Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Convertible Car Seat Update

My son turns 5 months old today (yay!) and was 19.5 pounds last time I held him on the scale with me.  His great grandparents and great aunt stopped by today and marveled at how fast he's grown, and one of my best friends is developing an inferiority complex about how "undersized" her 7 month old is next to my son.

I'm still researching car seats, and the clock is ticking on my decision.  He is quickly approaching the 22 pound weight limit on his Chicco Keyfit Infant Car Seat, which by the way is one of the top rated infant car seats by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  They also make a newer model that has a 30 pound weight limit if anyone is looking for a great, easy-to-use car seat or travel system.  The Chicco Keyfit 30 also has a lower minimum 4 pound baby weight, so it's an ideal choice for preemies and small babies.  Just throwing that out there for my mommy-to-be readers!

So far, my favorite is still the Recaro convertible car seat.  Based on my continued research, they are by far the most safe, comfortable, and compact convertible car seat on the market; they have some of the highest weight limits available (70 pounds in the convertible car seat and 120 pounds in their other safety seats); and their new ProSERIES child safety seats are made right here in the USA and include a convertible car seat, a combination harness to booster seat, and a booster seat.  You can find a lot of discounts for their previous Signo/Signo G2 and Como/Como G2 convertible car seat models because they are closeout items.  The primary difference between the Signo and the Como models is that the Signo has an infinite adjust knob for the head rest and no re-thread shoulder harness, but the Como required manual adjustments.  The new ProRIDE convertible car seat has the infinite adjust and no re-thread harness as default features.

Be careful if you are purchasing a Signo or Como because there was a recall on car seats manufactured between February 1, 2008 and February 16, 2009.  The central harness adjuster had a manufacturing defect that caused it to sometimes slip and possibly not maintain the desired tightness.  Car seats not affected by this recall will have a green dot above the bar code on the model number sticker.  This problem was corrected in the G2 models, but I assume they changed the name completely in order to distance their newest model from the recall.

Despite the recall controversy, I'm still a dogged fan, especially since it wasn't a major flaw like harnesses that comes unbuckled under pressure, parts falling off, and things like that.  The price point, however, is always the issue with the Recaro.  Given how tall my son is and how ahead of the curve his weight usually is, I will most likely need to purchase a booster seat if only to give him more leg room in my Toyota Corolla.  I'm not sure I can justify the expenditure when I'll just need another seat in a couple years.

Some have suggested going straight to a toddler car seat, which would be front-facing.  But my son is so young that I want to keep him rear-facing for now, and Georgia law requires that all children 6 and under must be in a child safety seat appropriate for their age and height.  They go by the NHTSA guidelines, which say children must be at least 1 year old and 20 pounds before switching to a front-facing seat, toddlers 1-4 years old and under 40 pounds must be in a car seat, and children up to 12 years but under 80 pounds and 4'9" must use a booster.

For the sake of my immediate budget, I'm also looking at some convertible car seats by Evenflo.  They are the only convertible car seats with a weight limit over 40 lbs (it's 50 in the models I'm looking at) that I can consistently find under $100.  If I go this route, then maybe, just maybe, he'll slow down growing and stay in this seat long enough to transition straight into the ProBOOSTER, but that's probably just wishful thinking.

In order of price from lowest to highest the Evenflo contenders are the Titan Sport, Titan Elite, and the Triumph Advance LX, DLX, and Premier.  The main differences among these models is that they get plusher and cushier the more high end you go.  The higher end Triumph Advance models are usually over $100 but still much less expensive and more compact that than their competitors.  I've found really good sales and discounts at various places including Ebay.  Many Ebay sellers are even offering free shipping, so it's worth a look because I've found several auctions for the car seats mentioned  here brand new and cheaper than at other stores after shipping.

The main issue that's keeping me from being a huge fan is that many of the reviews for Evenflo car seats have stated that the children outgrew the height way before the manufacturer's stated limit.  My son is on the tall side, so that's a big turn off.  The maximum height is 50 inches on all of these, but I've read several reviews that complained of their children outgrowing the seat with heights in the 35-inch range.  It may be user error, but that means the seats may be difficult to adjust if that's the case.  At any rate, I find it hard to imagine a user error that would result in an infant or toddler outgrowing a car seat 15+ inches before the manufacturer's maximum height capacity.

Because my son is a big, fat, giant-sized baby (and I mean this in the most loving and adoring way possible), it looks like I'll have to go with the more expensive Recaro ProRide in order to save money long term.  For those of you who don't struggle with the issues of having a toddler-sized infant under 6 months old, be glad!  Meanwhile, it looks like we'll be going to the store to try out car seats before making a final decision.

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