Best car seat for 4 year old? (And best seats to fit 3 across the back seat?)

(24 posts)(16 voices)
  1. Hi Ladies,

    I hope you don't mind me posting car seat questions here because I know they've been asked to death - however, you ladies always give great advice.

    I have a Britax Marathon (which I love) for my almost 4 year old (C). I now have 1 year old twin boys. I bought the Marathon on the intent of keeping C in it for as long as possible, but I find that the crotch strap is kind of short plus he is not liking how high up it is for him to climb in there.

    I am contemplating handing his Marathon down to one of the twins, purchasing another, and getting him a booster (high back).

    Here are my questions:

    - There is one called the Clek Oobr which I like but I'm uncomfortable taking C out of the five-pt harness, although he meets the requirements (although just barely). Otherwise, I like the Britax line - just wondering if there is another Britax brand that would fit him better?

    - Wondering if 3 Britax seats would fit across the back of an SUV? (I know they are large seats)

    - Wondering about the Sunshine seats - I hear they fit good together but in Canada, no place to really view so I'd have to order online sight unseen. I'm spoiled by the Britax seats so wondering if I'd be disappointed.

    One last thing - I'm not opposed to any other brands but I need good seats - buckling and un-buckling 3 kids all the time is a job in itself and I'd really hate to be stuck with something that is difficult to buckle and that the kids aren't comfortable in.

    TIA for your help,


  2. We have a sunshine radian 80 for my ds who just turned 5. We bought it for him when his twin brothers were born so we could fit 3 carseats in one row.
    Love it!

  3. I'm in Canada too...we bought our 3 Sunshine Radians at Canadian Tire. So you should be able to view them there. They're the narrowest. We've got three in the back of our Toyota Prius - works just fine.

  4. I also bought Sunshine Radians - one 65 and two 80 so I could fit 3 in a row in our back seat of my Toyota Corolla. They are also easy to travel with (maybe a bit heavy) as they fold up.

    I have Britax also and dislike them - the covers always coming off. The Radians seem just as nice and easy to use.


  5. How are the Radians rear-facing? Are there any fit issues?

    katia - I remember seeing them at Canadian Tire when C was little. I don't think they carry them anymore though - but I have found a few Canadian websites and free shipping for the most part.

    Thanks for the responses so far!

  6. check out You will find a lot of helpful tips there (and I am sure there are techs there from Canada too).

  7. I use the radians backward facing now for my twins and they are great. We also like the Radian better than our Britax in part because my oldest (4yo) can buckle herself in while we still need to do it for her in our other car with just the britax.

  8. I have heard that the Radians can be kind of long for rear facing if you have a really small car. We bought ours after all our kids were forward facing. If you are talking about an SUV you are probably fine.

    So can't speak for any experience in how they do rear facing.


  9. We had two forward-facing and one rear-facing for awhile there. It was a TIGHT fit back there but it worked. We relied on that site to make sure it would work before we purchased - huge help.

  10. our radians are rear facing in an audi a4 station wagon (no SUVs for us!!) it's fine.

  11. I'd get either the Graco Nautilus or the Britax ?? Frontier maybe??

    It's a five point harness to a pretty high weight, then converts to a booster.

    The Graco one is 65 pounds in a five-point harness, then a high back booster, then a backless booster.

    The Britax is 80 pounds in a five-point harness, then converts to a high back booster.

    Both of them look more like big-kid carseats than convertible seats do.

    Either of those will be the last carseat you need.

  12. If you want a Britax, you should get the Frontier. We recently ordered the Britax Frontier and the Sunshine Kids Radian 80 for my 5-year-old from so we could try them both out (there wasn't a good place near us to view them). We liked both of them but ended up keeping the Radian because it's so narrow I can fit 3 car seats across in my SUV (which is helpful when we carpool). We were able to return the one we didn't keep for free. One nice thing about the Radian is that my DD is able to buckle herself in and out which she could never do with our Britax seats. We've never used it rear-facing but I remember it got good reviews for that when I researched it online.

  13. LOVE our Radian XT SL's. We have 3 across the back row of our SUV, and one rearfacing in the middle row. They are awesome seats, fit great, and install easily. They will take your child to 45 lbs rear facing and 80 lbs forward facing.



  14. our radians are rear facing in an audi a4 station wagon (no SUVs for us!!) it's fine.
    Good for you! Every time I see a big honking SUV or a Minivan, there is only one person in it- the driver.
    Sorry if I offend, but I feel very strongly about this- especially since we're at war because of oil.

  15. Anotehr vote for Radians. My trio are still in them at 6 years old. They fit 3 across great. I don't know about rear facing. We still had our Roundabouts then.

  16. MitttenGirl & katia - thanks, I did check out that website, was very helpful - there was a huge thread with pictures of "3 across", lots of different options.

    mirnaester - the Graco Nautilus is on sale at the Canadian BRU and it seems to fit what I'd need for my 4 yr old, just a little scared of the reviews that say the buckle sticks, plus I've had no luck with other Graco products (although my twins infant seats are Safeseats and I've been happy with them). The Frontier looks very similar but is sooo expensive here, that is part of what is making my choice so difficult.

    Thanks to everyone else who responded, your comments have really helped. I am leaning towards a Radian, just wish they weren't so pricey, the cheapest I can find is $329!

    Anyone have any experience with the Graco Nautilus buckle sticking? I've seen the "3 across" thread on that website and they had a Nautilus, Marathon, and Radian in a smaller vehicle than mine.

    (And OA, no offence taken, I am one of those with a big honking SUV but we are a large family so we definitely fill it. If we could get away with a hybrid, we would, but so far the Escape is the only one (we drive Fords) and that would be waaayyy too small for us. I do know what you're saying about seeing lone drivers having big vehicles!)


  17. We have 3 Sunshine Radian 80s rearfacing in our Toyota Sienna which we bought to have room for the strollers and other child-related junk. I had 2 Radians and a Graco Snugride rear-facing in the back of my Altima when the kids were younger(under a year). The seats are relatively long when rear-facing and my husband (6ft with a broken back) had a difficult time with how far forward the seat had to be when they were in the Altima (not as much of an issue in the van). If you're purchasing more than one, ask about a discount. Also they clearance last year's model from time to time, although I think it's usually in the fall, and you might be able to find it on sale then.

  18. We have 3 Britax Wizards all forward facing now in the 2nd row of our Explorer. And it is tight tight tight like it rubs on one of the doors.

    DS is 6 and his seat is expiring/has expired and he is just a smidge away from being too tall for it. I am having a heck of a time replacing it with a booster. The problems I'm running in to are the lack of a 5pt harness that doesn't need tethering and doesn't use LATCH and is narrow enough to still fit with 2 Britax Wizards. Our SUV cannot tether and it is not equipped with LATCH.

    So far all I can find to work is a high back booster that uses the shoulder seatbelt and I really want a 5pt. harness.

    BTW, DS can buckle his own Britax and has been for a long time. Even though he is a big kid he still has room in the crotch area. I think some Britax have a 2 position crotch belt - ours is old and doesn't.

  19. I've had a Graco Nautilus for about 3-4 months now and LOVE it! DS is happy in it and haven't had any problems with the buckle sticking.. or any other issues. We even bought a second one for DH's car. I've recommended it to 2 other friends and they both have purchased them and are really pleased.

  20. Lisa - I have a Frontier (just purchased about 4 months ago) and we like it. DS can climb into it which he couldn't with our Marathon (we moved that to DH's car as a 2nd seat). Overall very happy with it - but I don't have to fit 3 across so can't help you with that part of your question.



    This online store has the brand new Radians for $299, with free shipping. Enter Coupon code "kids20" and get an additional 20% off, which brings the price down to $239. This is by far the best deal I've found. (Just had to order some more for dh's vehicle).



  22. Not as good as Jamie's deal, but you can get the new Radian for $299 at If you're a first-time customer you can use their online code to get 10% off which is what we did. Shipping is free, and if I remember correctly they also do free returns.

    The Graco Nautilus got good online reviews and is a fair bit cheaper. But my DD didn't find it comfortable when we tried it out in the store, so you might want to check it out in person before buying.

  23. We have the Nautilus for DS (5.5 yo) and he likes it a lot. It doesn't stick. He can now buckle and unbuckle by himself.

    We also have the Radian for DD and like that too.


  24. Thanks Jamie and Ally but I am Canadian so cannot purchase a seat from the USA (insurance won't cover you if you're caught plus you can be fined) which is too bad because for SOME REASON, your seats are so much cheaper than ours!

    Thanks again to e/e who posted. The Nautilus was on sale but I missed it at BRU by ONE DAY. Just a tip though, I phoned to see if they'd price match and they won't but they offered a $20 gift card. So never hurts to ask for a discount.

    I will post pics of my three across when I get them installed!


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