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Recommended Child Restraints for CPS Programs

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

Maxi-Cosi RodiFix Booster Review: European Style & Design for American Kids

Maxi-Cosi is not new to the world of booster seats as they are a very popular brand in Europe. Their previous boosters available in the U.S. include the Rodi (pronounced Rho-dee) and Rodi XR, but they’re better known here for their infant and convertible seats. The brand new Maxi-Cosi RodiFix booster, which entered the market just a few months ago, introduces several new features including a unique shoulder belt guide and side wings that widen as the headrest is raised. It’s also the first armless dedicated high-back booster available since Britax’s original-style Parkway went off the market several years ago.

Specifications

  • The RodiFix is for children 30-120 lbs., 34-57” tall, and over three years old.
  • The seated shoulder height was not mentioned in the manual, but I measured it to be about 21” in the tallest height setting. The height adjustment is easy and one-handed.
  • The torso wings extend about 2” above where the shoulder belt guides are in the lowest position. The wings also adjust in and out about 2.5” as the headrest is moved up and down. 
  • Booster seat base is only 12” wide; combined with the lack of armrests may improve ease of buckling.
  • The seat weighs 14.5 lbs. which is significantly lighter than other boosters with rigid LATCH.
  • The torso wings are made entirely of energy-absorbing EPS foam. This foam is not supported by plastic shell. The torso wings felt fragile and I made a point of being very careful with them as I was installing the seat in tight situations because I was nervous about the possibility of cracking the foam.
  • The headrest is fully lined with thick EPS foam and features Dorel’s Air Protect® Technology for enhanced side impact protection, which they claim reduces the risk of head injury by 20%.

    

    

Fit to Vehicle

We used the RodiFix for my 8-year-old daughter, Allie. It fits beautifully in a captain’s chair in a 2005 Honda Odyssey, with the back of the booster seat flat against the vehicle seat back. It was easy to buckle compared to other boosters that might be wide enough to cover the buckle if not placed just so.

Small Car, Small Baby or Both? Recommended Convertible Carseats for Newborns & Compact Vehicles

While convertible carseats can be used rear-facing for babies and toddlers, only a few models are suitable for newborns. The benefit of finding one of these is that you can save some money by skipping an infant carrier altogether. Of course, the downside is that you lose the convenience of simply clicking the carrier into the base when leaving and simply removing it to bring inside when you arrive. What many parents don’t realize is that some convertibles also take up less room in the back seat when installed rear-facing, compared to the average infant carrier plus base. This means more legroom for mom or dad up front, especially in a small car or compact SUV.

So, here’s a look at a handful of models we feel are worth trying if you are looking to use a convertible from birth AND want to maximize the legroom for the driver and front passenger as well. We’ve sorted through a wide array of convertibles that not only have harness systems that should fit a newborn, but are also smaller in size or, for larger models, performed well in our survey of convertibles that fit in tight spaces. Some provide even more legroom up front when installed more upright for older rear-facing kids!

Keep in mind that even though a convertible may be rated from 5-70 pounds does not mean it will actually fit a 5-pound newborn or a typical 70-pound child. Many convertibles don’t even fit an average 7-pound newborn well, despite their claimed minimum weight rating of 5 pounds. Even models rated up to 65- or 70-pounds are likely to be outgrown by height well before that weight limit is reached.

1) Combi Coccoro  Perhaps the ultimate for convertible carseats to fit small spaces and tiny babies.  It is rated from 3 pounds, so it is also great for multiples and low birthweight infants!  Plus, its small size means you have a better chance to fit it next to another Coccoro for twins or triplets in the back seat.  The downside?  That space you gain is precisely because it is a smaller seat.  The tradeoff is that it will be outgrown much faster by height and weight (33 lbs., 36″ tall rear-facing limits) than the average convertible. It also offers a tether that can be used rear-facing to prevent rebound.  It is one of our Recommended Carseats and you can find our full review of the Combi Coccoro here.  (Retails for around $180 at Amazon).

2) Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with Tiny Fit  The Pria (model with the TinyFit insert system) is one of the best convertibles for preemies and low birthweight infants. It fits tiny babies as low as 4 pounds with the TinyFit insert. The Pria isn’t as compact as the Coccoro in terms of extra legroom for front seat passengers when installed for a newborn, but it is a top performer later. For rear-facing toddlers that prefer to be seated more upright, we found that the Pria installed in the semi-reclined #2 position offers a lot of extra space for those in the front seat. For all that you do pay a premium, though. Check out our full review of the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 and it is also one of our Recommended Carseats. (Pria model with TinyFit retails for around $289 at Amazon).

3) Cosco Apt 40 RF  This is the budget-friendly choice for under $60 at Diapers.com, Babies R Us or K-Mart. While it isn’t rated for preemies under 5 pounds like the Coccoro or Pria with TinyFit, it should fit most full term newborns very well with its 5″ bottom harness slots and 3″ shortest buckle strap slot. This is a very basic seat with few deluxe features. Like the Coccoro, it is also a smaller seat with a 40-pound weight limit (rear-facing and forward-facing), so it will be outgrown faster than the average higher-weight convertible. You can find our full review of the Cosco Apt here.  (Retails for as low as $50 on sale at Babies R Us).

4) Chicco NextFit  The NextFit is another great model overall for small babies in small cars.  It’s rated from 5-40 pounds rear-facing and has very low bottom harness slots to help fit even small newborns quite well.  The fact that it allows for a range of recline positions to be used when installed also helps this seat to fit well in smaller back seats. Of all the seats on this list, it is arguably the best choice for extended rear-facing and forward-facing, as it adjusts slightly taller than other models here. It installs very easily with LATCH thanks to its unique “SuperCinch” force-multiplying system. It’s also somewhat expensive for all its great features.  Check out our full review of the Chicco Nextfit. (Retails for $279 on Amazon).

5) Britax “G4″ Convertibles. All 2014 Britax convertibles (“G4″ models) include a new infant insert that is mandatory for babies less than 22 lbs. This new insert helps newborns get a proper fit from the harness. These convertibles are smaller than some other higher-weight convertibles on the market today, meaning that they also tend to take up a lot less space when installed rear-facing. While the Britax convertibles will last much longer rear-facing than the Combi Coccoro, they won’t last as long as the Chicco NextFit or Maxi-Cosi Pria with TinyFit, due to shorter height limitations. If you have LATCH, the Britax convertibles offer very easy installation. Like the Coccoro, they have a tether that can also be used rear-facing to prevent rebound.  These models are on our Recommended Carseats List and we have a full review of the new Britax Advocate G4 . (Retails starting near $160 for the Britax Roundabout up to  $279 for the Britax Advocate, with the Marathon, Boulevard and Pavilion models in between)

2014 Britax Advocate G4 Review: USA and Canada

G4Advocate06The very first convertible seat I purchased was a Britax (a classic Marathon, in crocodile); I loved it, used it for two children, and it has since expired :-( . I’m now a little nostalgic and pleased to be reviewing the latest in the Britax convertible line-up with this evaluation of the 2014 Britax Advocate in Zebra, commonly referred to as the G4 (4th generation). Looking for information on previous versions of the Advocate? Read our Advocate 70 G3 review here.

With the G4 lineup, Britax has added a few convenience features to their well-loved convertibles (Marathon, Boulevard, Pavilion, and Advocate). They have also streamlined the model names by dropping the ‘65/70’ from the end, and due to impending February 2014 NHTSA regulation changes in the US, have reduced the upper weight limit to 65 lbs. Those familiar with these seats won’t be startled by the changes made by Britax, which is well-known for their ease-of-use features and premium options. The basic shell and shape remain the same as the previous G3 models, and continue to fit well rear-facing in small spaces. Although not the longest lasting of convertible seats by height, the Britax Advocate and its sister convertibles continue to be very easy to install and use, frequently fit in tiny back seats where many others won’t, and fill a niche for those not needing to rear-face their tall or long-torsoed children to kindergarten age.

Although Britax has dropped the upper weight limit and generation numbers from the product names, retailers may refer to the newest versions as the 2014 or “G4″ models. All the convertibles share the same shell and basic safety features. Here is a list summarizing the main differences:

  • Britax Roundabout:  This is the most budget-friendly Britax convertible.  It lacks the no-rethread harness found on some higher models, but that’s really not a big deal unless you’re frequently transporting kids of different sizes in one carseat.  It has a 55 pound weight limit and a 15.75″ seated torso height limit.
  • Britax Highway: Essentially similar to the Roundabout, it also lacks the no-rethread harness.  It is sold only at select retailers like BuyBuyBaby and Bed Bath & Beyond.  The weight limit is increased to 65 pounds and it has a higher 16.5″ seated torso height limit.  It adds basic HUGS harness chest pads.  The XE version is bundled with an extended warranty (7 years), a cup holder and a storage pouch.
  • Britax Marathon:  This model adds a no-rethread harness, up to 65 pounds and 16.75″ seated torso height.  Compared to the Highway, it also adds the EZ-Buckle crotch strap and an easy-remove cover.  It lacks the deeper headwings found on the Boulevard, Pavilion & Advocate models.
  • Britax Boulevard: This model has all the features of the Marathon, but also has deeper internal headwings for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes.  It also includes advanced HUGS pads with SafeCell technology.
  • Britax Pavilion: All the features of the Boulevard plus the “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator.
  • Britax Advocate: All the features of the Pavilion plus Britax’s exclusive Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT).

Al the G4 convertibles come with an included infant insert cushion (required for babies under 22 lbs,).  The Britax Advocate I received also includes optional harness strap covers, the EZ buckle pad and rubbery HUGS chest pads which are mandatory when the seat is installed forward-facing.

Britax Advocate G4 Specs:

Rear-facing:  5-40 lbs., outgrown by height when head is within 1” of the top of the main shell (not head rest)

Forward-facing: 

  • U.S.: 20-65 lbs. or up to 49” tall, seated shoulder height of 16.75” or less, tips of the ears below the top of the shell

  • Canada: 22-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall, seated shoulder height of 16.75” or less, tips of the ears below the top of the shell, and able to walk unassisted

Lowest harness position with infant positioning pillow (required for children under 22 lbs.): 6”

Lowest harness position without infant positioning pillow: 8.5”

Highest harness position: 16.75”

Clek Foonf Review: Modern Style Meets Advanced Safety Features

foonf-snowberryMy 2014 Foonf is here! Pardon me while I get over being giddy. This isn’t just any ol’ carseat. This is a FOONF. I won’t bore you with any Foonf jokes, because it’s hard to get the play on words across when they’re written anyway. What’s the Foonf? The model I have is the latest and greatest, the convertible carseat from Clek with the dual position crotch strap, improved anti-rebound bar, and REACT Safety System that pushes other carseat manufacturers to find newer, better technologies so in the end, all carseats are better.


Weight and Height Limits

Rear-facing: 14-50 lbs., 25-43”, able to sit upright alone, head is 1” below top of headrest

Forward-facing: 20-65 lbs., 30-49”; age 1 minimum, age 2+ recommended

Foonf Overview

  • Rigid LATCH forward-facing installation
  • Anti-rebound bar designed to limit rebound in the aftermath of a crash
  • Built-in lockoffs for both rear- and forward-facing
  • Rigid sub-structure: Foonf has a steel and magnesium sub-structure
  • Structural headrest: headrest is lined with energy absorbing foam and connected to seat frame with steel rods
  • Energy absorbing foam both inside and outside the frame of the carseat
  • Designed for extended rear-facing: designed to accommodate rear-facing kids to age 4
  • Three recline positions
  • Adjustable crotch strap: crotch strap has 2 different lengths to accommodate bigger kids
  • REACT Safety System: The Rapid Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology Safety System is an aluminum honeycomb that sits under the child, designed to absorb crash forces.
  • Crypton Super Fabrics: Crypton covers are waterproof, wipe clean, resist bacteria
  • Narrow footprint: Foonf is one of the narrowest convertibles currently on the market
  • 10 covers from which to choose, including exclusive Tokidoki prints (Note: Paul Frank fashions are discontinued so if you really want one of those, you’d better get it now while you still can)

foonf-snowberry  foonf-flamingo  foonf-blue-moon  foonf-ink

foonf-shadow  foonf-dragonfly  foonf-tank  

foonf-tokidoki-all-over  foonf-tokidoki-rebel  foonf-tokidoki-travel