I love the ease of use for the Marathon 70. When you're installing this car seat, there are built-in lock-offs, so you won't struggle to get the seat belt locked appropriately. If you're using LATCh to install, the premium push-button connectors make it simple to attach and detach the belt. Britax is one of few companies that allow the use of the top tether both rear- and forward-facing, too. The updated Marathon 70 uses the new Britax Safe Cell technology, which helps dissipate some energy to reduce forward motion during a crash. Britax also uses thicker webbing on the harness straps, so they're unlikely to get twisted with normal use. The Marathon 70 has a no-rethread harness that lets you adjust harness height without uninstalling the car seat. 5-40 lbs rear-facing, up to 70 lbs forward-facing. About $230.
The My Ride 65 car seat was the first in the U.S. to feature a 40 lb. rear-facing weight limit. The forward-facing limit is 65 lbs. The infant padding is great for helping smaller babies fit into a seat that is also made to accommodate a larger toddler. I like the separate, color-coded LATCH straps for rear-facing and forward-facing installations, so there's no confusion as to which to use. Best of all, this is a sturdy car seat with plenty of EPS foam for impact protection, a reasonably tall shell, and high harness slots for about $150, which puts some of these excellent features in reach for many more families.
This updated version of the popular Britax Roundabout features higher weight limits and some of the newest safety technology at a very nice price. You still get the premium push-button LATCh connectors, thicker harness straps, rear- and forward-facing tether, and built-in lock-offs as you do with other Britax car seats. You'll have to rethread the harness to adjust the height with the Roundabout 55. You should get 5 or 6 years out of this car seat with an average child, since it's generally outgrown by height first, and this seat has a nice, tall shell. 5-40 lbs rear-facing, up to 55 lbs forward-facing. About $160.
This new convertible car seat from The First Years has a lot of the features I like to see in car seats but comes in under $200. The True Fit rear-faces to 35 lbs., and the removable headrest makes rear-facing installations easier in smaller vehicles. The forward-facing limit is 65 lbs. and when you add the headrest again, the shell is tall to give a longer useful life. You can adjust harness height without rethreading any straps. Built-in lock-offs help with tricky seat belt installs. I also like that the True Fit car seat has infant padding to keep infants from sliding around in a car seat that is also designed to fit much larger children.
The Boulevard 70 has height-adjustable side impact protection and a no-rethread harness. It's easy to move the "wings" by baby's head up and down to get the perfect fit each time. The side wings are the biggest difference between the Boulevard 70 and the other Britax convertible car seats shown here. Built-in lock-offs make seat belt installs easy, and the push-button LATCH connectors make installing and uninstalling with LATCh simple. Like other Britax convertible car seats, the top tether can be used both rear- and forward-facing. The Boulevard 70 also has the new Safe Cell technology. A Boulevard 70 CS version is available, too. The only difference is a clicking indicator for harness tightness. 5-40 lbs rear-facing, up to 70 lbs forward-facing. About $270.
The Radian car seat has a good 65 lb. weight limit and the ability to be tethered rear- and forward-facing. The narrow base makes it easier to fit several car seats in your vehicle, but the Radian car seat still has plenty of comfort for your baby thanks to a roomy seat space and forward-facing recline option. This car seat folds for travel outside the car, and can even fit in an airline overhead bin. Rear-faces 5-40 lbs.(models made in or after Sept. 2008, prior to that the rear-facing limit was 35 lbs.), forward-faces to 65 lbs. The Radian 65 has a unique forward-facing recline option that adds comfort for older kids on long trips. Radian car seats can be hard to find in retail stores, but can easily be purchased online. About $230. If you're hoping to use this car seat for your baby from birth, you may want to upgrade to the Radian 80 car seat, which comes with infant padding to help little babies fit the seat better.
One of the most economical car seats available, the Cosco Scenera doesn't offer bells and whistles, but it will keep baby safe in the car without blowing a strict budget. The five-point harness model offers simple harness adjustments and a removable seat cover for easy cleaning. I love that this seat has a 35 lb. rear-facing weight limit, which is higher than some others under $100. The four harness heights and three buckle positions help the Scenera fit a wide range of babies and toddlers. As on many inexpensive car seats, the harness straps may twist a lot, and should be smoothed with each use to keep baby safe. The LATCH connectors are very basic and not always easy to use, but this is to be expected on a car seat that costs less than $50. The Scenera also makes a great, lightweight car seat for airline travel.