On behalf of CarseatBlog – Heather, Jennie, Alicia, Andrea, Katie and & I would all like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to Darren and to all the awesome dads out there! Extra bonus points are awarded to stay-at-home dads, dads who know how to use a cloth diaper correctly, dads who allow pink/purple/flowery or “mooing” carseats in their vehicle, dads who actually hear the baby in the middle of the night AND get up to help, dads of teenagers, dads of teenagers who are driving and want to borrow your car every 5 minutes, and dads with spouses who spend countless hours researching car seats and helping other parents online. We salute you all!
We especially want to pay tribute to our fearless leader, Darren Qunell. Without his passion and visionary leadership, there would be no Car-Seat.orgcommunity or CarseatBlog.com!
Buy a Safer Car This Summer: The Best SUVs, Minivans and Sedans
Many online automotive websites list the “safest” cars. Most have pretty low criteria. Some require an IIHS Top Safety Pick, others an NHTSA 5-Star overall rating. Yes, these are all safe cars, but so many cars today achieve one top rating that it doesn’t really help family vehicle shoppers all that much.
As always, CarseatBlog goes a step beyond at helping you narrow down the field to the best models in each class of family vehicles. Every single one of our qualifiers not only is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, with an array of the latest advanced safety features, but is also an NHTSA 5-star overall rated vehicle. We go even farther, making sure that there are no sub-par NHTSA individual crash test scores and eliminate the lightest vehicles that tend to fare worse in multi-vehicle crashes. Our extremely strict criteria narrow down the field so much that each qualifier is truly among the safest vehicles on the road today.
Our Winners and Runners-Up are perfect or nearly perfect in every objective factor of crash safety. We also indicate which models provide critical advanced safety features at affordable prices and make sure none are worse than average for carseat installations. Our Honorable Mentions just barely miss the cut in one aspect or another, but are otherwise extremely safe choices for your family and we would not hesitate to recommend any mentioned vehicle for overall family safety.
For the summer car buying season, we’ve updated our list with more qualifiers that hadn’t previously been tested by the IIHS or NHTSA. We’ve also added a few Honorable Mentions that were tested too late to be award winners, namely the 2016 Volvo XC90, Infiniti QX60 and Lincoln MKX. Our lists will be updated as new models are tested into 2017:
The 2016 Volvo XC90 is one standout addition that earned top marks in each IIHS and NHTSA crash test. It also avoided crashes in both IIHS Front Crash Prevention tests with an autobrake system that is STANDARD equipment so you won’t struggle to find key advanced safety features on a dealers lot. It also has a relatively wide 2nd row middle seat, making 3-across carseats possible. One notable drawback is the lack of top tether anchors for the third row seat, an unusual omission.
Britax continues to be a frontrunner with parents and caregivers looking for user features in their carseats. From the luxury padded covers to the easy peasy LATCH installations, Britax has upheld its reputation for quality products with the Boulevard G4.1 and Advocate G4.1. Parents like knowing the Boulevard will be installed quickly and easily while kids like knowing they’ll be nestling back into a comfy cover with a padded headrest that not only provides a place to sleep, but protects growing heads. This update applies to the Advocate G4.1. It is identical to the Boulevard G4.1, with the addition of the external side impact cushion technology and different fashions. Both models are more compact than average to help fit in smaller vehicles and offer easy LATCH system installation.
The G4.1 line of convertibles are the more reasonably priced seats compared to the ClickTight line, which feature an innovative panel that closes down on the seat belt to make installation a snap. Both lines feature excellent safety protection—they just differ in installation, and the Boulevard and Advocate ClickTights will accommodate taller kids.
What are the differences between the various models of Britax convertibles? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions we get. There are 6 convertible models in 2016. Three are G4.1: Roundabout, Marathon, and Boulevard. Three are ClickTights: Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate.
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. MSRP $179.99
Britax Marathon: This model adds a no-rethread harness, up to 65 pounds and 16.75″ seated torso height. It also adds the EZ-Buckle crotch strap and an easy-remove cover. It lacks the deeper headwings found on the Boulevard model. MSRP $289.99
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 and the “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator. MSRP $329.99
Britax Marathon ClickTight: This model has a no-rethread harness and standard rubber HUGS pads. The top harness slot height and the overall height are about 2″ shorter than the Blvd CT and Advocate CT models. MSRP $329.99
Britax Boulevard ClickTight: All the features of the Marathon CT plus SafeCell HUGS pads; deeper headwings; “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator, top harness slots and overall height 2″ taller than Marathon CT. The Boulevard CT is a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat AND Editors’ Pick. MSRP $369.99
Britax Advocate ClickTight: All the features of the Boulevard CT plus external side-impact cushions. The Advocate CT is also a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat. The Advocate CT is a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat.MSRP $419.99
Britax Convertible Features Comparison:
*Tip: If you’re viewing from your phone – turn it sideways to see more columns of the chart in landscape mode.
Boulevard G4.1 Weight and Height Limits:
Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs., and head is 1” below red adjustment handle
Forward-facing: 20-65 lbs., and 49” or less, and tops of the ears are below the top of the head restraint
Boulevard G4.1 Overview:
SafeCell™ Technology in the base: these cells compress in a crash, which lowers the center of gravity of the child and reduces forward head excursion
Energy-absorbing EPP foam that lines the entire back and sides of the plastic shell
Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch Versa-Tether®
SafeCell HUGS chest pads: energy-absorbing and have a ridged edge that better keeps the chest clip in place
Integrated steel bars strengthen the seat and keep it from flexing forward in a crash
2 layers of side impact protection: deep protective shell and an energy-absorbing headrest
No re-thread harness with 10 harness height positions
2 crotch strap positions
Infant cushion for children up to 22 lbs.
Dual lower deluxe push-on LATCH connectors (one strap for each side of the carseat—no feeding it through the belt path)
Smooth bottom base with grippy edges that won’t damage vehicle upholstery
Optional anti-rebound bar for rear-facing
Harness height: 9”-17”, 6 ½” bottom slots with infant cushion
External widest point: 19″
Usable shell height with headrest: 26”
Shoulder width: 13”
Crotch strap depth: 4 ½”, 7”
Seat depth: 12”
Seat weight: 18.6 lbs.
Rear-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs.
Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 50 lbs.
Installation is color-coded for ease: blue for rear-facing, green for forward-facing
Top tether length has been shortened, but for the most part, this shouldn’t be a problem. Contact Britax at 1-888-427-4829 for a tether extender. As of 2015, the tether is no longer allowed to be used rear-facing out of concern for interference with front seat airbag sensors. An anti-rebound bar is available directly from Britax for parents and caregivers who prefer that extra level of protection.
Center LATCH Installations with Non-Standard Spacing:
Permitted only in designated LATCH positions; if your vehicle doesn’t have dedicated lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position, you cannot install this carseat with LATCH.
Inflatable Seat Belts:
Britax allows their convertibles (EXCEPTION: ClickTight convertibles) to be installed with Ford and Lincoln inflatable seat belts. They do NOT allow inflatable airplane seat belt installation. See their Inflatable Seat Belt Policy.
The infant cushion MUST be used for children weighing 22 lbs. or less in a rear-facing position. DO NOT use over 22 lbs. DO NOT use in a forward-facing position. There’s even a label on it in case you forget!
Use the lockoff closest to the buckle if installing the Boulevard with a seat belt.
Get best results with the Click & Safe harness adjuster by removing slack from the thighs in an upward motion through the chest first while pulling harness tight.
The Boulevard expires 7 years after date of manufacture and Britax follows the NHTSA crash replacement policy.
Deep headwings provide enhanced protection in side-impact crashes
Durable EPP foam, rip-stitch tether, HUGS pads and SafeCell Technology in base all work together to absorb energy in a crash
Click & Safe snug harness indicator provides audible and tactile feedback to let you know when the harness is sufficiently snug
One of the easiest LATCH installs on the market!
“Non-Handed” lower LATCH straps allow you to easily switch the connectors from rear-facing to forward-facing and vice versa
No re-thread harness makes it easy to adjust the harness height when your child has a growth spurt
Relatively easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
Harness straps are thick and not prone to twisting
Velcro on harness keeps straps out of the way when loading and unloading child from seat
EZ-Buckle System keeps belly pad and buckle out of the way when loading child in the seat
Buckle style is easy to buckle and unbuckle
Harness straps are replaceable if necessary
HUGS pads may be removed when the child is rear-facing (but they are required for forward-facing)
Available anti-rebound bar
Rear-facing recline angle range of 30-45 degrees allowed
Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need a full 45* recline). This makes it a good option for smaller cars and for tall parents who may need to have the front seat all or most of the way back.
Easy to remove cover
Premium fabrics and extra padding for comfort
Made in the USA!
May be difficult to clamp the lockoffs closed in some vehicles if installing with seatbelt
Seatbelt installation using lockoff is not intuitive – read and follow directions carefully
Rear-facing legroom is generally less than some other competitive (non-Britax) convertible models
Click & Safe snug harness indicator can be helpful but isn’t foolproof
Rear-facing height limit isn’t as tall as some other models, like the new Britax ClickTight convertibles
The Boulevard is relatively expensive at $329.99 MSRP, but is often on sale for under $250 at Amazon.com
The Britax Boulevard G4.1 sample used in this update was provided by Britax USA. No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.
Car Escape Tools: A Perfect Father’s Day Gift (That’s Really For You)
Ever get that special gift for your birthday or Mother’s Day? You know, the one that you knew really wasn’t for you? Maybe it was that chainsaw you always dreamed about? Or something useful, but perhaps not all that thrilling, like a homeowner’s tool kit? Maybe it was something like an iPad that you actually liked, but it was quickly claimed by that special someone who gave it to you? Of course, I personally have always given thoughtful gifts, but I always keep an eye out for the perfect gift. The one that will not only be appreciated, but also doesn’t seem like you actually had yourself or your kids in mind, even if you did!
We know that all of our savvy readers are concerned with auto safety. Being trapped in a vehicle can be very scary, even if it is not on fire or sinking in the water! If there isn’t a fire or water hazard, you may have time to dial 911, and then have some options to try different windows or a hatch for escape. But if there is a hazard, you might not have the time to do anything but unbuckle yourself and escape, and any precious seconds wasted are fewer seconds you have if you also need to unbuckle your children!
There are dozens of tools at Amazon and other stores to help you escape. Most are of a “Hammer” design, requiring a good swing or flick of the wrist to crack the glass. These may work well enough if you have the room, but getting a good swing if your car is filling with water may not be so easy. These types of crashes are not very common, but may claim the lives of hundreds of occupants a year. Plus, your husband doesn’t really want a bright yellow or pink plastic hammer! That’s a clear sign that you might not have had him in mind when buying the gift;-)
There’s an easy solution, a spring-loaded punch. Even one from a hardware store should do the job. But good quality ones can be somewhat expensive, while cheap ones can jam or break easily. Hardware store tools do make good gifts for Father’s Day, but why stop there when you can have something better shipped to your door? We’ve found the ultimate Father’s Day or birthday gift for Dad, something that will also give YOU peace of mind in case of a vehicle entrapment crash!
Enter the StatGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool. Even the name has Father’s Day written all over it. It’s the black steel equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for escaping an automobile. You get not only a covered, spring-loaded center punch for breaking glass easily, but you also get a hardened stainless steel hook blade for cutting seatbelts and harness straps, a serrated high carbon 440C stainless steel knife blade and an LED light with replaceable batteries. And best of all, you get something that LOOKS like a gift for Dad, even if you also had yourself and your kids in mind when you bought it!
It’s frequently on sale for under $35 at Amazon, which is about the same as a high quality hardware store spring-loaded center punch that doesn’t give you any extra features. It’s a great gift for any driver. Designed by a NYC Paramedic, it should be handy for first responders as well. This is definitely not a tool that should be easy for kids to reach, as with any sharp edged knife or tool. The closing mechanism on the knife is similar to some other knives and requires caution for adults as well.
Want to step it up a notch? Go for the StatGear Auto Survival Kit for $59.99. In stock, and free delivery by Father’s Day if you order soon! It includes the T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool. Plus, you get other auto emergency and first aid essentials, including a re-usable glow stick, nitrile gloves, gauze, an assortment of bandages, instant ice packs, alcohol prep pads, tape, antibiotic ointment, tweezers and emergency drinking water. It’s all packaged in a nice, padded black case with velcro to strap around a large sun visor or fits into a center console, door pocket or glove compartment.
And it works, too! Smashes tempered auto glass more easily than a hammer style escape tool and cuts through harness material like butter. I tested it out and took a look at the Survival Kit in this video:
Now maybe some would prefer that pink one for themselves or for their teen driver? No worries, StatGear has you covered as well. The SuperVisor XT is a compact model that attaches easily to any sun visor. It’s not a spring-loaded design like the T3, but it does include a seatbelt/harness cutting tool. And if pink isn’t your thing, it comes in black, green and orange, too.
Hopefully, you won’t need any tool to break a window if your car goes into the water. Wikihow has some additional tips for escaping from a sinking car. For those cases where you do need a tool because of water pressure, door damage or other factors, do keep in mind that hammer and center punch tools won’t always shatter the whole window enough for you fit. They should be able to break it enough to where you can use some other object like the knife blade of the T3 tool, a wrapped fist or a kick with your shoes to clear the rest of the window if necessary.
Thank you to StatGear Tools for providing the kit used in this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.