Resources Archive

Will Skinny be back in 2016? A Plea for more narrow carseats & boosters.

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Discontinued width-adjustable Britax StarRiser/Comfy

Discontinued width-adjustable Britax StarRiser/Comfy

Skinny is in high demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also very hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when Americans parents are downsizing their vehicles in droves –  increased laws and awareness are keeping more kids in carseats and boosters longer. The combination of these two factors is creating a real space problem.

We need more seats that can fit in narrow seating positions and in those tricky 3-across situations. Manufacturers really need to work to address this issue because if I see one more parent without armrests on their Turbo booster because they’re trying to make it fit next to another carseat – I’m going to lose my mind!

Here are some suggestions for all CR manufacturers. Work on designing new, narrow seats, or even booster seats that are width-adjustable like some of the old Britax boosters and pay particular attention to how your various models fit/puzzle/mesh next to each other.  

For those parents and caregivers who can’t wait for future seats – the Cosco Scenera NEXT is a neat little convertible that is going to work in a lot of tight situations. But it’s small and really meant for infants and toddlers. The Evenflo Tribute convertible can be a saving grace in many 3-across scenarios too but again, it’s not that big and many kids will outgrow it by height before hitting 40 lbs. The Safety 1st Guide 65 convertible is narrow and will last longer before being outgrown but many parents wind up dismayed at the head slump issues when their child falls asleep – an issue caused by the tilted headrest. The Diono Radian models have built a reputation on being narrow and working well in a lot of 3-across scenarios but they have their quirks and incompatibility issues in some cases. I’ve seen the Harmony Defender forward-facing combination seat recommended for people looking for a slim seat but not everyone wants a carseat that has to be assembled like IKEA furniture. Last but not least, the Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo are narrow convertibles but they’re pricey and out of reach for many families on a budget.

In the last decade the industry has been very focused on bigger and wider. No doubt this is due to the fact that American kids are getting bigger and wider, not to mention they’re staying in carseats and boosters for much longer than in the past. Plus, there has been a strong, steady demand for higher-weight carseats and boosters that can accommodate bigger/older children. This is all well and good but you can’t focus exclusively on bigger and wider because if the bigger seats don’t fit in smaller vehicles – then what?

What do you think happens when a family of 5 trades in their Tahoe for a Prius? And what happens at a check event when a car pulls in with 3 kids in the back of an old Corolla and all 3 need to be in seats? My CPS program stocks Evenflo Tributes, institutional models of the Maestro and Harmony Youth Boosters but sometimes it’s not enough and parents are forced to make those “tough choices”. Do you put a kid up front? Let the oldest ride without a booster in back even though he clearly still needs one? This is reality. This is what we’re dealing with at events all across the nation because of space issues.

Manufacturers, you can help those of us in the trenches (and those who are personally in these predicaments) by meeting these challenges and making more 3-across-and-small-vehicle-friendly seats. We also desperately need more affordable options for our CPS programs that work in these tight situations and are made in USA so we can actually buy them with our grant funding! I know we can’t fix or solve every incompatibility that we encounter but this particular problem seems to have some possible solutions that are realistic and within reach. I hope you’ll agree.

The CPS Technician’s Guide to Understanding the New Consumer Reports Crash Test Ratings

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This week Consumer Reports created a huge buzz when they released their new ratings on convertible carseats. Some parents were elated with the results, others were clearly upset by some of the scores and revelations and, in general, there was a lot of confusion. We know many of our savvy readers and CPS Techs appreciate more in-depth information and analysis so we wanted to offer you that in this separate follow-up article.

Our original article, which includes a full listing of the crash protection scores for all 23 seats, is here:

The Safest Convertible Carseats? New 2015 Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

CR convertible crash test

Why did Consumer Reports decide to create their own, unique crash test for child restraints that already pass all the safety standards in FMVSS 213?

What Is An All-in-One / 3-in-1 / 4-in-1 Carseat?

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Graco 4Ever - StudioAll-in-One. 4-in-1. 3-in-1. Does it all. Last carseat you’ll ever need.

These promises sound exciting, don’t they? After all, you’ve probably shelled out over $100, maybe even close to $300 for a rear-facing only infant seat that only fit your child for about a year and now you have to buy another carseat already. Your kid keeps growing, wouldn’t it be nice to buy only one more carseat and be done with it all? Perhaps.

We need to get some basic terms out of the way since I’ll be addressing them frequently in this article. There are two types of carseats we’ll be discussing: convertible and combination. A convertible carseat is one that rear-faces or forward-faces, so it’s appropriate for newborns through preschoolers generally. A combination carseat is a forward-facing only carseat with a harness that can be removed to become a belt-positioning booster. Sometimes combo seats are called harnessed boosters. It’s all marketing, but the official class of seat is combination.

Let’s discuss what an all-in-one / 3-in-1 / 4-in-1 carseat is. These days it can be a convertible carseat or a combination carseat. An all-in-one carseat is one that “does it all.” This convertible carseat will go from infant to booster: rear-facing, forward-facing, and high-back booster. A 3-in-1 carseat does the same: rear-facing, forward-facing, and high-back booster. But a 3-in-1 carseat can also be a combination seat: forward-facing-only harness, high-back booster, and backless booster. Oh. That’s getting complicated. What about the 4-in-1 carseat? Well, that is a convertible carseat: rear-facing, forward-facing, high-back booster, AND backless booster.

What does one of these seats NOT do? It does NOT have a harness weight limit of 100 or 120 lbs. That’s a very common misconception. The carseat manufacturers are doing a much better job of labeling the boxes for their separate modes, but as you look at the pictures below, I think you’ll see why it’s easy to see why the harness might go to a super high weight limit. It doesn’t.

So we have the convertible vs. combination terminology out of the way and we know what an all-in-one vs. a 4-in-1 carseat is (er, basically the same thing, right?). Now let’s have some practice looking at these seats and their boxes so you know in the store *before* you buy if the carseat is appropriate for your 9 month old (of course, you could always consult our Recommended Carseats List and know which seats are appropriate right now and find one that will work for you!).

Questions to Ask Before You Shop

Does it have a rear-facing belt path? (Only if you are shopping for a rear-facing seat obviously.)

How long do I reasonably expect my child to use this seat?

Do I really want a carseat that I will be using for over 6 years? (Because really, what other piece of baby gear gets used for that long, let alone a safety device?)

All-in-One

The Evenflo Symphony LX is an all-in-one seat. It says so on the labels and on the box. Check out the label: 5-110 lbs. That’s misleading, because it makes you think the harness will take your child from 5-110 lbs., right? Wrong. It’s 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing, and 40-110 lbs. as a belt-positioning booster. There is a rear-facing belt path opening under where the child’s legs would sit, so you know it’s a convertible carseat. You could use this carseat from your child’s birth, provided he’s big enough.

Symphony LX box front Symphony LX box side

3-in-1

Carseat Comparisons: Measurements and Features Data

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Compare Child Restraint Safety Features and Carseat Dimensions

It’s been a very long time in the works, but we’re finally able to make public our database to compare carseat measurements and features, just in time to finish CPS Week, 2015.  The comparison tool uses measurements we take when we review products.  For products we haven’t measured ourselves, we use data contributed by Car-Seat.Org members.

Since measurements can vary from one person to another and even one day to the next, we caution that your own measurements may vary.  Plus, manufacturers update carseats from time to time, so there is absolutely no guarantee that these measurements are accurate or will reflect your own product.  This information is provided simply for rough comparisons among models.  To compare up to four carseats within a category, simply use the “Compare Carseats” pull-down menu option at the top of this page, click the links on the sidebar or click the “Go to” jump menu on mobile devices or click one of the category links below:

Compare Carseat Features ExampleCompare Rear-Facing Carseats

Compare Convertible Carseats

Compare Combination Carseats

Compare All-In-One Carseats

Compare High-Back Boosters

Compare Backless Boosters

Compare Carseats (Main Page)

More information, along with individual Carseat Data Capsules can still be found at Car-Seat.Org.

Among other measurements, we have compiled highest and lowest harness slot heights, crotch buckle depths, seating width and depth, and product weight as well as child age, weight and height ranges.  Where possible, we have also included valuable features like seatbelt lockoffs and product information such as lifespan.

CarseatBlog is not responsible for inaccurate information, omissions or other errors.  Some products have incomplete data and we apologize for any missing information.  We will slowly confirm or replace submitted information with our own measurements, but for many products we rely upon contributors to supply these measurements.  We would like to give a big Thank You to MomToEliEm and everyone from Car-Seat.org who contributed to this project over the years.    It originally was going to be hosted at the now defunct Carseatmoms.com website, but technical hurdles made it too difficult.  The best intentions to create a new website just to host the comparison tool also ran into some challenges, but now it has found a home at CarseatBlog and better late than never!  We hope you find it useful when shopping for carseats or giving advice to friends and family.

This is still a work in progress.  We will be adding new products, filling in missing data and making other improvements regularly, so please check back again when comparing carseats.  We do welcome suggestions for products, comparison categories and general feedback about the appearance and usability of our data.  Please keep in mind that it is a commercial software product so we are limited in how it looks and feels.  Feel free to leave us a comment by replying to this blog!

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