I have been asked for a few years now to do a best car seat guide. And as much as I’ve wanted to, I feel like there is so much more to unpack with car seats. And the information is so much more important. While pram safety is also important, car seats literally exist to keep your baby and children safe. So I have been a little bit nervous about giving the wrong information on this topic.
However, I’ve actually been working in a baby store since late 2018 and part of this job is selling car seats. Which also means I’ve had lots of opportunities to talk directly to the sales reps for two of the biggest brands of car seats in Australia – Britax (Safe and Sound) and Maxi Cosi. And now I do feel like I have some information – and the right information to share.
Which is also why I’ll mainly focus on the two brands Britax and Maxi Cosi. These are the two brands I have the most experience with and knowledge of. For what it’s worth my own children were in Infasecure car seats, so I’m not suggesting that these are the only two brands worth looking at. Simply that these are the car seats I’m most familiar with on a more technical level. They’re also definitely the most popular brands in Australia at the moment.
So, just because I launch into this – I do also want to be clear. The below is all my own opinion, and accurate to the my best understanding. So please don’t use this as your one and only source of information about car seats. I’m writing this as a general guide only.
Capsules are an infant car seat that are suitable from birth up to 6 or 12 months. Capsules are also incredibly convenience, even if you’re only using them for a short amount of time. The base of the capsule is installed into your car, and then the actual seat can be clicked in and out of the car. So you can take the capsule in and out of the car with the baby in it, rather than having to unbuckle baby every time you get them out of the car. Another handy feature with capsules is you can buy multiple bases separately. If you have two cars you can use the capsule in either car without having to buy two complete car seats.
Most people who get a capsule will also pair it up with their pram to create a complete travel system. So if you are planning to get a capsule, it’s a good idea to choose your pram at the same time. Also don’t forget to get pram adapters, as most travel systems will require separate adapters to connect the capsule to the pram. Even if they’re the same brand.
This convenience is great for quick trips to the shops, or dropping older siblings off at school or kinder. Be aware those it’s not recommended to leave baby in the capsule unsupervised. Also not to leave baby in the capsule continuously for more than 2 hours. So it’s best for those quick trips and running short errands, but not for a long day in the car.
Maxi Cosi is the most popular brand of capsule, because they are compatible with most prams. Pretty much every pram that takes a capsule will be compatible with Maxi Cosi, which the exception being prams manufactured by Britax (including Steelcraft prams).
Maxi Cosi capsules go up to 6 months.
Maxi Cosi Mico Plus, which has Isofix in the base, Air Protect in the head rest, a full sized canopy for your baby which is especially important when you’re using it as your pram seat. It also has the Maxi Cosi “cool baby” fabric and comes in a range of colours. (In my opinion too many colours. I think the number of similar, but slightly different, options is a little overwhelming.)
Maxi Cosi Citi is the lightest weight capsule on the market, but it achieves this by offering very little features. Though that stripping back also makes it very budget friendly. The Maxi Cosi Citi capsule doesn’t have Air Protect, no ISOFIX. It very small canopy, very basic fabric and only comes in a couple of colours.
Britax Unity capsule is another great option, because it is a 12 month capsule. So you will get a lot more use out of it. Though it’s not as easily matched with a pram – Britax Unity can fit into some of the Britax/Steelcraft prams, as well as Baby Jogger, Bugaboo, Redsbaby, Mountain Buggy, Phil and Ted, and also Valcobaby. But it’s not compatible with all models within those ranges. So it’s worth triple checking before purchasing as a travel system.
0-4 Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are for children aged 0-4 years. They’re the most popular option because of their versatility and longevity of use. Plus also if you buy a capsule, you’re likely still going to buy a convertible car seat as well.
Convertible car seats are installed rearward facing and in a reclined position from birth and then can be turned forward facing once baby is 6 months old AND meeting the minimum height marker for forward facing – whichever of these milestones comes last.
Convertible car seats can vary wildly as to what kind of protection they offer (see above) and also their usability and size. They can also be very different in how they sit in your car and how much space they take up.
So you absolutely want to be looking at how safe the car seat is, how easy it is to use, but also – will it actually fit in your car?
It’s also very important to look at the width of the car seat as well as how long it is front to back when rearward facing. And if the car seat has an adjustable headrest, take into consideration how much space it’ll take up rearward facing when baby is approaching the upper height markers, not just when your baby is a newborn.
Let me just break down the different types of Maxi Cosi convertible car seats.
The Maxi Cosi Euro Plus and the Maxi Cosi Moda are essentially the exact same car seat. The Moda/Euro Plus has Maxi Cosi’s “G-Cell” side impact protection through the shell to protect your baby in an accident. As well as Air Protect in the head rest.
Also the Maxi Cosi Euro Slim and the Maxi Cosi Vela Slim are also the same car seat. The Euro Slim/Vela Slim don’t have the G-Cell side impact protection. They only have the air protect in the head rest.
THEN just to be even more confusing, all four seemingly different types of car seat, all have the exact same shell and mechanisms. So they’re the same size and work the same way.
So the Vela Slim/Euro Slim despite having the same size shell, they are potentially a “slimmer” fit in the car, because it does create a little bit of space. Which can be especially handy when fitting three car seats across.
Maxi Cosi has also just released two new and very exciting car seats into the market. The Vita Smart and the Vita Pro.
The Vita Smart and Vita Pro are slim line car seats that have been completely redesigned from the ground up. They are more compact not just in width but in length front to back when rearward facing, than the other Maxi Cosi car seats. They offer both the G-Cell side protection and also Air Protect in the head rest – so they’re compact without compromising on safety. And the only difference between the Vita Smart and Vita Pro is the Vita Pro has an additional head support that can be extended to prevent “head flop” when you have a forward facing child that falls asleep in the car. It works similarly to a neck pillow you might use while travelling. Otherwise they’re essentially identical car seats aside from some difference in colour options.
Britax offer a little bit more variety to suit a range of budgets and needs. Though like Maxi Cosi they do use the same shell across many of their car seats.
The Britax Safe and Sound Compaq, Brava and Graphene have the same shell and mechanisms as each other. So they’re the same size, same height and work the same way. The difference between them isn’t just in name though, these seats offer increasingly better protection.
The Compact is the most basic car seat, offering no addition head protection or side impact protection. It also doesn’t have ISOFIX.
The Brava has a head active restraint (somewhat like a bicycle helmet material) but no addition protection through the shell, but it does have ISOFIX.
The Graphene has the head active restraint as well as their Side Impact Cushion Technology through the shell, as well as ISOFIX. The Graphene is probably the most recommended compact car seat.
The Britax Millenia and Platinum Pro also share the same shell and mechanisms – including an incredibly easy to adjust headrest and button to adjust the harness. They are the tallest 0-4 Convertible car seats on the market so will likely fit most children well beyond 4 years old. Otherwise they’re a great option for children on the upper percentiles for height.
The Millenia has superior head protection to the Graphene and Brava, however it does not have any side impact protection through the shell. Which is not necessarily a negative. Because the shell of the Millennia is so wide to accommodate a larger child, by having no side impact protection in the shell you’re gaining back some space when it comes to fitting a third person or car seat in the back of your car.
The Platinum Pro is the absolute top of the line Britax Safe and Sound car seat, offering a double layer of head protection, as well as substantial side impact protection through the shell. On the other hand, it is an absolute beast of a car seat. It’s big and bulky and doesn’t necessarily fit into all cars.
G-Type/ Forward Facing Harnessed Car Seats
G-Type Car Seats are technically “6 months to 8 years” car seats, that have an inbuilt 5 point harness and are forward facing. So they cannot be turned rearward facing so keep in mind it may not actually be suitable, or legal, to put your 6 month old in these forward facing car seat.
That said G-Type car seats can be a great option in a range of scenarios. Firstly, because they accommodate children up to 8 years (and older) in a five point harnessed car seat. Also if you have an exceptionally tall toddler who has outgrown their 0-4 car seat before they turned 4 years old, a G-Type seat is going to guarantee they have an appropriate size and type of seat for their age and height.
Another scenario that G-Type seats are great for is when you have two children that are born less than 4 years apart. So when your next baby is born their older sibling is too young to go into a booster, but too old to be worth buying a second convertible car seat. A G-Type seat means that the baby can inherit the infant car seat and the toddler/preschooler can go into a fully harnessed forward facing seat.
Also being in a car seat with an inbuilt harness is safer than using the adult seat belt with a booster seat. So some parents choose to get their children a G-Type car seat instead of a booster, because it’s safest to be in a 5 point safety harness until they outgrow needing a car seat or booster altogether.
Maxi Cosi Luna Smart and Luna Pro are essentially the same when it comes to the safety and protection they offer for your child. They both have Air Protect technology in the head rest, and a solid double-walled shell.
The Luna Pro has the very unique feature of an adjustable headrest, that for lack of a better word, helps prevent head flop when your child fall asleep in the car. It works similarly to a neck pillow you might use while travelling.
Whereas the Luna Smart has a regular head rest, without this added feature.
The Maxi Guard has the same “head active restraint” that the Graphene convertible car seat has and no side impact protection.
The Maxi Guard Pro offers the same superior head protection as the Millenia, while also having fully side impact protection as well. The fabric quality on the Maxi Guard Pro is substantially better as well. And it has the convenience of a push button for adjusting the harness straps.
Booster seats are for children aged 4 years and older, that meet the minimum height to not be in a car seat with an inbuilt harness. They are designed to essentially “boost” your child up, because adult car seat and seat belts are designed to fit people who are 145cm and taller. So a booster will help ensure that the lap and sash seat belt sit correctly across their body.
They also do offer some head protection for your child, though as with harnessed car seats, how substantial that protection is can vary dramatically. Also the overall height of booster seats can be very different, and given the height difference between very petite and very tall 7 year olds, it’s definitely worth taking this into account when choosing a booster seat.
For example the Maxi Cosi Rodi has the “Air Protect” technology in the head rest similar to the Maxi Cosi Moda. The Britax KidGuard has their Side Impact Cushion Technology in it’s head rest, similar to what you see in the Milennia, Platinum Pro and Maxi Guard Pro. Whereas the Britax Hi-Liner only had the bicycle helmet style “Head active restraint”.
So I hope that I’ve made choosing a car seat at least a little bit less confusing. There is so much to consider, between finding the right car seat for your child and their age, the right car seat for your budget and also the right car seat for your car! So I’ve also written a guide to what to look for and how to choose the best car seat for your baby! If you have any questions or anything else you’d like to know, please feel free to comment below or get in touch and I’d love to help you find the right car seat for you!
Now that we’ve got your car seat sorted out, why not head over and check out our pram reviews for the Best Prams in 2019?!
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