Friday, July 06, 2012

Recaro: The Racecar-Inspired Convertible Car Seat

Once Jack turned 7 months old, we got in a hurry to find a replacement car seat for our infant carrier. For one thing we were no longer carrying Jack in the carrier {really since about 5 months, the carrier plus him have been too heavy to lug around}. For another, the friends whom we had borrowed the carrier from are having a baby at the end of July and we didn't want them to end up at the hospital without a car seat.

This post is actually written by my husband based on his research of convertible car seats -- it was originally an email written to a friend who was interested in his findings. It covers our top three choices and why we ended up going with the Recaro...

Convertible Car Seats... You've Got Questions, 
I've Got Unscientific Opinions
by Daniel Moore

So I did a lot of reading on safety during an accident; people's post-accident opinions of how their car seat did; ease and convenience of use; quality of materials; and most notably I spent several hours installing every single car seat model that USA Baby in Franklin, TN had in stock. That's when I discovered that a lot of car seats won't even fit in our year Forester {later research would show that this is known problem for Foresters}. Until I went to USA Baby, I had only researched car seats in general, not which ones would actually fit in our car.

Ironically some of my choices were fairly low on consumer reports rankings, but consumer reports places some emphasis on safety and a lot of emphasis on ease of installation {and some would say they place some emphasis on which companies have paid them advertising dollars}. I really don’t care how hard it is to install, as long as it can be done safely. I do care about how safe, how easy to use and how long lasting a seat is.

I looked at convertible car seats from ~$125 up to $290. The cheapest ones are just plastic shells with a thin layer of cloth. The higher prices generally get you nicer materials, cooler design features, and in some cases better safety ratings {those that go “above and beyond” the minimum federal standards that all car seats have to meet}.

Keep in mind all these opinions are formed with me never having had to put a child in any of these seats.

If driver legroom was no object, and I had a sufficiently large vehicle {which a Subaru is certainly not} my preferences, in order, would be:
  1. Diono Radian RXT 
  2. Recaro ProRide  
  3. Britax.... whichever you prefer, the outer shell is the same size for all the Roundabout, Marathon, Advocate, Boulevard, etc. {they have multiple models, all very similar}. The more expensive ones have better side impact protection and each model has different materials.
Cheree looked at all 3 and came up with the same exact prioritized list of choices, though for different reasons than me.

The Radian RXT pros:
  • Narrow width -- great for 3 across seating {or for us 2 adults and 1 car seat, or 2 car seats and a dog, etc}.
  • Folds up for easy transport/storage {good for airline travel}
  • Nice materials
  • Really, really sturdy and well built. It weighs ~26LBS, which is about double what some of the cheapest car seats weigh {this overbuilt thing is a biggie for me}.
  • Outstanding ratings in terms of safety
  • Low sides make it easy to get kids in and out. I believe the sides are adjustable for width as well.
  • Long life (8 years as a car seat, 10 years as a booster)
  • Industry leading rear facing weight rating {45LBS}, though junior running out of leg room may be a problem at some point for rear facing.
The Radian RXT cons:
  • HUGE front to rear dimension when rear facing {no hope of being able to put it in the Forester behind the driver or passenger seat}
  • Most expensive {$290, but for something that keeps my kid safe that I have to use and tolerate for nearly a decade, I’m not concerned with saving $100}, plus it lasts 8-10 yrs instead of the typical 6.
  • Hard to find to look at in person {closest store to us was in Franklin, TN} although it can be found at Amazon, and I think Amazon even offers free returns and free shipping on it.
  • Did not appear to be easily adjustable for recline angle {it is a bit complicated though, so I may have missed how to do this}
Recaro ProRide pros:
  • Recaro makes high-end racecar seats, which certainly lends them some credibility in terms of knowing how to design a seat to keep the occupants safe in a crash.
  • Good safety ratings
  • Reasonable front-to-back dimensions, similar to the Chico KeyFit infant carrier that we had on loan.
  • Pretty good materials
  • At least 2 different settings for the amount of recline
  • The base is fairly tall – this is good in terms of safety {getting kid’s heads higher} and the child's outward visibility.
Recaro ProRide cons:
  • No cup holder {hope we don't regret this}
  • The base is fairly tall – this could be an issue in getting the kid into smaller/shorter cars without hitting their {or your own} head on the door frame
  • Hard to find to look at in person {closest store to us was in Franklin, TN} although it can be found at Amazon, and I think Amazon even offers free returns and free shipping on it.
Britax pros:
  • Popular and easy to find at “regular” stores (Wal-Mart, Target, etc)
  • Similar fit to the Recaro, or KeyFit.
  • At least 2 different settings for the amount of recline
  • Plenty of “we totaled the car but the kids are OK and so now we’re going to buy another Britax for them” stories. {This could just be b/c they are so popular, much more so than the Recaro or Diono Radian}.
  • Reasonably nice materials
Britax cons:
  • A bit wide
  • To me the “wings” {side impact protection for the child’s head} were either non-existent or not as nice on the Recaro and Radian. Their top model {I believe it’s called Britax Advocate} has these funky rubber-plastic pads on the outside of the shell, which may make it safer, but looks like a complete afterthought in terms of design, maybe even a bit gimmicky.
  • Looking at all the models together, aside from additional side impact protection, I’m not sure what the $270 model gets you that the $170 doesn’t get you. 
We seriously considered getting a larger vehicle than the Forester just so the Radian would fit, but in the end we don't want to deal with purchasing a new vehicle right now, so we are going to "settle" for the Recaro ProRide.


by Cheree
We have had the Recaro for a few weeks now. Jack has adjusted really well to it. I think he really enjoys being higher up and able to see. The first time he rode in it, he would not lean his head back because he was so busy looking around.

It is a little awkward to get him in and out of the car since the car seat sits so high. Our smaller Forester SUV doesn't help with this. Within two years we will probably graduate to some kind of larger SUV. Once he is forward facing it should be easier to get him in and out.

We really wanted to get the Radian, but since we could only squeeze it in the middle of our Forester, we didn't think it would be a great solution since 1) Sophie rides in the back seat too and 2) it would mean that both front seats would be unable to recline or scoot back at all, which would be a problem for Daniel.


  1. I'm looking at getting a ProRide for my 13 month old. I have a 2009 Forester. Is your child RF or FF in the ProRide? Did you put it behind the driver or passenger side? Do you have trouble getting him out when the seat is RF? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenny,
      Our Forester is a 2005 -- I believe they increased the distance between the seats starting in 2007. That being said, we were able to put the ProRide RF behind the driver's seat (it would fit the same on the passenger side).

      We choose not to put it in the center since we also have a dog that rides in the back.

      My husband is almost 6 feet tall and he can fit in the driver's seat, but he would prefer to have a little extra space for him. I think newer models should not have the same space issues.

      We are planning on keeping the seat rear facing until age 2 (unless our boy gets too big to sit that way comfortably). At first, I felt awkward putting my son in and out of the seat, but once we got a system in place, I rarely notice it anymore.

      I hope that helps!

  2. thank you for your good post, i have a baby, so i find a baby car seat, recently i saw some baby car seat, and i see it, but i am confused it's fixed price and how to buy it. please shere me.
    thanks eimon


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