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The Safest All-in-One Carseats? New 2017 Crash Protection Ratings & Methods from Consumer Reports

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Graco Milestone, Graco 4Ever & Evenflo Symphony with SureLATCH top the All-in-One ratings from Consumer Reports

3 years ago Consumer Reports implemented a new, more rigorous crash test for carseats and started releasing the results of their ratings to subscribers. CR’s goal in creating the new test wasn’t to recreate the wheel. We know every carseat on the market here in the U.S. must be able to pass a basic frontal crash test (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213), therefore we consider all carseats on the market to be “safe” because they can all pass this baseline test. However, we also know that all carseats are NOT created equal and it would be naive to assume that they all provide exactly the same levels of protection.

Consumer Reports set out to find which seats provide additional margins of safety, above and beyond FMVSS 213, and so they developed their new crash test to be more rigorous than the federal standards. Their crash test ratings scale will indicate a “BASIC,” “BETTER,” or “BEST” rating to indicate how well the child restraint performed as compared with the rest of the seats in that “peer group” category. One main focus of this new crash test is head protection, since head injuries are very common in crashes, even among properly restrained children.

This crash test was designed by an automotive safety engineer and peer-reviewed by an independent crash testing expert with 40 years of experience in the field. Testing is performed at an independent, outside testing facility. This test utilizes an actual contemporary vehicle seat (a 2010 Ford Flex 2nd row seat) with a floor below it, unlike the government test which has a 70’s era back seat bench with no floor. There’s a “blocker plate” (pictured above) installed in front of the test seat to simulate the front seat in a vehicle. The blocker plate is intended to recreate the interaction that happens in real life crashes when the child or the carseat interacts with the back of the front seat. In addition, the speed of this test is set at 35 mph (instead of 30 mph which is standard in FMVSS testing). Those who follow vehicle ratings will recognize the 35 mph speed as the same speed used to crash vehicles in the NCAP program. CR’s new test applies 36% more energy to carseats than their old test protocol and a more severe test results in a greater distinction among carseat performance.

Consumer Reports crash tested 14 All-in-One models in up to 7 configurations, both forward-facing and rear-facing, with various dummy sizes, using LATCH or a 3-point seatbelt.  Several models that received a “BEST” rating for crash protection are also on our Recommended Carseats List. We recommend the Graco Milestone, Graco 4Ever and Evenflo Symphony DLX/Elite with SureLATCH because of their ease of use and fit-to-child in all 3 modes (rear-facing, forward-facing & booster).

  

In addition to the Crash Protection Rating, Consumer Reports still gives each model an overall numeric “Score.”  This is based in part on the Crash Protection Rating and also other more subjective factors, such as ease-of-use and fit-to-vehicle in various modes.

Top Performers in the All-in-One Category

Britax G4.1 Convertibles vs. Britax ClickTight Convertibles: A Basic Comparison

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Britax has had two lines of convertibles—the G4.1s and the ClickTights— for 3 years now and there are still many questions about the similarities and differences between the two. Let’s compare them and see what makes each convertible line its own and which one may be best for you and your child.

  

Similarities Between G4.1 Convertibles and ClickTight Convertibles
Both G4.1 and ClickTight convertible lines are outgrown rear-facing when the child’s head reaches 1” from the red adjuster handle on the headrest when it’s fully extended.
Both G4.1 and ClickTight convertible lines have the rubber HUGS on the harness (exception is the Roundabout)
 
Both convertible lines have RF weight limits of 5-40 lbs.
Both convertible lines have FF weight and height limits* of 20-65 lbs. and 49” or less (*exception is the Roundabout G4.1 which has a FF weight limit of 20-55 lbs. and height limit of 46” or less)
Both sets of convertibles have built-in lockoffs: the G4.1s have color-coded clip-style lockoffs, while the ClickTight panel serves as a lockoff
Both convertible lines have smooth bases with grippy rubber edges
 Both convertible lines are steel-reinforced. The bars are more visible on the G4.1 line.
© www.CarseatBlog.com

 

Differences Between G4.1 Convertibles and ClickTight Convertibles
The G4.1 line has a black shell and visible steel bars on the sides The ClickTight line has a white shell with the ClickTight panel that opens to reveal the belt paths
Britax Boulevard with ARB  
LATCH installation with the G4.1s is super easy for 2 reasons: 1. G4.1 has deluxe push-on LATCH connectors, and 2. Each LATCH strap is connected separately to the steel bars on the side, so pulling the straps tight is very easy. ClickTights are designed to be installed with the seat belt and the lower LATCH connectors are the hook-on style and hidden in a compartment on the back of the base to discourage owners from using LATCH
G4.1 top harness slots are about 1.5” lower than the ClickTight seats and overall seat height is about 1.5” shorter while seats are about 1” wider
G4.1 convertibles have 1 recline for rear-facing, but the recline can be tweaked per the manual ClickTight convertibles have a greater recline range for both rear-facing and forward-facing
G4.1s CAN be installed with Ford Motor Company inflatable seat belts after lower LATCH connector weight limit is reached ClickTights CANNOT be installed with Ford Motor Company inflatable seat belts after lower LATCH connector weight limit is reached
G4.1: the date of manufacture (DOM) and model information sticker is on the plastic shell by the child’s left shoulder ClickTight: the date of manufacture (DOM) and model information sticker is under the child’s left knee on the ClickTight panel, under the cover
© www.CarseatBlog.com

We also have more information about how the G4.1 and ClickTight models fit in your vehicle rear-facing in our Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison article. You can also compare individual seats against each other by using our comparison tool.

May 2017 Carseat Deals, Stroller Sales & Coupon Codes

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Deals Tracker: We find the lowest prices on carseats, strollers and other baby gear in May, 2017. Bookmark us and check back frequently for the latest bargains and promo code offers!

We’re the deal experts so we know where the really good deals are on the stuff consumers actually want to buy.

This list will be updated anytime we see a great deal or promotion code below recent average prices, so you don’t have to wade through dozens of normally priced models to find the bargains. You can help us (and your fellow shoppers) by leaving us a comment if you find a deal on a carseat, booster or popular stroller that isn’t posted yet. We recommend that you bookmark this post, as we will update it regularly throughout the holiday season! If we see a bargain price on a popular model from our Recommended Carseats List, like the Britax Frontier, Britax Boulevard ClickTight, Chicco NextFit, Graco 4Ever, Diono Radian, Maxi-Cosi Pria, Clek Foonf or Clek Fllo, we’ll update as soon as possible!

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 out 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 also share* our links to AmazonAlbee Baby, Diapers.comTarget.com, Walmart.com, Kohl’s, BuyBuyBaby and BabiesRUs.

Select Editors’ Picks:

These carseats may not be on sale right now, but are among our Editor’s Picks and are reader favorites, too. For current deals, please scroll to the next section.

Chicco KeyFit30   Graco SnugRide 40 - Fern

Infant Carseat (Rear-Facing Only) Deals:

Indicates a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat

Cosco Light N Comfy DX in “Rainbow Dots” for $42.99  

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 in “Chili Red” for $98.83 (15% Off)

Graco SnugRide 30/35 LX Click Connect Base (with lockoff) for $26.75 

Graco SnugRide SnugLock Click Connect Base for $38.99 LOW STOCK

Safety 1st Onboard 35 AIR in “Estate” for $86.99  LOW STOCK

Britax Boulevard CT - splash Graco 4Ever -azalea

Convertible & All-in-One Deals:

Indicates a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat

Britax Roundabout G4.1 in Dash or Luna for $135.99 LOW STOCK 

Britax ClickTight Anti-Rebound Bar Accessory for $32.00 (20% Off)

Chicco NextFit in Purple for $224.99 DEAL ENDED

Clek Fllo or Foonf Clearance in Capri 15% OFF

Cosco Apt 50 in “Kimba Giraffe” for $47.99 

Cosco Scenera NEXT from $34.88 

Diono Radian RXT in Storm for $239.99 DEAL ENDED

Diono Radian R100 in Black Mist for $187.99 DEAL ENDED

Evenflo Sonus in select fashions from $58.99 

Evenflo SureRide in “Paxton” from $69.49  

Graco 4Ever All-in-One in Cougar for $211.30  BACK ORDER

Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit in “Jodie” for $215.08 SOLD OUT 

Graco Extend2Fit in select fashions for $158.99  (20% Off)

Graco Milestone All-in-One in “Gotham” or “Ayla” for $183.99 ☆ 

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Special Edition in “Red” for $204.99  LOW STOCK

Nuna Rava for $449.95 ☆ (Free Shipping and returns)

Safety 1st Continuum in “Hollyhock” for $89.99 PRIME ONLY

Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 in select fashions from $135.99 

Safety 1st Guide 65 in “Seaport” from 59.99 PRIME ONLY 

Britax Frontier CT - kaleidoscope Evenflo Maestro - Keller

Combination Seat Deals:

(forward-facing with harness + booster) 

Indicates a CarseatBlog Recommended Carseat

Evenflo Maestro in “Thunder” or “Taylor” for $63.99  (25% Off) 

Evenflo SecureKid DLX in “Grayson” $89.99 

Graco Atlas in “Glacier” for $98.99 

Harmony Defender in “Moonrise” for $86.40 

Graco Affix Evenflo Amp - blue flames

Booster Deals:

Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit All-in-One: Rear-Facing Space Comparison

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One of our most popular blogs is the Rear-Facing Space Comparison where we rate convertible seats based on the amount of room they take up in my vehicle compared with other seats in the group.

I was eager to add the new Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit to the comparison but I knew this was going to be more work than usual based on the many rear-facing installation options you have with this particular seat. This seat has 4 recline positions on the base that can be used to achieve an acceptable rear-facing recline position as per the angle indicator. The angle indicator is a liquid bubble level that has to be in the range of the blue line shown on the window. 4Ever Extend2Fit also has Graco’s unique 4-position legrest extension feature (truthfully there are 3 extension positions, the first position is fully retracted) AND the coveted 50 pound rear-facing weight limit.

 

I summarized my findings in the space comparison ratings but I wanted to supplement that information with the full scope of my conclusions here.

I started with the 4Ever Extend2Fit in base position #1 (most reclined), no legrest extension, head rest flush with shell. This is how the seat would be installed for a newborn or younger baby. I gained 3.5″ of room (based on the worst performing seat in the peer group). This measurement translates into a “B” rating in the comparison.

 

 

Base position #2 (more upright), no legrest extension, head rest flush with shell. This is how the seat might be installed for an older baby who has good head and neck control and can tolerate being seated in a more upright position. In this position I gained 4″ of room. This is a B+ rating in the comparison.

 

 

Base position #3 (very upright), no legrest extension, head rest fully extended. In this position the bubble level was outside of the acceptable range for rear-facing. This was NOT an acceptable installation as per the angle indicator so I’m not counting it. However, for those who are curious, it only gave me an extra half inch of room beyond what I got with the base in position #2. My measurement with the seat in this position was +4.5″ of space.

 

 

At this point, it seemed likely to me that you would only be able to use 2 of the 4 base positions in any particular vehicle to achieve an acceptable recline angle in the range allowed. But as I found out when I started to install using the legrest extension, the recline angle can change when you start to use this feature. More on that in a little while.

I went back to base position #2, extended the legrest 1 notch, head rest is still fully extended. Because I’m using the legrest extension now, I’m starting to lose space. Now I have +3.5″ (which is what I had with the seat fully reclined reclined in position #1 and no legrest extension). Again, this rates a “B” in the comparison.

 

Here we are in the same #2 base position, with the legrest fully extended and the head rest fully extended. As you can see, it’s taking up a LOT of space now. At this point I’m measuring a gain of only 1″ (based on the biggest space hogs in the peer group). In the comparison, this is a C- rating.

However, I was surprised to see the bubble level indicator in the middle of the blue line range now. When I installed using the same #2 base position without using the legrest extension, the bubble was much closer to the end of the allowable range. This made me wonder if I could get an acceptable installation using recline position #3 on the base with the legrest panel fully extended…

 

 

Final installation: Base position #3, legrest fully extended, head rest fully extended.  The liquid bubble is on the most upright end of acceptable range but it is within the range. I picked up a extra half inch of space with the base in position #3. The measurement is now +1.5″ which is a little better but still rates a C- in the comparison.

 

The other thing to keep your eye on when using the legrest extension feature is the amount of overhang allowed. When you start extending the legrest panel you increase the space between carseat and the vehicle seat and that positions the base closer to the edge of the vehicle seat cushion. Thankfully, Graco put a little blue sticker label on the edge of the base to show what the acceptable amount of overhang is. Overhang past that blue line is NOT acceptable. Too much overhang could be an issue in backseats with shallow cushions (e.g., Jeep Wranglers, some compact cars, extended cab pickup trucks, etc.). Luckily, you don’t have to use the legrest extension so you can just ignore that option if overhang becomes an issue.

 

Summary:

The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit is a versatile 4-in-1 product with a 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit and a very unique legrest extension feature. You may use base positions 1, 2, 3 or 4 to achieve an appropriate RF recline angle as per the angle indicator but don’t expect that all 4 positions will yield an appropriate recline position in your vehicle. You may use any of the legrest panel positions rear-facing without restriction. The only rules are: make sure your recline angle is in the allowable range and make sure you don’t have too much overhang of the base.

Having so many rear-facing installation options creates more potential for finding a suitable recline angle, giving your child some extra legroom and taking up less space in your vehicle. However, the reality is that once you start using the legrest extension feature, the seat definitely takes up more front-to-back space in the vehicle. I lost 2-3″ of space in my vehicle when I extended the legrest fully and that was using the more upright #2 & #3 recline positions. The seat would have taken up even more room if I had extended the legrest in the most reclined position.

Parents who are taller than average and/or driving vehicles with limited legroom in the backseat may find that they aren’t able to take advantage of the legrest extension feature without seriously compromising the space upfront for the driver or passenger. I found it interesting that in my vehicle the less expensive Graco Extend2Fit convertible actually takes up slightly less space without the legrest extension than the 4Ever Extend2Fit model. With the legrest fully extended, both seats had the same +1.5″ measurement.

Regular Extend2Fit convertible on left; 4Ever Extend2Fit on right

 

 

 

If front-to-back space is a big issue in your vehicle, and you don’t think that you will ever be able to take advantage of the legrest extension, then you might be better off with a different convertible seat since it doesn’t make sense to pay for a feature you won’t ever use. The original Graco 4Ever All-in-One, Graco Milestone All-in-One, Graco MySize 65 convertible & Graco Contender 65 convertible are all options that did better than average in our Rear-Facing Space Comparison but don’t have the Extend2Fit legrest feature.