CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats List

Updated June 2014

 

For anyone interested, here’s a blog with some background to these recommendations. Feel free to comment about our list or about your favorite child seats there!

Click here to see our list of Recommended CRs for CPS Programs

Infant Seats

Infant seats typically have a base that stays in the vehicle although most (but not all) models can also be installed without the base. This type of carseat is rear-facing only for infants from birth to 22 or 30-something lbs. and is highly portable. You can purchase extra bases to use in other vehicles, if that suits your needs.

Click here to see our separate list of Recommended Carseats for Preemies & Multiples

 

Britax B-Safe

Britax B-Safe

Features: 4-30 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; adjustable base; harness strap covers and belly pads; built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; premium push-on LATCH connectors; EPS foam; adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Lacks no re-thread harness. That just means you have to detach harness from splitter plate and route straps through the next set of harness slots as baby grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness.

Comments: Fits preemies and small newborns well. Easy to install in a variety of vehicles with either lower LATCH anchors or with seatbelt. Read our full review of the Britax B-Safe.

Chicco KeyFit 30

Chicco - KeyFit30_Midori

Features: 4-30 lbs.; up to 30″ tall; 3 harness slots; 1 buckle position; adjustable base; unique “center-pull” LATCH tightening adjustment; premium push-on LATCH connectors; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; small storage compartment in base; EPS foam; newborn insert (4-11 lbs. use only); harness strap covers; adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks:  Lacks no re-thread harness. That just means you have to detach harness from splitter plate and route straps through the next set of harness slots as baby grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness. Canopy not as generous as some other models.

Our comments: Fits preemies and small newborns well. Super easy to install in a variety of vehicles using either lower LATCH anchors or seatbelt. There’s also a Chicco KeyFit 22 version that has a maximum weight limit of 22 lbs. We have a full review of the KeyFit 30 here.

Cybex Aton Q

Cybex Aton Q - Autumn Gold

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 30″ tall; no re-thread harness with 8 height positions; single crotch strap/buckle position; adjustable base with load leg; base has tensioning plate for ease of installation with either lower LATCH attachments or seatbelt; premium push-on lower LATCH anchor connectors; energy-absorbing EPS foam and telescoping Linear Side Impact protection feature; integrated UVP 50+ sun canopy; handle must be up during travel; allows European beltpath routing when installed without base

Drawbacks: Toddler-sized chest clip; carrier is on the heavy side at 11.3 lbs.; lacks built-in lockoffs

Our comments: The Aton Q is part of the “Platinum” series lineup from Cybex and has some unique features not found on the other Aton models. The load leg vastly improves crash protection and telescoping L.S.P. enhances protection in side-impacts. The addition of a no-rethread harness and an improved, integrated canopy on this model are nice upgrades. This particular model will fit preemies and small newborns better than the other Cybex Aton models. Like all Aton models, the Aton Q has a compact shell which means it will fit well in small backseats but the drawback is that it will be outgrown by height more quickly than infant seats with a taller shell. Our full review of the Cybex Aton Q is coming soon.

Graco SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; no re-thread harness with 15 height positions; 2 buckle positions; adjustable base; LX model has built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; EPS foam; full-sized adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors. Click Connect carseat models are only compatible with Click Connect Graco strollers.

Our comments: Don’t confuse this SnugRide 35 Click Connect model with any of the other current Graco SnugRide models available (there are now 7 different SR models with various specs and features). The SR35 Click Connect LX model has a lockoff on the base and a no-rethread harness. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. Has a tall shell so it also fits older babies and smaller toddlers well. See our full review of the SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect.

Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect

 - Echo

Features: 4-40 lbs.; up to 35″ tall;  no re-thread harness with 15 height positions; 2 buckle positions; unique adjustable base with 8 positions that increases leg room as child grows taller; built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; EPS foam; full-sized adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Not widely available, currently a Babies R Us exclusive. Basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors. Can take up a lot of real estate in the back seat – especially when extended for more child legroom. Click Connect carseat models are only compatible with Click Connect Graco strollers.

Our comments: Don’t confuse this SnugRide 40 Click Connect model with any of the other current Graco SnugRide models available (there are now 7 different SR models with various specs and features). Only the SR40 Click Connect model has the higher weight limit and the unique base with the cool leg-room extension feature. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. Has a tall shell so it also fits older babies and toddlers well. See our full review of the SnugRide 40 Click Connect.

Nuna PIPA

nuna-pipa-infant-car-seat-scarlet

Features: 4-32 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; 3 harness slots; 2 buckle position; adjustable base with load leg; rigid lower LATCH anchor connectors; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; EPS foam & memory foam; newborn insert and separate low birthweight pillow insert; best-in-class canopy with “Dream Drape”; handle can be in any locked position during travel; allows European beltpath routing when installed without base

Drawbacks:  Lacks no re-thread harness. That just means you have to detach harness from splitter plate and route straps through the next set of harness slots as baby grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness. The trade-off in this case is that the harness is very easy to tighten and loosen and the harness straps can be replaced if necessary – something that isn’t an option for many infant seats with a no-rethread harness feature.

Our comments: Load leg vastly improves crash protection. Super easy to install in a variety of vehicles using rigid lower LATCH connectors. Easy seatbelt installation too with lock-off. Harness adjuster is smooth and very easy to tighten and loosen straps. Fits preemies and small newborns well. The only infant seat currently on the market in the U.S. to feature both rigid lower LATCH attachments and a load leg. The “Dream Drape” feature is amazing. We have a full review of the Nuna PIPA here.

Peg Perego Viaggio 4-35

-mentha

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; no-rethread harness with 6 height positions; single buckle position; adjustable base with tensioning feature and anti-rebound bar; push-on lower LATCH connectors; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; EPS foam; newborn insert; has unique anti-rebound handle and European beltpath routing when installed without base.

Drawbacks:  Handle must be down when in the vehicle.  Is not going to fit in short or narrow spaces like some other models.  Harness may be difficult to tighten on lower height setting.  Double routing of shoulder belt in base can be awkward and easily forgotten.

Our comments: Fits preemies and small newborns well. Very easy to install in a variety of vehicles using either lower LATCH anchors or seatbelt. One of the few infant seats not made in China, this product is made in Italy. Our full review of the Peg Perego Viaggio 4-35  is coming soon.

Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air

 - flutter

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall;  4 sets of harness slots; 3 crotch strap/buckle positions; “Air Protect” technology for enhanced side-impact protection; energy-absorbing EPP foam; adjustable base; built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; push-on lower LATCH connectors; adjustable canopy; handle can be in any locked position during travel

Drawbacks: Lacks no re-thread harness. That just means you have to detach harness from splitter plate and route straps through the next set of harness slots as baby grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness. Since it’s a tall seat it may take up a lot of real estate in smaller backseats.

Our comments: Only the “Air” onBoard models have the premium base with lockoff and the carrier with Air Protect technology. Fits small babies and preemies exceptionally well. Also one of the tallest infant seats so it fits older babies and toddlers longer than many other infant seats. Made in USA! Read our review here.

UPPAbaby Mesa

 - Drew

Features: 4-35 lbs.; up to 32″ tall; no re-thread harness with 5 height positions; 2 buckle positions; adjustable base with tension indicator and auto-retracting lower LATCH connectors; built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; EPS foam; integrated canopy made with SPF 50 material; handle can be in any locked position during travel; allows European beltpath routing when installed without base

Drawbacks: Carrier is on the heavy side at just over 11 lbs.

Our comments: MESA is packed with safety and convenience features and is aesthetically pleasing. The base is a breeze to install with lower LATCH anchors. Seatbelt install is easy too thanks to lockoff on base. This model fits preemies and small newborns well. See our full UPPAbaby MESA review here.

 

Convertible Seats

Convertible seats can be used either rear-facing or forward-facing. They are generally the next step after the infant seat. However, many models will fit average-sized full term newborns well and many parents choose to skip the infant seat altogether and use a convertible right from the start. For optimal crash protection use a convertible seat in the rear-facing position until the child reaches either the rear-facing weight or height limit. With a few exceptions for the smallest convertibles and/or the largest toddlers, most kids can remain safely rear-facing until they are 2 or 3 years old. Weight and height limits vary depending on the specific model. Convertible seats are more permanent in the vehicle, so you lose the convenience features of the infant seat.

Britax Boulevard ClickTight & Advocate ClickTight

britax-blvdCT-splashBritax Advocate CT - limelight

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; Advocate model has “MAX” side-impact protection features including external energy-absorbing cushions. Both Boulevard CT and Advocate CT models have ClickTight installation system which also acts as a built-in lockoff device for the seatbelt; deep headwings with EPP foam and energy-absorbing headrest; no rethread harness with 14 height positions; 2 buckle positions; non-twist harness straps; Click & Safe snug harness indicator; energy-absorbing HUGS harness pads; “rip stitch” energy management tether that can be used rear-facing as well as forward-facing; anti-slip base with impact-absorbing technology and 7 recline positions; optional newborn insert and optional harness strap covers.

Drawbacks: Heavy; LATCH installations are very limited due to LATCH weight limits; if seat is attached with LATCH the hook connectors can be very challenging to disconnect from the lower anchor bars in the vehicle; “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator may click too soon; HUGS pads can be bulky and annoying if you are using the seat for a newborn or small baby but they are optional for rear-facing so you can remove them if they get in the way more than anything else. Just remember to put them back on before using the seat forward-facing. HUGS pads are required for forward-facing.

Our comments: Consumers are encouraged to always use the seatbelt with the ClickTight system to install these seats. Very easy to install properly rear-facing or forward-facing with ClickTight. Very easy to use correctly but Click & Safe snug harness indicator feature may not work as well as intended so don’t rely on it completely. Excellent option for extended rear-facing for kids under 40 lbs. Fits newborns very well. If you don’t need the maximum recline angle (for a newborn or very young baby) then these seats do not take up a lot of space when rear-facing so they are a good option for smaller vehicles. See our full review of the Britax Boulevard CT here.

Britax Boulevard G4 & Advocate G4 

 - Laguna

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; Advocate model has energy-absorbing “Side Impact Cushion Technology” bolsters for additional protection in side-impact crashes; no re-thread harness – harness height is adjusted with a squeeze of a handle; 2 buckle positions; energy-absorbing EPP foam; non-twist straps; HUGS harness pads; “rip stitch” energy management tether that can be used rear-facing as well as forward-facing; anti-slip base with SafeCell technology; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; push-on LATCH connectors, G4 updates include new infant insert for children under 22 lbs and new energy-absorbing HUGS pads

Drawbacks: Shell is shorter than other convertible seats in its class; Side Impact Cushion Technology on Advocate model takes up more space and may make it difficult to fit this seat next to another carseat; lockoffs can be difficult to close in some vehicles but are only needed if installing with seatbelt; HUGS pads can be bulky and annoying if you are using the seat for a newborn or small baby but they are optional for rear-facing so you can remove them if they get in the way more than anything else. Just remember to put them back on before using the seat forward-facing. HUGS pads are required for forward-facing.

Our comments: Easy to use correctly and one of the easiest convertible seats to install if you’re using LATCH (for a child weighing less than 40 lbs). Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Fits average-sized newborns well thanks to the new infant insert on the G4 models. Doesn’t take up a lot of space when rear-facing so it’s a great option for smaller vehicles. If you don’t have the room for the additional width of the Advocate model then look at the Boulevard or Pavilion instead. See our full review of the Advocate 70 here and our full review of the Pavilion here. Comments specific to the G4 upgrades can be found here.

Britax Roundabout G4

 - onyx

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-55 lbs. forward-facing; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; energy-absorbing EPP foam; non-twist straps; “rip stitch” energy management tether that can be used rear-facing as well as forward-facing; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; push-on LATCH connectors; anti-slip base with SafeCell technology

Drawbacks: Lacks no-rethread harness, which just means detaching harness from splitter plate in back and routing straps through the next set of harness slots as child grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness. Shell is shorter than other convertible seats in its class. Lockoffs can be problematic in some vehicles but are only necessary when installing with seatbelt.

Our comments: This is the budget-friendly Britax convertible. Easy to use correctly and one of the easiest convertible seats to install if you’re using LATCH (for a child weighing less than 40 lbs). Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Fits average-sized newborns well thanks to the new infant insert on the G4 models. Doesn’t take up a lot of space when rear-facing so it’s a great option for smaller vehicles. See Kecia’s full review of the Roundabout 55 here.

Chicco NextFit

- Intrigue

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; no re-thread harness with 6 height positions; 2 buckle positions; 2-position chest clip; innovative SuperCinch LATCH tightening system; 9 position base; energy-absorbing EPS foam; non-twist straps; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; push-on LATCH connectors; anti-slip base

Drawbacks: Heavy and bulky; must switch to a seatbelt installation once child weighs more than 40 lbs. (not a big deal since you have lockoffs for easy seatbelt install but not quite as easy as using SuperCinch).

Our comments: One of the easiest convertibles to install correctly with either LATCH or seatbelt. Installing with SuperCinch is so quick and easy that it’s downright revolutionary. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Fits newborns (even small newborns) very well. Doesn’t take up a lot of space when rear-facing so it’s a good option for smaller vehicles. Generous rear-facing height and weight limits. Almost all kids will be able to rear-facing in the NextFit until they reach 40 lbs. Well-padded and very comfortable. See Kecia’s full review of the Chicco NextFit here.

Clek Foonf

 - Snowberry

Features: 14-50 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; 5 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; dual-length crotch strap; REACT Safety System; steel and magnesium sub-structure; anti-rebound bar; rigid lower LATCH attachments (for forward-facing only); lock-offs for RF and FF installations with seatbelt; Crypton super fabrics

Drawbacks: Very heavy; not appropriate for young babies (child must be able to sit upright unassisted and weigh at least 14 lbs).  For rear-facing installations you must install with seatbelt, NOT lower LATCH attachments, if child weighs more than 25 lbs. You might as well just ignore the lower LATCH attachments when you’re installing the seat rear-facing.When forward-facing there are weight limits for rigid lower LATCH attachments too but it’s too complicated to cover here so please see our full review for all the details.

Our comments: The rear-facing set-up is complicated. This may not an issue for “seasoned” carseat-savvy parents, but could be challenging for some parents looking for simplicity. However, once you’ve read the directions, have the anti-rebound bar attached and you’ve had some practice installing the seat – you’re golden. The payoff for your time and effort is that you get one of the most advanced convertible carseats on the market, with unique, high-tech safety features and exceptional rear-facing weight and height limits. Just make sure you understand the LATCH weight limits for both rear-facing and forward-facing. See our full review of the 2014 Clek Foonf here.

Combi Coccoro

Features: 3-33 lbs. rear-facing, 20-40 lbs. forward-facing; narrow and compact; installs easily in a lot of cars and on airplanes; designed to work well in small vehicles and 3-across situations; lightweight; built-in lockoffs; optional Euro-style rear-facing seatbelt routing; infant insert cushions; can be tethered rear-facing

Drawbacks: Has tendency to flip toward vehicle seatback when installed rear-facing, but tethering rear-facing (if possible in your vehicle) should solve that issue. Lacks no-rethread harness, which just means detaching harness from splitter plate in back and routing straps through the next set of harness slots as child grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness. Small and compact so it’s outgrown quickly by height compared to other larger convertibles. Basic hook-style LATCH connectors.

Our comments: Niche product. Makes a great travel seat for infants and toddlers. Lightweight. Fits well rear-facing in compact cars. One of the few convertibles that can actually fit a preemie or small newborn well. Read our Coccoro review here

Cosco Scenera & Safety 1st onSide Air

Safety 1st onSide Air - stock

Features: 5-35 lbs. rear-facing (onSide Air models are rated to 40 lbs. rear-facing), 22-40 lbs. forward-facing; 4 sets of harness slots; 3 crotch strap positions; fits average-sized newborns well; narrow footprint; generally easy to install; lightweight; budget-friendly; onSide Air model has Dorel’s “Air Protect” technology for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes

Drawbacks: No EPS or EPP foam; Scenera model has sparse padding; usually requires pool noodles or rolled up blanket/towel to achieve proper rear-facing recline angle in vehicle, basic hook-style LATCH connectors. Lacks no-rethread harness, which just means detaching harness from splitter plate in back and routing straps through the next set of harness slots as child grows. Not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness.

Our comments: A good budget seat. Also nice for traveling since it’s lightweight. onSide Air model is a Scenera with Air Protect cushions in the head area and a better cover. We have a review of the Scenera here.

Diono Radian RXT

Features: 5-45 lbs. rear-facing, 20-80 lbs. forward-facing; premium push-on lower LATCH connectors; 3 buckle positions, EPS foam; adjustable head wings for use with the top 3 harness slots; tall top harness slots; tether that can be used rear-facing as well as forward-facing; SafeStop crash force load limiter for forward-facing harness use (requires tether to 40 lbs.; remove SafeStop at 40 lbs.); infant head support and body support; 8 year expiration date; rubber grips on base of seat; folds flat for storage; steel frame

Drawbacks: Weight; lacks built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; incompatible forward-facing installation with seatbelt in some vehicles; will take up a lot of room rear-facing if your child isn’t old enough to use the optional angle adjuster accessory to make the seat more upright; shoulder belt guides are problematic when used in booster mode. Lacks no-rethread harness, which just means detaching harness from splitter plate in back and routing straps through the next set of harness slots as child grows – not a big deal but not as easy as a no-rethread harness. Due to weight of seat you must switch from installing with lower LATCH anchors to installing with seatbelt in the rear-facing position once the child hits 35 lbs. When forward-facing you must switch from LATCH installation to seatbelt plus tether once the child hits 40 lbs.

Our comments: If you want to rear-face your kid forever, or if you’re trying to fit 3 seats across the back of a smaller vehicle then this may be the seat for you. The Radian RXT & Radian R120 both have 45 lbs. rear-facing weight limits but only the RXT model has the deeper headwings for improved side-impact protection (SIP). We have a review of the Diono RXT model here. The Diono rear-facing angle adjuster accessory can help make the seat more upright (subsequently taking up less space) for older rear-facing kids who have complete head and neck control.

Evenflo Symphony DLX (aka Symphony 65 e3)

Evenflo Sym65 - Ocala

Features: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing with 5-point harness, booster from 40-100 lbs.; Infinite Slide harness height adjusting system; unique self-ratcheting “SureLATCH” connectors; E3 foam for enhanced side-impact protection; one-hand adjustable headrest

Drawbacks: Lacks built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; not tall enough in booster mode to be the last seat your child will need.

Our comments: A nice 3-in-1 seat with deep headwings for enhanced SIP; works well in all modes (rear-facing, forward-facing & booster); only the DLX (e3) model has the deeper headwings and the innovative push-on “SureLATCH” connectors with built-in retractors. You attach the SureLATCH connectors to the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle, shove down on the seat and the connectors automatically tighten for you! Discontinue installation with SureLATCH and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Since this seat lacks lock-offs for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install a child restraint. The Symphony DLX is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick. See our full Symphony review here   

Graco Size4Me 65, Fit4Me, Head Wise 65 & My Size 65

Graco Size4Me - Aries

Features: 4-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing; separate LATCH straps and connectors for rear- and forward-facing beltpaths; push-on LATCH connectors; EPS foam; no re-thread harness with 8 height positions; 2 buckle positions; infant insert; integrated cup holder

Drawbacks: Lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations; can be difficult to get the last bit of slack out of the harness when tightening, especially on a small baby; padding is minimal.

Our Comments: Excellent choice for extended rear-facing; almost all kids will be able to rear-face in the Size4Me or its clones (Fit4Me, Head Wise & My Size 65) until they reach 40 lbs. Easy to install in many vehicles but discontinue installation with lower LATCH anchors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. Since this seat lacks lock-offs for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install a child restraint. Should fit average-sized full term newborns well but may not be a good fit for low birthweight babies or preemies. See Darren’s full Size4Me review here.

Orbit Toddler G3

Features: 15-35 lbs. rear-facing, 25-65 lbs. forward-facing; docks onto Orbit base for rear-facing or can be installed rear-facing and forward-facing with included braces; the head area is surrounded by EPP foam; new G2 model has improved harness and deeper headwings for enhanced SIP; very tall top harness slots; strap covers; built-in lockoffs for seatbelt installations; attaches to Orbit stroller; cover certified to Oeko-Tex Standard 100 for having fewer chemicals

Drawbacks: Heavy; removable braces could be lost when seat used with base.

Our Comments: The Orbit Toddler seat is often overlooked in the sea of Higher-Weight Harness convertible seats, but it’s a cool seat to consider. When rear-facing, it can be docked on the infant base, which allows it to be swiveled for in/out removal of the child. The LATCH straps and tether strap are neatly tucked away behind a panel on the back of the seat – no straps hanging out getting caught in doors or stepped on!  When installed forward-facing, the LATCH limit is 40 lbs. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. See Jennie’s review of the current Orbit Toddler G2 model here 

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 (without TinyFit)

Features: Pria 70 model without the TinyFit insert is rated from 9-40 lbs. and is not meant to be used for a newborn; rated from 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; no re-thread harness; deep head wings and Air Protect technology for enhanced side-impact protection; push-on LATCH connectors; integrated cup holder

Drawbacks: Lacks lockoff for seatbelt installations.

Our comments: With tall top harness slots and generous rear-facing and forward-facing weight limits the Pria is great for extended rear-facing and for forward-facing older kids too. May take up less room when rear-facing than other large convertibles. Ridiculous amounts of padding in the cover – it’s like sitting on a cloud! See full Pria 70 review here.

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible

Features: 5-45 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing; deep headwings for enhanced side-impact protection; 10 harness height positions; no re-thread harness; 2 buckle positions; tether can also be used rear-facing; EPS foam; thick no-twist harness straps; push-on LATCH connectors; premium fabrics

Drawbacks: Rear-facing beltpath is tight to work with. What looks like it should be a lockoff for seatbelt installation is just a “guide” according to Peg Perego and you must still lock your seatbelt to install this seat correctly.

Our comments: One of the very few convertibles rated to 45 lbs. in the rear-facing position but rear-facing height room is limited. Very easy to install and use properly but discontinue installation with lower LATCH anchors and use seatbelt plus top tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Since this seat lacks a real lock-off for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install a child restraint. Italian fabrics are high-end and luxurious. Molto Bello! See Heather’s full Primo Viaggio Convertible review here.

Forward-Facing Only Seats

Forward-facing only seats can be broken into two groups: forward-facing harnessed seats and combination seats. Forward-facing harnessed seats are seats that can only be used with the 5-point harness in the forward-facing position and do not convert for any other mode of usage. Combination seats are much more prevalent in the current market and can be used initially with the 5-point harnesses and then converted to a belt-positioning booster seat after the harness is outgrown.

Combination Seats

Britax Frontier 90 & Britax Pinnacle 90

Britax Frontier 90 - Congo  Britax Pinnacle 90- Manhattan

Features: 5-point harness from 2 years AND 25-90 lbs.; booster to 120 lbs.; innovative ClickTight installation system; easy no re-thread harness height adjuster; HUGS harness pads; 3 buckle positions; SafeCell technology in base; dual integrated cup holders; arm rests; Pinnacle 90 model has additional energy-absorbing “Side Impact Cushion Technology” bolsters on sides for increased protection in side impact crashes

Drawbacks: Heavy & bulky; Pinnacle model is very wide due to the additional SICT bolsters; harness adjuster hard to find at first (it’s set waaaay back); lower LATCH connectors limited to 40 lbs. – but who needs LATCH with ClickTight?

Our comments: Very high weight limits combined with very tall top harness slots will keep kids in a 5-point harness longer than any other seat on the market. ClickTight installation system makes it a dream to install properly with seatbelt and acts as a lockoff too. Requires tethering over 65 lbs. but ideally should be tethered at any weight. 9 year lifespan before expiration. Kudos to Britax for putting a 2 year minimum age limit and reasonable lower weight limit on the seat! If you don’t have the room for the additional width of the Pinnacle model then look at the Frontier 90 instead. See Darren’s review of the Frontier 90 here and Heather’s review of the Pinnacle 90 here.

Evenflo Maestro

Features: 5-point harness from 20-50 lbs.; booster from 40 to 100 lbs.; 4 sets of harness slots; EPS foam; 2 crotch strap positions; dual integrated cup holders; lightweight

Drawbacks: Not very tall in booster mode; non-adjustable headrest; basic hook-style LATCH connectors

Our comments: A nice, lightweight seat that is also budget-friendly. Tall top harness slots combined with the 50 lbs. weight limit on the harness is enough to get many kids to the size/age/maturity to safely transition to a booster. Just don’t expect them to use this seat very long in booster mode. You can install with LATCH up to the maximum harnessed limit of 50 lbs.  Kecia reviewed it in her Combo Seat as a Booster series. The Maestro is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick.

Evenflo SecureKid 400 DLX

Features: 5-point harness from 20-65 lbs.; booster from 40 to 100 lbs.; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; height-adjustable headrest; SureLATCH self-tightening LATCH connectors; energy-absorbing “e3″ foam; dual integrated cup holders; lightweight

Drawbacks: Harness might be a little tight for kids on the top end of the weight and height limits – especially if they are dressed for colder weather. Lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations.

Our comments: Everything we love about the Maestro but better! SureLATCH connectors tend to work really well due to the design of this seat. If you don’t have lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle then save yourself a few bucks and opt for the Secure Kid 300 LX model instead. Discontinue installation with lower LATCH anchors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 50 lbs. Since this seat lacks a lock-off for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install a child restraint.The SecureKid is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick. See Kecia’s full review of the SecureKid here.

Graco Nautilus & Nautilus Elite

Features: 5-point harness from 20-65 lbs.; booster to 100 lbs.; converts to a backless booster; 4 sets of harness slots; 2 buckle positions; 3-position recline; integrated cup holder; storage areas in each armrest; EPS foam; Elite model has adjustable head wings and lockoff for seatbelt installation

Drawbacks: Outer position for crotch strap/buckle is not particularly generous for bigger/older kids; both models lack no re-thread harness feature; standard Nautilus model does not have a lockoff for seatbelt installation; basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors.

Our comments: The Nautilus & Nautilus Elite models have longer than average lifespans before expiration. Overall, they are both well-made seats that are generally easy to install and use correctly. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. Since the standard Nautilus model lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install the child restraint. The Nautilus is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick when used in highback mode.

Graco Argos 65

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Features: 5-point harness from 20-65 lbs.; booster to 100 lbs.; converts to a backless booster; no re-thread harness; 2 buckle positions; 3-position recline; integrated cup holder; storage areas in each armrest; EPS foam

Drawbacks: Outer position for crotch strap/buckle is not particularly generous for bigger/older kids; this model does not have a lockoff for seatbelt installation; basic hook-style lower LATCH connectors

Our comments: The Argos 65 has a longer than average lifespan before expiration. Overall, this seat easy to install and use correctly. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 42 lbs. Since the standard Argos model lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install the child restraint. The Argos is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick when used in highback mode. See the full Graco Argos Elite review here.

Recaro Performance SPORT

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Features: 5-point harness from 20-65 lbs.; booster to 120 lbs.; no-rethread harness; 3 buckle positions; EPS foam; deep head and side wings for enhanced side-impact protection; premium push-on lower LATCH connectors

Drawbacks: Heavy and bulky, lacks lockoff for seatbelt installation. Unusual requirement to discontinue use of top tether and specifically use lap/shoulder seatbelt to install if child weighs more than 52 lbs.

Our comments: Sturdy, solid construction, comfortable. Easy to install and use properly. Prohibition on tethering above 52 lbs. makes no sense but the open beltpath design makes installation with lap/shoulder belt more beneficial and should allow the shoulder belt to offer some of the same benefits as a tether. Use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 40 lbs. Since the Performance SPORT lacks a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install the child restraint. See the full Recaro Performance SPORT review here.

 

Highback Boosters

Highback booster seats are belt-positioning booster seats that have a back and head restraint. They do not have a built-in harness and must be used with the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt. Some models may also convert to a backless booster.

Britax Parkway SGL & Parkway SG

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Features: 40-120 lbs.; adjustable “SecureGuard” lap belt clip to prevent submarining; removable back to convert to a backless booster; back adjusts height-wise with one hand; dual cup holders; SGL model has lower LATCH attachments

Drawbacks: Lap belt clip may annoy some children but it’s optional and can be removed.

Our comments: A versatile booster that will grow with your child. Tall maximum height setting. Good head and torso support for sleeping and for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes. We prefer the SGL model with lower LATCH attachments but opt for the regular SG model if your vehicle doesn’t have LATCH anchors. Both SG & SGL models have a “Best Bet” rating from the IIHS when used in highback mode. See our Parkway 2013 SGL review here.

Clek Oobr

Features: 33-100 lbs. with back; 40-100 lbs. as a backless booster; rigid lower LATCH attachments; EPS foam; open loop shoulder belt guides; tall armrests; recline feature when attached to lower LATCH anchors; magnesium frame; has a detachable drink-thingy; Crypton upholstery fabric.

Drawbacks: Wide; heavy; leg depth not as deep as some other dedicated boosters

Our comments: It’s oh so cool! The rigid lower LATCH attachments, a “true” recline feature and the Crypton fabrics (on all fashions except for Drift). We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The Oobr is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick when used in highback mode. See our Oobr review here.

Cybex Solution Q-Fix

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Features: 33-110 lbs.; three-position reclining headrest; height and width adjustable; rigid lower LATCH attachments; thick EPS foam; Linear Side-Impact Protection (L.S.P.) features

Drawbacks: Wide at top; leg depth not as deep as some other dedicated boosters; potential compatibility issues in some cars/seating positions

Our comments: It’s the latest and greatest booster from Cybex with a lot of emphasis on side-impact protection. The rigid lower LATCH attachments and reclining headrest feature are great. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. See our complete Cybex Solutions Q-Fix review here.

Graco TurboBooster & TurboBooster Safety Surround

Features: 30-100 lbs.; removable back – converts to a backless booster (40-100 lbs.); EPS foam in head rest; some versions have “Gracopedic” memory comfort foam; dual retractable cup holders; height-adjustable arm rests; back adjusts height-wise with one hand; back has 2 recline positions

Drawbacks: Assembly required. Armrests require screws to be installed on original Turbo model. Not as tall as other dedicated backless boosters.

Our comments: The original TurboBooster has been a staple in the booster market for over 10 years. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. It’s budget-friendly and tends to fit kids of different ages and sizes well. We only wish it was taller! The screws provided in the plastic bag with the manual (to secure the arm rests) are often lost and they are required, so look for them if you purchase the seat. Both the TurboBooster and the TurboBooster with Safety Surround are an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick when used in either highback or backless mode. New Turbo Safety Surround model has deeper head and torso wings for enhanced side-impact protection. See our review of the TurboBooster with Safety Surround.

Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro

Features: 33-100 lbs.; highback only (does not convert to backless booster); rigid lower LATCH attachments; various types of thick energy-absorbing foam; height-adjustable back; unique leg extension feature; crumple zone technology in lap belt guide; fabric is treated so it resists spills; 8 yr expiration

Drawbacks: Heavy; seat depth may be too much for younger kids with shorter legs (which could promote slouching).

Our comments: A fine example of German engineering. Highly adjustable. Rigid lower LATCH attachments are great. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. The Cruiserfix Pro has a “Best Bet” rating from the IIHS. See Kecia’s full review of the Cruiserfix Pro here.

Maxi-Cosi RodiFix

Features: 30-120 lbs.; highback only (does not convert to backless booster); rigid lower LATCH attachments; thick energy-absorbing EPS foam; Air Protect Technology for enhanced SIP; height-adjustable back; recline option; no armrests

Drawbacks: Side wings are just EPS foam and are not supported by plastic shell making them potentially fragile; narrow seat – is better suited to slim or average-sized kids

Our comments: RodiFix is a unique, high-end booster with innovative features that make it easy to install and easy for kids to buckle themselves. Deep head and torso wings plus the Air Protect cushions offer enhanced protection in side-impact crashes and make the RodiFix comfortable and supportive for sleeping. The rigid lower LATCH attachments are a huge bonus and we like the fact that it only weighs 14 lbs. We recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. See our full review of the Maxi-Cosi RodiFix here.

Recaro Performance BOOSTER

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Features: 30-120 lbs.; highback only (does not convert to backless booster); generous amounts of EPS foam; deep head and side wings for enhanced side-impact protection; flexible lower LATCH attachments; dual integrated cup holders

Drawbacks: Wide; may not fit kids on the lower end of the weight range well; lower LATCH connectors are not adjustable so the booster will still move around a little bit on the vehicle seat.

Our comments: Sturdy; comfortable; good sleep support; we recommend only for kids over 4 years old who weigh at least 40 lbs. and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. See our full review of the Recaro Performance BOOSTER here.

 

Backless Boosters

Backless boosters are belt-positioning boosters that raise the child up so the lap/shoulder seatbelt fits correctly. The vehicle must have a head restraint for the child since the booster doesn’t provide head support for whiplash protection. Backless boosters are recommended for older kids who don’t sleep frequently in the car.

 

Evenflo AMP

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Features: 40-100 lbs.; dual integrated cup holders; tall armrests for easy buckling; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap

Drawbacks: Wide; may not fit well in narrow or contoured seating positions.

Our comments: It’s a backless booster with cool, kid-pleasing colors at a reasonable price. And it’s made in the USA! What else is there to say? Well, there’s more to say in Kecia’s AMP Review! And the Big Kid AMP is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick!

Harmony Youth Booster

Features: 30-100 lbs.; full-wrap cover; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap; size and shape make it a good option for narrow or contoured seating positions

Drawbacks: Low profile belt guides are easily missed by kids who buckle themselves (and inattentive parents or caregivers). Make sure you route the seatbelt properly under those little armrests!

Our comments: Narrow and lightweight. A great little booster for a great price. Fun fashions that appeal to big kids. We recommend only for older kids who weigh at least 40 lbs., don’t sleep in the car and are mature enough to sit properly in a booster. Available at most Walmart stores. The Harmony Youth Booster (aka LiteRider) is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick.

BubbleBum

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Features: 40-100 lbs.; inflatable; extremely lightweight; optional shoulder belt adjuster strap; size and shape make it a good option for very narrow or contoured seating positions.

Drawbacks: Shallow leg depth; lap belt guides are difficult for younger kids to navigate

Our comments: A niche product. Great for travel, carpooling and tight 3-across situations. Now available in Black & Silver! The BubbleBum is an IIHS.org Best Bet booster pick. See Heather’s BubbleBum review here.

Safety 1st Incognito

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Features: 60-120 lbs.; extremely lightweight; comes in vehicle seat colors

Drawbacks: Tab at back of seat can interfere with some vehicle seats

Our comments: This unique “kid-positioner” fits kids when traditional boosters don’t. Its short stature boosts older, bigger kids up just enough for proper belt fit while its plain design makes it look more like a vehicle cushion than a carseat. Shorter adults have even been known to use it to improve belt fit. See our preview and kid-written review of this terrific product.

 

For anyone interested, here’s a blog with some background to these recommendations. Feel free to comment about our list or about your favorite child seats there!