We don't have a limited budget. And we drive a 4Runner SUV, so there's plenty of room. She's our only baby for now and we have her in the middle seat to best protect from side impacts. We'd like to keep her there, I think.
We've been looking at the Diono Radian. I'd like to get her the most comfortable seat since she has some sensory issues and has always hated being in the car seat. I don't think we want Britax given the comfort issues for tall kids that I've read about.
Also, my husband is a fire fighter with the car seat technician cert., so we're not really worried about ease of install. He's pretty seasoned.
Is there a seat that has everything that she'll need for the next however many years she's using it? For example, a functional booster seat. I'd rather not have to keep buying separate pieces.
Thanks for your help!
There is no seat that will get her *through* booster age, but there are several that will get her to booster age and then you'll just need a dedicated booster (depending on her age at the time, you might even only need a backless booster).
With her height, you definitely want one of the longer lasting rear-facing seats for height. Those include (least to most expensive):
Graco My Size 70/ Size4Me/ Headwise (they're the same basic seat with different fabrics and slightly different headwings on the Headwise). This is the *tallest* rear-facing seat currently on the market. It has a 40 pound rear-facing limit. It has had some issues with harness tightening (they've been good about replacements and refunds) but I think they're getting worked out. It runs $160-200 depending on the sale and location). Very easy install (my 11 year old installed it by himself correctly with no instructions, but he is very car seat savvy).
Diono Radians. R100 goes to 40 pounds rear-facing, R120 to 45, RXT to 45 and has headwings. This is the narrowest seat, so if you want another carseat next to it, or a passenger, it's a great choice. it sits lower than the other seats. With a child with good head control you can get an angle adjuster (about $10 on Amazon) that makes it sit more upright and take less back to front seat. It tethers rear-facing which is not shown to be any safer, but I know I enjoyed that on the Britaxes we've owned. Depending on the time and fabric choices these seats run $180-270. The Radians have the shortest shell of the four seats listed though they have a rear-facing height limit of 44" versus the 43" of the Foonf. That said, most kids will outgrow it well before 44" rear-facing: very long torsoed kids starting around 39", leggier kids starting around 42". If your daughter is long torsoed and you want to rear-face until 4, that could be problematic.
Chicco NextFit. VERY cushy seat. It's is almost directly between the Radians and the Graco in shell height. This seat and the Gracos will last even the tallest child rear-facing *based on height* until at least 4. Some people don't like the fabric (it's kind of a neoprene like material) but it is definitely squishy and seems comfortable. It has a no rethread harness (like the Gracos) so you never need to rethread the harness to adjust the height. The big advantage (IMO) of this seat is that it has 9 recline positions. Now, only certain ones will work in an individual vehicle BUT it means that you can get the exact perfect recline with basically any seats (some seats have a lot of recline already, some are totally flat--- this gives you the perfect angle no matter what vehicle you have). I really it's latch functionality as well. It runs $300 but I've seen it down to the $220s on a good sale.
Clek Foonf. Tall seat. It has a 50 pound rear-weight limit, which is vital for VERY heavy children and won't be used for most kids. The average 5 year old is 40 pounds, so most kids will be forward-facing before they hit 40 pounds. With it's 43" standing height limit, very tall children might not get the full four years (which they would get in the Nextfit which doesn't have the standing height limit or the Gracos). People like this because it is a STURDY seat and some of the fabrics are supposed to be super easy to clean. Foonfs retail at $400+ but they do go on sale for less than that. Personally, most people won't use the functionality (high weight limit) of the seat, but like the supposed safety advantages (no evidence).
I don't know how tall you are, but many shorter women with SUVs like the Radian because it has very low sides so kids are easier to get in. Conversely, some people don't like the Foonf because it sits so high that it can be hard for kids to get into (I consider the NextFit to be fairly high too).
Good luck! If you have a Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby (or a baby boutique) around you can try the seats out in your car. Getting a good install is of primary importance. Any of these seats, btw, will give more leg room than a Britax.
What are your thoughts on the all-steel frame in Diono? It seems like it should be safer, but i keep hearing that most car seats are "safe enough." Is there a seat that is considered the safest, or does it depend on the child, vehicle, quality of installation, etc.?
You mentioned head control related to the Diono angle adjuster. She's 10 months and seems to have great head and neck control. Do you just mean if the child is older than 4 or 5 months?
We live close to a few of those stores--good idea about trying them before buying. I'm excited to get DD into a more comfortable seat. Thanks again for your suggestions!
There is no evidence that the all steel frame is safer. It makes a lot of people *feel* safer, but I've heard arguments both ways--- that the all steel is safer AND that a more flexible material is better because it flows more with the force of the accident. Both pass all the tests, so getting a good install and a good fit is the most important.
Most 10 month olds are fine with the angle adjuster (though you may not need/ want one based on the angle of your seats). Originally they were rated at one year then Diono changed it to good head control, which most people interpret as sitting independently.
Just to be clear though, we have no idea which it is (or it could be BOTH and it's the middle of the road ones that are more dangerous). Right now there are only pass/ fail tests so we just can't know if one seat is safer than another. What we do know is that rear-facing as long as possible is safest, so a seat that will allow you to do that is safe :) Good luck!
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