Baby Seat Madness: A Dad's Tale

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We have a whole site that deals with moms and cars, but there are also some dads on staff who live and work with cars. As a new father who’s fully aware of the entire array of car seats, from infant to convertibles to boosters, I still found myself thrown for a loop when our 6-month-old had to move out of his infant seat and into a convertible. I don’t know about any other dads out there, but in our house, if something comes with instructions and needs to be installed, it falls onto my to-do list, not my wife’s. 

Getting the seat for our primary car was easy. This is for my wife’s Subaru Outback. We went with the biggest and baddest — which in this arena means safest — seat out there, the Britax Boulevard CS. It’s huge, taking up nearly the entire backseat of our Outback. 

I went to buy the seat all by myself (which is unusual for baby-stuff shopping) in a new Cadillac CTS. I wheeled the huge box out to the car, and lo and behold the box didn’t fit in the trunk. It didn’t fit in the front or backseat either. I had to break down the box and take the seat out. Even then the seat alone didn’t fit in the trunk.

When I got the Britax home and started setting it up in the Outback, I realized that all the online reviews mentioning how big it was were accurate. It’s so big it obstructs the rear view a little bit. It’s just huge. However, it’s built like a tank, and the little guy is kind of wedged in there with little space to waver. OK, all done … right?

Nope — I also needed a new seat for test cars. Our infant seat fit into a base, so we had one seat and two bases so we could each shuttle the child. Now we had to get an entire second seat.

My wife went out and bought a very affordable secondary seat that came recommended. Our son travels about 1.5 miles every morning in this seat. That’s about it, unless we’re using a test car for a weekend trip to the suburbs, so there wasn’t much need to get the biggest and baddest a second time — plus it needed to move from one test car to another about every other day.

But then we realized we needed yet another seat for the nanny in case she needed to take him anywhere. That meant I had to go out at the last second and buy another one myself without having the laser focus I’d had on the Britax. I was given a few options that were rated highly and wouldn’t break the bank.

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I went with the Graco ComfortSport — which is a better trim name than many carmakers use — that was on sale at our local big box store. It took me at least 20 minutes to determine this would be an acceptable seat. It must have had something to do with the long line of options on display that disoriented even a moderately informed dad. If you’re not at all informed, I think they’d all blend together.

After unboxing and installing three new seats in less than a week, I’ve become a bit of a pro at threading the straps into the right positions. Compared to the bigger Britax, both of the smaller seats seem to work better with a shoulder strap seat belt strapping them in than they do with the Latch straps, which we always relied on with the infant seat and its bases.

I definitely think that — while I’m sure they’re plenty secure and safe, and are all government tested — these less-expensive seats aren’t as solid as the more expensive one. That kind of worries me, although I guess it shouldn’t. The third seat — the Graco — I’ve now adopted as the test-car seat, moving it frequently from one test car to another, much to the annoyance of the other reviewers. While not as big as the Britax, hefting the Graco around an 11-story parking garage isn’t exactly a picnic.   

Most dads don’t have to worry about that, though.

Photo of David Thomas
Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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