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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 | Evenflo Momentum 65 DLX Convertible Car Seat
If you’re looking for a reliable and trusted car seat, Evenflo has some of the highest crash test ratings from leading consumer magazines and an overall comfortable, easy-to-use design. In fact, this was the single easiest car seat to install, thanks to its SureLATCH system, which consists of two connectors that make securing the latch clips even easier than the traditional LATCH system. So if you’re a bit technically challenged, this could be the convertible car seat for you.
However, the Evenflo Momentum 65 has a bulky build (not quite as wide as the Britax, but close), so you’ll need a roomy car – especially in the rear-facing position. We would actually recommend this car seat more as a forward-facing seat than a rear-facing, mostly because of its size.
Although the size could be an issue if you’re cramming multiple children into a smaller car, there are also a few advantages. Because the Momentum 65 DLX has a greater surface area than most, it also absorbs more energy in side-impact crashes – especially due to its triple-layer foam, designed specifically to absorb energy in a side-impact collision. We also love that it can be used rear facing up to 40 lbs. (although it wasn’t the best option for rear-facing convertible car seats) and forward facing up to 65 lbs., giving it added safety and longevity.
Bottom line: If you despise installing car seats, you need the Evenflo Momentum 65 DLX. (As long as you have the room.)
Get it from Babies R Us, $199.99