Author Topic: Car Seat for a 3 year old  (Read 4364 times)

aneel

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Car Seat for a 3 year old
« on: August 17, 2016, 08:12:49 AM »
Hi!  My husband and I have just been identified as a family to adopt a 3 year old boy!  This will be our first child, and we're still trying to wade through the car seat market.  Rear facing? Booster seats?  Ever changing recommendations?

Looking for feedback on what resources to trust, and what to watch out for when it comes to manufacturers "selling fear".

Thanks!

Ceridwen

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2016, 08:30:33 AM »
Congratulations!!!

3 years old is a bit of an awkward age to buy a new car seat for.  They are too young for a booster (height and weight recommendations vary, but in my opinion it is too soon), but will probably only be in a regular car seat for another 12-18 months, so you don't want to spend too much.

I would focus your search on forward-facing seats.  Britax is a great, affordable brand.

Lots of helpful information here: http://thecarseatlady.com/

To clarify: I did not mean to imply that you should consider a used car seat when I used the word "new".  I agree with the other posters - absolutely buy a new one, unless you get a used one from a friend you trust 100%.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2016, 10:40:04 AM by Ceridwen »

little_brown_dog

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2016, 08:32:03 AM »
Most car seat safety experts and pediatricians recommend parents buy a new carseat, not used (carseats are meant to be replaced after any collisions for safety purposes, and used seats often have unknown histories). Some mustachians balk at this, but I personally follow the recommendations. Saving an extra hundred bucks is not worth it for us if it means we have to go against current safety recommendations.

The rear facing recommendation is based on weight/height and not just age. Some 3 year olds are very petite and still should be rear facing. Most are big enough to face forward under the current recommendations. There is a current heated debate in the mommy-realm regarding extended rear facing seats for kids up through age 4. Rear facing is safer in general, so many parents now are choosing to rear face their kids for as long as possible, but it is not the current recommendation. I would go with a carseat that can rear or forward face, so you can just flip it either way depending on how big your little one is, and what you feel comfortable doing.

Here are the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx

GuitarStv

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2016, 08:45:27 AM »
I remember reading Superfreakanomics and hearing a very compelling argument that there is little benefit to use of a car seat over use of a seatbelt after the age of three years old.  Was this work ever refuted?

LouLou

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2016, 08:49:10 AM »
I will let the parents with older kids weigh in because I only have a newborn, but I have the Graco 4ever seat.  It can convert to all types of car seat (forward facing, back facing, high backed booster, backless booster) up to 120 lbs.  It is expensive, but it is the only one you have to buy.

aneel

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2016, 08:50:08 AM »
Thanks everybody!  It sounds like we have to wait until we know more of the boy's dimensions before we make a final decision, but all your input is appreciated.

We know that we want to buy new, but its the rear facing conundrum that we wonder about.  We'll definitely check out the carseat lady - thank you!!

KCM5

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2016, 08:55:32 AM »
I'd get a Diono Rainier.

In fact, I just bought one for my three year old because her old seat was in a wreck (without her in it, thankfully). I previously had a Clek Foonf, which is crazy expensive and doesn't convert to a booster. Great seat, just don't recommend for your needs.

The seat can be rear facing until 50 lbs. Will turn around to forward facing at age 4. Also coverts to a booster up to 120 lbs. Basically, it has the same benefits as that Graco4ever that is recommended above. It is a bit slimmer, than the Graco, so would be good if you plan on transporting multiple young children.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2016, 08:57:11 AM by KCM5 »

Mariposa

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2016, 09:27:59 AM »
We just got this car seat for our rather large 1yo:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006PB2B6O/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

We don't actually have a car but need a car seat for occasional trips. It was important for us to get something that will easily install in different cars and light enough to carry on the plane. This Evenflo weighs less than 10lbs.

I also looked into the Diono Radian RXT mentioned above, but it has a steel frame and weighs ~30lbs, so it doesn't meet our needs. Looks like it's slim enough to seat 3-across, though, if that's important to you, and converts to a booster as mentioned above. Note that it's nearly $300. The Evenflo convertible + booster seat comes to less than $100.

Dee18

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2016, 10:01:23 AM »
My pediatrician said used car seats are fine (she seemed convinced the "only buy new" was a myth promulgated by the car seat manufacturers). I bought used from a friend.  The dr also said a booster was fine for a three year old if it resulted in the seatbelt being in the proper location.  My daughter was always short for her age so we had to wait a bit longer for her to get tall enough.

charis

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2016, 10:30:02 AM »
There is more to a booster seat than just the position of the seat belt.  A child that is not mature enough to hold the correct position the entire time that they are riding in the car is not ready for a seatbelt, and that often doesn't occur until 4 or well after.

I currently have a 3 year old and a 6 year old.  I rear faced until the kids met the high and weight limits for rear-facing in the car seat and then turned them around (about 2.5 years).  My six year old is currently in a 5-point harness booster until she reaches the weight requirement for the high back booster with seat belt.   We will change the 3 year old into a harness booster when he reaches the weight/height limit for his current combination carseat.

We have the Evenflo maestro harness booster, which I would recommend to you because your 3 year old will probably be able to use it for 3 years, height and weight dependent. 

I would never get a used car seat unless I didn't have the money for a new one, really trusted the prior owners that it had never been in an accident, and was not expired.  There are affordable new options and it is not worth the risk.

Cognitive Miser

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2016, 10:49:14 AM »
I was dismayed when I had to turn our son forward-facing at 2 years 3 months, because he hit the 35 lb weight limit for rear-facing on our super-expensive Orbit toddler seat.  (I had to get the Orbit because at the time, I drove a Honda Element, which has a funky backseat that virtually requires the rotating feature of the Orbit.  I decided it was better to be spendy on a seat than spendy on a new car.)

I've been picking around on the Carseat Lady site to identify another larger seat for him.  I'm due in 5 weeks with #2 and we'll want a second carseat for him so my SO can drop him off at daycare in the mornings when I'm on maternity leave, and I can pick him up in the afternoons (he works long hours).  I'm going to be choosing one that will let him rear-face up to 50 pounds (or 60?  can't remember what's available).  Carseat Lady is great.

I would only take a used carseat from a friend or family member - someone I trusted was telling the truth that their carseat was never in an accident.  I did contact a Craigslist seller about an Orbit before my first was born, and I asked for the VIN numbers of their cars so I could do the research to be assured their vehicles had never been in an accident.  The sellers said "Oh, we've had like 8 cars since our kids were born... we don't even HAVE all the VIN numbers!"  What!?!?

tonysemail

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2016, 11:08:31 AM »
I remember reading Superfreakanomics and hearing a very compelling argument that there is little benefit to use of a car seat over use of a seatbelt after the age of three years old.  Was this work ever refuted?

same here.  i watched the youtube video of a car seat being tested.
used vs new.  forward vs rear. 
it's all kind of insignificant when you see how the thing bounces like crazy during a crash.

The sellers said "Oh, we've had like 8 cars since our kids were born... we don't even HAVE all the VIN numbers!"  What!?!?

hahaha, 8 cars is awful.
to be fair, i would have to look really hard to find the VIN number of the last car I sold.
I tend to throw stuff away as soon as I think it's no longer necessary.

Tiger Stache

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2016, 11:45:47 AM »
We got a Britax Pioneer for my oldest.

Three years old is a tricky age, so you'll need to get his dimensions (height and weight), but the Pioneer provides a five point harness that you can transition to booster later. He may be on the tail end of a forward facing convertible seat, but if he's big enough you could get a five point harness seat that goes to a booster.

I don't think you'll have to worry about rear vs forward facing. We turned my kids when they're legs get cramped, usually around two. For my oldest the rule was you could turn at one year old, so we did.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2016, 12:36:26 PM »
One thing that my OB told me last pregnancy is with carseats, is that ALL the ones on the market meet required safety requirements. More expensive ones often just have comfort features, not necessarily better safety.  For a 3-year old who won't be in it long, it might be worth getting the lower end, and not something like a Clek that Moms may rave about, but doesn't necessarily do much more for you at this point.  (One great thing about Clek is the amazing weight range.)

Also, friends have told me drink holder is a a requirement on a toddler carseat.

QueenV

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2016, 01:57:13 PM »
One thing that my OB told me last pregnancy is with carseats, is that ALL the ones on the market meet required safety requirements. More expensive ones often just have comfort features, not necessarily better safety.  For a 3-year old who won't be in it long, it might be worth getting the lower end, and not something like a Clek that Moms may rave about, but doesn't necessarily do much more for you at this point.  (One great thing about Clek is the amazing weight range.)

Also, friends have told me drink holder is a a requirement on a toddler carseat.

+1 to the above.  My sister in law has some kind of certification in car seat installation, and that's what she says too.  Any new car seat on the market will be fine. 

I'd personally recommend getting one that faces backwards and forwards and turns into a booster seat, you'll get the most use out of it that way since you are starting with a toddler.  We have the Graco 4 Ever, which can rear face, forward face, and turns in to 2 kinds of booster seat (with a back and without).  I've heard the Graco 4 Ever booster can end up not being the right height for certain kids.  No idea if it will work for us, but I figured, I might as well get a seat that becomes a booster so there's at least a possibility I won't have to buy a separate booster seat.  My son is only 18 months, so we're a long way from finding out though.  It's pricey at $300, but you might be able to find a sale.  It does come with 2 cup holders.  :)

abhe8

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #15 on: August 17, 2016, 02:57:28 PM »
Check your state laws. Ours require age four and 40# before they can move to a booster. I would go with a Sureride, an inexpensive but excellent seat, that will still last a three year old quite some time.

bogart

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #16 on: August 17, 2016, 09:01:00 PM »
Congratulations on your growing family!

I kept my son rear-facing for a good long while but am pretty sure I had him turned forward-facing by 3.  Assuming you and your son-to-be are in the US (or most other developed nations), he likely already has experiences in car seats, and expectations and preferences he is able to articulate.  While I wouldn't get him an unsafe carseat even if he wants one (!), it may be worth finding out what he's used to and going with that, or something similar -- e.g. if he's already used to being forward-facing, don't turn him backward, and so on.

I kept my son in a 5-point harness about as long as I could not only because they are safer (I believe) in terms of having more security, etc., but because a kid cannot (nearly as easily) undo them, nor can he or she wiggle around in them in the way that's possible with contemporary seatbelts.  Even now that he's 9, I find myself having to remind my son that he needs to sit up straight and be sure that his shoulder belt is across his shoulder.  Personally I'm a big fan of being able to strap them in and know that they are snugly in place.

Cognitive Miser

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2016, 01:54:39 PM »
I'm not the OP, but I decided on a Diono Rainier for our 2-year-old son.  He's huge, so I like the rear-facing until 50 lbs capability.
Other factors were the 10-year expiration (since #2 is on the way, she can use it after he's done with it), and the low seat height (so it's easier for him to scramble into it himself while I'm buckling in baby).
It is expensive, but I put it on my Amazon registry for baby #2 so that I can get the 15% off "registry completion discount".  I haven't given the registry link out to anyone - just using it to get a discount on a few things we want.

cacaoheart

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2016, 02:14:59 PM »
I'm not the OP, but I decided on a Diono Rainier for our 2-year-old son.  He's huge, so I like the rear-facing until 50 lbs capability.

I've been looking at various convertible seats with 50 pound rear facing weight limits as well, though since our first isn't due until March and it's looking like we will likely start out with an infant seat it won't surprise me if all new models are out by the time we're ready for one.

If having seats fit 3 across isn't a priority, another option aside from Diono and Clek is the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. It's wider, cheaper ($170 on amazon), and may accommodate a taller child so they could actually remain rear facing until age 5-7.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2016, 07:25:28 PM »
CONGRATS!

Just wanted to throw out one more consideration: Don't make the mistake I did of getting a big bulky seat that converts to a booster. Sure, technically it works, but who wants a giant heavy booster? When you're ready for a booster, you may want a nice, light, easy to transport one.

Also re: boosters, (a) in many states it is illegal for a three-year-old to ride in a booster and (b) many young children lack the self-discipline necessary to refrain from unbuckling themselves.


MayDay

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #20 on: August 30, 2016, 12:04:47 PM »
Both my kids were fine to switch to a booster at age 3 (the high back kind).  They met the height and weight requirement (actually I think it is just a weight requirement) and were able to follow the safety guidelines of sitting in place and not being wiggly in the car.  I felt very comfortable with them in the booster seat at that age. 

But you may not know behaviorally how a new child will handle a booster.  It might be an option to try it out with a booster, and go out quick to Target and buy the cheapest forward facing seat they have if the booster doesn't work.  You will end up needing the booster later anyway, and if you have 2 cars you can keep the booster in the less used car.

People freak out about carseats, but by the time you are forward facing, it really doesn't matter as long as the straps or seatbelt are hitting them in the right places. 

Cognitive Miser

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #21 on: August 30, 2016, 12:22:50 PM »
If having seats fit 3 across isn't a priority, another option aside from Diono and Clek is the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. It's wider, cheaper ($170 on amazon), and may accommodate a taller child so they could actually remain rear facing until age 5-7.

Well, 3-across is not a priority.  The Safety 1st Grow N Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat was my second choice, actually, but it sits up SO high off the bench seat (it's VERY SIMILAR to the Graco - can't remember why I ruled out the Graco).  My son is so independent that I know he'd get frustrated trying to climb into it on his own - his current seat sits up high and it is a major source of frustration right now.  He wants to climb in the car himself, and when he can't get into the seat, he just starts playing around in the backseat.  Since I'm super-pregnant, I can't chase him very easily and drag him back into the seat.  I don't think things will get any better when the baby is born. 

Also I'm an engineer and I like that the Diono is primarily steel instead of aluminum, even though I know it makes it HEAVY.  We rarely take his seat out now, so I don't imagine much will change with that situation.  If we need to get a $30 booster when he turns 4 for portability, we'll cross that bridge at that point.

Cognitive Miser

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2016, 10:50:34 AM »
Ridiculously excited to find out today that the Diono carseats are on sale for 30% off through 9/17/16!  And I can still apply the 15% off Amazon registry completion discount to the SALE price for a total of $226 for the Rainier!

aneel

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #23 on: September 16, 2016, 05:18:32 AM »
That's a good heads up! Our next step in the adoption is today. So we should find out what our cars eat needs are in only hours!

Cognitive Miser

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #24 on: September 16, 2016, 12:07:06 PM »
That's a good heads up! Our next step in the adoption is today. So we should find out what our cars eat needs are in only hours!
Yay, congrats!  How exciting!

ponyespresso

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #25 on: September 16, 2016, 01:21:33 PM »
I would get a real 5 point harness car seat. Most kids should be a in a harnessed car seat until they are at least 5 or really, until they outgrow the harnessed seat. It's after for a kid at that age who probably can't always sit properly in a booster.

o to Car Seat Lady for more info on all that. 

We have a Graco Milestone, and while a bit pricey it's an awesome seat. It can be rear-facing, forward-facing harnessed, and eventually a high backed booster seat. I've used it all of those configuration as well. And, it's super easy to install.  But if you just need something cheaper, look for a forward facing harnessed car seat that converts to a booster. (Also known as Combination seats). There is also a car seat forum website at http://www.car-seat.org where they can offer up personalized recommendations based on the age of the kid and what car you drive. It's a great resource.

aneel

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2016, 04:38:28 PM »
That's a good heads up! Our next step in the adoption is today. So we should find out what our cars eat needs are in only hours!
Yay, congrats!  How exciting!
Thanks! We're moving forward. T-minus two weeks until we're full fledged parents! Ahhhhh

Milizard

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #27 on: September 16, 2016, 07:19:34 PM »
Congratulations!  Unless the kid is exceptionally small, I'd go for a harness booster.  I recently found out it's the same as a carseat, but sits a bit lower for little kids to climb into, and sits more upright so they can see what's going on better.  Otherwise, I guess it's the same, but cheaper, and transitions into a regular booster.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #28 on: September 22, 2016, 05:50:59 AM »
The Clek Fllo we have fits our nearly-three-year-old great rear-facing, which is still safest at her age, and it's the easiest car seat to install and move around that I've encountered.

That said it's expensive as hell.

RelaxedGal

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Re: Car Seat for a 3 year old
« Reply #29 on: September 22, 2016, 10:54:26 AM »
I second the Britax Pioneer.  I don't have personal experience with it, but we had a Britax Boulevard because I was convinced I would rear face forever.  That lasted to age 2.5, when I switched her to forward facing.  And then I was going to keep her in the harness forever.. until we didn't, and at about age 4.5 she was in a booster (Bog standard Graco Turbobooster, high back) even though at 5.5 she STILL can't buckle herself because of my car's floppy buckles and I now have to reach around her rather than just buckle in the front like we did with a harness.  The Britax Pioneer (or Frontier) would let me continue to use the harness.     

I will say that the more expensive seats have more convenience features.  Given that it's something I use every day, multiple times/day it was totally worth the extra $100 to, say, have a smoothly tightening harness, or to not have to re-thread the harness when she grew taller.  We had cheap seats at the grandparents' or from rental car companies, and always appreciated the Britax more when we got home.  As the first reply said, it's an awkward time to be spending the money because at 3 they'll outgrow the car seat and move into a booster soon.  Since the Pioneer is both it makes sense to me.

edit: The cheapest equivalent would be the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX Booster Car Seat, $45.  One set of grandparents has this, so I've used it and while it is functional there are pain points.  For example you have that re-threading problem with the harness as the kids grow, the LATCH clips aren't as easy to use as the Britax ones, the weight limit is much lower than the Britax (Cosco only goes to 40 pounds with the harness, Britax to 80 supposedly), the cupholder is flimsier. 
« Last Edit: September 22, 2016, 11:04:19 AM by RelaxedGal »