All across the country, CPS programs are trying to get the most bang for their limited bucks. And while cost is an important factor to consider when trying to serve as many families in the community as possible – it shouldn’t be the only consideration. Injury prevention programs need to consider if the child restraints they are purchasing are user-friendly, compatible with most vehicles and work in a variety of scenarios. We’ve complied a list of budget-friendly CRs that we feel comfortable recommending for this purpose.

The specific child restraints on this list were chosen based on multiple factors which include value, versatility, weight/height range, ease of use, ease of installation and in the case of boosters – proper belt fit. 

 

REAR-FACING ONLY SEATS

USA flag - tinySafety 1st Comfy Carry Elite & Safety 1st Comfy Carry Elite Plus (front-adjust models)
Available through Mercury Distributing, Amazon, Walmart.com, Kmart.com, Baby Depot
  • Specs & Features: 4-22 lbs.; up to 29″ tall; front harness adjuster; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions; Elite Plus model has 2-position adjustable base; Made in USA
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster (“Elite” & “Elite Plus” models only); rated from 4 lbs. and fits preemies very well; narrow carrier and base; can be installed baseless; lightweight
  • Cons: Only rated to 22 lbs.; plastic compound buckle (aka “puzzle buckle”) is difficult to buckle and unbuckle. Compound buckle not practical for some grandparents or for parents/caregivers who struggle with hand strength issues. “Elite” model lacks recline adjustment feature on the base which may necessitate the use of pool noodle(s) for some installations.
USA flag - tinySafety 1st onBoard 35
Available through Mercury Distributing*, Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, Kmart.com, Baby Depot
*Mercury offers onBoard 35 models with adjustable base or with non-adjustable base (you can purchase a stripped-down version that is missing the recline block on the base)
  • Specs & Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; front harness adjuster; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions; dual recline angle indicator; 2-position adjustable base; Made in USA
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster; rated from 4 lbs. and fits preemies very well; generous height and weight limits for extended usage (very important for parents who don’t own a vehicle and rely on public transportation/taxis/friends & relatives to get around); can be installed baseless
  • Cons: Tall seat so it takes up a considerable amount of room, especially when installed at the recommended recline for a newborn
Evenflo Embrace 35
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Walmart.com
  • Specs & Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 30″ tall; front harness adjuster; 3 sets of harness slots; 3 buckle positions, 3-position adjustable base; Made in China
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster; rated from 4 lbs. and fits preemies very well; can be installed baseless
  • Cons: Handle not allowed to be up in the vehicle but carrier has forward handle position that can be used if space is an issue with putting handle down; requires 1.5″ of clearance with front seat if installed outboard
USA flag - tinyEvenflo Serenade 
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales
  • Evenflo Serenade-ParsonsSpecs & Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; front harness adjuster; infinite slide harness system; SureLATCH lower anchor connectors; 3-position adjustable base; Made in USA
  • Pros: Front harness adjuster; rated from 4 lbs.; SureLATCH connectors make LATCH installation very simple; Infinite Slide Harness System makes height adjustments quick and easy; can be installed baseless
  • Cons: Handle can’t be up in the vehicle but carrier has forward handle position that can be used if space is an issue with putting handle down; requires 1.5″ of clearance if installed outboard

 

CONVERTIBLE SEATS

USA flag - tinyCosco Scenera 
Available through Mercury Distributing and Walmart
  • Specs & Features: Rear-facing 5-35 lbs., 19-36″; Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., 34-43″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Fits average-sized newborns well; sufficient rear-facing height and weight limits to get toddlers to at least 24 months RF; doesn’t take up a lot of room when installed rear-facing; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; relatively narrow
  • Cons: Requires pool noodle(s) to achieve acceptable rear-facing recline angle; single-line rear-facing recline angle indicator

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Tribute 

Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.comKmart.comBaby Depot
  • Evenflo TributeSpecs & Features: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., 19-37″; Forward-facing 22-40 lbs., 28-40″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Sufficient rear-facing height and weight limits to get toddlers to at least 24 months RF; doesn’t take up a lot of room when installed rear-facing; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; narrow
  • Cons: Typically requires pool noodle(s) to achieve acceptable rear-facing recline angle; single-line rear-facing recline angle indicator; not an ideal fit for newborns – bottom harness slots 8″; crotch strap is long
USA flag - tinyEvenflo Titan 65 (aka SureRide)
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, AmazonWalmart.comTarget.comBaby Depot
  • Specs & Features: Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., 19-40″; Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 28-54″; 6 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Fits newborns (even small newborns) very well; optional shortened crotch strap position for babies under 10 lbs.; generous rear-facing height and weight limits for extended rear-facing; generous forward-facing height and weight limits for extended usage; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; narrow
  • Cons: Rear-facing recline leg isn’t compatible with pool noodles – if angle is too upright for a young baby a rolled up towel/baby blanket will be necessary to place under the recline leg; single-line rear-facing recline angle indicator; this is a tall seat so it may take up more room when installed rear-facing; large gap between harness slots 3 and 4

 

COMBINATION SEATS

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Maestro
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, AmazonWalmart.comTarget.comBaby Depot
  • Specs & Features: Forward-facing with harness 22-50 lbs., 28-50″; Booster 40-110 lbs., 43-57″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Generous height and weight limits for harness; most average-sized kids will fit in harness until age 5-6; good belt fit in booster mode; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; institutional model from Evenflo lacks cup holders which helps when you need to fit this seat next to another CR or in a 3-across situation
  • Cons: Outgrown quickly in booster mode; headrest is not height adjustable
USA flag - tinyEvenflo SecureKid
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales
  • Specs & Features: Forward-facing with harness 22-65 lbs., 28-50″; Booster 40-110 lbs., 43-57″; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; Made in USA
  • Pros: Extra-generous 65 lbs. weight limit for harness; tall top harness slots; good belt fit in booster mode; height-adjustable headrest provides more growing room in booster mode; easy to use and generally easy to install; lightweight; institutional model from Evenflo lacks cup holders which helps when you need to fit this seat next to another CR or in a 3-across situation
  • Cons: Institutional models sold directly from Evenflo have basic hook-style LATCH connectors; retail models of the SecureKid are considerably more expensive and may not be the best choice for programs with limited funding

 

HIGHBACK BOOSTER SEATS

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Amp
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Walmart, TargetBaby Depot
  • Specs & Features: With back 30 -110 lbs., 40-57″; Without back 40-110 lbs., 40-57″; 6 height positions; minimum age 4; Made in USA
  • Pros: Dual mode; provides good belt fit on the vast majority of children; easy to assemble; does not require head support from the vehicle
  • Cons: Shallow head wings don’t provide good sleep support; base is wide and boxy
Graco TurboBooster
Available through LBI Distributors, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Baby Depot
  • Specs & Features: With back 30 -100 lbs., 38-57″; Without back 40-100 lbs., 40-57″; 6 height positions; minimum age 3; Made in China
  • Pros: Dual mode; provides good belt fit on the vast majority of children; does not require head support from the vehicle
  • Cons: Complicated assembly required (including a screwdriver); base is wide and boxy

 

BACKLESS BOOSTER SEATS

USA flag - tinyCosco HighRise/Ambassador
Available through Mercury Distributing, AmazonWalmart
  •  Specs & Features:  40-100 lbs., 43-57″; Made in USA

 

USA flag - tinyEvenflo Amp
Available through Evenflo Institutional Sales, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Baby Depot
  •  Specs & Features:  40-110 lbs., 40-57″; minimum age 4; Made in USA

 

Graco Connext with LATCH
Available at Walmart
  •  Specs & Features:  40-100 lbs., 40-57″; lower LATCH anchor attachments; minimum age 4; Made in China

 

LBB - BlackHarmony Youth
Available at Walmart
  •  Specs & Features:  30-100 lbs., 34-57″; Made in China

 

 

 

Contact information for Mercury, LBI & Evenflo to set up accounts & request freight shipping quotes. Minimum order requirements vary.

 

Mercury Distributing/Child Source

www.mercurydistributing.com

Phone: (800) 815-6330 / Fax: 800 815-6324

 

LBI Distributors (exclusive distributor for Graco products)

www.lbidistributors.com

Phone: (732) 565-9456  /  Fax: 732-565-9452

 

Evenflo Institutional Sales

Patsy Pilcher: Email: ppilcher@bellsouth.net