*There's a new Elite version that comes with adjustable headwings. I've only found it at BRU, and it runs about $200.
Safety 1st Complete AirFlutter pattern available at Babies R Us. In an effort to save money, I would have to stick with the McKenna pattern that comes in at $158.98, also at Babies R Us (plus the twin discount). After I looked past the beauty of the seat, I realized it's very solid, seems comfortable and looks like it will last. Even though this does not become a booster, the girls would still get a good six years of use out of it.
It's a rear-facing seat up until a whopping 40 pounds and forward facing up to 65 pounds. Those cool cushions around the head are filled with air instead of EPS foam. When the seat is involved in a crash, the air cushions your baby's head to lessen impact. It sort of works like an air bag without the inflation. It also has a quick adjust harness that can be adjusted from the front plus a 5-position adjustable headrest.
If you splurge for the LX version, the base comes with recline built-in. It is also the tallest rear-facing seat on the market, so if you have a child with a long torso, this may be the seat for you.
Evenflo Symphony 65
Just like the Graco Nautilus, the 65 has a long, long life. This seat is rated up to 65 pounds with a five-point harness and 100 pounds as a high back booster.
The best deal on the Symphony is a Babies R Us with a price tag of $179.99 for the Circles Pattern. I'm sure you're wondering why I would put a seat that costs more on the list when my front-runner does the same job for less money. Well, Evenflo seats have some cool ease-of-use features. As a mom of twins, why wouldn't I want something that's easy to use?
The LATCH system is a super simple install that has retractors like your car's seatbelts. All you have to do is attach, push the seat down, and the connectors automatically tighten. Also, the harness requires no rethreading to adjust and the headrest takes one hand to adjust. Simplicity is a nice, nice thing.
Evenflo Titan Elite DLX ConvertibleAt the low, low price of $89.99 at Target or $99.99 at Babies R Us, it is the best deal I've seen thus far on car seats that meet my criteria.
It boasts a nice cushiony headrest, side impact testing, EPP foam lining for crash protection, and memory foam padding for comfort. Its maximum weight is 50 pounds, so it wouldn't last as long as the other three seats on my list.
You would think this seat would be the one, wouldn't you? How could I pass up such a great deal and still have some nice features? Well, it does have some nice features, but it doesn't have all of the features. Plus, I would have to shell out more money down the road for a booster seat, and if I do some quick math, buying four seats ends up costing me about the same as buying two of the all-in-one seats.
I may have narrowed my search to these four seats, but the real decision will be with Lillie and Dani. We will have to put each girl in the seats to see how they fit. Then we'll have to put each seat in our car to see how it fits. As with diapers and formula and basically everything else related to children, it's an individual decision.
If you want more information on these seats or recommendations from people who've been doing it longer than I have, check out Car-Seat.org and their blog which has a plethora of car seat reviews.