A Carseat Nerd's Blog

A Carseat Nerd's Adventures in Carseats

Britax Marathon, Safety 1st Complete Air, and Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL September 15, 2010

Yesterday I went to visit a friend and borrow her Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL for a few days to play with.  I had an original Radian 65 a few years ago, but didn’t love it so I sold it.  I really wanted to find the love because it has the highest rear facing weight limit in the US. So thank you Miss CS (by the way, had you noticed that your initials are the same as Car Seat?!)

Having my two boys’ normal everyday seats (rear facing Marathon and rear facing Complete Air) already installed in my 2003 Honda Pilot, I simply added the Radian XTSL in the third seating position, also rear facing.  Today I got a wild hair to measure and compare them. In case you might be wondering which one would fit your needs the best. At some point, I’ll do this with my Britax Frontier and my Graco Nautilus also.

Without further ado, here are my results.

The seats, from driver’s side to passenger side are a Britax Marathon  with a mid-2007 DOM and a 33 lb rear facing weight limit in the Speedway cover, a Safety 1st Complete Air with an early 2010 DOM and a 40 lb rear facing weight limit in Harvest orange, and a Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL with a 2009 DOM and a 45 lb rear facing weight limit in Flora.

Marathon, Complete Air, Radian XTSL

Britax Marathon, Safety 1st Complete Air, Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL

Yes, those are harness pads on my Complete Air. No, it does not come with harness pads. I took them off an expired Marathon. I’m fired. Non-regulated product! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH

I made sure the car was level. It was pretty close, though I’m sure my surveyor husband would not be happy until it was perfectly level in all directions. But he wasn’t home and this is close enough for me. Four tenths of a degree from being level is good.

The Digital Level Santa brought me is FABULOUS!

We’ll travel across the car starting on the driver’s side, with the Marathon. Can I first tell you how much I LOVE this cover?!  I absolutely adore the Speedway and wish I could get it for every seat I own! Anyway, on with the show.

The Marathon.

The Marathon and it’s cousins the Boulevard and Decathalon are quite probably some of the most common seats I see at check events.  Everyone loves the Britax convertibles.  They are pretty darn easy to install in most vehicles, they have addictively (I can make up words if I want!) cute cover options for boys and girls, they claim to fit from 5 lbs, and many people think they are the “safest” seats available. I personally think that this is partly due to advertising, and partly due to the “Expensive things must be better” mentality.  At roughly $280 a seat, they are on the higher end of the convertible seat spectrum.  But the thing is that these seats don’t necessarily FIT a child as long as the box states they will.  Or it won’t be very comfy for the child at any rate. I’ll show you why.

For my rear facing installation here in my Pilot, I have not used any pool noodles or rolled towels. The seat is in reclined mode (required for rear facing installations), and I have approximately a 40 degree recline.  For my recline angle pics, subtract the number on the level from 90).  This is not reclined enough for a young baby without head control, but quite acceptable for an older child.  Britax has an acceptable range of 30 to 45 degrees from upright.

This seat is installed at about a 40* recline.

I measured the shell height, which dictates the height limit of the occupant (except on the CA, but I’ll get to that).  I came up with 24.5 inches. Following manufacturer’s specifications, this means that a child’s seated height cannot be greater than 23.5 inches when using this seat.  Elitecarseats.com has the shell height listed as 22.5 inches….Not sure what to say about that.

Marathon shell height is 24.5″

I also measured the shoulder harness height in each of the four slots available on this seat.  I came up with 10″, 12.5″, 15″ and 17″.

You can see the four harness slots measure at 10, 12.5, 15 and 17 inches.

The 10″ bottom slot is what makes the Marathon (and other Britax convertibles) not an option for newborns and small, young babies.  Since the harness must come through the seatback AT or below the shoulders for a rear facing child, and very few if any newborns have a seated torso height of TEN inches, this seat is just not suitable for the 5 lb babies it claims to fit.  It just isn’t.  I will say that my younger son did fit in it by about three and a half months, which is considerably sooner than most babies will fit in it.  I’ll get to my side by side comparison another day.

With 6″ between the back of the seat and the crotch buckle strap, little babies may have too much room, and older kids may not have enough.  If you use cloth diapers, you may find you just don’t have much room there

The 17″ top slots prevent most kids from making it to the 65 lb forward facing weight limit.  I really don’t understand why Britax released the Marathon 70’s with the higher weight limit and only increased the harness height by about a haf inch.  But that’s not what this post is about.

I also measured leg room and seat dimensions, but it was hard to get pictures of those measurements.  I measured leg room from the bight of the car seat (where the bum is) to the vehicle seat back. Your measurements may be different depending on how the seat backs are contoured in your vehicle.  I measured the leg room at a whopping 12.5″.  That’s right folks, once your kid’s legs area foot long, they will touch the vehicle seat. That’s not a big deal, as kids will make themselves comfy, and broken legs in a collision are better than broken necks. But if your goal is extended rear facing to the absolute limit, you kiddo might start to complain about the squished up-ness of Britax convertibles.

“No problem,” you say, “I plan on turning forward at one and twenty, so rear facing leg room isn’t a big deal to me.”  Let me say “Do your research.”  Then let me tell you what Mr Orange said to me.  Mr. Orange is my 3.5 year old, and one day he said to me, “Mommy, facing backwards is better because I can sleep easier, and my legs don’t hurt. And I can eat more easier too because my food doesn’t fall. But I want a cup holder on my backwards seats like I have on my forward seats.” Have you ever sat on a stool where your feet don’t touch and they just hang there? That’s how a forward facing kid feels without leg support.

The Marathon has a 10 inch seat depth. TEN inches!  I know my kids’ legs are longer than ten inches.  That isn’t much leg support at all.  That leaves your forward facer just hanging out.   The seat width is about 11.5″, which is a little narrower than some seats and wider than some.

The shoulder area of the Marathon measured about 11″ for me.  If you have a particularly wide child, this may not be the seat for you.

The widest part of the shell is at the shoulder area, and I measured 18″ there.  Across the shell at the child’s hips, I measured 19.5″.  Those are typically the measurements that will determine how well you can fit seats side by side.  It’s a little hard to see in my first picture because it’s a bit blurry, but the Marathon sits higher than the other two seats in the car so it puzzles well with them.  I’m lucky in  that my vehicle seat is fairly wide, and I can actually fit three Marathons facing the same direction across my second row seat.

The beauty of the Marathon and other “Big Britax Convertibles” is that they are typically easy to install and usually don’t take up much room from front to back for rear facing installations.  I measured 28″ from seatback to seatback for my Marathon.

The Complete Air.

Ah, the “CA”.  The seat I hate to love.  Dorel, the parent company for Safety 1st, in their infinite genius has a stated rear facing limit of 40″.  They are quite adamant about it too.  They absolutely insist that no child over 40″ can use this seat rear facing. I personally think that’s silly. An average 40″ tall child will have about five inches of shell above their head, while the industry standard is one inch.  Here you see Mr Orange in his orange seat (the Harvest CA). He measures at just over 41″. Pardon the poor cell phone picture, but you can see that he has more than an inch of shell above his head, and the head rest still has two higher positions.

Mr Orange in the Complete Air, Little Dude in the XTSL

On with the measurements. I measured the actual seat shell and the height with the headrest or wings all the way up.  I got 24.5″ and 27″ respectively.

Here’s the CA’s shell height of 24.5″

Here is the CA with the wings all the way up at 27″

The lowest harness position measured at 9.5″.  The highest was at 17″.  The other three were at about 12″, 13.5″, and 15″.  I measured a comfy 16.5″ of leg room.  You can see Mr Orange is comfy enough here. It’s another cell pic, but you get the idea.  You probably also see why I call him Mr Orange. Self dressed in the seat he picked out…  The seat depth, or leg support measured 11.5″.

Mr Oranger makes himself comfy in the CA while Little Dude chills in the XTSL.

I measured the actual seat shell with at 17″ at the widest part near the shoulders and 18″ across the hips.  The shoulder room in the seating area measured 12.5″, and the seat width was  a roomy 12″.  This seat has three crotch strap positions, but only two are useable rear facing. They measure at 4″ and 5″. The third is at 6.25″ for forward facing.

I measured it as needing 29″ front to back for a roughly 35* recline angle.  This is another thing I don’t like about Dorel.  They insist that this seat be installed with a line molded into the shell parallel to the ground. I have heard that in some vehicles this creates a whopping 55* recline!  I have made the parental decision to go against manufacturer instructions and install at the 35* angle, though I cannot advise you to do the same.  You must make your own decision.

Roughly 35* recline angle

And finally the Radian XTSL.

The Radian line was for a while, my enemy. I had an original Radian 65 with the 33 lb rear facing weight limit. I could not for the life of me install it in the Pilot or our Altima forward facing. I asked one of my class instructors to help me do it and she did it effortlessly.  I am finally able to do it too! Whoopee! No really, I am actually excited about it!  I have wanted to have the Radian love.  It is a great seat for three across situations, even in small sedans and it fits newbies and older kids pretty well.  It has a steel frame for structural integrity and it folds for storage or transport! It’s a heavy son of a monkey though, so while Sunshine Kids does make a carry strap for it, I doubt you’d really want to carry it though the airport!

For overall shell height, I came up with 25″. I don’t find that terribly impressive, frankly. That’s only half an inch taller than the other two seats in the car.

Radian shell height of 25″

I measured harness slots at 8″ (without the infant insert that comes with the seat), 9.5″, 11.5″, 13.5″ and 16.25″.  That looks shorter than the Marathon’s 17″ top slot except that Sunshine Kids allows the child’s shoulders to be one inch above the tallest harness slot provided the ears are still within the shell. Still, that is only a quarter of an inch taller than the Marathon or Complete Air.

The Radians have five harness positions, ranging from 8″ to 16.25″

The seat depth measures at a comfy 12″, with crotch buckle slots at a tiny 3″ for newbies, 5″ and 7″. I measured about 16″ of leg room, which is comparable to that of the CA.

You can see the leg room, seat depth and crotch buckle positions

My poor blurry three across shot doesn’t really do justice to the slim profile of the Radians.  The exterior shell measures a slim 17″ at the shoulders and a scant 14.5″ across the hips.  They accomplish this by using a steel frame instead of a hulking plastic shell.  The interior seat measured at 13″ at the shoulders and 11″ for the bum.  Only slightly narrower in the bum than the Marathon, and considerably wider at the shoulders!

The Radian does need about 30″ of front to back space though for a recline of about 37 *.

Radian recline angle is about 37* in my Pilot.

This is by no means the extent of convertible seats; these are just the seats I have on hand at the moment.

None is better than another. The best seat is the one that fits your child and your vehicle the best and you can use correctly every single time.

I personally really like the Marathons for ease of installation.  I own two and I use them as the seats that get moved from one car to another depending on who will be caring for my kids. With the built-in lock off, I don’t have to worry about someone using a locking clip incorrectly.  I don’t need noodles for a decent recline for my child in a Marathon.  The Britax convertibles have quite a bit of padding and seem quite comfy. I don’t think I’ve touched a seat with more padding without an infant insert.  I definitely think there is room for improvement, and I think Britax made an attempt at some of the issues with the new Marathon 70. It isn’t a perfect seat though.

I really like the Complete Air because it’s an affordable option for caregivers who want to rear face their child to the max for the boost in safety.  With similar shell height to the Radians at a much lower price point, it makes rear facing a heavier child more “do-able” for more parents. And it comes in orange, which the Radian does not.  Again, there is room for improvement.  An easier installation that didn’t require a pyramid of noodles would be a good start; doing away with the ridiculous 40″ and crazy recline rules would be an awesome start!  Some padding for the bum and some energy absorbing foam would be appreciated. I like to try to protect ALL of my kids, not just their heads, you know? I do appreciate that the new CA has a 65 lb forward facing limit.

What do I like best about the Radians?  I’m not really sure. I only have two kids and on the occasion I add someone else’s as a third, my vehicle fits three wide seats so I don’t really care about the three across slimness.  I have another seat with similar shell and harness heights, so those don’t do much for me. I don’t know that I’m going to need the 45 lb rear facing limit either since it’s taken Mr Orange over two years to gain a pound and a half to get to 36.5.    I suppose that I could need it with Little Dude who has gained three pounds in less than two months.  By the time he’s close to 45 lbs, there could be newer  more awesome seats with higher limits though, so that’s kind of a moot point.

I can tell you that I think Sunshine Kids would do well to make it easier for older kids to be more upright, as a lot of vehicles make this particular seat very reclined.  I know there are more than a few incompatibilities with vehicles also, whether it’s rear or forward facing. Sunshine Kids tried to address this issue by implementing the SL part of the seat name. SL stands for SuperLATCH, which enables LATCH to be used to 80 lbs (coincidentally the forward facing weight limit for the Radian 80SL and XTSL). But it only applies to vehicles with a manufacture date on or after September 1st, 2005.  For those of us with older vehicles, that doesn’t help.

So that’s the three convertibles in my car right now in a very large nutshell.  I’m hoping to borrow a small baby and some more seats to do a comparison with different sized kids in a variety of seats soon to demonstrate the fit for different builds and sizes of babies/toddlers/kids.

I’m going to beg and plead my sisters in law to let me torture…I mean borrow my nieces and nephews. If I can get them all to cooperate, that’s a DOZEN kids between the ages of 7 years and 6 months rotated through the seats I can come up with, plus the additional seats they own.  I know between them I can wrangle some infant seats including the Chicco KeyFit 30, the SnugRide 35, a SnugRide 22, a Britax Diplomat (fancy version of the Roundabout), a Recaro Vivo (booster), and a Sunshine Kids Monterey (booster).

Oh, the wheels are turning now….Beware!


32 Responses to “Britax Marathon, Safety 1st Complete Air, and Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL”

  1. So I have a 11 month old son and 2.5 year old son. I own 2 Britax maratons and 1 evenflo booster (not sure the exact style). My 11 month old had grown out of the bucket seat and we needed to get him into a regular carseat. We have 3 vehicles and didn’t want to mess with switching them between vehicles. We do like our marathons but do not have the money right now to buy 3 more of those or 3 frontiers. I read so many reviews and could not decide btwn the Cosco High Back Booster, the Graco nautilis, and evenflo triumph (they were all recommended by friends) so we bought one of each. So now the 11 month old has our 2 marathons and the evenflo triumph and the 2.5 year old has our older evenflo booster, the nautilis, and the cosco. In summary, they all are fine. Yes, the boosters and nautilis sit more upright then the marathon but my 2.5 year old does not sleep much in the car anyways ad the frontier (by the looks of it) would have been very upright as well. They are all sturdy and both my sons fit well in all them and they do not mind any of them. Britax is more plush than the booster or nautilis but does not look like the Britax frontier was very plush. The triumph looks very much like the marathon and is just as plush. I don’t know why I was freaking out so much reading millions of reviews since they all are about the same and all had good safety ratings. I have not had to clean any of them yet

    • carseatnerd Says:

      Most car seat technicians would not suggest a booster for a 2.5 year old child. I am assuming that the boosters you are using have harnesses as well, though they likely only harness to 40 lbs. Most 40 lb children are not ready for a belt positioning booster.
      My kids are in four vehicles regularly. I completely understand not wanting to move seats. I have six and a half seats for my kids. I say one is a half seat because it will expire in January 2011. I never pay full price for a seat, using promo codes and sales, so that I can afford appropriate seats for my kids in every vehicle. So many people think that you must spend a lot to get a good child seat. I personally would rather your 2.5 year old be in the Marathons and your 11 month old be in a $40 Cosco Scenera than your older child be in a booster before a booster is appropriate.
      Legal minimums are just that-minimums. A four year old weighing 40 lbs is NOT ready for a booster seat.

  2. Jeanie Says:

    My sister has a Marathon and I have a Radian XT. We measured the shell heights and came up with the same measurements as you. But when we actually put kids in the seats, we noticed that they had 2-3 more inches above their heads in the Radian. There is just something about how the kiddos sit in it or the shape that gives them more room above their heads.

    • carseatnerd Says:

      Installation angle and inherent seat angle can affect how much the child slouches in the seat. The Radian is naturally a much more upright seat,, which will cause the occupant to tend to slouch more than in the Marathon.

  3. Candis Says:

    Thank you so much for this! Very helpful!

  4. laudymama Says:

    I know this is an old thread but hoping maybe you will see this anyway! I stumbled across this in my endless research for a 2nd carseat and not only are all the measurements and info helpful, it is even better because we just so happen to have the same car! My question is this though….when you say you measured the seats seatback to seatback, where exactly were you measuring from? We have a Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite right now and can’t even recline it as much as it’s “supposed” to in the center seat, so was hoping to compare the depths needed for the seats as 2 of the ones you reviewed (MA & CA) were in the running for us. We’re also considering Britax Boulevard 70, Graco MyRide 65 & Evenflo Triumph LX if you have any additional thoughts or knowledge of those! Great info-thanks! Oh and one more thing….how far pushed forward are your driver and passenger seats?

    • carseatnerd Says:

      Hello! I’m glad the information was helpful!
      When I measured from seatback to seatback, I held one end of the tape on the back of the front seat where the child seat touched it and the other end against the second row seat in a straight line. Does that make sense?
      The majority of Dorel (Safety 1st, Cosco, Eddie Bauer) 3-in-1’s or seats on the same shell will not install at the angle they instruct to install at in the majority of vehicles. In all honesty, I would have to fold my second row flat and install the seat in the third row in order to install at the indicated 45-55* angle. A prent would have to make the parental choice to install as upright as 30*, but I can’t tell you to do it. The majority of child seat manufacturers allow installations as upright at 30 or 35 degrees for older babies and toddlers. I have made the decision to install at a 30* incline for my children.
      I haven’t really played with the new generation Britax convertibles other than the Roundabout 55. I honestly wasn’t impressed with that particular seat. I think that for the money, there are seats that will allow you to rear-face longer and get you closer to the forward facing weight limit as well. The Britax shells leave a little to be desired in seat depth and height.
      I really liked the Graco MyRide when I was considering a new seat for Mr Orange when he was 3.5 years. The *only* reason I didn’t go with it was that the Complete Air and Radian offered taller shells. Since I was purchasing the seat to continue rear-facing my older son, I felt that the taller shell height was worth investing in. If you only intend on rear-facing to the minimum recommended by the AAP (which is 2 years) or have a younger child to pass the seat down to, then the Britax convertbles or MyRide will be just fine.
      The Evenflo Triumph Advance is an often recommended seat on the boards at http://www.car-seat.org.
      What are your child(ren)’s age, weight and height? How long do you intend on rear-facing your child(ren)? I’m happy to use that information to try to make a few recommendations.
      My driver’s seat is positioned so that I am comfortable driving. I am about 5 ft 6 in. My passenger seat (in front of the Radian) is a little further forward than I prefer, but not uncomfortable. Ideally, the passenger can sit with their arms stretched out in front of them and just barely graze the airbag panel. My seat is definitely at least that far back. Both seats are a bit more upright than I’d prefer, but again not uncomfortable. Sitting more upright allows you to have more leg room if you need it. My husband is 6 ft tall, so this allows both of us to drive without having to adjust the seats too much.
      Thanks for reading!

      • laudymama Says:

        Thanks for the quick reply! I think I understand how you measured the seatbacks. What about the middle? My husband & I were trying to figure it out earlier because our current seat extends thru the opening between driver & passenger seats. We actually couldn’t even get it installed properly ourselves and had to take it to be installed-which around our area is near impossible to get done. Even then it seemed difficult to install and we have a pool noodle under the front. We thought we were making a good decision w/ the 3in1 but the more I read the more it seems that is not the case! I have tried to find info on torso heights (which I keep seeing people mention) and the recline angle that you mentioned, but can’t seem to find anything per the companies.
        My son is 16mo, 26 lbs, and 31in. He has a long torso and short legs if that makes any difference in how the height is distributed. Any suggestions are very welcome as I am becoming overwhelmed w/ all of the info out there-every time I lean toward one seat, something seems to not quite meet our needs!
        I would like to leave him rear facing as long as possible after all of the reading I’ve been doing lately-he’ll never know the difference until he’s finally turned around anyway! I would love to find a seat that is easy to adjust, install, and the straps didn’t twist all the time or his head flopped forward so badly–but as long as it’s safest for him and a good fit in the car I can deal w/ the rest if I need to! Just out of curiosity how do you feel about the AOE (our current seat)? After reading this my hubby & I spent some time out looking at our backseat and carseat and just can’t figure out how people are getting 2 and 3 seats in! Maybe we have our seats too far back but feel like we would be sitting on the dashboard if we moved them much further fwd. Thanks for the insight…this has been some of the most helpful info I’ve found 🙂

      • carseatnerd Says:

        I do need to use two pool noodles with my Complete Air in the center. The child seat will fit between the two front seats fairly well. Like I mentioned earlier, you’re not likely to be able to install any Dorel seat with the level indicator line parallel to the ground. At 16 months, I would be comfortable installing more upright than the line indicates, but that is a parental decision.
        The 3in1’s are often purchased because the marketing department has convinced many people that it will be the only seat you’ll ever need to buy. It rearfaces, forward faces, then becomes a booster. The problem is that if you try to do all things for all kids, you’re going to to fail somewhere. Most 3in1s make horrible belt positioning boosters for the vast majority of children. They don’t typically fit newborns well, and they don’t offer tall enough shells to keep children rear-facing or harnessed to an appropriate age.
        It sounds like your son is built quite similar to how Little Man is. At 25 months, 34 lbs and 34 inches, he still fits well in the Complete Air and Radian. He fits by height still in the Classic (65 lb) Marathon, but has outgrown it rearfacing by weight (mine have 33 lb rearfacing limits). I haven’t tried him in a MyRide. The best seat is the one you can install and use properly every single time.
        I promise that the Pilot has one of the most car-seat friendly seats I’ve ever played in. And I play in a lot of back seats!

  5. Kari Says:

    For the Radian XTSL and the Complete Air, about how old (ballpark, I know everyone is different) does the baby have to be to be able to use the adjustable headrest?

  6. Katie Says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I went and tried to have my seat (CA65)installed and trying to get it to that line in my 04 Pilot was impossible! I was contemplating installing it in the third row just becuase I want him to be rear facing for as long as possible, but that would be a huge PIA. Glad to know that I can have the choice to have it at a different angle and feel ok about it. Question though…how did you install it in the middle seat? It won’t work behind any of them, but I’m wondering about middle seat installation…I didn’t think it had the LATCH system in the middle.

    • carseatnerd Says:

      In the center of the Pilot’s middle row, you will need to install the seat with the seatbelt instead of LATCH. You will likely need 2.5-3 noodles to get an acceptable angle. I would like to clarify that I can not tell you to install at a more upright angle. Dorel/Safety 1st has made it clear that they require that their seats be installed with the indicator line level to the ground. I made the personal choice to go against manufacturer instructions, which is technically not legal in my state and I could theoretically be ticketed for it.

  7. Chandra Says:

    I have had a heck of a time getting a safe install with the marathon or frontier85 in the center row of my 2004 honda pilot. The seatbelt has too much wiggle room and no matter how much I pull down and struggle I can’t get it not to wobble more than an inch. Do you have any advice or suggestions? Thanks,

    • carseatnerd Says:

      First, are you installing the Frontier using the long or short belt path? Are you installing the Marathon rear or forward facing?

      • Chandra Says:

        I’ve used both short and long and they are forward facing. You know how you have to snap in the strap from the ceiling and then take it around to latch it. Well it’s where it snaps in that I think has too much play. I’ve also used those gold ring/clips to hold the seat belt in place. I can NOT get a good install. I finally moved 2 of them to the third row (both carseat installs) and I was able to succeed with no movement. I swear it’s that darn strap. Any thoughts?

      • carseatnerd Says:

        Ah yes, the double buckle. I do love that about the Pilot. (Sarcasm…) What I found works well to give me good installations is to give each female buckle 1-2 turns, only completing 3 turns total between each side. Just be sure that the belt webbing is not twisting as you feed it through the belt path, because it will really want to.
        Using this “trick”, the Frontier 80 installed beautifully with the long belt path in the center seat.

  8. Chandra Says:

    I meant to say ‘both seatbelt installs’. Sorry.

    • Chandra Says:

      I tried the trick of twisting the female buckles but I will attempt it once more. Thanks for your time! I appreciate it.

  9. Annabel Says:

    Hi, I am pregnant with my first baby, (although I have been a nanny for five years) so I have played with MANY carseats. I really want a CA 65 for the tall shell and have put it on my registry in addition to the infant seat. I also love that it is the only seat with a crash test video available on youtube, it makes me feel like they have nothing to hide. My question though, is why does Dorel say that you can’t install more upright for older children when it’s safer and ok for them to be positioned that way? Also, I don’t like that CA has a 40″ rear facing limit rather than a torso height limit or physical indicator limit such as “1 inch of shell above their head”. I am comfortable in making the parental decision to go against these if I know why the manufacturer set these limitations in the first place. For instance, did they test and fail in these areas?

    • carseatnerd Says:

      As a CPST, I have no more information from Dorel than any other parent as to why they have set the 40″ and Level To Ground requirements they have. We have nothing more than the information they posted here: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150277379310219 . On their own website, they issued a statement (though I can’t find it) that stated that their seats pass the teste more upright, but they still want them installed at a 45 degree angle.
      I can’t (and won’t) tell you to go against manufacturer instructions. I can and will say that due to the way Dorel/Safety 1st has handled the recline angle and height limitations questions from parents and CPSTs, I am no longer using mine rear facing.

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  11. Shannon Says:

    I’m so confused and I need to buy a new car seat soon!!! Help!!!!!!

    • carseatnerd Says:

      I’m noticing from your e-mail address that you are likely Canadian. I’m not much help with Canadian seats, but a few questions would help me find suggestions for you. 1)What car are you driving? 2) What are your child’s age, weight and height? 3)Do you have other backseat occupants to factor in?

      • Shannon Says:

        yes Canadian, I drive a Nissan Rogue, almost 12 months, 18.5 kg, 27.25 inches, a niece who is in a booster and hopefully another baby in the next 1-2 years.

  12. Shannon Says:

    oops I just realized I put kg, It should say 18.5 pounds

  13. Lindsey Says:

    Hello, I am up to my eyeballs researching our daughter’s 2nd carseat. She’s 1 year old, 28 inches long and 20 lbs. What I’m trying to decide between is a Britax (Marathon Classic or Roundabout 55), or a Diono Radian. If I go with the Britax, I will need to get another seat after she outgrows that one, but with the Radian it seems like that would be the last seat I will need to buy her. Am I correct on that? Also, I have a Pontiac G6 and plan on installing it rear facing in the middle seat. Would one fit better than the other? We plan on having another child in the next year or two, so I’m trying to factor that in as well with passing seats on, ect. Thanks for your help!!

    • carseatnerd Says:

      I haven’t put an 80 lb child in the Diono Radians, but my understanding from techs with older or bigger kids is that the RXT100/120 doesn’t make a great booster for most kids. You should purchase a dedicated booster rather than using an ill-fitting “3-in-1”, regardless of who made the “3-in-1″ seat. My older son is 6 yrs and 2 months, 47.4 lbs and 3’11”, and is super close to outgrowing the harness of our Radians by height. He outgrew the Marathon sometime during the fall I believe.
      I haven’t played in the back of a G6, so I can’t say which seat would fit better or install easier. Consult your manual to verify that you are using the correct lower anchors, as your vehicle has off-set anchor locations.
      I would go to a baby store and play with the seats you are considering and try installing them in your vehicle. How often will your be moving the seat to another vehicle? Who else may be using the seat?
      Marathon Pros/Cons:
      Easy to install in most vehicles (This is a HUGE advantage if you move the seat frequently or have other people using it)
      Will likely get you at least close to a good booster age
      Will likely fit your child rear facing to at least three years
      Will likely fit in a sedan’s backseat easier than the Radian might
      Very user friendly
      Less expensive than the Radians
      May not last as long height wise and has a lower harness limit than the Radian
      Less crotch room (doesn’t seem to bother girls as much as boys for obvious reasons)
      Less leg support
      Harder for kids to get themselves in and out of due to the height of the shell and base
      Radian Pros/Cons
      It’s going to get most kids to an acceptable booster age and may even fit well as a booster if you get the RXT100 or RXT120
      Narrow, leaving more of your backseat usable for other passengers-both in and out of car seats
      Easy to travel with
      My sons both say it’s very comfortable, especially with the separately purchased longer crotch buckle
      More expensive
      Can be difficult to install in some vehicles
      Has some weird use rules (SafeStop component must be used with forward facing children under 40 lbs when the top tether is in use, but not if the top tether is not being used or the child is over 40 lbs) and it may be necessary to spend additional money on pieces to make it fit your child and vehicle better, such as the longer crotch buckle and the angle adjuster.

      If you plan on another child you can pass seats down to and think you might be needing to move the seat to different vehicles, I’d get the Marathon. If you travel frequently, I’d get the Radian. If other caretakers will be using and installing the seat, I’d go with the Marathon.

      I’ll put my opinion this way: I have used two Marathons and a Wizard (predecessor to the Boulevard) through their expiration dates with my 6 year old. I purchased three Radians for use with my younger (heavier and longer torso’ed) son, and I have them as my daily use seats in my vehicle. My older son is moving into boosters, but still prefers the Radian, but is outgrowing it. My Radians will not expire before my younger son outgrows it. He has one harness slot above his shoulders currently at 4 yrs 1 month.
      I don’t think you’re going to go wrong with either seat, provided it fits your child and vehicle and you use it correctly each and every time.
      Best of luck in your decision. (These cane be hard choices to make! This is exactly how I ended up with 11 seats for 2 kids. 😉 )

      • Lindsey Says:

        Thank you so much for the super detailed response! Once you said that even if I get a Radian I would still need to buy another seat, that made my decision much easier. I have the Marathon in my car right now and I like it so far. I really appreciate it, thanks again 🙂

  14. Darcy Says:

    This has been a very interesting article I have researched many car seats before buying one for my daughter to use for my granddaughter I got her the radian xt and she loves it mostly because it is easy to lift her into it it isn’t so high off the seat, she is 2 1/2 and weighs a little more than 30 lbs now, I ( the grandma) was using an older britax marathon that has a rear facing limit of 33 lbs. and she is most likely at that weight and my marathon is expired so I picked up a cosco highback booster at a secondhand store and am facing her forward but the goal is to have her rear facing as long as possible and I don’t want her to think that she should face forward in her moms car, so I am still looking for a car seat to rear face in my hummer h3 which doesn’t have much back seat space and is hard to lift up into a high car seat, and I was considering the CA as well but not sure it will fit, I only pick her up from her great grandma’s about 5 to 6 times a month and drive her to my house which takes about 3 minutes, is it worth getting another seat or just continue to face forward?

    • carseatnerd Says:

      At three years of age, I would be comfortable having her use a forward facing harnessed seat. I would not be comfortable using a second hand seat unless you get it from someone that you know and trust with your granddaughter’s life. There are plenty of inexpensive lightweight seats that should accommodate her for several years. You might look at the Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65 as an option. It weighs about 10-11 lbs and is usually under $100. My almost 8 year old son is over 4ft tall and still fits in the harness and is within the 65 lb weight limit.

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