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

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.


Merry Christmas from CarseatBlog



Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Carseat Review – Cute, Compact & Budget-Friendly


Scenera NEXT Lime Punch GreenWhat’s not to love about the Scenera NEXT? The cute little carseat with over a dozen covers from which to choose that’s lighter than some rear-facing only infant seats, has a mandatory rear-facing to age 2 limit, and is one of the most inexpensive carseats on the market as well at about $45. It’s almost too good to be true, but that’s what Cosco set out to make and they accomplished it and more.  It’s also our budget convertible carseat entry for our Recommended Carseats list.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND top of child’s head is even with, or below, top of seat shell
  • Forward-facing: 22-40 lbs. AND child must be at least 2 years old

Scenera NEXT Overview:

  • 5 harness slot positions
  • 3 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • One of the narrowest carseats on the market
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 8 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA

Scenera NEXT Measurements

Harness slot heights: 5.5”, 7.5”, 9.5”, 11.5”, 13.5”
External widest point: 17 ¼ ”
Shell height: 24”
Crotch strap depth: 2.5”, 4”, 5.5”
Seat depth: 11”
Seat weight: 7 lbs.


Installation is a dream. The NEXT is designed to install very easily because it’s a seat that will be commonly popped in and out of vehicles. Use either the lower LATCH connectors or the seat belt—it doesn’t matter since they’re both easy. Just don’t use them at the same time! You’ll notice on the bottom of the rails of the seat there are round rubber plugs. These little additions do miraculous grippy things to the installation and make it so the NEXT doesn’t slide when installed.

Scenera NEXT forward-facing Scenera NEXT grippy things

For a newborn or young baby, make sure the NEXT is reclined to the proper angle as designated on the line on the side of the carseat between the rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths. When your child is older, he can be more upright and the manual even says that.

Scenera NEXT rear-facing

Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs., which is the maximum weight limit of the harness

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:

Cosco allows LATCH installation in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the LATCH anchor bars are spaced at least 11” apart.

Inflatable Seat Belts

Cosco has determined that the Scenera NEXT cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.

Fit to Child

The Scenera NEXT is designed to fit children from 5-40 lbs. and the fit on the lower end is fantastic. When it was originally released, it shipped with a short crotch strap, which was perfect for newborns, but for older kids, it really was too short. If you have an older model, you can easily get a free, longer crotch strap from Cosco. Just give them a call or email them to request it. Since August, 2015, the Scenera NEXT automatically ships with the new longer crotch strap so you don’t have to do anything but enjoy your cute seat. My new longer crotch strap is in the mail to me right now and as soon as I get it, I’ll update the review with comparison pics.

One thing I’d like to clarify is the height limit. My Scenera NEXT came with an instruction manual that specified use until the child reaches 40 lbs. or until the top of the child’s head reaches the top of the carseat. This is Dorel’s policy for their rear-facing convertibles. The Dorel infant seats require at least 1″ of shell above the child’s head but their convertible seats are outgrown by height when the top of the head is even with the top of the shell.

Sam in Scenera NEXT

Sam is 7 months old and 14 lbs.

Changes Coming to Vehicle Safety Ratings


NHTSA NCAPIf you’re like us, one of your main questions when buying a car is, “What’s the safety rating?” We know that the ratings can’t tell us everything about a vehicle, but a good crash-test performance can help put our minds at ease.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government agency that oversees the 5-Star/New Car Assessment Program, recently proposed significant changes to the rating system. The proposed changes include taking into consideration crash-avoidance systems like lane departure warnings and automatic emergency braking. Technology has improved significantly since the rating system was introduced in the 1970s (heck, even in the past few years), and NHTSA feels it’s time to focus on crash avoidance, not just crash mitigation.

The proposed changes include:

  • Crash avoidance systems
  • How well vehicles protect pedestrians
  • A frontal oblique test to determine how well the vehicle protects an angled crash
  • An improved full frontal barrier test to improve safety for rear-seat passengers
  • New, improved crash test dummies
  • Half-star increments
  • The ability to make changes to the program more quickly in the future, as the need arises

NHTSANHTSA has not yet determined how much weight each category will carry. They’re currently in the midst of a 60-day public comment period, so if you have opinions, now is the time to express them! They expect the final rule on the new testing to occur by the end of 2016, and they expect the testing to be ready in time for 2019 model-year vehicles.

It’s too early to say how the new testing will play out, but one possibility is that crash-avoidance systems, often only available on higher-end models or as costly options, might become standard (hopefully without too much of an increase in price). It should also put more of an emphasis on improving back-seat safety, something that’s taken a…well…back seat as manufacturers have focused on making front seats safer.

Overall, it’s good to see the NHTSA recognizing and trying to keep up with advances in technology and safety. Now if we could just get them to update the child restraint test sled…