Update: After reading this post, also read my other post about the Recaro Signo
As first time parents we are completely clueless about what we really need and what is a waste of money for our baby and we have spent many evenings figuring out what car seat to buy, what stroller to buy and are still unsure. In this series of posts, I’ll summarize all my research and over the years experience with whatever we buy.
Our first question was should we buy a convertible seat from the start or should we buy an infant seat to start with and move to a convertible later? The advantages of the infant seat are that it is easy to carry around with you and you can attach it to a stroller (that would also make a difference in stroller choice, which is another post altogether) without waking the baby up. The disadvantages are that you need to get a stroller that you can attach car seats to and those strollers are heavier. Also you need to get a bigger seat later anyway. What we thought about this is we’ll start with the convertible seat and if neccessary we will get an infant seat later.
Now comes the choice of convertible seats. There are so many to select from – it is a nightmare. But after reading a lot of reviews and checking out forums the choice came down to the Evenflo Symphony, Evenflo Triumph Advance, True Fit and the Britax convertibles – (Roundabout, Diplomat, Marathon, Decathlon, Boulevard).
The Evenflo Symphony is a true all in one seat. Has good reviews except for unusually large babies. This is a relatively newer seat and has fewer reviews than other seats. Here is a big discussion on the seat, where some people recommend buying an Evenflo Triumph Advance instead of this seat and a booster separately later, however if you read all the way to the end you will find happy users. Also the Symphony comes with something called SureLATCH which makes attaching the car seat very easy and has got a lot of praise. From all the things I have read, the most important safety rule is to make sure that a seat is attached right.
Reading the above thread was the first I ever hear of The First Years True Fit Convertible Car Seat, which is another all in one seat and has great reviews and people wishing they knew about it before so they could have saved some money and not bought so many seats. Both the Symphony and the True Fit are “easy to install” according to most people but there are always a few whiners who find it difficult and want you to get a Britax because it is supposedly easier to install.
Next Up is the Evenflo Triumph Advance, which is the holy grail of budget convertible car seats. The Triumph Advance is different from the older Triumph and has many new features making it even if not better than the Britax seats. The Triumph Advance comes in three flavors – Deluxe, LX and Premier. I’m not sure what the difference is because the descriptions on the Evenflo website are all identical. The price is not so there must be some difference. I’ll update this post if and when I actually compare all of them (if they are available in one place). This is one of the most favorably reviewed car seats and amongst the safest rated. There are a few whiners about it’s knobs, I’ll know it when I get to actually see and use those. But otherwise people love the infinite adjustable no-rethread (=car seat doesn’t need to be removed to adjust) harness.
Finally, we come to the Britax convertible seats. Britax seats generally have few or no negative reviews and the only complaint is the price difference between the Evenflo Triumph Advance which most people say is comparable to the Britax Marathon/Decathlon in everything but price. Anyway, the Britax website is full of Buzzwords where every little feature has been given a name. Here is a comparison of Britax convertibles on their own website. This will show you that there is nothing really great about the Britax Marathon (or it’s smaller cousin the Roundabout) and you would be better off with the Britax Decathlon which is about the same price and has a toddler pillow, infant pillow, multi-position buckle strap. Also if you are willing to settle for disgusting colors, the Britax seats become cheaper. However neither the Marathon nor the Decathlon have TSIP (true side impact protection aka deep side walls + adjustable headreast), which brings us to the Britax Boulevard (and it’s smaller cousin the Diplomat), the most expensive of the Britax seats, the only ones with TSIP and a no rethread harness. However to get all these features, I’d rather get an Evenflo Symphony or The First Years True Fit Convertible Car Seat. If you get the Boulevard, you lose the adjustible buckle positions too.
So feature wise all the Britax seats are lacking something but the reviews all can’t be wrong. I’ll probably get the Evenflo Symphony or the The First Years True Fit Convertible Car Seat but if our baby feels uncomfortable in it we’ll make it test drive a Britax to see if it really feels better.
Note on Prices: I have hunted for the cheapest Amazon (sold by Amazon) prices for the Britax seats and some of those prices are closeout prices. The seats will probably be more expensive when you buy them.