Monday, January 4, 2010

Britax vs. Safety 1st

I just want to take a moment to share my 2 cents with you about the two car seats we own.

When Emmett turned a year and it was time for a new car seat, only the best, the safest and unfortunately the most expensive car seat would be good enough for my darling first born. So after researching on Consumer Reports, talking to friends and people at Babies R US, we decided the Britax Marathon was the way to go.

Then Eisley turned one and again, we had to decide if we'd be getting another Marathon ($$$) or something more reasonably priced. Again, I researched and decided to go with something a little less pricey, but still highly ranked on consumer reports. We decided on the Safety First Vantage Point high back booster - it came in orange! We couldn't resist! If only it had come in turquoise!

After using both for a couple months I have strong opinions about these car seats and would like to share them with you. My opinions have nothing to do with actual safety of these seats, merely on the day to day usability. Bottom line, for me, the Britax may be worth the additional $200*. Maybe you don't care about the nitty gritty details, in which case there's no need to keep reading. But if you do, please proceed.

  • Straps twisting: The Britax has strong straps that don't get twisted up. The Safety 1st straps feel flimsy are always getting twisted and tangled. I personally am a stickler for flat straps. No matter what car seat you're using, if you're not using it right, it's not going to be able to do it's job.
  • Straps on shoulders: I don't know what it is but the Safety 1st straps are always falling off Emmett's shoulders. You really have to check and double check that the straps are in the right place. The Britax straps magically lay in the correct position over the shoulders. I have no explanation for this!
  • Velcro: The Britax has this amazingly simple feature of putting velcro on the side of the car seat and the straps. This serves two purposes, holds the straps out of the way when the child is being placed in to the car seat so you don't have to go digging under their bums looking for the straps. Also, it keep the crotch buckle things from sliding back towards the seat, again preventing the behind the bum search. Such a simple thing that makes such a difference for me.
  • Height: As you can see in the picture, the Britax is higher off the seat of the car than the Safety 1st. Not sure it really matters, but I think the child can probably see better and overall, I prefer the higher seat.
  • Head Comfort/Sleeping: Emmett has slept fine in both car seats, but his head bobbles around more in the Safety 1st. It doesn't have alot of support to either side of the head, so he has no where to rest his weary head so it just bobbles around. In the Britax he'd just lean his head back where it would securely rest until he wanted to wake.
  • Drink Holder: Safety 1st has one, Britax doesn't. It's a great idea...in theory. Problem is, you can't change which side it's on. He can't access it because it's either right next to Eisley's seat or right next to do the door, depending on which side his seat is on. Either way, it's pretty pointless.
  • Fabric: The Britax pattern we chose is a bit shiny so things wipe right off it. It still looks practically new and we've had it 2+ years. The beautiful orange fabric of the Safety 1st is already looked worse for wear.
  • Harness Snap: This snap I'm referring to is the one that is higher and supposed to be placed at armpit height. Britax actually stays where you put it, Safety 1st is always sliding down. Maybe this is why the shoulder straps of the Safety 1st are always falling off their shoulders.
  • Crotch Buckle: A few things. 1) The Britax one pops right open when you push the button. It's a one handed deal, which is imperative with multiple kids. The Safety 1st one requires pushing the button and then either having the child push his chest out to pull the pieces out of the buckle, or taking your second hand to pull it out. Annoying! 2) Second thing, the shape of the crotch buckle. Britax has a slightly angled buckle so that in the dark you can feel your way to the correct latch. The Safety 1st buckle is round and looks cool, but is practically impossible to figure out where to fit the buckles in the dark.
OK, so that was my 2 cents - or maybe 99 cents! I of course was not compensated for any of my opinions, I just had to vent somewhere and what better place than my personal blog! For those of you who've made it to the end...Congrats! And I hope it helped somehow!

*Let's look at the price/use difference. Britax is about $280 and the Safety first is about $95. So for practical purposes let's assume the price difference is $200. If you figure you use the carseat for, on average, one trip per day that means you're actually using the car seat 1) strap in 2) strap out at your location 3) strap in after your errand 4) strap out at home. That's 4 uses per day. Your child will probably use this carseat 2 years minimum. 2 years is 365 days times 4 uses per day equals 1460 uses. At $200 price difference/1460 uses equals less than 14 cents/use. So, ask yourself, for $.14 per use, is the Britax worth it? I'm starting to think we maybe should have just gotten another Marathon! Oh well, we are SO grateful to have these car seats. Now that I am done venting and calculating, I'll just start focusing on being grateful!

UPDATE: I just wanted to reiterate a comment from Katie. She personally does not recommend the Britax, but instead prefers the Sunshine Radian. Another car seat that has intrigued me, but I have no personal experience with. See her comment below.

14 comments:

citydweller said...

I agree with your points about the Britax car seat. I just started using one and have been very pleased with it.

Eric said...

You are such a car-seat snob.

P.S. I was going to make some snide comment about some really expensive car-seat that I thought you would want next, but I realized that we pretty much already have the most expensive one. Maybe some day we can seel these car-seats and pay for their college education.

Randi said...

Thank you for this! We are at the point where we need to start thinking about getting a new carseat for Selah (she's still in her infant seat because she's so tiny). She is almost 16 months old now, so it's time.

Isaac has been in his Britax Marathon since he was 4 months old, and we have always loved it. It has been heavily used for over 2 years, and still looks like new! We have been trying to decide if we should get another Marathon or something different.

After reading your thoughts, I think I would be very disappointed in a different carseat if I didn't think it was as good as the Marathon. I'm picky abgout the straps and comfort too. I think we'll just stick with Britax. :)

Buck said...

Excellent review. I've always heard Britax was the best but it's nice to hear a real life comparison to the competition...

KATIE said...

I actually will never use a britax again. I watched a bunch of crash tests done on different seats in Canada, I must say the marathon did the worst in my opinion and none of the Britax seats did well enough to suit me. We had a Britax Regent and were rearended and since you have to replace seats after accidents I was shopping for new seats and was showed the videos of all the different seats. I was very pleased that the other seats that I have, 2 RadianXTs and a Graco Nautilus, did very well. That is why I ended up getting another Radian instead of a Britax.

Pattie said...

You might want to look into the Britax Frontier. We just moved our 5 yr old to the frontier and he's loving his seat. Yes he is still in a 5 pt and there is no complaining as he loves how comfy his seat is.

Great POST

JFK said...

Your comments about the Britax vs the Safety First reinforce my experience with the two car seats. I thought it was just me 'not getting' the Safety First. I love the Britax. If Sunshine Radian is better, great. Meanwhile, your review is most appreciated and useful!

Laura said...

This was a good review!! I am huge about the straps being straight too, our are always twisting up, don't like that. I think a little extra money is worth safety fr sure!

krisily said...

I am a car seat fanatic! The Britax seats have more bells & whistles now matter how you look at it. The Graco Nautilus is another seat that is much less expensive and has AWESOME ratings. Even with safety aside though, the Britax just has the extra bells & whistles that make life easier and the child more comfortable. If you like the Marathon, you would love the Boulevard. It's about $330 but has a few features that the Marathon doesn't. It has the side impact wings. It really jets out on either side and gives a nice closed in feel- Ava sleeps well in this seat! Also, it has knobs on the side so you can adjust the strap height without re-threading which makes it super easy. Radians are awesome seats too but less mainstream so a lot of people are not familiar with them. I agree, a good seat is worth it!

krisily said...

I am a car seat fanatic! The Britax seats have more bells & whistles now matter how you look at it. The Graco Nautilus is another seat that is much less expensive and has AWESOME ratings. Even with safety aside though, the Britax just has the extra bells & whistles that make life easier and the child more comfortable. If you like the Marathon, you would love the Boulevard. It's about $330 but has a few features that the Marathon doesn't. It has the side impact wings. It really jets out on either side and gives a nice closed in feel- Ava sleeps well in this seat! Also, it has knobs on the side so you can adjust the strap height without re-threading which makes it super easy. Radians are awesome seats too but less mainstream so a lot of people are not familiar with them. I agree, a good seat is worth it!

Marie said...

I'm chuckling a bit only because my experience mirrors yours - Britax Marathon for the 1st and a cheap $99 seat for the 2nd. Greta ended up with an Evenflo seat and I have been pretty pleased with it, but I do prefer the Marathon.

If I ever buy again, I will buy the Sunshine Radian. I've been intruiged by the Recaro brand as well. Baby Grand is a great place to test out the less common seats such as the Radian and Recaro.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for a car seat for our 14 month old daughter she is getting longer, so in need of another seat. In reading your comparison, you compare two different price ranges of car seat models. I'm wondering if the higher end Safety 1st model is as good as the Britax Marathon, for example the Complete Air 65 LX. Just wondering since you did point out how poorly the components are in the safety first compared to the marathon. I'm leaning toward the Safety first because of cost less but has most of the features of the comparable marathon. thanks for your comment

Alyssa said...

In reply to the anonymous commenter - I have no experience at all with the higher end Safety First car seat. Sorry I'm no help there! I think whatever car seat you have you just get used to it and make it work and really don't know any different! We're still using both of these car seats and I really don't mind either one. Now, hindsight I would have made a different purchase, but really on a day to day basis the safety first works just fine. Good luck making your decision!

Buck said...

I remembered this post and came back to it since it's time to get a big girl seat for Baby J. I think it's all really frustrating when I try to read reviews and figure out what's best. I've heard many like the Sunshine Kids seat but it is the worst among those tested by Consumer Reports (which tends to be pretty good in terms of reviews). I'm still leaning toward the Britax but it's a hard pick. I feel like the infant seat was so much easier!!!