A lesson to all you soon-to-be-moms out there, or those of you with young babies. Carseats are not cheap. And if there’s a negative review somewhere in the universe about a certain carseat, don’t ignore it and think that same problem won’t happen to you.
When my son was still a fetus growing in my womb, we bought out first carseat, a Graco Snugride 35. Loved the pattern, loved that it said it would go up to 35 lbs., loved the price (clearance), loved the idea that I could use it for a second child down the road. I was wrong. First off, a carseat may say it goes to 35 lbs., but you have to look at height of child, width of child, and consider if you really want to be toting around a portable carseat that weighs around 15 lbs. with a 35 pound baby/toddler in it. By the time my son was 6 mos. old, he simply weighed too much for me to carry around the portable carseat anymore. Sure, we could have just left it in the car, but that didn’t solve the fact that my son’s head was nearing the top of the height limit. So, we went on to buy another one. we may not be able to use the carseat again–our kids will be 4+ years apart. And low and behold, carseats expire after about 4-9 years (from the manufacture date, which in the case of a clearance carseat, may be a year or two from when you purchased it).
Our second carseat was an Evenflo Titan Elite, a convertible carseat that was small and easy to put into my small Toyota Yaris. Fit great in the Yaris rear-facing and it was relatively cheap with fairly high safety ratings. I thought it would easily last until my son was in a booster. Wrong again. It says you can use it for kids up to 47″ tall and up to 50 lbs. Well, I wish that had been the truth. Weight-wise, this is completely true. But, my son has a long torso for his height. My mother still has a Titan Elite in her car because she only takes my son on occasion–that will be changing soon as his head is a good 2 inches above the seat now. I had to switch it out last year when my son was only around 20 months old because I noticed he was approaching the “1 inch below the top of the seat” rule. So, it was time for yet another carseat.
After doing thorough research, or at least what I thought was thorough, I chose the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1. My thought on this one was that it’s essentially a booster with a 5-point harness, so in theory, it should have lasted my son until he no longer needs a booster seat. It quite possibly will last that long, but one big problem–the red button that unlocks the harness sticks. Yes, one year after installing the seat, my son became stuck in the seat. It took me 20 minutes to get him out. We have WD-40′d the button and it seems to be working, so we may pass it on to my parents to replace their Titan Elite if we can get it functioning consistently again, but it will not be used on a regular basis in my car. There’s nothing worse than the thought of having my son trapped in the car in the event of a car fire, explosion, or other emergency. For the record, there have been multiple instances of this happening in reviews of the product. I foolishly thought it was rare and wouldn’t happen to us. When will I learn my lesson? Oh, on another note, my son has always been able to undo the top part of the harness on his own (he knows now to put it back together, but I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull over the first 6 months after we got the thing). So we have a top that comes off easily and a bottom that won’t ever come undone, even with superhuman strength. Erm…
So, the latest we’re trying is the Evenflo Securekid 400. I haven’t found any bad reviews, it looks good, and the harness looks to be in good working order. Let’s hope this is the last one. I somehow doubt it.
On the other hand, we have the plan we used with my husband’s car. When the infant seat got too small, we went straight to the Evenflo Truimph LX, which would have fit into a Yaris just as easily as it fit into his Corolla, but looked bulkier. It is bulkier, to be fair. But guess what? My son still fits comfortably into it at almost 3 years old and we really won’t have to replace it with another seat until he’s in a booster.
Moral of the story? Do some research. Don’t buy what’s cheapest or what will look best in your car. Buy what will function and last, unless of course you have a ton of money to waste. I know a lot of people will say “just go buy a Britax” or something along those lines. Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Britax or any other higher end brand. But it does need to function. All carseats have their faults and no seat is perfect. Reviews help a lot, as does understanding that weight and height limits listed on a box are not always what they seem if your kid has a long torso or wide frame. For our next child, we will be buying a reasonably-priced infant seat and expecting to replace it with something similar to the Triumph LX, and a booster after that. It will be much more cost-effective than the mistakes I’ve made in my car.