Choosing a car seat: possibly worse than shopping for shoes.

Shoe shopping is one of my LEAST favorite types of shopping. I’m not one of those people who sees a pair of shoes she likes and buys it, figuring the right time to wear it will eventually arise. No, I’m more of a crisis-shopper. Big event coming up (in five hours or so), new dress or skirt found, no shoes to wear. This wouldn’t be such a problem if my feet weren’t so darn tiny, and if shoe stores carried a selection of shoes in size 5. Most of my shoes come from Target, which has a surprisingly decent selection.

Bah! But shopping for BABY GEAR. It might actually take the cake. It’s so stressful! There are entirely TOO many options, and with the availability of the opinions of the masses in the form of online reviews, it’s my brain’s version of a total shopping nightmare.

Sadie’s first-ever car ride.

The most recent item on our gear list has been a convertible car seat. Babies R Us is having this gear swap-out deal, where you bring in a piece of gear you don’t want, and you get 25 percent off a new piece of gear. Sadie still fits in her infant car seat, but she’s probably hit the 30″ limit. Her length is all in her legs, so she’s still safe until her head is less than one inch from the top of the seat, but we thought we’d take advantage of this deal, especially since we’re going to have to shell out for TWO of these monsters.

And they are truly behemoths. Huge. So here’s how we arrived at our purchase decision:

  • I started by poking around online, trying to see what the fuss is about with all the different brands. The main ones out there seem to be Britax, Costco, The First Years, Safety 1st and Sunshine Kids. Overwhelming! I quickly realized that the Britax models were going to be out of our price range. Costco and Sunshine Kids aren’t available at our BRU. The gear swap-out deal is only for in-store merchandise, so that limited the options, too.
  • On Saturday, I went in to the store to take a look at them. Sadie was on the cranky side, so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted. Basically, I took down the names of the brands and models that looked about like what I wanted (rear facing until at least 35 pounds was the main priority as far as features went), weren’t absurdly expensive (under $200) and were in stock. My list looked like this: Graco My Ride 65, Evenflo Symphony 65, Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite, Evenflo Triumph Advance LX, Evenflo Titan Elite and Safety 1st Complete Air.
  • Sunday, Trevor and I went back together with a happier Sadie, and we got a bit more hands-on with them. We buckled and unbuckled, tested adjustment mechanisms, put them side-by-side to see how they compared. We noticed user-friendly features… some shoulder straps have to be re-threaded to adjust the height, while others don’t; some have level indicators; some have levers to tighten or loosen straps, some have knobs; some recline, some don’t.
  • We FINALLY decided on the Safety 1st Air Protect Complete Air. In addition to seeming super safe with regard to the side-impact collisions (this actually wasn’t the deciding factor), it won out over the rest. It’s quite tall, but it’s not nearly as wide as some of the others (the Graco My Ride 65 is a fat fat fatty). The shoulder straps not only can be adjusted without rethreading them, you can adjust them from the front–while the seat is installed. The bottom buckle (between the legs) has three slots instead of only two (a plus for a cloth-diaper baby, I imagine). It doesn’t recline, but it’s already kind of recliney, so I think Sadie will be comfortable in it. It doesn’t have a level indicator, but there is a line to guide us with the installation. And it’s rear-facing up to 40 pounds! Sadie is probably only about 18 pounds, so it’ll probably take a while before she outgrows rear-facing, and I’m sure she’ll outgrow it in length (40″) before weight (I wasn’t 40 pounds until I was eight or nine years old). Forward-facing, it fits up to 50 pounds and 45″.
  • We made a third trip to actually make the purchase, this time with our massive, rarely-used stroller in tow for the exchange. The Harvest style is, for whatever reason, only $199, so we got it for $150 plus tax.
  • The next step will be to see if it actually FITS in either or both of our cars.

The plan is to install it rear-facing in Trevor’s car for now. He’ll use it to take Sadie to daycare, and I’ll keep her infant carrier in my car for when I pick her up. On Tuesdays, when Trevor has Sadie all day, he’ll probably still use the carrier (the base will still be in his car), so he can pull off car seat naps with her. When she outgrows the infant seat, we’ll purchase another convertible car seat for my car. We’re going to test this one in my car first; and if it fits and we’re happy with it, we’ll probably just get another one of these (and we’ll have time to hunt down another bargain). If not, it’ll be back to the drawing board!

I know it sounds like a ton of work, trying to figure all of this out. And it is! We really are laid-back about a lot of things–we let Sadie put all kinds of things in her mouth that would probably make a lot of moms and dads cringe (or gag). But car safety is one area we don’t joke around. We have both been in serious car accidents and have seat belts to credit for walking away from them unscathed. Sadie rides in the car at least two times a day most days (Geez, that’s kind of horrible, right?). It’s the highest-risk activity she has right now, so I feel it’s of paramount importance to find a good car seat that is easy to use.

What kind of car seats have y’all used? Did anybody just skip the infant seat and go straight for the convertible? What about two-car families? How have you handled needing two seats?

And why doesn’t Chicco make convertible car seats? I freaking LOVE her current seat. Love it.

One thought on “Choosing a car seat: possibly worse than shopping for shoes.

  1. Pingback: The car seat debate continues. – Parenting from Scratch

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