Adventures (may I call you Adventures?) writes:
You are so pretty!!! I have a question for you. I think you’ll know exactly what I need since you have little ones, too. My 7 month old is getting pretty tall for her infant seat. She will inherit my 2 year olds convertible car seat that he is currently using. We’ll need a new seat for my 2 year old. This is where the problem lies. Car seats for 2 year olds and up are CRAZY EXPENSIVE. He is almost 30 lbs (I can put rocks in his pockets for some extra poundage), and about 36 inches tall. One seat that I looked at and thought was pretty good was $100. (Britax Parkway). Is there anything less expensive, without skimping on safety and quality? I would like to use it for my 7 month old when she needs it in the future.
Thanks so much, and I LOVE this site!
I’d never thought of that rocks-in-the-pockets thing, but that’s a great tip! Thanks! Heh. Okay, let’s get back to your question, which is essentially this: How do you get the safest carseat for the least amount of money?
Let’s start with a bit of rudimentary car safety, shall we? Repeat after me: Your son is too little for a booster seat. Your son is too little for a booster seat. Rocks in the pockets are not a suitable substitute for weight, and—in this case—age. The average two-year-old (not that I don’t believe yours is exceptional, because I’m sure he is) is too wiggly to be trusted in a regular car seatbelt, even if he’s large enough to meet booster seat requirements. And see above; your son isn’t big enough yet, anyway. You still want a 5-point harness restraint system for him. It will make it easier for him to fall asleep in the car, and it will be your safest option.
Some seats allow you a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds, even, but at a minimum, please please please stay with a 5-point harness until 40 pounds.
(“But Mir,” some reader is imploring, “my ten-year-old is tiny, and he’s still just 39 pounds. Do I keep him in a 5-point harness?” To this I say: Yes. Ideally, that is. Kids vary in size, but until 40 pounds, a 5-point restraint is safest. As a kid gets older, do you stick to the ideal? That’s a decision each family has to make for themselves.)
Now, having said that: I realize that most manufacturers of booster seats rate them as starting at 30 pounds, despite the AAP recommendation that children remain in a toddler convertible seat until 4 years or 40 pounds, whichever comes last. It’s not that I’m unaware that this happens.
I just happen to think it’s crappy, irresponsible marketing.
Look, if you have one of those tiny kids (and I feel your pain, I do, because I have one, myself), you may find yourself with a 6-year-old who hasn’t crested the 40-pound mark, yet. And do I think your 38-pound 6-year-old is going to die in a booster seat? No. That’s a case where you’re really close and said child is going to weep with consternation at being the only 1st grader still in a toddler seat, and you cheat a little. I get that.
But don’t cheat with a 2-year-old. Particularly if you had to fill his pockets to get to the weight minimum.
[Wow, aren’t you glad I don’t have strong opinions about anything?]
So, what does this mean for you? This means you’re shopping for a second convertible seat, or—if you want to get the best bang for your buck, here—a so-called toddler/youth seat, which has both a 5-point restraint and later converts to a beltless booster.
- I start every important purchase with a review of the appropriate Consumer Reports buying guide.
- I also like this AAP Guide for Families which gives a great feature/price rundown of many popular models.
- I can tell you what seat I’d buy, or what seat would work for me, but the truth is that the biggest variable in which carseat will be the safest is what car you drive. Not all seats work in all cars. Save time and money by checking to see which seats will fit in your car before you buy.
Now, let’s talk about specific products. The good news is that, yes, there are plenty of perfectly serviceable carseats which are going to be cheaper than comparable Britax seats. Britax is one of the gold standards in carseats; they consistently pull in the highest safety ratings, they are stylish and comfortable, and if you can afford one, good on ya. The problem, of course, is that they tend to be very pricey. (This was how I immediately knew you were talking about a booster seat; the price tipped me off.)
Do you need a Britax? I don’t think so, no.
The bad news is that you wanted something cheaper than $100, and if you want a toddler/youth convertible seat (which, again, I think would be your most logical choice at this point, as it would be the last seat you’d have to buy for your son), I think you’re looking at around $100. You may be able to find something cheaper, on sale, but consider that your price point.
Is it absolutely essential that you go cheaper? Well, you can buy yourself a second convertible seat for closer to $50, but then you need to go back and buy a booster, later on. Spend it now or spend it later; it depends on your goals.
I can tell you what I did, but please help yourself to that 5-pound sack of salt over there while I do. What worked for us may not work for you. I tend to spawn tall, skinny children. This results in a child who is too tall for a convertible seat (shoulders must remain below the highest belt slots) long before she is heavy enough for a booster. After doing some research I settled on the Century NextStep, which gets decent safety ratings, is suitable for tall skinnies, and can usually be found for under $100 if you follow sales. That’s what worked for us.
One final point, which should go without saying: Never, ever buy a used carseat. This is an essential safety item. Buy it new; no exceptions. (In my state it’s actually illegal to resell carseats.) A carseat that’s been in a crash is now garbage, and there’s no way to know if a used seat has been crashed. Also, a seat over 10 years old is useless. Will you know how old a used seat is? Nope. (Other items you must buy new: bike helmets and underwear. Just sayin’.)
As always, there isn’t any “right” answer. Do your research. Compare products. Keep in mind that once you’ve found the model you want, just like mattresses, the manufacturers tend to change the fabrics every year—you may be able to get last year’s model on clearance if you keep a sharp eye out.
Happy shopping, and don’t let me see that kid in a booster until he’s at least 4, y’hear?