Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Comparison of High End Car Seats

For those who don't know, we've been on a journey with car seats.  While pregnant, I didn't want an infant carrier.  I wanted a convertible.  I would buy this, Aisley would use it until she needed a booster, and that would be that.  In classic type A fashion, a plan was made.
Annnnnd then we walked out of an ultrasound at a high risk maternity clinic.  They told us we would have a 4 lb baby.  Suddenly a long-lasting convertible was out of the question.
After much research and consideration, we settled on the Safety 1st Onboard Air 35.  It was one of the most recommended seats for preemies and small babies, and when it went on sale for $80, it was the most cost effective option for something I really didn't want to have to buy at all.
I went on to buy the original seat I wanted when she was almost 6 months old-I even scored a sweet deal on it.  I was so excited to continue with my Type A plan.  Annnnnd then it broke.  One strap was about 2 inches longer than the other, and I had to reinstall it every day.  So Graco took it back and gave me the original retail price of $180.  I was perusing Facebook and saw a Chicco Nextfit on sale at Target for $124.  I was so fed  up with the Graco fiasco of the crappy seat, I went and picked one right up.
The plan (why did I even still bother having plans?) was to use the premium, originally $300 seat for my car, and then buy a less expensive one for Giordy's.  But if I've ever seen a seat that was MADE for a specific car, it was the Chicco Nextfit and Giordy's Chevy Cruze.  The seats in the cruze have a weird pitch, and Giordy is 6'3" after all.  It just fit.  I was stuck between buying another Nextfit for my car and buying a brand-new Britax Clicktight seat, because if there's one thing I hate, its seat belt installs.  I looked everywhere on the internet, and couldn't find a side by side of the two seats, and I didn't have TONS of extra room in my car.  I was shocked that I couldn't find a single picture of these two seats together, especially considering they're probably 2 of the 4 most popular seats.  So when I finally bought the Britax Boulevard Clicktight, I set out to do a side by side of my own.

So on paper, similar seats.  Britax is a little bigger and fits a little bigger kids, Chicco fits the squishy ones better.  What I was really curious to see was how they both installed in the same vehicle, and how they looked next to each other.

Its not how I expected.  The Britax is slightly bigger, but because of the recline, really only slightly, although the harness is visibly higher.  I think Britax pulls it off by using a slightly shorter base.  It works wonderfully.  

So what about for smaller babies?  Newborn recline.  
Both seats offer a great fit for the average newborn, but only the Nextfit fits the Huggable Images Preemie doll.  Remember that both have newborn inserts, and neither is pictured here.  The Nextfits padding is significant and makes up for alot of the harness room that it looks like it has here.  

The recline levels look to be visually about the same, and the padding is comparable.  

The Britax seat has thicker shoulder pads that may need to be removed, and the HUGS feature that needs to be removed for many small children, including mine.  Anyone happen to notice the little feet here?  Someone stayed outside with me through the WHOLE process.  She loved the sunshine!

Moving on to in-the car views, here are both seats in my 2013 Nissan Rogue.  Its not a big crossover, but it holds both seats well (even together-and even with my tall husband in the seat.  
I installed both at an upright angle and with the headrest fully extended.  The seats were in the same position (far enough back to accommodate tall husband-but not all the way) and both cleared the front seats.  The front seat was still more than comfortable.  The Britax seat, although bigger, allowed about 2 inches more than the Nextfit.  

I quickly tried them side by side, and couldn't get a good install.  Although its not surprising from two fairly wide seats.  I didn't try them at a newborn recline, though I suspect they'd do relatively fine.  Instead, I did try a middle install (which we use on a day to day basis anyhow) and found that our infant seat would fit next to the Britax, eliminating the need to recline the seat so far.  

I couldn't do the same with the Nextfit, so it looks like when baby #2 eventually rolls around, we'll be using this combo, whether its middle and driver side or driver side/passenger.  

I went through and tried the same set up in Giordy's PITA Chevy, and while I can't say its bad (for being a sedan) I definitely didnt get the same results.  Both fit, both allowed the headrest to be fully extended, but it left much to be desired in the front seat space.  The Nextfit does much better here, allowing a decent amount of passenger space, but my husand wouldnt be comfortable driving more than an hour in front of it, and definitely wouldnt fit in front of the Britax.  Again, when only installing one, we use a center install to gain him some more room.  

Again, I didnt try to recline them much, but I'm not sure how much you could while maintaining leg room.  The back seats of this car have a steep pitch to them.  Its meant to maximize adult legroom, but it just doesnt play as nice with car seats.  And the infant seat here?  Not even gonna happen.  I could still drive the car, but my husband couldnt even get in.  For the record-all 3 seats fit nicely alone in the center, but the Nextfit was still the least space-eating in this vehicle.  

To finish it off, I'm going to throw in some quick quirks about the seats that I noticed while going back and forth.  

Extendable Headrests- The headrest of the Nextfit lets out a little extra harness from the back to accomodate moving the seat automatically.  The Britax harness has to be manually let out, and then the headrest can be extended.  Not a deal breaker, just annoying.  

Lock offs- The Nextfit is an EXPENSIVE seat.  It just is.  But the mandatory lock offs are SO cheap.  They're literally flimsy plastic.  But they do the job and have been crash tested, so I guess they work.  On the other hand, the Britax "Clicktight" is their own branding of a lockoff and a major selling point of the seat.  Its one of the reasons I love the crap out of it.  A 2 year old can literally do it.  

Comfort-This can be debated ALL day long, but my kid cries a LOT less in the Britax Boulevard.  She's a car seat hater, and even she can't bring herself to loathe this seat.  

Harness Tightening-If you have a smaller kid, the Nextfit is so hard to tighten to their itty body.  Even still with Aisley.  Bigger kids are a cinch though.  Britax integrated a click thing onto their adjuster that I just don't particularly care for at any age.

What are my favorite things about the Nextfit?  The recline system is a breeze, and has tons of allowable positions for rear facing kids, while my Graco only had one rear facing position.  The high sides offer side impact protection and it is more comfortable than many other seats.  The latch installation is super easy, and I'll never buy another seat without lockoffs for seatbelt install.  

So why did I spend the extra money on the Britax?  Marketing?  Safety?  It one of about 10 car seats that uses steel instead of plastic, and one of only 2 brands that allows a rear facing tether.  The HUGS reduce forward movement by one third.  That's a lot.  The Safecell technology has shown to absorb tremendous force in an accident, and the Clicktight installation is just a dream for me after the fiasco that was Graco's magically loosening car seat.  

I think it all comes down to the vehicle.  While they take up about the same amount of space (still can't believe it) I still prefer the Nextfit in the pitchy seats and the Britax features in my car.  I love them both, each for different reasons.  


  1. This is a really great review and I appreciate all the photos and effort that went into this. I am currently thinking about getting one of these two brands for my Toyota Highlander and I almost want to buy one of each and see which is best once installed (can you do that even??). Now that it has been a year since your original review, do you have any new insights or opinions? Still like both? Like one better? Better or worse over time? Does your child prefer one to the other?

  2. If it's any indication, the nextfit has gone to nanas car and we now primarily use two boulevard cts. I love the nextfit but it just isn't as nice. My daughter shows no preference but I love the lower sides and easier install on the britax. The easier adjust on the nextfit is great for nana though because if she has my nephew the harness adjusts tightness based on headrest height as well.