A few weeks ago I began my research on convertible car seats. We brought our baby boy home at the end of July 2014 and almost a year later, at 10 months old, he has began to outgrow his infant car seat [new version here]. I kind of dreaded starting the search for a convertible seat. I loved our B-safe infant seat and how easy it was to go from car to stroller or car to house. Baby boy is steadily growing and that is not stopping anytime soon, so I had to get over it and start seriously looking.
What I Looked for in a Convertible Car Seat
- Ability to rear-face (at least up to 35-40lbs)
- Ability to use as a booster
- Side impact protection
- Dark-colored cover (black or grey preferred)
- Easy to adjust harness
- LATCH compatible
These are the basic things I looked for in each product before I would do any further research. Once it fit into these, I read further. I searched and read blog reviews and Amazon reviews, checked www.Safecar.gov and looked for any and recalls in the past couple of years. I am also big on brand loyalty. My daughter’s first convertible seat was by Evenflo and so is her current booster seat. Since we were fortunate to have a Britax travel system this time, I figured I would check out their convertible seats but not limit myself just to their brand. I had read good things about a few other seats.
Narrowing Down the Options
Britax Marathon/Boulevard/Advocate ClickTight
I considered one of these and then decided not to and let me tell you why. The advantage of the ClickTight seats is that they are easy to install with a seat belt; the bottom half of the seat folds upward to make it easier to thread the seat belt through the car seat. Both of our vehicles have the LATCH connectors, so that was not an issue for me. Also, I found out while reading reviews, that Britax issued additional instructions on the installation of these seats but not many people knew about it. I do not know if it was sent only to those registered or what, but there were at least 2-3 customers at each online retailer site saying they had no idea. Per the Britax site, there were issues with the harness straps not being attached during assembly. Here is a link and the information to pay attention to is highlighted in gray, just in case: Britax ClickTight Convertible Installation. Also, here is a link to the Consumer Reports article.
Diono Radion RXT/Rainier/Olympia
Awhile ago I saved this seat on my Amazon wishlist to look at later, and I look at each of these options extensively. The Diono RXT was in my top three picks. It has a steel frame, reinforced side walls, and higher maximum weight capacities for rear-facing and-forward-facing. It also is not as wide as some of the other convertible seats plus it can also be used as a booster (like the Britax models). The two things that made me think twice about buying this seat are: (1) The recline in rear-facing position – you have to purchase separately a foam pad to have the seat at a certain angle, whereas the Britax has a reclining base included. I did not want to deal with a foam pad eventually wearing down and needing to be replaced. (2) Although, the materials looks just as plush as the ones used on the Britax covers, I was not sure if the seat was deep enough and had enough cushion that baby boy would take to it as well as his infant seat. We plan on taking a few road trips this summer, so I definitely want to be sure he would be comfortable for a 10+ hour ride.
Britax Marathon/Boulevard/Advocate G4/4.1
I did comparisons of these 3 seats over and over. The Advocate seemed to have everything and the Marathon, I wish it had more of the impact absorbing padding around the seat. The Boulevard seemed to be the perfect middle of the road. I went between the Britax website reading the safety features and the articles/reviews posted on the Carseat Blog and The Car Crash Detective , and I let the information sit with me for a few days. The seat I put first into my cart was the Boulevard and it was the one I kept leaning towards. It had the safety features, fabric options, frame and height and weight requirements that I desired.
I chose the Britax Boulevard G4.1 (picture above) and could not be happier with it. I ordered it through Amazon using my Prime membership and received the car seat within 3 days. When the box arrived, I thought I was just going to pull it into the door quickly. Not at all, it was heavier than I thought. Once I got it open and the seat unwrapped, I could not wait to get little man into it. It looked so plush and big… and safe. My husband was all for forward-facing once he saw the seat and felt how heavy it was (and baby boy met the requirements), but it did not sit right with me. He liked that the LATCH connectors had individual belts and each could be tightened as needed. This time around, instead of us being stuffed into a Civic, he would be installing the Boulevard into a Honda Pilot. He used the LATCH connectors and got everything as tight as possible. He is taller than I am and unless I am driving the kids around, he is usually driving. The Britax Boulevard is able to be rear-facing and reclined without him losing leg room in the driver’s seat. That was his biggest pet peeve in the Civic (still love my little car though!).
Another thing I like about this convertible seat is the height adjustment handle that moves the harness up and down. It will be a lot easier to adjust as he gets taller and we will not have to take the belts loose and re-thread them through the seat. It has been easy getting our little guy in and out of the seat and he actually fell asleep in it the first time he rode in it. So far, so good.