February 14, 2012

DTQ: What's Your Car Seat, And How Is It?

You might not know it from around here, but being a dad's not all strung out Muppets, molded plywood and vintage station wagons.

Sometimes a guy just wants to know which infant car seat to get. Actually, two guys want to know that; both friends who are expecting their first kids in a matter of days and months.

So maybe you could help a brother out by saying what car seat you got, and why it does or doesn't work for you?

Ours was the Maxi-Cosi Cabrio, an EU model which was compatible from 0-15 months or so. [The closest thing available in the US is the Maxi-Cosi Mico.]

We loved it, because it was pretty light, had non-heinous fabric, and had adapters for our stroller. Also, it had this amazing nylon sunshade canopy that tucked out of sight.


Britax Companion (retired, unfortunately).

It's heavy as an Abrams tank but my God, that thing is SOLID. We didn't have any car accidents (knock on wood) but it's gotten dinged by some heavy stuff and our baby didn't even blink.

So, when she grew up we went with Britax Boulevard. We lugged it to an airplane and hit turbulence that had people screaming. Our girl? Slept through the entire ordeal.

I like to call it her throne.

I'd recommend the Britax line.

Since our cars rear seats are a bit tilted (BMW 7 series E32) we always had problems with fixing a car seat properly. Also there is no Isofix (do you have that in the US?) available.
So our first choice was using a Maxi cosi cradle (which could also be used on our mutsy stroller base) with a Maxi cosy easy base.
You buckle up the Easy Base and just Click on/Off the cradle. Very fast and usually the Little One doesnt wake up while getting him Out of the car. Also the base comes with a "leg", which gives it extra strength and no more unwanted movement of the seat when braking. This is Way more reliable than the Belt alone.
There is also a version of the base with Isofix.
The Base stays in the Car usually. Of course it is detachable as easy as a childs seat but that would be using it against its most useful feature. So you should have a dedicated Seat for the Little One and leave the Base there. Because the base is built so sturdy, its quite heavy. So taking it on a plane might also be difficult.
Over all this was a perfect solution for our first seat and I really recommend it.
If the Price Tag is a problem: the base is sturdy and simple. There should be no problem to buy a used one if it looks okay by visual inspection.
This is a solution for a newborn up to 9kg in Europe.

Our next seat now is a concord Absorber xt. We tried two other models with more regular shape but had to come back to a solution with a "Leg" because all the other seats were a bit too wobbly for my Taste (maybe because of our prior experience with the base).
Great Seat, the Little One can climb up into the seat by himself and understood this concept from Day one (two years old). Very sturdy because of the Leg. Belts for the child are fixed to the adjustable headrest so they are always in the right position. The Seat Looks great :-)
Because of the Leg it needs a Bit more floor Space than a normal Car Seat and you might have to move the front seat so there is little less Leg room on the Front seat but this is totally dependent on your Cars design. Maybe Not recomendable for a tiny car. Other than that the only con is the Price Tag. In Germany its on the Upper end of the scale, also because it was introduced only last year so there ist really a Last years model for a reduced price available.
Anyways that is what we are using now and Highly content with it.
Hope this is helpful...

It's worth noting that when we looked into buying a European car seat, we couldn't find anyone who would export it to the US.

We ended up with Graco Snugride for infants, which I disliked until I discovered that the seat cover from a Britax Roundabout will slip right on like it was made for it. A vast improvement, but still the seat was a poorly-built piece of crap. I'm surprised there hasn't been a blanket recall, actually.

Then, of course, into the Klek.

oh, I forgot: yes, ours was also the MAXI COSI CABRIO (CABRIOFIX actually, but I think that is the same). From the US-MaxiCosi site I'd say there is no identical seat. The model called MICO (the only one available for newborn-size) is identical to the European PEBBLE. Honestly I can't really tell the difference between PEBBLE and CABRIO. Both are working with the base we used, which is called EASY BASE. Maybe the Pebble has no adapters available for our MUTSY 4rider stroller?

I just had a look at the EU-site and there is also a newer base available which is called the FAMILYFIX. Sounds like an even better idea IF you have Isofix-connections in your car (you are -at least in Germany- not allowed to retrofit those to your car). If you DO have those, the FAMILYFIX base can be used longer than the EASYBASE, up to a childs age of 3,5 or 18kg (of course with another seat then). Since we dont have Isofix, this was no option for us, but I recommend that base over the EASYBASE if you do have the Isofix.

All of this unfortunately is rendered obsolete by availabilty from MaxiCosi US. So far neither the EASYBASE or the FAMILYFIX is listed on the US site.
I guess you could order them via web, though.

Went with a Graco Snugride. As new parents we got a fairly high end one. If I had to do it again I'd head strait to the bottom of the line which gets you exactly the same seat with less plush padding and fewer accessories (footmuff?). There are Snugride adapters for just about every stroller.
The world has changed a little in that now kids are supposed to stay rear facing longer (2 years). Don't know if that influences the decision but the higher weight capacity infant seats might last you the full 2 years. But they'll be bulkier and heavier during the first year when a smaller infant seat would do the trick.

The Orbit Baby line has been superb for our two kids. The rotating seats make buckling the kids in a breeze, and the fact that the seats fit into the stroller base is amazing. The one-handed folding trick of the base is cool too. No reservations about Orbit.

Bottom-end Graco Snugride for when each was little, then an ETFA which is now in Grandma's car. Our car currently has one Radian XT and one Complete Air. The Radian weighs a ton but feels really solid and rear-faces to 45lbs. Takes a lot of space front-to-back though, unless you get the angle adjuster (which is only for older kids I think).. The straps on the Complete Air fold keep folding over on themselves.

Graco Snugride from birth to 8 months or so, and then into a pair of Britax Roundabouts. The Britax is nice because it is small enough to rear face in many cars even behind a 6 ft tall driver (we do this in both an E61 5 series and a Mini Countryman).

The older kid has been in Maxi-Cosi Rody XT boosters for some time now.

The Roundabouts are coming up on their expiry date, unfortunately after kid 2 will be 1 but before he will be 2. I looked at the Radian and liked it, but it was impossible for us to get it to work rear-facing even behind the *passenger* seat. If I have to buy another rear facing seat, it'll probably be the Maxi Cosi Priori. Otherwise, I might go with the Recaro ProRide.

My biggest gripe is that there is just no...freaking...way to get three of any of the seats we've got in the back seat of our giant BMW station wagon. Lame.

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