Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Diono vs Britax - A Carseat Review

In case you missed it, we got in to a bit of a car wreck as few weeks ago. It was not bad and thankfully no one was injured (I've since seen a few wrecks and realize ours could have been a lot worse).

The insurance adjuster said to get new carseats - yep 4 new cars - and they had to be comparable in price to the ones we were replacing. We had a Britax Frontier, Britax Marathon, Diono Radian RXT, and a Baby Trend infant carrier/bucket. The Diono was M's Christmas present. I wanted to try it last year because the major selling feature aside from the safety is that you can fit 3 across a bench of seats - aka the third row of a van. I don't remember having any issues with it. I liked the fabric and the harness so I was ready to replace our Britax carseats with Dionos.


Ha! Well I've been asked by more than one person how we are going to fit 5 kids in carseats in the van. I look around and ask myself, where's the 5th kid? I suppose in the future, at some point, we will have to cross that bridge so why not cross it now since someone else is paying.

Having the option to get 3 Dionos across the back row (when we needed the extra room) would be nice. Dionos have good safety ratings. Thinner carseats are way cheaper than a 15 passenger van. You know. So I ordered 2 Diono Radian RXTs as these are the ones that you can for sure get 3 across and 1 Diono Rainer - it is still slim and I was thinking I could still get 3 across with the two Radians.

Could I get them 3 across the third row?

Honestly, I have no idea.

I unpacked the Rainer - which is super heavy (just like a Britax) and got E fitted for the straps/harness/buckle. Fine.

Lug the seat out to the van finagle it into the third row which is a challenge with the 2 middle row captains chairs. First I try installing the seat using the seat belt and threading it through the clearly marked belt path. I put my knee in the seat and get the seatbelt as tight as possible in the locked position. But the seat wiggled when I pushed it. And way more than the inch or so that is 'acceptable'. So I try and get the seatbelt tighter. The carseat still moves way more than it should (both on the top and bottom).

So then I forget the seatbelt and free up the LATCH connectors and try installing the carseat using LATCH. I again put all my weight into the carseat and pull the LATCH anchor belts (which are not independent of each other like the newer Britax LATCH anchors are). The carseat is sliding all over the seat and I cannot get the seat any tighter. Oh and did I mention that Lee wasn't home and I HAD to go to the store? Oh and my patience level is just about gone because I just spent $850 on carseats that won't get tight?!?!?

Maybe it is the factory made seat covers (thanks Uncle Kev) that are causing the slippage. I pull out all the stops and start over. I pull back the seat cover. I even get out the tether anchor to try and lock the seat in from the back. I thread the seatbelt through the belt path. Get it as tight as possible. The carseat is still sliding. My hope is the anchor tether so I get in the trunk and literally hang on the anchor tether to get it tight. Go back to test the seat and the flipping thing still is not tight. The back is tight but there is no way to get the base (the part that actually sits on the seat) to not slide. It is maddening and frustrating and 30 minutes later I still don't have a carseat installed!

Thank goodness for Amazon's return policy because these babies

are going straight back to where they came from. Plus the other one that need to get taped back up that's in the garage. A friend of mine has been on the phone several times with Diono with similar issue and she's returning hers too. 

And even if I happened to get all three in and secured I'd have to eventually take them out to rethread the straps as the kids grew. Britax you can adjust the harness height while they are installed (you cannot move the bottom buckle when installed just for the record)

Here's the icing on the cake. 

So I have to go shopping so I install the old carseats (in the newly cleaned van, hello crumbs!) and would you believe it took me less than 30 second to get the Britax Frontier Click-Tight install and NOT MOVING AN INCH. Seriously ZERO frustrations. And the Marathon (which does not have click-tight) with the 2 independent LATCH connectors, that took no more than 1 minute to install with no wiggle room. 

Long live Britax... At least in this house. 

A pyramid of Britax carseats : ) 

Oh and there's a cherry to top the whole situation off.

So we hit up Target to replace the BabyTrend infant bucket. I rolled in the BabyTrend stroller (that means I've got three walkers and the baby in the stroller) just to see if in the off chance the Chicco KeyFit would work in the BabyTrend stroller. That would be a heck-to-the-no answer. So BabyTrend. 

The individual carseats were about $125 for only the base and carseat. The combo stroller/carseats were $70 more. So I got one with the stroller and insurance and I would work out the difference. 

I finally unpacked the box the other day (because I've got loads of time on my hands to mess around with this stuff) and put the stroller together and noticed the carseat handle wasn't the usual triangle - which is what I really liked about BabyTrend. I was going to roll with it and just move on. But I kept looking at the carseat from the top and it looked weird. Like slanted or something. Something wasn't right. Lee looked at it and agreed something was off but maybe it was molded that way? 

No way. They wouldn't mold a carseat to be asymmetrical. 

I got a ruler out and didn't the patience to take a bunch of measurements. I was going to keep the carseat until I realized I could visually test it.

Bam! The left side was not sitting flat on the counter and the right side was resting quite nicely on it. Just call me the carseat sleuth!

I like how there is a note that says to NOT return it to a retail store because they won't be able to help BUT too bad. It is going back. I'm leaning toward the Chicco KeyFit because they have raving reviews on Amazon but the jury is still out. I'll keep you posted. 

In the meantime I've got a Diono to box up and tape up and three Britax boxes to recycle at le dump. 

I'm so tired of looking at carseats and boxes. Though I will say, I am so grateful no one was hurt because I have seen and heard about some pretty nasty car wrecks these past few weeks. Makes me seriously consider putting my phone in the passenger floorboard just so I am not tempted to touch it AT ALL while driving.