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  1. #1
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    Convertible Confused

    I know that the best car seat is the one that fits and is installed properly, and that safety ratings are released. So, I'm having hard time deciding exactly to choose.

    ~ Why are some seats so much more expensive, if higher cost doesn't mean higher safety?
    ~ Are some things just gimmicky (like the Britax Advocate's Side Impact Cushion Technology)?
    ~Do headwings offer side impact protection, or a fixed object that can hurt the child's head if he hits it in a collision? (I know there's no ratings for SIP ratings.)
    ~Does car seat weight and materials (steel vs. plastic) matter?

    My son is small at 15 months, so he'll be able to extend RF no problem. But to spend the money, I'd like it to work out when he does FF. We have a Honda and an Acura, so we are limited in LATCH and tether weight limits.

    I'm also concerned about chemicals (flame retardants) ... Diono, Foonf, Orbit, maybe Britax use the alternatives.

    Finally, we need a decent seat to travel with & be able to install in a variety of cars. Is leaving a heavier, more expensive seat at home compromising safety since an accident can happen anywhere?

    Thank you! I've already learned so much and hope to get a little more direction.

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  3. #2
    CPS Fanatic MommyShannon's Avatar
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    I think carseats are kind of like running shoes. They can cost a lot or a little, but all work as shoes. Some are more comfortable, made of better materials, are more functional, or look cooler. They all still work, but may rub your foot wrong. The "rubbing" to me with carseats can be twisty straps, difficult buckles, less padding, harder install, lower quality fabric, etc. I don't think headwings are pointless. There are some videos of side impact tests and deeper seats (MyRide) or ones with big headwings definitely appeared to do better. If you have side airbags or the seat will always be in the middle, that may not make a big difference. I personally prefer some seats for rf and others for ff, but I've been able to hand the seats down so that hasn't been a problem financially.
    ~Shannon
    DD (11.5) Seatbelt; DS (9) Incognito; DD2 (7) Britax Parkway; DD3 (4.5) Graco Nautilus


  4. #3
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered (akp) View Post

    ~ Why are some seats so much more expensive, if higher cost doesn't mean higher safety?
    ~ Are some things just gimmicky (like the Britax Advocate's Side Impact Cushion Technology)?
    ~Do headwings offer side impact protection, or a fixed object that can hurt the child's head if he hits it in a collision? (I know there's no ratings for SIP ratings.)
    ~Does car seat weight and materials (steel vs. plastic) matter?

    I'm also concerned about chemicals (flame retardants) ... Diono, Foonf, Orbit, maybe Britax use the alternatives.

    Finally, we need a decent seat to travel with & be able to install in a variety of cars. Is leaving a heavier, more expensive seat at home compromising safety since an accident can happen anywhere?
    I think MommyShannon makes some excellent points.

    I'd like to add that while we don't have federal standards (or really any standards) regarding side impact protection, please keep in mind a few things. Being in a properly used harnessed seat provides significant "side impact protection" b/c the child is restrained inside the body of the carseat AND the car. Rear facing offers even more significant side impact protection, b/c the child's whole body, including their head, is better contained w/in the shell of the carseat in a crash--the head is less exposed to flying objects and objects that intrude into the car. Obviously, if the carseat is installed in the center of the vehicle, it's further from intruding objects than when installed outboard. Those head wings have not shown to cause more injuries--the seats would not be approved for sale if in testing the headwings proved to be a "fixed object" that could hurt a child. If that were the case, cars would have to have built -n harnesses w/nothing that touches the child on the sides (no plastic carseat). Those sides keep the child's body from moving more, esp their head. I do think headwings are valuable, esp forward facing, b/c the head flies forward in a crash--out of the protective shell of the carseat. Far better to hit an EPS foam lined piece of plastic 2 inches from the child's cheek, than a piece of intruding metal 4 inches or more away...that's just my own example. Many headwings have materials in them that are designed to crush or crumple--to pad the hit into it. Some are just plain plastic w/the seat pad over them, and I think that's okay, too. It still can help prevent their head from going further and stretching their neck, esp in a side impact or a rollover, which are the most dangerous crashes.

    I think the more expensive seats have added comfort and convenience features, as well as features the particular company thinks improve safety. And they might--we just don't know. All seats are safe if used properly, but it is possible that some of those added safety features may lessen injuries and risk of death in more severe crashes. I do believe that. If you afford a more expensive seat that has the features you want, by all means, go for it. If you can't, don't feel guilty. All those other seats will protect your child. And obviously, the best protection you can offer your kid beyond that is how you drive--carefully, with full attention on the road, in a well maintained vehicle (brakes, tires, etc, all in good repair).

    I don't think steel vs plastic really matters overall. It may be awesome in certain tragic accidents that are incredibly unlikely. I would not be swayed to choose one of these seats b/c of that feature, unless the rest of the seat would work well for us. Keep in mind the few seats on the market w/a steel frame (Radian, Graco Nautilus & Argos, ??) are often heavier than other seats, so for some people that can make moving the seat around much more difficult and make installs a bit tougher. Not worth it if that's the case. Most seats have an all-plastic frame. Note that they've been around like this for years.

    Re: flame retardant chemicals. All seats must have some kind of flame retardant, like mattresses. I nursed my kids till they were toddlers and beyond, fed them organic foods, used cloth diapers, etc. And I do believe that flame retardants can be harmful, BUT keep in mind you can wash the cover and it will reduce the amount of chemical outgassing AND your child isn't naked in the carseat absorbing them thru his skin. Even if he was naked, they still don't leach into the skin that easily. If they did, there'd be no point in applying them b/c they'd dissipate too fast. Also keep in mind that those same flame retardants buy your kid time in a crash that involves fire. Even what seems like a "minor" 3rd degree burn can send your kid to a burn unit hundreds of miles from your home for months. Sad reality.

    Yes, accidents can and do happen anywhere, in any vehicle. You buy the seat that best fits your kid, your car, your needs, and your budget. And it's okay if budget varies by vehicle and use. If Grandma only will be driving your son once or twice a month and she needs an easy seat to use and she can only afford to spend $60-100, then you go with that. There's plenty of seats available that will meet those requirements. If more $$ is available and you think a more expensive seat actually meets her needs better, than do that. The seat is useable for 6-10 yrs, depending on the seat. It's pennies per day overall. Sometimes, the "cheaper" seat goes in the parents vehicle b/c that's what works best and grandma has the more expensive easier to use by her seat. Do what works for your family. What matters most is that your child is buckled in properly and rearfacing right now. The rest is just gravy.
    henrietta
    former CPST & Mom extraordinaire of 2 rowdy little boys & 1 spunky girl toddler, among hundreds of other skills!
    #1, age 9.5, Harmony Literider or Transit backless booster, occasional Safety First Incognito
    #2, age 6.5, Cybex Xfit booster/Harmony folding travel booster/Evenflo hbb
    #3 age 15 months, Britax Advocate CT/Combi Cocorro

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  6. #4
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    And fwiw, parent to parent, it gets easier to make these decisions and feel secure in them as time passes. He's still your brand new baby and your first time around. Buying a carseat and using it correctly is a big decision, but please don't stress yourself too much over it.

    What seats are you most interested in? How many do you need? What do you prefer to spend per seat?

    And last thought--if a family needs the child to ride in multiple cars often and there's a strict budget, I'd rather see a less expensive carseat purchased for each vehicle than one expensive one that everyone passes around. Quick, rushed installs can equal serious errors. It's better that the seat be installed and used properly.

    Lighter weight, smaller seats may be easier for traveling by plane, so leaving the bigger, or heavier, or more expensive seat at home may sometimes be more practical, but sometimes the more expensive seats have easier install features that make taking them with you worth it (like lock offs for locking the seatbelt or a narrow base that makes installs easier in tight places).

    The Cosco Scenera and Evenflo Tribute and maybe the Sure Ride are good for traveling, as is the Radian b/c it folds. The Britax seats, Learning Curve/The First Years True Fit, Combi Coccoro, Graco MyRide, and Evenflo Triumph/Momentum/etc are known for easy installs.
    henrietta
    former CPST & Mom extraordinaire of 2 rowdy little boys & 1 spunky girl toddler, among hundreds of other skills!
    #1, age 9.5, Harmony Literider or Transit backless booster, occasional Safety First Incognito
    #2, age 6.5, Cybex Xfit booster/Harmony folding travel booster/Evenflo hbb
    #3 age 15 months, Britax Advocate CT/Combi Cocorro

  7. #5
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    Thank you! (I'm the original poster but wasn't signed in the first time.)

    My son mostly rides in my Honda Pilot. We won't be switching cars often.

    We've been trying out car seats, and have had a few issues with the RF install:

    - Radian RXT: Touches driver seat. With the angle adjuster, it moves (slips) entirely too much side to side.

    - Orbit Toddler seat: Can only be installed in the window seat because when installed in the center, the carseat's level indicates it is off in the opposite direction than a rolled towel would be needed. Would prefer to center install, at least until the next child comes along.

    - Britax Pavillion has installed the tightest so far. I had wanted one of the above two to work so that there would be more legroom for ERF (which we'll do anyway). Also, the chest clip easily slides up and down the "HUGS Chest Pads with SafeCell Technology."

    And a General installation question: Using lock-offs decreases the car seat's movement. However, is this true minimization of movement in the event of a collision?

    Thanks again!

  8. #6
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    Quote Originally Posted by coastgirl2 View Post
    And a General installation question: Using lock-offs decreases the car seat's movement. However, is this true minimization of movement in the event of a collision?
    Hi,

    Going to answer the lock off question first: the true purpose of the lock off is to lock the seat belt *pre crash* in cars that do not have retractors that can be manually locked (mostly older cars). It is a *bonus* that it can help position the car seat in more difficult installs (like ones where the shoulder belt is pulling the car seat towards one side or the other). ALL seat belts must be locked pre-crash..that's to keep the car seat from moving until the automatic locking retractor (ALR) kicks in. If they can't be locked someway, they cannot be used. And YES, absolutely, it is true that they lock the seat belt pre-crash IF they are used correctly. It is only split seconds b/t the collision and the ALR's kicking in. Have you ever been in a hurry and yanked your seat belt, only to find that it's "stuck"? OR slammed on the brakes and had your seatbelt lock on you? That's your ALR kicking in. Split seconds. So, lock offs and locking clips (little metal clip that comes w/carseats that do not have lock offs) don't have to be particularly sturdy, b/c they are for one time use, one crash, and if they break during that crash it's ok. They only have to hold for a split second (or a few).

    hths
    henrietta
    former CPST & Mom extraordinaire of 2 rowdy little boys & 1 spunky girl toddler, among hundreds of other skills!
    #1, age 9.5, Harmony Literider or Transit backless booster, occasional Safety First Incognito
    #2, age 6.5, Cybex Xfit booster/Harmony folding travel booster/Evenflo hbb
    #3 age 15 months, Britax Advocate CT/Combi Cocorro

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  10. #7
    Admin - CPS Technician LISmama810's Avatar
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    You've gotten great info so far, but I want to add my thoughts, too (some of which might reiterate what's already been said.)

    ~ Why are some seats so much more expensive, if higher cost doesn't mean higher safety?
    Cost doesn't necessarily mean higher safety, but it often means more expensive materials and/or comfort and/or ease-of-use features. It might mean steel over plastic, push-on LATCH connectors, extra foam, etc. It might mean more stylish fabrics or even simple marketing.

    ~ Are some things just gimmicky (like the Britax Advocate's Side Impact Cushion Technology)?
    There probably are features that don't do as much as they're hyped to, but I can't think of any touted features that don't offer at least reasonably believable benefits. I don't believe the Advocate's cushions are simply a gimmick. It seems logical that they would indeed absorb energy in the right kind of crash.

    ~Do headwings offer side impact protection, or a fixed object that can hurt the child's head if he hits it in a collision? (I know there's no ratings for SIP ratings.)
    I believe they probably do offer a benefit, though it's hard to say how much. Anything that keeps flying debris/crushed metal from a kid's head is a good thing. Moreover, limiting lateral motion of the head is really important to me, so the less a child's head can move, the better.

    ~Does car seat weight and materials (steel vs. plastic) matter?
    Probably, but it probably depends. Steel seems like it would be better, but it's possible that more flexible plastic could be better. What if the plastic absorbs forces while steel transfers forces onto the child? Or maybe the sturdiness of steel is a benefit. Or maybe it depends on things like the type of crash. In other words: We really don't know.

    I'm also concerned about chemicals (flame retardants) ... Diono, Foonf, Orbit, maybe Britax use the alternatives.
    A lot of people dismiss this concern, but it's actually a huge one for me, so I understand where you're coming from. Companies are stating to come around to using "less toxic" alternatives, but the fact is that SOMETHING has to be used. Historically, "better" alternatives have sometimes turned out to be even worse than what they were replacing, but hopefully we're at a point where "better" alternatives really are better.

    Orbit and Cybex claim not to use the most toxic chemicals. Britax and Graco announced that they were doing away with them, but I don know where they are in that process. I don't recall ever hearing anything about Diono.

    As to lockoffs, those tend to be a convenience feature. In a way that translates into safety because it makes it more likely for a seat to be installed correctly, but they aren't, in themselves, any more safe than locking the seatbelt in another approved way.

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  12. #8
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    Thanks!

    Would you prefer a center-install with a little motion (though less than 1"), or a very tight install in a side seat?

    I also have specific installation questions regarding the Radian, Foonf, Orbit, and Britax Pavilion. Should I post the questions in this thread or elsewhere?

  13. #9
    Admin - CPS Technician LISmama810's Avatar
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    I'd prefer an install in the center with less than an inch. That's considered acceptable and correct, and I believe studies have shown no difference in performance.

    If you have questions about specific seats it's probably best to start new threads so the titles will catch the eye of people who are familiar with them.

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  15. #10
    CPS Fanatic MommyShannon's Avatar
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    What do you mean about the chest clip on the Britax? It is meant to slide within the HUGS to position it correctly.
    ~Shannon
    DD (11.5) Seatbelt; DS (9) Incognito; DD2 (7) Britax Parkway; DD3 (4.5) Graco Nautilus

  16. #11
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    My internet went out when I was doing this reply...so I saved it for you. Here it is:

    Quote Originally Posted by coastgirl2 View Post
    We've been trying out car seats, and have had a few issues with the RF install:

    - Radian RXT: Touches driver seat. With the angle adjuster, it moves (slips) entirely too much side to side.

    - Orbit Toddler seat: Can only be installed in the window seat because when installed in the center, the carseat's level indicates it is off in the opposite direction than a rolled towel would be needed. Would prefer to center install, at least until the next child comes along.

    - Britax Pavillion has installed the tightest so far. I had wanted one of the above two to work so that there would be more legroom for ERF (which we'll do anyway). Also, the chest clip easily slides up and down the "HUGS Chest Pads with SafeCell Technology."
    Re Radian, there are many techs here w/experience w/Radian installs, esp w/the angle adjuster. I'd repost a separate question, and I'm sure you'll get replies that will help. I think that is probably something that can be solved w/a few little tricks. Make sure you share which way you are installing, with LATCH or w/the seatbelt. If you haven't tried each one, please do so. Neither is safer than the other. And many times, one works where the other does not.

    Re Orbit in the center, it helps to tilt the seat back a little bit, while keeping your knee/hand and your weight down in the *butt portion* of the seat and the seat's bottom still flat on the car's seat AND pushing the seat into the car's seat back, all at the same time. You can often fix the problem you are describing w/a little creative weight bearing. I don't know how that would effect turning the Orbit though, not that it's necessary. That said, the Orbit only has a 35 lbs rear facing weight limit. With all the other seats out there that go to 40 lbs and more rear facing, it probably wouldn't be my first choice, since it's a more difficult install in the center for you.

    Re Britax Pavillion, most kids do great w/the amount of leg room it provides rear facing, so if this is the seat that works best, that's fine. My older son rear-faced in Britax seats until he was 3.5 yrs old. The difference b/t a Britax and many other seats w/more leg room is usually only 1-3 inches, not that much. As for the chest clip, as long as it stays where it should and doesn't fall down, it's fine.

    FWIW, there are many great seats to consider. Please do not limit yourself too much. Find a seat that is long lasting and works in your car, esp that it's easy for you to use, b/c you will be using it for many years to come.

    hths
    henrietta
    former CPST & Mom extraordinaire of 2 rowdy little boys & 1 spunky girl toddler, among hundreds of other skills!
    #1, age 9.5, Harmony Literider or Transit backless booster, occasional Safety First Incognito
    #2, age 6.5, Cybex Xfit booster/Harmony folding travel booster/Evenflo hbb
    #3 age 15 months, Britax Advocate CT/Combi Cocorro

  17. #12
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    Re: Convertible Confused

    Another thought on the flame retardant chemicals, something that I also have concerns about, but I put way less emphasis on that issue in a car seat than I do a *mattress*. Mattresses, nearly every mattress out there, save just a small handful of companies, use flame retardant chemicals. Kids are on mattresses, all of us are, breathing in those fumes WAY more than in their carseat. Their faces are smooshed down against it for 10-12 hrs at a time in many cases.

    Our own mattress was purchased a long time ago from Life Kind. I can't afford to replace it right now, even though it needs it. My kids have generic mattresses that I let sit out in the garage for a month and then steam cleaned before I let them sleep on them. That's what I could afford to do, b/c a LifeKind twin mattress could easily cost $1500 or more.

    I'm just pointing out relative risks...if your child is sleeping on a regular, fairly new mattress...and you didn't choose one w/o chemical flame retardants and/or clean it before he used it....his exposure to those chemicals is likely far greater via his mattress than his carseat. Not that either exposure matters more than the other, but w/one of them the exposure is greater over time. Sleeping.

    I would not choose a seat solely based on if it had chemical flame retardants in it. I would put my money towards one w/o before another *if* it would work in the other ways it needed to for my family. But I wouldn't hesitate on another brand if those w/o chemical flame retardants wouldn't serve our needs. I can wash the covers and allow them to outgas (which I did w/all our new seats. My kids have only ridden in 2 seats over the years that I hadn't washed and let sit out for a while first.)
    henrietta
    former CPST & Mom extraordinaire of 2 rowdy little boys & 1 spunky girl toddler, among hundreds of other skills!
    #1, age 9.5, Harmony Literider or Transit backless booster, occasional Safety First Incognito
    #2, age 6.5, Cybex Xfit booster/Harmony folding travel booster/Evenflo hbb
    #3 age 15 months, Britax Advocate CT/Combi Cocorro

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