As I am preparing for our next bundle of joy, I soon realized that I needed to buy another car seat for Ansley. I remembered asking a co-worker during my first pregnancy on what car seats to choose. The sheer number of choices, options, combinations for car seats are overwhelming.
Here's to helping other expecting parents out 🙂 I've tried to break it out into questions so that first time parents can figure out what they truly need.
1. Do you want to (a) buy an all-in-one car seat or (b) buy separately an infant car seat and then older kid car/booster seat?
- All-in-One Car Seat. Basically, an all-in-one car seat typically will cover the baby from infant to toddler sometimes even up to six years old depending on the model). The pro is that you only have to buy it once, but its a heftier price tag up front. The con is that typically all-in-ones don't offer an "infant carrier" mode. Meaning, if you have a three-week old baby and are running into the store, you can't just unhook the car seat and place the carrier on the shopping cart.
- Infant Car Seat and Older Kid Car/Booster Seat. If you choose to go this route, you'd have to make two investments - one in the infant car seat for newborn. Then when the baby gets around 35 pounds or 20 inches (typically), you would have to buy a new car seat for their growth. The pro is that with the infant car seat, typically you have a carrier with it. So when you go shopping, you can take the car seat off of the car base (if it has one), then pop it on the shopping cart and be on your way. The infant car seat typically holds up to 30 pounds (depending on car seat). My baby girl is 10.5 months hold and currently weighs 25 pounds - so she still fits! Also, a pro is that when she is sleeping on the car ride home, instead of waking her up to get her out of the car seat - I can just pop off the carrier from the car base. Another pro is that if grandma or grandpa is picking baby up from daycare, all they need is the car base if you leave the carrier with them (at least until the grow out of it). The Older Kid Car/Booster Seat can be purchased a year down the line when the baby grows up.
- My Choice: Infant Car Seat and Older Kid Car/Booster Seat
2. Which brand do you buy?
- Infant Car Seat - Chicco Key Fit 30. You can probably find all sorts of reviews out there for this, but this is what I ultimately ended up getting was the Chicco Key Fit 30 Infant Car Seat. My reasoning was because through reading reviews, this brand didn't have too many recalls as compared to the others. Graco I believe had some at one point or another - so I just decided against it. Also, when I took advantage of the free car seat installation at the hospital, the nurse mentioned that it was the "Cadillac" of car seats, I was pretty much sold. The big pro on this car seat is that if you buy the base, its super easy to install. Its also very easy to clean. It has newborn padding that my newborn baby loved. The cons are that its one of the more expensive ones, has an expensive car base, and its heavier. If you choose to go this route, I recommend not buying the matching travel system. The stroller is WAY to bulky. I would get this Chicco Key Fit Caddy System instead. We've used the matching stroller only a few times because it takes up so much room in the car and its just not convenient. I will say its sturdy - but when you are at a St. Patrick's day parade, bulky is not a good thing.
- Older Kid Car/Booster Seat - Britax Boulevard 70 CS. Although Ansley hasn't grown out of the Chicco Key Fit 30 yet, we needed to prepare for our next baby - because he/she will be here as you know it - and we can't have Ansley in that car seat any longer 🙂 We decided to get the Britax Boulevard 70 CS because of all the reviews I read. Also, I chose a "convertible" because I wanted to be flexible and be able to use it with the new baby and current baby. You could, ultimately, just get a booster seat only. Again, I liked the added flexibility. Additionally, when I went to Buy Buy Baby, one of the floor folks told me the Britax Boulevard 70 CS was one of the only ones that had the frame made out of steel - so it makes it very safe for baby. The con is that its more expensive and takes up a ton of room in the car. I also posted on Facebook to ask other parents out there for their thoughts, and here is what I got in response.
3. Where should you buy?
- We got our Chicco Key Fit 30 as a gift off of our baby registry. I would recommend buying straight from the Chicco Shop.
- For the Britax Marathon 70 CS, we purchased it from AlBee Baby because they had better prices than using coupons at Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us. Additionally free shipping and no taxes. DISCLAIMER: if you are an honest person, you should claim usage tax at the end of the year for any internet purchases. 🙂
4. How many should you buy?
- For the infant carrier, we got ONE carrier and two bases (for my husband and I). Grandma's on both sides each got a car base as well. So total of FOUR car bases. This was because I would drop off baby at daycare and leave the carrier there. The hubs would pick up. And on Fridays, Grandmas picked her up early.
- For the convertible, we got two. Not sure how this will play out yet with grandparents 🙂
Lastly, here are all of the helpful reviews from other sites I read up on. Obviously, I had made up my mind on which one I was buying - and needed some reinforcing statements (hence, why most of them are Britax Boulevard 70 related):
- Britax Boulevard 70 versus Britax Boulevard 70 CS - It boiled down to whether I wanted to hear the "click" or not to make sure the car seat was tight enough. Yes, I paid $70 more for that unnecessary feature.
- Britax Boulevard 70 versus Britax Advocate - It boiled down to how much room you have in your car. Britax Advocate took a lot more room.
- Britax Boulevard 70 versus Britax Advocate Forum - This is a message board with the same comments as the links above.
- A Real Mother's Review of the Britax Boulevard 70 - It has video and pictures of the car seat.
- The Great Car Seat Debate - Another review of outgrowing the Chicco and needing something bigger.
- Amazon.com always has good reviews 🙂
What did you buy for your precious bundle of joy?
There is no "best" product - it simply lies in how you plan on transporting your baby and the easiest method for that process. I'd like to hear what you chose and why.