3-Across Carseats: Making the Impossible Possible!

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Best Narrow Car Seats & Tips for Installing Three Car Seats in One Row

Three-across is one of the biggest tests of a parent or child passenger safety technician’s abilities. Correctly installing three car seats in one row can be a big challenge, and telling a family to get a larger vehicle isn’t usually an option. Even buying three new seats can cost a lot, but it’s far less expensive than a new vehicle! Fortunately, manufacturers are now offering narrower products to make this challenge a bit easier, and knowing some tips and techniques can help a lot, too.

As a mother of four, and a certified child passenger safety technician and instructor who works closely with families of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.), I have considerable hands-on experience with fitting three (or more!) seats in a variety of vehicles. Here are some tips to help you safely accommodate multiple children.

Before we get into the tips, remember: Car seats can touch, but they must each be independently tight, not just appearing snug because they’re pressed up against each other. If you remove one seat, the adjacent seat still needs to be securely installed. Remember to read your car seat and vehicle manuals, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Child passenger safety technicians advising parents on this topic may find the Manufacturers Alliance for CPS (MACPS) Harmonized Statements helpful. Read them here.

Tip #1. Consider Tether Anchor and Head Restraint Locations

While car seats can be installed in any location with a seatbelt, it’s strongly recommended that all forward-facing child restraints be installed in a seating position with a top tether anchor. (It is also legally required for all seats in Canada and with a few child restraints in the United States.) Since vehicles are only required to have a total of three tether anchors, this means that some three-row vehicles do not have a tether anchor in each seating position. Start by identifying which seating positions in your vehicle have tether anchors and try to place your forward-facing child restraints in those positions.

Another potential issue is that some seating positions might not have a head restraint, particularly those in the middle. It’s important to understand whether your child restraint requires head support behind it, so check your manual. All passengers need head support up to at least the top of their ears, so any backless booster riders (or older children/adults in just seatbelts) need a seating position with adequate head support.

At first glance, this setup looks great: Three narrow boosters with room to spare! But . . . this likely won’t work due to the lack of a head restraint in the center. Pictured left to right: Graco Turbo Go, BubbleBum Inflatable Booster, Graco RightGuide Seat Belt Trainer.

Graco GO, BubbleBum, Graco RightGuide

Tip #2. Seatbelt vs. Lower LATCH Anchors

While lower LATCH anchors (where available)often provide an easier method of installation, in a 3-across situation it may benefit you to install your car seats with the seatbelt instead, even if the child is still under the LATCH weight limit. The benefit of using a seatbelt is that it offers more flexibility on the exact placement of your child restraints. Lower anchors are in a fixed location and only 11” wide, so they will force your car seat to go exactly where the lower anchors are located. When we install with a seatbelt, we can often gain precious space by installing the car seat a little closer to the door of the vehicle, for example. Just be sure the base of the car seat is completely on the vehicle seat and not hanging over the side. In all of our examples, we used the seatbelt instead of the lower LATCH anchors. If you happen to have a vehicle with inflatable seatbelts, be sure your child restraint is compatible with them. Otherwise, you’ll need to use lower anchors (if the child isn’t too heavy) or will need to use a different seating position for that child restraint.

Overlapping seatbelts aren’t inherently a problem, but it’s important to make sure they don’t interfere with a tight installation. If you do find that overlapping seatbelts interfere with a good installation, you might need to consider using LATCH for one of the seats instead. Also, sometimes different combinations of seats will work next to each other when others won’t, due to their shape or the way the path for the seatbelt is located. For example, a seat with a low belt path next to one with a high belt path can help avoid interference.

Tip #3. Lockoffs/Tensioning Systems

Since seatbelt installations often give us the most flexibility with three-across arrangements, a lockoff and/or a tensioning device can be a very valuable feature. A lockoff can allow us to position the car seat even more towards one side or another depending on what is needed for the arrangement. Powerful tensioning devices like Britax ClickTight, Graco SnugLock, and Nuna TrueTension can be helpful even if the seat isn’t particularly narrow. Seats with tensioning devices may or may not require you to lock the seatbelt so be sure to read your manual!

See how close to the edge of the seat we were able to install this? This gave us precious space in the center for the other convertible seat to fit.

Boulevard CT

Tip #4. Try Multiple Arrangements

If one arrangement of three seats doesn’t work, try them in a different order. Look closely at the contours of your vehicle seats. For example, midsize SUVs sometimes have a passenger side seating position that is wider than the driver’s side, or vice-versa. Try putting a different child restraint there and see if that helps your set-up.

This is the 2020 GMC Terrain. You can see that the seat on the passenger side is slightly wider than the driver’s side. This means that a narrow backless booster might work better on the driver’s side, with a larger convertible seat on the passenger side and in the center. Unfortunately, this arrangement could make it difficult if you need to drop an older child off at school/activities where they must exit the vehicle on the passenger side, so be sure to consider real-life situations when deciding on the “best” scenario.

2020 GMC Terrain

Graco RightGuide, Nuna Rava, Boulevard CT

Tip #5. Don’t Forget to Attach the Infant Seat!

At first glance, it may seem like it’ll be no problem to get all of your seats installed. The base for the infant seat might fit just fine next to big brother’s seat, but wait! Did you try attaching the carrier portion of the infant seat to the base? The carrier is significantly wider than the base, so be sure it attaches without interfering with the adjacent seats. Remember when I said that seats touching each other are OK? Be extra careful if the infant seat is touching something else because it might be keeping the infant seat from attaching securely to the base. Depending on your situation, this may be a reason to go straight to a convertible that fits smaller babies to avoid any chance of the infant seat not fully securing!

Tip #6. Booster or Harness . . . Choose Wisely!

Many people assume that moving a child into a booster seat will help in a three-across situation. However, booster seats aren’t necessarily more narrow than harnessed seats, and even when they are, young children need extra room next to them in order to reach the seatbelt buckle. If you have tight space in the back seat, it might be better to keep a booster-ready child in a harness as long as they still fit. Once the child needs to move to a booster seat, look for lower-profile ones that might offer more space for a child’s hand to reach in to buckle up. (Try them out if you can!) If you must use a booster seat, another option is to leave the seatbelt buckled and teach the child to slide into and out of the booster without unbuckling the belt.

On the same theme, it might also make sense to keep a child rear-facing longer to allow more room for adjacent forward-facing seats, particularly for booster riders. Consider ALL of your options!

You’ve tried all of the tricks above and nothing works. Now what?

Tip #7. Test Out New Seats

If you’ve tried the seats you have in a variety of different arrangements and using different installation methods but they still don’t work, you’ll need to consider either new car seats or a new vehicle. Most people choose to explore new car seats first! If you have a store near you that allows you to try seats in your vehicle before you buy, that’s ideal. If you don’t have a store that will let you do that, ask around to see if anyone you know has other types of car seats you can try before you order them.

When you’re trying out seats, don’t just set the seats in the vehicle. You have to actually install them to determine if they will work safely or not. You might consider hiring a CPST to go with you during this exercise to ensure the combination you’re buying will actually work. Technicians can often teach you some tricks to maximize the space you’re working with and can advise which seats might be best to try. If you do choose to shop for a new vehicle, bring your car seats with you. When my family purchased our last vehicle (awaiting the arrival of our 4th child) I brought six different seats with me to 4 dealerships! With a 6’7” husband and four kids, I knew I needed to make sure everything was going to work before we made such a big commitment.

Best Narrow Car Seats for 3-Across:

If you find yourself in need of new seats, here are a few of my go-to seats for maximizing space in your vehicle. I’ve also noted a few pros/cons specifically related to installing three-across. Be sure to read full reviews and the manual to understand all aspects of the child restraint. And as mentioned above, try them out first when possible!

Best Narrow Rear-Facing-Only Car Seats for 3-Across

Graco SnugRide SnugLock: While there isn’t a significant difference in the width of most infant car seats, a powerful lockoff like the SnugLock can really assist with 3-across arrangements by allowing you to position it closer to the door. The base with the SnugLock lever rather than the larger swing arm is narrower. See our review here.

Cybex Aton: Their newest infant seat model, Aton M, offers a powerful tensioning device which also acts as a lockoff (similar to the SnugLock seats), and Cybex infant seats are typically more compact front to back. Aton M features a load leg.

Chicco Keyfit 30: A go-to seat for compatibility in many vehicle seating positions due to its slightly smaller external dimensions and handy lockoff system. See our review here.

Clek Liing: A new model that is narrower than average and has a built-in lockoff system plus a load leg.

Best Narrow Convertible Car Seats for 3-Across

Britax Marathon/Boulevard ClickTight: While these two convertible seats aren’t the narrowest, they are more narrow than most on the market, and more importantly, their powerful lockoffs can be very valuable in tight situations. (Notice we left off the Advocate because it’s just too wide for most 3-across situations.) See the photo above in tip #3! See our review of the Marathon CT here and the Boulevard CT here.

Clek Fllo/Foonf: Clek seats are among the narrowest on the market. They don’t offer many options for recline adjustment, so you’ll want to make sure they fit behind the front seat. Believe it or not, sometimes the Foonf, even though it’s large, fits well rear-facing because it sits high enough to clear the front seat’s headrest. See our review of the Fllo here and the Foonf here.

Combi Coccoro: The Coccoro is probably the smallest convertible seat available, and while it’s certainly not as long-lasting or easy-to-install as many other convertible seats, it can play a critical role in tight situations. It also has a 3-lb minimum! The great thing about this convertible is that it’s also small front-to-back even when appropriately reclined for the smallest newborn.

Cosco Scenera NEXT: The Scenera NEXT is another compact, budget-friendly convertible seat that offers quite a bit of longevity for the price. It actually lasts longer rear-facing than it does forward-facing, so keep that in mind if you choose this seat. See our review here.

Diono Radian: The Radian convertible seats are known for their narrow profile and are certainly among the narrowest seats available. Be sure to read the manual carefully, though, because they can be tricky to install, particularly forward-facing. They also tend to take up a lot of front-to-back space, so be sure they fit behind the seats in front of them. A separate “angle adjuster” can be purchased to make the seat a bit more upright, which can help it fit better if back-to-front room is an issue. For a helpful tip installing your Diono convertible seat forward-facing, check out this video:

Best Narrow Forward-Facing Combination Seats for 3-Across

Chicco MyFit: If you’re looking for a full-featured combination seat, the MyFit is a great option. The cup holders fold in to gain precious space. Besides being narrow, the MyFit also has lockoffs. The buttery smooth harness adjustment is also fantastic if you have this seat in the middle and need to turn around to tighten a child’s harness! See our review here.

Cosco Finale: The Finale is a very budget-friendly combination seat; however, it does require the use of the tether, so make sure you put it in a seating position that has a tether anchor. (We always recommend using the tether but it’s not optional with this seat.) See our review here.

Graco Tranzitions: The Graco Tranzitions has a very narrow footprint and armrests that are low-profile to minimize interference from adjacent seats. The downside is that it can be difficult or impossible to install properly in some vehicles. See our review here. Using the seatback recline trick can be particularly helpful on this seat. Check out this helpful video.

NOTE: Typically we wouldn’t recommend convertible seats for children who are already forward-facing. Not because they aren’t safe or appropriate, but because it doesn’t usually make financial sense to purchase a seat that offers rear-facing mode if you don’t need it. However, anything goes when it comes to three-across! While there are a few narrow combination seats, you may also want to try some of the recommended convertible seats listed above.

Best Narrow High Back Boosters for 3-Across

Maxi-Cosi RodiFix: The narrow, armless design makes this highback booster a great option. The lack of traditional armrests allows kids more room for reaching the seatbelt buckle. See our review here.

Evenflo Spectrum: While the Spectrum isn’t as narrow as the RodiFix, it does have a unique seatbelt path making it easier for kids to buckle when placed next to other seats. (It’s also a fraction of the RodiFix’s price!) This is also one of the tallest highback booster seats available and does not require vehicle head support, so this can be a great option for tall kids when no vehicle headrest is present. See our review here.

HiFold: The HiFold is quite narrow so it fits in some narrow spaces. However, it does require vehicle head support, so for most kids of booster age/size, you’ll need a vehicle headrest in that seating position in order to use it. Just be sure to check for proper head support and belt fit, especially on children near the minimum ratings.

Best Narrow Backless Boosters for 3-Across

Bubblebum: This inflatable booster seat offers a very narrow and flexible booster option for big kids, but thigh support is limited. See our review here.

Graco RightGuide: The RightGuide is a low-profile booster seat with open belt guides, which can improve access to the buckle. It has a 50-lb minimum.

Cosco Rise: The Rise is a traditional booster with a narrow profile and a very modest price point. However, in very tight 3-across arrangements the armrests can make it challenging to buckle the seatbelt.

Harmony Youth Booster: another popular seat for 3-across as it is more contoured than some other backless boosters. It is similar to the Cosco Rise.

Other Restraint Options for 3-Across

Ride Safer Travel Vest: The vest is a cross between a 5-point harness and a belt-positioning booster seat and only takes up the width of the child, making it a wonderful solution for 3-across. Another benefit of this product is that the child sits directly on the vehicle seat, which may eliminate the issue of head restraints. This can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to overcome challenges with smaller vehicles or a lack of vehicle head restraints.

IMMI GO: Another model that is a hybrid of a more traditional 5-point harness with a backless booster seat for older kids. Since it doesn’t have a true shell or high-back, it may puzzle well with other seats. It’s also very portable, but requires a top tether anchor and works best when used with lower LATCH anchors as well. See our review here.

Three-Across Pics to Inspire You . . .

We obviously can’t try every single combination. Even this basic amateur photoshoot took 2 hours with two technicians . . . and a Yukon XL-load of seats! But hopefully, through these photos, we can point out a few things to assist with your situation.

Look at how nicely that vest fits between those two traditional restraints AND how there’s no issue with the lack of head restraint in this particular center seating position! We could actually accommodate a fairly tall child in this seat thanks to the Ride Safer Travel Vest. The Evenflo Spectrum also makes it fairly easy to reach the buckles with the open belt path. (This photo below was taken in the 3rd row of a 2016 GMC Yukon XL.)

Evenflo Spectrum, Ride Safer Travel Vest

Three Maxi-Cosi RodiFix boosters fit here in this GMC Acadia (below) but you can see there’s very little room to buckle. Thankfully the open belt path design (without cupholders) makes it manageable to use these three seats. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the rigid latch in this setup but it’s not required.

Maxi Cosi RodiFix 3-across

The tensioning devices on these two seats (Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Nuna Rava, below) make it very easy to get solid installations and the open design of the RightGuide means we can get these three seats in the small GMC Terrain. However, notice the booster rider is on the driver’s side . . . while this gave our booster rider a bit more space, it’s not going to work very well if they have to climb out for school drop-off, etc.

Graco RightGuide, Nuna Rava, Britax Boulevard CT

This would be a great setup for say, a young elementary school child (Chicco MyFit, below) on the passenger side for easy drop-off/pick-up with the baby and toddler rear-facing in the center and driver’s side. The powerful lockoff/tensioning system on the Britax Boulevard ClickTight made it relatively easy to get these three seats installed in the GMC Terrain. And the little Combi Coccoro is a great seat if you need something very narrow for a baby or toddler in the center seating position.

Boulevard CT, Combi Coccoro, MyFit

When trying to accommodate a highback booster, we found that the HiFold (below, right) had to go on the slightly larger driver’s side of this GMC Terrain. Unfortunately, that again puts our oldest child furthest from the passenger side for easy pick-up/drop-off. (While this photo appears to show overlap, these seats actually each fit within their own space nicely.) Here’s a nice example of how a rear-facing seat next to a booster allows the booster rider a bit more space at the shoulders and sometimes to buckle as well.

MyFit, Combi Coccoro, HiFold

Once again, those RodiFix boosters below work nicely to allow room for buckling, and the Ride Safer Travel Vest fits just about anywhere! Don’t forget to check for proper head support if you are using the vest. Since this seating position lacks an adjustable head restraint, the child will need to be short enough that the top of the ears are no higher than the vehicle seatback.

Maxi Cosi RodiFix, Ride Safer

AutoNation Buick GMC of Park Meadows let us use their beautiful 2020 GMC Terrain and GMC Acadia for our photoshoot. The Terrain has a second-row hip room measurement of 51.8″ while the Acadia measures 53.3″. We didn’t really “feel” the extra space in the Acadia, which just goes to remind you that you can’t simply go by the hip room stats. Always try it out when possible!

2020 GMC Acadia

2020 GMC Acadia

2020 GMC Terrain

2020 GMC Terrain

Notice how narrow the middle seats are below? Realistically you probably won’t find any traditional seat that will fit in the center and allow the passenger side to tumble for third-row access, except maybe the base of a few infant seats (without the carrier attached). The Ride Safer Travel Vest will easily allow you to tumble the passenger seat but you may need to consider how you’ll use and access the 3rd row if necessary.

2020 GMC Acadia

2020 GMC Acadia

2020 GMC Terrain

2020 GMC Terrain

Editors’ Note: There is NO substitute for experience. Some three-across guides online are compiled from internet sources and the authors have zero first-hand knowledge of the products they recommend. There are ALWAYS unusual issues and exceptions, so you MUST read your vehicle and car seat manuals. Consult with a local, certified child passenger safety technician if you are unsure if your seats work in adjacent or 3-across setups!

Thank you to AutoNation Buick GMC Park Meadows for their support.

The Maxi-Cosi RodiFix and the HiFold sample were provided by their manufacturers for this article.

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Dangerous Seat Belt Extenders

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Why Seat Belt Extenders Should Not Be Used with Carseats and Boosters

seat belt extender in Tesla Model XHave you seen the recent story in the news about Ethan, the 6 year old who was severely and permanently injured in a crash? Because his seat belt buckle was flush with the vehicle seat, his father used a seat belt extender to make buckling his booster seat easier and it failed in the crash. What is a seat belt extender and why should it NEVER be used with kids in carseats?

Seat belt extenders are designed for ADULTS who are too large to fit into seat belts. This means that they have pulled the seat belt out all the way and it still doesn’t allow them to buckle it, not that it’s too difficult for them to buckle (my mom is obese and she struggles greatly to buckle the seat belt in my car, but that doesn’t mean it’s too short). There are different kinds of extenders: rigid, which have a metal stalk, and flexible, which have a webbing stalk, and they come in differing lengths. They also come in different colors and some are designed to be bolted at the seat belt anchor instead of buckled at the buckle.

If an adult needs an extender, they should choose the one that is the shortest that will accomplish the job of buckling the seat belt. Seat belt extenders change the geometry of the seat belt on the body. Ideally, the lap belt should lay low on the hips and the shoulder belt should cross the chest and touch the collar bone midway (use the vehicle’s shoulder belt height adjuster to change this, if there is one). Using an extender will cause the shoulder belt to shift off the collar bone because the buckle moves the latchplate and buckle over the body. No hardware should touch the body because it would cut into it in a crash; the seat belt will slice through the body until it reaches bone. In fact, the instructions will tell you exactly where the extender buckle will be placed in relation to the center of your body (your belly button).

What makes seat belt extenders dangerous? They are specific to the vehicle and seat belt into which they buckle and not every vehicle manufacturer makes them. NHTSA, the government agency which crash tests vehicles, hasn’t safety tested extenders. Just because a generic extender you bought off Amazon or some other website buckles into your car’s buckle doesn’t mean it will hold in a crash. And the extenders that bolt at the seat belt anchor? The instructions don’t even specify the amount of torque to be applied to the bolt!

Word of mouth makes seat belt extenders popular. I’m sure all vehicle groups discuss them at some point, but I’m most familiar with the Tesla forums since we’ve been early adopters of all 3 models—the Model S, the Model X, and the Model 3. Tesla parents are frustrated that their kids can’t easily buckle themselves into their boosters, or if there’s a 3-across situation, they can’t buckle themselves next to a sibling’s carseat because the buckle is flush with the vehicle seat.

Now would be a good time to talk quickly about crash forces. A simple way to figure out how much force you’ll put on a seat belt (or harness for a child) is to multiply your weight by the speed you’re going. So, if you’re going 30 mph, which is the standard crash test speed for a carseat, and you weigh 150 lbs., 30 x 150 = 4500 lbs. of force against the seat belt. Can you imagine having the hardware (latchplate and buckle of the extender) on your hip bone or belly in a crash? Only do it if you absolutely must, not for convenience; it’s better to be restrained for sure.

Why shouldn’t kids use a buckle extender when using a booster? For a variety of reasons.
  • Increasing the length of the seat belt increases head excursion and neck flexion. What does that mean in layman’s terms? A higher possibility of head and neck injury and a much greater risk of the child hitting the inside of the vehicle. Having a pre-tensioner to spool the extra webbing back during the crash cycle may help, but those are only just now coming out in back seats.
  • seat belt extender booster Tesla Model XThe extender may place the buckle right under the arm of the booster, which can then knock the latch release in a crash, leaving your child unbuckled.
  • It may place seat belt hardware over your child’s soft belly. The whole goal of a seat belt (and booster seat!) is to protect your child in a crash. Changing the geometry so that the buckle is near, or over your child’s abdomen, increases the injury potential.
  • It’s infuriating as a parent to know that someone is trying to make a buck off our children’s safety by selling a quick-fix solution targeted at unknowing caregivers.
What should you do instead of using a buckle extender?
  • Use a harnessed carseat as long as possible. It’s much easier to buckle a harness, which is up front and easily seen, than to struggle with a seat belt buckle that may be hidden.
  • Pull the booster forward on the vehicle seat slightly, buckle the child, then slide the booster and child back into position. Don’t forget to snug up the seat belt! This requires some strength, though.
  • If the buckle stalk is floppy, cut a short portion of a pool noodle and wrap it around the stalk.
  • Use a booster without arms, if you can. This isn’t always possible, unfortunately. Some vehicles have head restraints that jut forward and push the headwings of the booster forward. Most booster manufacturers won’t allow this. I’ve contacted our Maxi Cosi rep and she confirmed they don’t allow the RodiFix to be used with the Tesla Model X, which is unfortunate because it’s often mentioned as a solution for that vehicle. There’s too much of a gap for Maxi Cosi to feel comfortable that the RodiFix will perform well in a crash. You’ll want to check for that gap in other Tesla models since the vehicle seats are similar amongst the newer models.
  • Use a narrow booster or one that tapers toward the back. This means, of course, that your child needs to be narrow too and we know that kids come in all shapes and sizes, so that won’t always work.
  • Keep the booster buckled and have your child slide in and out of the seat belt. This takes a mature kid who won’t pull the length of the seat belt out and is fairly flexible. The trick is to put the shoulder belt behind the child’s back first, then slide down under the lap belt. Reverse the process to get into the booster.
  • In the future, look for vehicles that don’t have buckles that are flush with the vehicle seat. While this type of buckle actually improves belt fit and keeps the latchplate out of the belt path for carseat installation, if you’ve had a kid struggle to buckle a seat belt with one, you know the seconds tick by like hours until you get that tickle of anxiety in the pit of your stomach and grab the latchplate from them in a fit of “let me do it for you so we can get out of here!”

There are certainly alternatives to using a seat belt extender. It’s an easy out and usually easy tricks like that and carseats don’t mix. You don’t want your child injured and you certainly don’t want the hospital bill that comes with it!

January 2020 Carseat, Stroller and Baby Gear Deals, Sales & Coupon Codes

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DEALS TRACKER: We find the best deals for January 2020 on car seats, strollers & baby gear. Bookmark this deals page and check back frequently for the latest bargains and promo code offers, so you find them here first before they sell out!

We’re the baby gear deal experts, so we know where the best deals are on the stuff consumers actually want to buy. We scour Amazon and other retailers to find the best bargains. We don’t just rely on automated tools and other deals pages, so we find the best deals for you, our valued readers, first. This is the resource other deal pages use to find deals so please feel free to share* our links!

Have you considered an Amazon baby registry? What do you get when you register? A free gift box valued at $35, a 90-day return policy for most items purchased from your registry, group gifting so multiple people can contribute to gifts, and more. Check it out!

What you need to know about Amazon pricing: it’s FICKLE. When a product’s price is reduced we rarely know how long it will remain at that price. Sometimes it’s a few days, sometimes it’s a few hours. The best advice we can offer you is to ACT QUICKLY if you see a great deal on something you really need or just seriously want. Just adding something to your cart does not guarantee you that item at that price – you must complete the checkout process to seal the deal. Most items on our list offer FREE SHIPPING & FREE RETURNS to Prime members but always double-check this before you put the item in your cart and checkout. Not a Prime member*? There’s a 30-day FREE trial. It’s a no-brainer! Try it out and score some great deals. You can always cancel before the 30 days is up if you’re not sold on the many benefits of an Amazon Prime membership.

Looking for more info on a certain carseat or booster? Check out our REVIEWS page. We have in-depth reviews of over 100 carseats and boosters. Prefer to shop at other stores? If you received great advice from us or discovered a good deal here and share it with friends, please mention us and share* our links to AmazonAlbee BabyTarget.com, Walmart.com, Kohl’s, and BuyBuyBaby. Thank you!

This post and others at CarseatBlog contain affiliate links. Please read About CarseatBlog for our affiliate policy and see our Marketing Disclosure.

Select Editors’ Picks:

These carseats are among our Editor’s Picks and are reader favorites, too!

Chicco KeyFit30  

Infant (Rear-Facing Only) Car Seat Deals:

Indicates a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat 

Britax B-Safe 35 in “Slate Strie” for $162.58 18% Off

Chicco KeyFit 30 Magic (with cold-weather boot) in “Isle” for $179.99 26% Off

Evenflo LiteMax DLX (with Load Leg) in “Meteorite” and “Mallard” for $130.14 24% Off

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30 in “Tasha” for $120.99 14% Off

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite in “Oakley” for $148.02 33% Off

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Platinum XT in “Bryant” for $199.99 20% Off

Graco SnugRide SnugLock *Extra Base* for $27.19 (55% Off) 

Graco SnugRide SnugLock DLX  *Extra Base* for $47.99 DEAL ENDED

UnbuckleMe – Easy Buckle Release Tool for Parents & Grandparents $14.99

Britax Boulevard CT - splash Graco 4Ever -azalea

Convertible & All-in-One Deals:

The Best Car Seats of the Decade! 2010-2019

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Here at CarseatBlog, we like to think of ourselves not just as CPS Techs and Instructors, but also as Connoisseurs or Aficionados of fine child restraint products. Darren, Heather and I have all been active in the field of Child Passenger Safety since the late 1990’s and throughout the last two decades, we’ve witnessed an astonishing wave of safety-related engineering and innovation. Along the way, we’ve learned to appreciate ambitious innovation, exceptional design and outstanding engineering. We’ve seen gems and busts. We’ve seen trends that came and went and those that just took off and changed the game forever. So, what makes a car seat or booster worthy of a “Best of the Decade” nomination? Well, to be honest, it’s totally subjective but greatness often begins when someone dares to think outside of the box, push limits, and ignore the naysayers. To all those rebels out there – we salute you!

We realize that every car seat has downsides but the following products were chosen for recognition because they were either game-changers, trendsetters, incredibly innovative or just ahead of their time!

BEST NEW INFANT SEAT DESIGNS OF THE DECADE

4moms Self-Installing Car Seat – It was only available for a few years before being discontinued but you gotta give 4moms props for innovation. The self-installing car seat created a lot of buzz and gave us a peek into the future of child restraints. Even though they weren’t wildly successful with their first foray into the car seat realm, we hope to see more innovative child restraints from 4moms in the next decade.

Cybex Aton 2  – It wasn’t the first seat in the US to have a load leg but it was the one to popularize this important safety feature and pave the way for others to follow. Thank you, Cybex, for making the effort to bring the load leg to this side of the pond even though our stupid U.S. standards [still] don’t allow you to test with it. And thanks for trusting that American families would take the time to research and educate themselves on this important safety feature. I know it’s still a work in progress but we do appreciate the leap of faith. Lol.

Doona –  It wasn’t the first car seat/stroller combo but it is lightyears ahead of the old sit ‘n stroll that we sneered at back in the day. To their credit, Doona created a unique product that quickly became popular with urban families who rely on taxis and rideshare services. Unfortunately, Doona’s popularity and high price-point has made it a target of counterfeiters. While it has been said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, that doesn’t apply to dangerous, illegal, knock-off baby gear. Please be suspicious of any “really good deals” and only buy Doona products from reputable retailers. Even Amazon has been selling a lot of fakes through 3rd party retailers lately so don’t assume it’s a real Doona just because it’s listed on Amazon.

Graco SnugRide SnugLock – Game-changer! When Graco introduced their SnugLock infant seat bases in late 2016, we immediately knew that this was going to set a new standard for infant seat base installations. The simple 3-step installation requires almost no effort and yet the result is a secure install with either LATCH or seatbelt. Considering how popular Graco infant seats are, the impact of incorporating SnugLock technology on these bases is undeniable. Way to go, Graco!

Nuna Pipa – Although it wasn’t the first infant seat in the U.S. to offer both rigid LATCH attachments and a load leg (the Britax BabySafe in 2003 had those features), this time around the market was ready to embrace this technology and the price tag that goes with it. Pipa’s 5-second rigid LATCH install set a new standard, making Nuna’s first car seat an instant hit. Recently, Nuna released a new model called Pipa Lite which weighs a few pounds less than a standard Pipa but you lose the ability to install it without the base. Will this start a new trend? Time will tell!

Summer Infant Prodigy – A truly innovative seat that was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, poor choices at Babies R Us led to lackluster sales which eventually led to its demise. RIP, Summer Infant Prodigy. Your built-in ratcheting device and smiley face indicators will never be forgotten!

UPPAbaby MESA “Henry” – Trendsetter! The Mesa is an innovative seat in itself but UPPAbaby gets credit for being the first car seat manufacturer to offer a Merino wool blend cover that is naturally flame retardant. UPPA led the way in developing a cover that meets all flammability standards without adding chemical flame retardants. Thanks to their innovation, several other car seat manufacturers have followed suit. Chemical-conscious parents, rejoice!

BEST NEW CONVERTIBLE/ALL-IN-ONE SEATS OF THE DECADE

Britax ClickTight ConvertiblesA game-changer thanks to some outstanding engineering! ClickTight tensioning and lockoff technology debuted on the Britax Frontier/Pinnacle platform and it really was the greatest thing since sliced bread so Britax knew they had to create convertible seats that would integrate this technology and still offer all the other bells and whistles that parents had come to expect from a Britax convertible. Thankfully, the Britax Marathon CT, Boulevard CT and Advocate CT did not disappoint and new standards for seatbelt installations on a convertible seat were set. All hail King ClickTight!

Chicco NextFit Zip – Chicco gets credit for being the first manufacturer to use an integrated force-multiplying system on the LATCH strap to help achieve a rock-solid install with very little effort. This was a godsend for parents and caregivers who struggled with the usual techniques required to install a convertible seat properly. Suddenly, it was possible for anyone, even an elderly caregiver, to install a car seat like a pro! So, how do you make a great car seat even greater? Add a zip-off cover for easy removal and cleaning. It might not seem like a big deal but as someone who has removed and replaced the cover on almost every car seat made in the last 20 years, trust me – this is a beautiful thing.

Clek Foonf – Clek took a gamble that North American consumers would be willing to pay significantly more for a seat engineered with advanced safety features and that gamble paid off! Foonf was the first convertible seat to rear-face to 50 pounds. It also offers rigid LATCH attachments for forward-facing, an anti-rebound bar for rear-facing, a steel-reinforced frame and a patented energy-absorbing crumple system in the base. Clek pushed the envelope, proving that you could sell seats at higher price points and build a loyal following in the process.

Cosco Scenera NEXTLet’s be real, it’s a lot harder to innovate when you are making a car seat that is going to sell for under $50, so great engineering and design teams have to focus on safety and function. The Scenera NEXT is a shining example of both. This little seat is a workhorse and we are grateful for its lightness and compact size which make it incredibly portable. Every family deserves to have safe and affordable car seat options that are easy to use correctly. Kudos to Dorel for understanding that and working hard to engineer safe products for all budgets.

Graco 4Ever All-in-One – Game changer & trendsetter! The 4Ever became an overnight sensation for many reasons. Never before had there been an All-in-One that was so competent in every mode and so easy to use. Even the name was perfect. In the 20+ years that I’ve been involved in the CPS field, I’ve never seen a car seat rise to stardom so quickly. Clearly, the concept of an All-in-One that had a 10-year lifespan resonated with parents from coast to coast. The Graco 4Ever was basically the equivalent of a walk-off home run in the 7th game of the World Series and it’s become the seat to beat ever since.

Graco Extend2Fit – A seat with mass-market appeal and a reasonable price tag, Extend2Fit also became wildly popular from the moment it launched. With a 50-pound rear-facing weight limit and an innovative legrest extension feature, Extend2Fit quickly became a top choice for parents eager to keep their kids rear-facing beyond the toddler stage. The legrest extension was a brilliant idea since we know parents worry that their rear-facing kids look uncomfortable with bent legs. Even though it’s an unfounded concern for the most part, Graco was smart to address the issue and capitalize on that concern.

Graco Smart Seat – You either loved it or hated it but the concept was brilliant and Graco gets credit, once again, for being innovative. The Smart Seat was a unique All-in-One that took the concept of a stay-in-car base to the next level. It was a novel idea but in this case, the concept was better in theory than in practice because the Smart Seat was a beast of a seat. Ultimately, it was discontinued but it still deserves recognition for engineering that was outside the box. Hopefully, other products with this unique feature will become available in the future.

BEST NEW COMBINATION SEATS OF THE DECADE

Britax Frontier ClickTight – ClickTight technology debuted on the Frontier/Pinnacle platform and it really was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Kudos to the engineering team at Britax for innovating at that level. This was definitely a game-changer and it set a new standard for seatbelt installations. The Frontier and Pinnacle have recently been discontinued and replaced by the Grow With You ClickTight and Grow With You ClickTight Plus which are similar but have lower (65 lbs.) weight limits when used with the harness. Even with the lower harnessed weight limits, these seats are still great but what’s up with the awful naming scheme? Maybe the next decade will bring the return of product names I can actually remember without looking them up every time.

Evenflo Maestro Sport – Every family deserves to have safe and affordable car seat options that are also easy to install and use correctly. The Evenflo Maestro Sport proves that a great combination seat doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s safe, lightweight, easy to use and easy to install. I especially love that you can install it with LATCH until reaching the harness weight limit of 50 pounds. The original Evenflo Maestro model was extremely popular and this updated “Sport” model improves on the original in every way without sacrificing a thing. The Maestro Sport generally sells for under $80 which is nothing short of amazing.

Graco Nautilus SnugLock LX  – The original Graco Nautilus model has been around since 2007 and even though it’s still a great combination seat, it was clearly time for an update. In 2018 Graco launched the new generation, Nautilus SnugLock LX and DLX, both of which offer an easy tensioner and lockoff system (aka SnugLock Technology) plus removable armrests and premium push-on LATCH connectors. Since the harness on these seats is rated to 65 lbs. but the LATCH weight limit is only 45 lbs., the SnugLock “arm” helps parents and caregivers achieve a proper installation with seatbelt. Overall, the Nautilus SnugLock LX and DLX models are solid performers that embody all the elements of good design and engineering.

BEST NEW BOOSTER SEATS OF THE DECADE

BubbleBum – This ultra-light, ultra-narrow, highly portable inflatable booster challenged everyone to accept something that was untraditional. Initially, we all wondered, could an inflatable booster actually be safe? Would CPS Techs ever embrace such a product? Would parents buy it? We now know that the answers are yes, yes, and yes! BubbleBum is the little booster that had to work harder than everyone else to earn respect and acceptance.

Chicco GoFit Plus – Let’s be honest, it’s hard to innovate when you’re designing a backless booster. However, Chicco managed to do something that hadn’t been done before and it’s pretty impressive. Quick-release latch connectors are brilliant and useful for families on the go!

Evenflo Spectrum – Its unique design elements combined with enhanced side-impact protection and a budget-friendly price make Spectrum stand out in a crowded field of booster seats. Plus, it’s one of the tallest highback boosters on the market! Cool fashions and bright colors add to the appeal and offer a refreshing break from the usual black and gray (although they offer that too).

Graco TurboBooster GROW featuring RightGuide Seat Belt Trainer – Yes, it’s a mouthful. It’s also the sixth product that Graco has named “TurboBooster” (Can you name them all? It’s possible that I might be missing a few.) But *THIS* TurboBooster is special. Apparently not special enough to get a better name but I digress… This innovative new highback booster is tall, latchable and we love the seat-within-a-seat feature which can be separated to accommodate two kids at once! The compact RightGuide Seatbelt Trainer pops out of the main seat so you can use it to seat a second child (who weighs at least 50 lbs.) for carpooling, playdates, etc., or throw it in a backpack when traveling. The RightGuide Seatbelt Trainer is also perfect for many tweens who just need a small boost in the car to achieve proper fit from the adult seatbelt. Once again Graco gets major props for innovation. But can we please move on to some new names? I’m starting to wonder if they hired George Foreman to name their seats.

Maxi-Cosi RodiFix – Being European doesn’t automatically make you better but in this case, it does. From the lack of armrests (and cupholders) to the rigid LATCH (aka ISOFIX) attachments and recline feature, everything about RodiFix says, “I’m not from around here” in a really cute accent. RodiFix is a unique, high-end highback booster with innovative features that make it easy to install and easy for kids to buckle themselves. But will American consumers accept something that doesn’t have cupholders??? That’s the million-dollar question. Lol.

BEST NEW TECHNOLOGY OF THE DECADE

Evenflo SensorSafe & Cybex SensorSafeAvailable on select Evenflo & Cybex car seats. SensorSafe technology is not just about preventing accidental vehicular heatstroke deaths, the smart chest clip will also communicate to alert the driver if the child has unbuckled their chest clip. This is super handy, especially if your child is rear-facing and you can’t see what they’ve done! The newest version of this technology, SensorSafe 2.0, takes it a step further with a free app that connects to your smartphone. With the app, you receive alerts on your phone if the driver accidentally leaves the child behind in the car, or if the child unbuckles themselves while the vehicle is moving. You also get alerts if the ambient temperature in the vehicle has become too warm or too cold. Additionally, the app offers guidance on installation, how-to videos, FAQs and more.

Looking Ahead to 2020

I think it’s safe to assume that the next decade is going to be full of some amazing new child restraints that will hopefully reduce misuse and continue to raise the bar on safety and innovation. We are already looking forward to the introduction of several new innovative products that we know are coming soon. If you’re curious about what the future looks like, here’s a sneak peek.

Cybex Sirona S Convertible – Available February 2020!