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Safe Carseats at Budget Prices

Updated: May 2017

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

Be sure to check out our Deals List for current bargains and also our Editors’ Picks list for our top choices in each budget category.

Cosco Apt 50

Who it’s designed for: infants, toddlers and preschoolers
Who it fits: infants to preschoolers
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-40” or top of head even with top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-50 lbs. and at least 1 years old
Typical Sale Price: $51.99

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Fits infants very well
  • Dual recline level lines allow a more upright installation rear-facing for older babies and toddlers who can sit up unassisted
  • Installs easily with both seat belt and lower LATCH connectors
  • Fun fashions including zebra, giraffe & realtree camo
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Must adjust harness lap strap for use on lowest harness slots (only an issue if you’re using the seat for a newborn)
  • Can only use the 2 inner buckle positions when rear-facing
  • Very wide because of integrated cup holders

Basics and Measurements

  • 6 harness slots
  • 8 year expiration
  • FAA-approved (but too wide to fit in a coach/economy class seat)
  • Harness slots: 5”, 7”, 9”, 11”, 13”, 16″
  • Buckle slots: 3”, 4.5”, 6”
  • Internal seat height: 23”
  • Seat pan depth: 12”
  • External widest width: 21” at cup holders, 18 ¾” at shoulders
  • Weight: 8.0 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: can use LATCH to maximum 50 lbs. weight limit

Comments

When I first received the Apt in its box, I thought for sure the box was empty because it was so light. It was right when I first injured my shoulder and couldn’t lift anything—but I could lift this box! In designing the Apt, the engineers wanted to make it as easy to use as possible, so they removed the “kick stand” that the original model Scenera had for changing the seat between rear-facing and forward-facing modes. They also added some cup holders because we Americans like to stuff things in cup holders and we pass that trait on to our wee ones. The only problem is with how they added the cup holders: they’re integrated into the shell on both sides of the seat so that it makes the seat very wide.

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

Cosco Scenera NEXT

Review: https://carseatblog.com/36106/

Cosco Scenera Next - stock

Who it’s designed for: infants and toddlers
Who it fits: infants and toddlers
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-40” or 1” from top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-40 lbs. and at least 1 year old
Typical Sale Price: $34.88 (Walmart)

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Fits infants well
  • Installs very easily with both seat belt and lower LATCH connectors
  • Can be installed more upright rear-facing for older babies and toddlers who can sit up unassisted
  • Narrow
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Single continuous harness strap
  • Low top harness slots means seat will be outgrown quickly in the forward-facing position
  • Can only use the 2 inner buckle positions when rear-facing
  • Tough to see recline line stamped into black plastic on side of seat

Basics and Measurements

  • 5 harness slots
  • 8 year expiration
  • FAA-approved
  • Harness slots: 5.5”, 7.5”, 9.5”, 11.5”, 13.5”
  • Buckle slots: 2.5”, 4”, 5.5”
  • Internal seat height: 24”
  • Seat pan depth: 11”
  • External widest width: 17 ¼”
  • Weight: 7.0 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: can use LATCH to maximum 40 lbs. weight limit

Comments

Scenera NEXT, how do I love thee? I can count the ways, but instead, I’ll install you over and over and over again just because it’s so fun. No really, I know we techs geekishly install carseats like gamers try out new video games, but the NEXT went into my MDX so easily the first time I almost thought I did something wrong. I shook the seat and my car shook. I switched to the seat belt and the same darn thing happened. The magic continued in our Tesla Model S. It’s a carseat designed more to be a rear-facing seat than a forward-facing seat because of its shortness, and its fantastic instruction manual says that the carseat can be installed more upright than the level line indicates for children who can sit upright unassisted.

The Scenera NEXT is currently a Walmart exclusive. It is compact and very lightweight, but it’s mighty and will make a terrific travel seat for infants and toddlers.

Scenera NEXT front Scenera NEXT back Scenera NEXT without cover  Scenera NEXT with Romeo Scenera NEXT side Scenera NEXT rear-facing Scenera NEXT forward-facing

Evenflo Sonus & Sonus 65

 

Who it’s designed for: infants, toddlers and older kids too
Who it fits: infants to older kids
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-40” and head 1” below top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: Sonus: 22-50 lbs. and at least 2 years old; Sonus 65: 22-65 lbs. and at least 2 years old
Typical Sale Price: Sonus $63.99 ; Sonus 65 $99.99

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Tall top harness slots
  • Fits infants well
  • Installs easily with lower LATCH connectors
  • Can use LATCH to RF weight limit of 40 lbs.; can use LATCH FF to 50 lbs.
  • Somewhat narrow
  • Buckle pockets (hold buckles out of the way while loading child)
  • Cover is well-paded and comfortable
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Single continuous harness strap
  • It’s a pain to move lower LATCH connectors between rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths
  • Single level line for rear-facing recline angle
  • Tough to see recline line stamped into black plastic on side of seat

Basics and Measurements

  • EPS foam
  • 6 year expiration
  • FAA-approved
  • Newborn loops to shorten harness length
  • Harness slots: 6.5″, 8.5″, 10.5″, 12.5″, 15”, 18”
  • Buckle slots: 3″, 4.25″
  • Internal seat height: 25″
  • Seat pan depth: 11″
  • External widest width: 18.5″
  • Weight: 11.3 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: can use LATCH to 50 lbs. forward-facing

Comments

Evenflo brings rear-facing to age 2 with the Sonus & Sonus 65; these are Evenflo’s first convertibles to mandate that kids need to be 2 years old before being able to be turned forward-facing. With 6 harness slots—4 able to be used rear-facing in the U.S. (3 RF for Canada), 3 forward-facing—there are plenty of harness slots for proper harness fit.

The Sonus is easy to install and use, just what you want with an inexpensive carseat. Out of the box, the LATCH strap is threaded through the forward-facing belt path, which is ridiculous if you’re the typical parent buying the seat for your under-age-2-child who still needs to rear-face. It’s one more way to either defeat a parent in installation or cause a misuse. In order to move the LATCH strap to the rear-facing belt path, the cover must be lifted from the seat and the LATCH strap threaded under the harness lap straps; you must be careful not to intertwine the straps. The white plastic strap holding the LATCH strap to the carseat grips the LATCH strap too tightly, making it tempting to just cut it off to free the LATCH strap from its imprisonment.

Differences between Sonus & Sonus 65: Sonus 65 has increased FF weight rating; additional recline wedge for rear-facing installation (making it less likely that you would need to add a pool noodle or rolled up towel to achieve the proper RF recline angle); cupholder liners that pop out for easy cleaning.

Look-a-like seats: Evenflo Stratos (same shell as Sonus 65, but with adjustable headrest and premium push-on latch connectors; Stratos MSRP $129.99)

    

 

Evenflo SureRide DLX

Review: https://carseatblog.com/36380/

Who it’s designed for: infants, toddlers and older kids too
Who it fits: infants to older kids
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-40” or 1” from top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-65 lbs. and at least 2 years old
Typical Sale Price: $79.99 (Amazon and elsewhere)

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Tallest top harness slots
  • Fits infants well
  • Installs easily with both seat belt and lower LATCH connectors
  • Love the tilt-lock LATCH strap and tether strap adjusters
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Single continuous harness strap
  • It’s a pain to move lower LATCH connectors between rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths
  • Single level line for rear-facing recline angle
  • Tough to see recline line stamped into black plastic on side of seat

Basics and Measurements

  • EPS foam
  • 6 harness slots (U.S.: 4 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing; Canada: 3 for RF, 3 for FF)
  • Newborn loops to shorten harness length
  • 6 year expiration
  • FAA-approved
  • Harness slots: 6.5”, 8.5”, 10.5”, 14.5”, 17”, 19.25”
  • Buckle slots: 4.5”, 6.5”
  • Internal seat height: 26.5”
  • Seat pan depth: 12.5”
  • External widest width: 19”
  • Weight: 9.7 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: 50 lbs.

Comments

The Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65 is an inexpensive convertible carseat that accomplishes a lot for the price. It has some of the tallest harness slots on the market—taller than some combination seats designed for preschoolers going into boosters. It’s lightweight, so it makes a great travel seat, and it installs easily. A bonus to its being so light is that it has a high forward-facing LATCH weight limit of 50 lbs. One big downside to the seat is the whacked method Evenflo makes users employ to move the LATCH strap from the forward-facing belt path to the rear-facing belt path. The cover must be lifted from the seat and the LATCH strap threaded under the harness lap straps; you must be careful not to intertwine the straps. The white plastic strap holding the LATCH strap to the carseat grips the LATCH strap too tightly, making it tempting to just cut it off to free the LATCH strap from its imprisonment. I did mention in the Pros section that I love the buckles on the LATCH and tether straps. The thumb press for the LATCH strap adjustor and tether tilt-lock buckles is larger than most, which makes it easy to loosen. It’s the little things that make me happy 🙂 .

Look-a-like seats: Evenflo Titan 65, Advanced Titan 65 with SensorSafe

Evenflo SureRide front Evenflo SureRide back Evenflo SureRide no cover Evenflo SureRide with Sam Evenflo SureRide RF side   Evenflo SureRide RF Evenflo SureRide FF

Evenflo Tribute

Who it’s for: infants and toddlers
Who it fits: infants and toddlers
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-37″ or 1” from top of seat shell
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-40 lbs. and at least 2 years old
Typical Sale Price: $49+, but price varies by cover

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Love the tilt-lock adjuster on the LATCH strap
  • Installs easily with both seat belt and lower LATCH connectors
  • Very narrow
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Single continuous harness strap
  • Low top harness slots means seat will be outgrown quickly
  • Crotch strap length not ideal for newborn
  • Pain to move lower LATCH connectors between rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths
  • Single level line for rear-facing recline angle
  • Usually requires pool noodle(s) or rolled up towel when installed rear-facing
  • Tough to see recline line stamped into black plastic on side of seat

Basics and Measurements

  • EPS foam
  • 4 harness slots: 8″, 10″, 12″ 14″
  • Newborn loops to shorten harness length
  • 2 crotch strap positions: 5″, 7″
  • Height to top of shell: 22.5″
  • Widest point: 17.5″
  • Weight: 9.2 lbs
  • 6 year expiration
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: can use LATCH to maximum 40 lbs. weight limit

Comments

Here, let me just copy/paste what I wrote about the LATCH strap in the comments section of the SureRide and Sonus: One big downside to the seat is the whacked method Evenflo makes users employ to move the LATCH strap from the forward-facing belt path to the rear-facing belt path. The cover must be lifted from the seat and the LATCH strap threaded under the harness lap straps; you must be careful not to intertwine the straps. The white plastic strap holding the LATCH strap to the carseat grips the LATCH strap too tightly, making it tempting to just cut it off to free the LATCH strap from its imprisonment. Whew. Saved me some typing there. But seriously, makes me want to poke my eyeballs out. Evenflo does employ the same easy-to-adjust tilt-lock buckle on the LATCH strap as on the SureRide, and the push-button buckle on the tether strap is also easy to adjust.

The Tribute has been around for 14 years. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it has low top harness heights and doesn’t fit newborns very well. If you’re not looking to use the seat for a newborn and don’t expect to use it for a child much past age 3, then you won’t be disappointed with the Tribute. It’s all about expectations.

Evenflo Tribute front Evenflo Tribute without cover Evenflo Tribute back Evenflo Tribute Romeo Evenflo Tribute side Evenflo Tribute FFEvenflo Tribute RF

Safety 1st Guide 65

guide65

Who it’s designed for: infants to preschoolers
Who it fits: older infants to preschoolers
Rear-facing weight limits: 5-40 lbs.
Rear-facing height limits: 19-40”
Forward-facing weight limits: 22-65 lbs. and at least 1 year of age
Forward-facing height limits: 29-49”
Typical Sale Price: $89.99

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Tall top harness slots
  • Installs easily with both seat belt and lower LATCH connectors
  • Narrow
  • Can be installed more upright rear-facing for older babies and toddlers who can sit up unassisted
  • Made in the USA

Cons

Basics and Measurements

  • EPS foam
  • 5 harness slots (4 for rear-facing, 3 for forward-facing)
  • 10 year expiration
  • FAA-approved
  • Harness slots: 9.5”, 11.5”, 13.5”, 15.5”, 17”
  • Buckle slots: 3.25”, 4.5”, 6”
  • Internal seat height: 24”
  • Seat pan depth: 11.5”
  • External widest width: 18.5”
  • Weight: 11.3 lbs.
  • LATCH anchor weight limits: 40 lbs.

Comments

The Guide 65 is a lightweight, narrow carseat that makes traveling easy. It will NOT fit a newborn or small baby well, so don’t plan on using this carseat for the younger crowd because the bottom harness slots are pretty high. An advantage of the Guide 65 is that is has 2 rear-facing recline levels based on the child’s weight (5-22 lbs. and 22-40 lbs.). This means an older, heavier child can be more upright, just when the child wants to be more upright and see more outside the car window. Unfortunately, the harness is tough to loosen and tighten. It is a single strap harness, so you can adjust it once to fit your child, then pull on one side to loosen it to put your child’s arm in, pull the other side to put the other arm in, then even both sides out and buckle. The headrest adjusts separately, so you must adjust it as your child grows. Please don’t be *that* parent who forces their child to endure the headrest being halfway down their back.

Look-a-like seats: Eddie Bauer XRS 65

Safety 1st Guide 65 front Safety 1st Guide 65 tall Safety 1st Guide 65 without coverSafety 1st Guide 65 back Safety 1st Guide 65 Romeo Safety 1st Guide 65 RF +22Safety 1st Guide 65 RF +22-2

Good for Flying Good for Small Cars Rear-Facing Distinguishing Features
Cosco Apt greenbeetle
  • Very wide
  • Scooped plastic back
  • Lightweight
Cosco Scenera NEXT airplane greenbeetle
  • Scooped plastic back
  • Lightweight
Evenflo Sonus airplane
  • Tall harness slots
  • Lightweight
Evenflo SureRide DLX airplane
  • Tall harness slots
  • Lightweight
Evenflo Tribute airplane
  • Slim profile
  • Lightweight
Safety 1st Guide 65 airplane greenbeetle
  • Headrest moves independently from the harness slots
  • Lightweight

 

For more information on flying with kids and carseats please see our previous articles on the subject:

Recommended Carseats for Airplane Travel

Flying with a Car Seat? Know Your Rights!

Flying with Kids & Carseats – the checked carseat controversy

Lap Babies on Airplane – A Warning All Parents Must See

Airplanes, Carseats, and Kids—What You Need to Know 

Updated May 1, 2017