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There might not be a more important baby product that you'll buy than a car seat. You can skimp on hand-me-down clothes, used toys or even second-hand strollers, but experts agree that car seats should be brand new - especially if you don't know the history of the particular car seat.
There are two options for babies: First there's the standard infant car seat, which is fitted more securely for a baby and is also lighter and more maneuverable for parents. An infant car seat can easily transfer between multiple cars, as well as turn into a travel system by hooking onto a stroller or shopping cart. However, infant car seats only face backwards and have a relatively short weight and height capacity, meaning you'll need to buy a bigger car seat toward the end of your baby's first year.
The second option is to just go with a convertible car seat from the jump, saving you money on the infant car seat and multiple car seat bases. Every convertible car seat that we tested can be used rear facing starting with newborns, although they generally don't have the best fit and features for the littlest ones. Convertible car seats are naturally much bigger and heavier than an infant car seat, and aren't as simple to move in and out of cars. Plus, you'll need multiple car seats for multiple cars, rather than just buying an inexpensive base (as with infant car seats).
Yet once your baby hits around 30 lbs., a convertible car seat can last you until your child is 65-100 lbs., possibly making it the last car seat you'll buy. But with so many different features, manageability and price points, it can be hard to tell just which ones are the very best. So to give you a hand, we tested the most popular infant and convertible car seats to fit your lifestyle and budget.
READERS’ CHOICE CONVERTIBLE CAR SEATS | Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1
The idea of this seat is extremely appealing: a single car seat to take you from a rear-facing infant car seat to a preschool-age booster seat. Thanks to the snug infant inserts (included), you can start to use it starting at a mere 5 lbs. and then keep your baby facing backwards (which is deemed the safest) all the way until he or she is 35 lbs. Then flip it around to a forward-facing seat until 40 lbs., at which time you can transform it to a belt-positioning booster up to 100 lbs.
However, when there are car seats like the Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL that can be used with the secure LATCH system and a 5-point harness all the way to 80 lbs., it doesn’t seem as impressive for a child to graduate to a less-safe booster seat at only 40 lbs. Also, it was the hardest car seat to adjust and maneuver.
Get it from Babies R Us, $199.99