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Comparison of Budget-Priced Convertible Carseats under $100

Parents are in a great position today if they need a convertible carseat priced under $100. These seats don’t have all the bells and whistles that the fanciers carseats do, but they get the job done of keeping children secure in crashes and have the added advantage of being lightweight, which make them great as travel seats. We compiled this comparison of budget-friendly convertibles currently available to help you find what meets your needs.

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Cosco Apt 40 RF

Review: http://carseatblog.com/17513/cosco-apt-review-does-it-compete-with-the-scenera

Cosco Apt 40 RF

Who it’s designed for: infants and toddlers
Who it fits: infants and small toddlers
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-40” or top of head even with top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-40 lbs.
Price: $54.99

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Fits infants very well
  • Dual rear-facing recline levels
  • Installs easily with both seat belt and lower LATCH connectors
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Short
  • Must adjust harness lap belts for use on lowest harness slots
  • Very wide at cup holders
  • Very low top harness slots

Basics and Measurements

  • 5 harness slots
  • 8 year expiration
  • FAA-approved
  • Harness slots: 5.5”, 7.5”, 9.5”, 11.5”, 13.5”
  • Buckle slots: 3”, 4.5”, 6”
  • Internal seat height: 23”
  • Seat pan depth: 12”
  • External widest width: 21” at cup holders, 18 ¾” at shoulders
  • Weight: 8.0 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: can use LATCH to maximum 40 lbs. weight limit

Comments

When I first received the Apt in its box, I thought for sure the box was empty because it was so light. It was right when I first injured my shoulder and couldn’t lift anything—but I could lift this box! The Apt was designed on the Cosco Scenera platform: lightweight and easy to use with some extra features. In designing the Apt, the engineers wanted to make it as easy to use as possible, so they removed the “kick stand” that the Scenera has for changing the seat between rear-facing and forward-facing modes. They also added some cup holders because we Americans like to stuff things in cup holders and we pass that trait on to our wee ones. The only problem is with how they added the cup holders: they’re integrated into the shell on both sides of the seat so that it makes the seat very wide. The top harness slots are also extremely low on the Apt, so once a child hits the rear-facing weight or height limit on it, it’s likely not going to be able to be used as a forward-facing carseat. If you’re into super cute carseats, the Safety 1st arm of Dorel has a Mickey and Minnie Mouse version of the Apt. In the 1st quarter of 2015, Dorel has plans to release an updated version of the Apt. The Cosco Apt 50 will be rated to up to 50 lbs. in the forward-facing position and includes 6 sets of harness slots with the top set being around 16″ and a price point of $65.

Cosco Apt front Cosco Apt back Cosco Apt without cover Cosco Apt side Cosco Apt Romeo Cosco Apt RF Cosco Apt FF

Cosco Scenera

Review: http://carseatblog.com/2813/dorel-cosco-scenera-review-a-true-workhorse

Cosco Scenera

Who it’s designed for: infants and toddlers
Who it fits: infants and toddlers
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-35 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-36” or top of head even with top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-40 lbs.
Price: $39.00

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Fits infants well
  • Installs easily with lower LATCH connectors
  • Narrow
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Short
  • Single length harness strap
  • Sparse padding

Basics and Measurements

  • 8 year expiration
  • FAA-approved
  • Harness slots: 7″, 10″, 12.5″ 15″
  • Buckle slots: 4″, 5.5″, 6.5″
  • Internal seat height: 23″
  • Seat pan depth: 11.5″
  • External widest width: 17.5″
  • Weight: 7.4 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: can use LATCH to maximum 40 lbs. weight limit

Comments

The Cosco Scenera is a small seat. Back in the day, it was like any other typical 40 lbs. harnessed carseat, but in today’s world of 65+ lbs. harnessed carseats, it’s petite. That makes it a great travel seat, but it also makes it outgrown quickly—typically around age 3, well before a child is ready to move to a belt-positioning booster seat. So keep in mind that while this is a very fantastic carseat for the price—$39—you will need another harnessed carseat for your forward-facing child. Dorel (Cosco’s parent company) is introducing a brand-new version of the Scenera in 1st Quarter 2015, called the Scenera NEXT, which will rear-face to 40 lbs. or 40″, have 5 sets of harness slots, and still be under $50. You can read more about, and see pics of the Scenera NEXT, at our KIM Conference Update blog post. The Scenera NEXT will also have Cosco’s first set of labels requiring rear-facing to age 2.

Look-a-like seats: Safety 1st onSide Air (same shell as Scenera but has AirProtect technology and a full-wrap cover)

Cosco Scenera front Cosco Scenera back Cosco Scenera without cover Cosco Scenera side Cosco Scenera Romeo Cosco Scenera RF Cosco Scenera FF

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT (coming soon)

Scenera NEXT

Best Convertible Carseats for Extended Rear-Facing: the definitive guide for savvy shoppers!

ERF - Liam with phone and csb logoIf you’re in the market for a convertible carseat that will allow you to keep your child rear-facing for “as long as possible” – you’re in the right place! This guide will help you navigate many of the most popular options currently available in the U.S. market and help you to identify which seat(s) may in fact allow your child to stay rear-facing for as long as possible.

First, let’s define the term “Extended Rear-Facing” because that term is often thrown around loosely and to my knowledge there isn’t a general consensus in the Child Passenger Safety field of what that term means exactly. In its most basic sense, Extended Rear-Facing can be defined as use of a carseat in the rear-facing position beyond the bare minimums generally established and accepted by carseat manufacturers for forward-facing usage. Since many (but not all) convertible and combination carseats still allow toddlers as little as 12 months and 20/22 lbs. to use the seat forward-facing – you could define Extended Rear-Facing as anything beyond 12 months and 20/22 lbs.

ERF-foonf-side-viewHowever, that’s not what most parents and advocates think of when they hear the term. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting until at least age 2 to turn a child forward while NHTSA and the CPS Technician Certification Curriculum define “Best Practice” as rear-facing to the limits of the carseat.

For the purposes of this guide, we will focus our attention on the convertible seats that have proven themselves to last longer than most of the seats on the market today, specifically in the rear-facing position. For the record, this isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list so there are probably a few good ERF seats that weren’t included simply because I didn’t have access to them during the project period.

Convertible seat recommendations have been sorted into two groups. The first group is a list of seats that are most likely to be outgrown by weight (at 40 lbs.) rather than by height. The second group is a list of seats with very high weight limits that are more likely to be outgrown by height. It’s up to you to try to figure out which of those two categories will accommodate your child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible.

CDC growth chart boysIf you already have your child’s stats from a recent visit to the doctor – great. If not, use the links below to the CDC Growth Charts and plot your child’s height and weight on the graph.

Boys under 2 years oldBoys over 2 years old
Girls under 2 years oldGirls over 2 years old

Keep in mind that just because a baby might be 20 lbs. at 5 months old doesn’t mean he or she will be 40 lbs. by age 2. A baby’s weight gain almost always slows down – usually by 9-12 months old as they become more mobile. However, if mom is 5’9″ and dad is 6’3″ and built like a linebacker then it’s reasonable to assume that this child’s growth pattern may continue to be way above average.

  • If your child is above the 75th percentile for height but average or below average in weight then you want to look at convertible seats in the first group because these seats aren’t likely to be outgrown by height before your child reaches the maximum rear-facing weight limit of 40 lbs. The seats in this group are also a good choice for children who have a very long torso (for example: wear pants in 12 months size but need onesies that are 18 or 24 month size).
  • If your child is above the 75th percentile for weight but average or below average in height then you might want to focus on the seats in the second group that are rated beyond 40 lbs. in the rear-facing position. 
  • If your child’s weight and height are average, slightly above average or below average, and your child doesn’t have a very long torso, then ANY of the seats on this list will last your child a very long time in the rear-facing position and you should make your decision based on all the other factors.

In all the pictures below, my beautiful, gracious and very accommodating model is 40″ tall and 34 lbs. at 4 years old. She is average (around 50th percentile) in both height and weight for a 4-year-old.

*Please note: most of the pictures purposely depict misuse because I was attempting to show how much growing room she still had height-wise. In cases where the carseat had an adjustable head rest, I raised it to its maximum height to show how much growing room there could be for a taller child. The proper placement of harness straps on a rear-facing carseat is to have the straps coming from a point that is “at” or “slightly below” the child’s shoulder level.

Convertible seats that your child won’t outgrow by height before reaching the 40 lbs. RF weight limit:

Britax Combination Seats: Booster Lap Belt Guide Changes

Earlier this year, we reported some improvements to the Britax Pioneer 70 along with some changes for all Britax combination harness-to-booster models.   Britax has made some additional improvements to all these models in response to a “Check Fit” rating from the IIHS that we reported last year.   For many kids, there was no issue at all.  For some, especially smaller kids in certain vehicles, the booster fit was not as good as it could be.  Britax resolved this issue immediately by offering a SecureGuard clip upon request to owners using these products as boosters.  This not only improved lap belt fit in booster mode, but also provided a 4th point of restraint, unique to Britax boosters.

In mid-July, Britax revised the lap belt guides to improve lap belt fit without the need for a SecureGuard clip.  Below you can see some comparison photos between the original and revised products.  In general, the original design is on the left, while the updated design is on the right.  The improvement is modest, but can make a difference depending upon the child and vehicle.

The Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 are on our Recommended Car Seats list.

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSFront BritaxPioneerIIHSSide2

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldC BritaxPioneerIIHSnewC

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldB BritaxPioneerIIHSnewB

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldA BritaxPioneerIIHSnewA

 

BritaxPioneerIIHSTop

 

Carseat Check Events – The Pre-Check Meeting for CPS Technicians and Instructors

Carseat Check EventIt’s the day of the big carseat check event. The traffic cones are out, the updated recall lists have been printed and the LATCH Manuals are ready for action. But wait! Before those parents and caregivers begin to arrive – it’s time to gather your technicians for a quick briefing. This may be the most important 10 minutes of the whole event so don’t skip it. The pre-check meeting will outline expectations, procedures and protocols. In short, the pre-check meeting sets the tone for the entire event.

Each event coordinator has different expectations and pre-check meetings can vary widely. However, here is a general list of what I expect of the technicians who work events with me:

  • Always encourage best practice recommendations. If you don’t give the parents or caregivers the information then you’re essentially taking away their ability to make informed choices. However, don’t be judgmental and respect the parent or caregiver’s choices as long as they are legal.
  • Read the CR instruction manuals or look them up (online or DVD from Safety Belt Safe, USA)
  • Ask the parent “tell me what you know about this seat”. It’s a great place to start and they might teach you something you didn’t already know.
  • Look up every vehicle in the current edition of the LATCH Manual. It only takes 30 seconds and you’ll never know what you might find unless you actually look.
  • Teach parents how to secure the carseat with their vehicle seatbelt system even if the carseat is currently being installed with LATCH. It’s probably the only opportunity they’ll ever get to understand how the seatbelts in their vehicle lock for proper installation of a carseat.
  • Higher-weight harness seats – must check LATCH limits and note the info for parents.
  • Inform parents of the most appropriate “next step” for the child.
  • Don’t forget to ask “who else rides in this vehicle?”
  • Have parents do final install (or at least help).
  • Document EVERYTHING! Especially any “tough choices” made by parent/caregiver. Make sure you note in your paperwork that parent did final install, how the CR was secured in the vehicle and that education was provided.
  • No vehicle leaves without a second set of eyes (experienced) checking it over!

REMINDER – if the carseat or infant seat base has a lockoff device, you should use it for installations with seatbelt unless there is some compelling reason not to do so. Generally speaking, if using the lockoff – do NOT switch the retractor to locked (ALR) mode. Check carseat owner’s manual for details. Note: in these cases it is recommended that you show parents how the switchable retractor works anyway – in case their next carseat does not have a lockoff.

REMINDER – all vehicles made after 1996 have seatbelts that pre-crash lock in some way. Most lap/shoulder belts have switchable retractors but if you encounter a lap/shoulder belt in a vehicle made after 1996 that has an ELR retractor only (it doesn’t “switch”) then you probably have a locking latchplate. Locking latchplates aren’t always obvious and there are many different versions. Test the latchplate by buckling yourself in the seatbelt and pulling up on the lap belt portion of the belt. If it’s cinched and doesn’t loosen when you pull up on it – you have a locking latchplate.

Carseat Check Road SignThere are other protocols in place regarding CR replacement, technician to vehicle ratios, verification of installs for tech recertification, etc., but those vary from check to check depending on the circumstances.  Safe Kids coalitions have specific protocols that must be followed at all events but for those CPS programs (like mine), that are not affiliated with Safe Kids – it’s really up to the person in charge to make sure that the necessary resources are available and the CPS Techs staffing the event are all on the same page.