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Is there any consumer purchase that new parents worry more about than buying a car seat? If you're like most of us, you use it multiple times a day, and you've got to worry about safety, ease of installation, price and comfort, among other things.
The Wirecutter, a product-review site owned by the New York Times, dug in to see which convertible car seats made the grade, sharing the results in a March 16 article.
"After 20 hours of research, including testing nine popular convertible car seats at home and crash-testing six finalists in a top lab to measure their side-impact performance, we think the Britax Marathon ClickTight is the best one for most families," the site wrote.
A convertible car seat is one that can be installed rear-facing, then turned around after a certain age to face front, unlike infant seats, which always face the rear. State laws vary on when a seat can be turned around, with different height, age and weight restrictions.
Even if you have older children, check your state's current rules. Many states that once required only children under a year to ride rear-facing have upped their requirement to age 2. (Look up your state's car-seat requirements here.) In fact, Rebecca Gale, the author of The Wirecutter's article, notes that she only recently turned her son's convertible car seat around, and he's 4½.
Here's a look at the winning seat, and the runner-up.
1. The top choice: Britax Marathon ClickTight, $224 (usually $280), Amazon
Also available at Walmart for $224.
Wirecutter raved about this seat, saying it "performed better than any other seat in our side-impact crash-testing, earns excellent safety scores in government front-impact tests, and is significantly less frustrating to install than any other convertible car seat we’ve ever used." The company's own ClickTight installation system uses your car's seat belt rather than the sometimes-difficult-to-locate LATCH system. You can use it rear-facing for children up to 40 pounds. The only disadvantage? No built-in cupholder.
2. The runner-up: Graco Extend2Fit, $144 (normally $159), Walmart
This is also available for $159 on Amazon.
The Wirecutter testers found the Graco Extend2Fit tougher to install, but were able to make it work. It performed second to the top pick Britax in crash testing, and is slightly lighter (22 pounds to Britax's 28.4), which makes it a little easier to move than that seat. It can also hold heavier kids (50 pounds vs. 40 for the Britax), is cheaper, and has not one, but two built-in cupholders. Juice box hero!