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Convertible Car Seat Shopping

2012 July 24
by Becky

HARDEST baby item I’ve had to buy yet.

That’s right, while most of my friends’ kids grew out of their infant seats before turning one, Ethan was still riding around in his original Graco SnugRide infant seat until just about a month ago (18 months old). Hey, it carries up to 22 pounds, and he’s only just now 21.5 pounds. We call that a preemie benefit—getting to use your gear longer.

Ethan’s first car ride—going home from the NICU

Now I’m not in any way claiming to be an expert, but I thought I may help some of you soon-to-be-in-the-market-for-one-of-these-big-ticket-items folks by sharing my research and purchase decision. Maybe I can save someone a little time!

So it comes as no surprise that I wanted to be sure we were getting the safest possible car seat solution while still spending our money wisely—these things are EXPENSIVE. So I started by Googling the heck out of “convertible car seats.”

I wanted something that was:

  • stop safety rated
  • had side impact protection
  • comfortable
  • could rear-face for at least another 10-20 pounds
  • would be a one-stop shop (rear-face, front-face, and booster)
  • lightweight for travel
  • easy to clean
  • not totally atrocious-looking

I started seeing the same brands over and over, leading me to believe they were the ones on which to focus my attention. They were Britax, Radian, and Evenflo. I researched several others, but decided to stick with what was top-rated. Why waste time on anything else!!? Soon my head was spinning with weight limits, harnesses, and prices.

So I did the only thing one can do in a situation like this. I made a spreadsheet.

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Before laying it all out, I was really hooked on the Radian. But after scanning my little chart, I noticed a big problem. It is SIX pounds heavier then the lightest model on my list…with all the traveling we do, that is a significant difference. It’s just a very heavy car seat, something that came up in online reviews. And compared to other seats, it didn’t look that comfy.

Throughout my charting, I fell in love with the Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat. Excellent reviews, perfect stats, high weigh capacity, comfy design, non-ugly…this car seat had it going ON.

See?? The spreadsheet worked!

I still couldn’t help but read another 100 reviews on Amazon, Diapers.com, and various baby sites before ordering. But I was very confident clicking the “Place Order” button on Amazon as I’d also checked prices on all those sites, finding Amazon was the lowest-price winner at $231 (a little lower then the price listed on my spreadsheet).

Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat, Onyx

With my nifty Prime Account (best and most dangerous membership I’ve ever had), the seat shipped for free in just two days.

I knew it would be big, but I was surprised at just how HUGE the box on my front step really was. Ethan was psyched to tear into the package. Once opened, he immediately climbed aboard.

Yep, it comes fully assembled. Sweet!

At nap time, I popped E-TV (baby monitor) in my pocket and headed out to the car, new seat in hand. For me, the initial installation was a little tricky. It’s probably because I read the instructions thoroughly and made sure I followed everything to a “T”. Wanted to make sure I got it all figured out!

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I was pleasantly surprised to discover the super-cool LATCH hooks—WOW are these better than the ones on our Graco SnugRide. No more breaking your finger trying to unsnap the rudimentary hooks…these babies are like seat belts!

Snap in to install. Tighten. Push button to release. Cake.

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I was thrilled with how the seat fit in my car (a Nissan Murano). No need to push the front passenger seat way far forward. It still looked pretty huge compared to the SnugRide.

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Ta-da! Installed. And it really took no time at all. I like to have Ethan on the passenger side so I can get to him from the driver’s seat if needed. No, I can’t see him at all while driving (we’ve tried a mirror…it was junk and never stayed in position), but when we are stopped at a stoplight I can lean back for a peek. I can also fairly easily reach his “busy basket” in order to toss him a toy or book.

toddler toys in car, entertaining kids in cars, car seat busy basket

After nap we buckled up Little Man for the inaugural ride. He was a pretty happy guy, totally digging the plush seat with comfy cushioning. I actually felt bad that we kept him in that plastic bucket for so long!

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You can’t really tell here, but his legs can just barely stretch out. From what I’ve read, it’s very safe to keep kids rear-facing even if they have to cross their legs. He never seems to be uncomfortable!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention how easy this seat is to move from car to car. I’ve had it in my car, Stu’s car, a rental car, and my mom’s car since we’ve owned it and never had a problem securing it within seconds. Those button-release LATCH hooks make moving this seat a breeze! And so far it’s fit great in every vehicle (SUVs and Sedans).

I made two accessory purchases for the seat. I ordered one cup holder (none are included) which I have yet to install since The Peanut has been banned from drinking in the car…he has developed a bad little habit of covering himself with whatever liquid he happens to be drinking. It’s a mess and usually requires a change of clothes. But someday I’m sure he’ll be able to handle a travel beverage and will need a cup holder.

The other accessory was purchased after I realized how awkward it is to carry this seat. It’s a travel case, a Brica Cover Guard. Nothing fancy, just something basic with little wheels and shoulder straps.

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Let me tell you, it’s pretty nifty! It arrived in time for our trip to Scottsbluff so we gave it a whirl. Though we typically curb-check our luggage and car seat, the carrying case came in pretty handy at the baggage claim and during the rental car pick-up process. PLUS, it protects your new more-expensive-then-most-of-our-furniture car seat from careless baggage handlers. At $25, I think it’s worth every penny.

car seat comparison chart, buying a car seat, buying a convertible car seat, how to buy a car seat, convertible car seat, britax, radian, evenflo, car seat cover, car seat travel caseAt baggage claim in Denver

I’m happy to say we are TOTALLY happy with our car seat purchase. We call it the “Lazy Boy” because Ethan passes out in it all the time.

And finally, if you are thinking about turning your little one around to face forward, check out this video…it may make you think twice. I know tons of amazing parents who turned their kids around once their legs started getting scrunched, so to each his own—but someone shared this video with me and it really made me want to keep Ethan rear-facing for as long as possible. Scary stuff.

Did you find the car seat buying process stressful? Please share which one you have!

15 Responses
  1. July 24, 2012

    you are so much more thorough than I am!! my sister had an evenflo triumph so we got that for Ingrid. switched her at six mo. we got Otis a safety 1st air 65 I think it’s called? it sucks as rear facing ( can’t tighten the strap well while rear facing) so we switched the kids. Otis went to a convertible at five mo I think. I never ever used the car seat as a carrier, we’d always use the moby or ergo. I hate lugging those infant seats around!! the newer latch hooks are AMAZING aren’t they! so much easier.

    that bag looks awesome, we never travel by plane so we wouldn’t need it but for $25?? great deal!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 25, 2012

      I agree about lugging the car seats around…I only did it when Ethan was tiny, when he was bigger we left it in the car all the time. With two kids I’m sure it’s even more of a pain to carry! I will say though, I always felt very safe to carrying Ethan in the car seat. Babies are indestructible in those things!

  2. July 25, 2012

    thanks SO MUCH for this review. We have a borrowed on but we need something else for our main car and have been leaning towards this one. THANKS!!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 25, 2012

      Glad to help!

  3. Sandy Schon permalink
    July 25, 2012

    Great information. So glad our “peanut” is safe.

  4. July 26, 2012

    Question: what was the deciding factor btwn the marathon and the roundabout? TY!!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 26, 2012

      Great question! The Marathon holds up to 70 lbs while the Roundabout only holds up to 55 lbs. The Roundabout is only one pound lighter and a it’s cheaper, but it won’t last as long. I just didn’t want to go through this process again for as long as possible! :)

      • July 26, 2012

        thanks! I am debating right now! The roundabout is a bunch cheaper and I’m wondering if I’ll want to move to a booster when she’s around 55 anyhow b/c her legs are so long. Hard to tell w/preemies :) Anyhow, I’ll talk it over w/J tonight and decide. I’ll go through your link so you get the credit :) TY!

  5. Jessica permalink
    July 27, 2012

    We have 2 Marathons, a Boulevard and a Roundabout 50. We love them all, and think they are all so easy to install. That being said, kids are going to outgrow their seats by height way before weight unless they are super short and super chubby. I am actually shocked that your son just outgrew the Snugride 22, because it has a super short shell. It is outgrown by height when a child has less than 1″ of shell above their head or weighs 22lbs. So, my super tiny kids outgrew it way before a year. It is the same thing with the Britax seats, they are outgrown rear-facing when there is 1″ of shell above their head or reach the rear-facing weight limit.

    My daughter is 4.5 and weighs 33lbs, so she will never come anywhere close to weight limit on her seat.

    Anyway, most “average” size kids will outgrow their Britax seats before they are ready for a booster seat, so they will likely still have to move to another harnessed seat. So, the height limit of a seat is essentially more important than the forward facing weight limit.

    Glad you like your seat!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 27, 2012

      Great comment Jessica! Thanks for the info! I made the statement about my son still fitting in his SnugRide as a little bit of a joke…he DID still fit, but he was also born two months premature so he’s on the smaller side for his age. :)

  6. January 29, 2016

    Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me
    of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this.
    I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Booster Seat recently posted..Booster SeatMy Profile

  7. August 10, 2018

    Hi Becky, great post thanks! I totally agree that the Amazon Prime membership is a mixed blessing, especially when we’re looking at baby stuff. Before you know it there are 20 things in my basket ready to go! I’ve researched convertible car seats a lot for my kids but i love your spreadsheet, you must think very logically! ;-> Marianne.

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