Thursday, March 5, 2009

"I Got a Pink Car Seat for my Birthday!"

Up until a few weeks ago, I never thought much about car seats. They were required by law (and I would grumble every time the law raised the age for requirement) and I always bought them as cheaply as possible. I bought Bean's infant seat for $5 because it was a closeout and I got a rebate from my car insurance. I had never paid more than $50 for a car seat and I laughed at the poor suckers who would shell out 300 bucks or more for a piece of plastic with with some buckles and straps. A car seat was a car seat and raising kids doesn't have to be as expensive as some people make it out to be. That was my attitude.

Anyway, I was aware as the Rabbit approached her first birthday that I was going to need a new car seat. In fact, the state of the boys' booster seats is currently such that I really needed two new car seats (my boys trash everything they touch). I had noticed at Walmart that they now make the basic $50 seats with darling pink covers, so I decided I was going to buy two cute pink car seats for my girls. Two cute girls in two matching cute pink car seats! What fun!

I used the idea of a pink car seat as an incentive for Roo to buckle herself in the car. She was capable of it but wouldn't do it, so I told her that if she started buckling herself I would buy her a pink car seat for her birthday. She started talking about it constantly. We heard "I get a pink car seat for my birthday!" a hundred times a day.

Being the tightwad that I am, I couldn't help but wonder if I could get an even better deal on a car seat somewhere else. So I started snurfing around on the web looking for a screaming deal. This led to reading information about car seats and safety ratings. I don't know how I started reading about Britax seats, but I was really stunned by the reviews. Safety, comfort, ease of use... So many people said "I never planned on spending so much for a car seat but I'm so glad I did and I will never go back."

Well, that was all dandy, but there was still no way I could afford to buy a new Britax at retail price. So I decided to watch Craig's List. A couple days before Roo's birthday there it was: a gently used girly print Britax Marathon for a price I could afford. I arranged to meet the seller in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store that evening.

She was another minivan mom. She also had four young children. "Is this your first Britax?" she asked.

"Ummm... yeah," I replied. My first Britax? She made it sound like I was joining some kind of club, not just buying a used pink car seat.

"You're going to love it. All my kids are in Britax seats," she told me. "When we had our first my husband was in school and we had no money. My husband said there was no way we were going to pay that much for a car seat. I bought one anyway and after he had installed it once in the car he said it was worth every penny. And they're the only kind we've bought since then. We love them."

Well, cool! And now I had one for Roo without breaking the bank! She was so, so, so excited about her pink car seat. So was I. It installed very securely and when I put her in it she actually looked comfortable. Like she would actually want to sit in it. Like she would be much happier on one of our long, long car drives because it was so soft and roomy. Like she could take a nap in the car without waking up with a stiff neck. She also looked safe. The straps were wide and secure and snug and not twisted.

I was totally sold on Britax. But I quickly realized that I had a problem. I only had one. Roo was riding in comfort and security while Rabbit was now riding in this:

The contrast between the two seats is striking. Rabbit looks neither particularly comfortable nor more than barely adequately secure. Her straps seem thin and they're all twisted up. I try to tell myself that Rabbit's seat has been good enough for all my other babies, but every time I buckle my kids in the car I feel like my little Rabbit is getting second-rate treatment. And now that I've read what I've read about safety ratings my thinking has changed. My kids have always been fine in cheap car seats, but we've never been in a wreck. I pray we never will be in a wreck, but if we ever were I know that now Roo in her Britax would likely come out of it in better shape than the Rabbit and I just can't live with that.

There have been no other Britax seats on my Craig's List lately. So I've been watching ebay. And garage sale season is coming. I'm still going to do it the tightwad way, but I want my Rabbit in a Britax.

I remember now that when we were getting ready to have Bean, our midwife gave us some interesting advice. She said that you could skimp on a lot of things for a baby, getting things used and cheap or free, or simply do without--and that was fine--but there were two things that you should shell out for: a good childbirth class and a good car seat!

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janeannechovy said...

I will fully sustain you in the quest for Britax goodness. There are three Britaxes in my car right now (Roundabout, Marathon and Husky/Regent), and really there just is no comparison. You will run up against expiry dates (you know, when they tell you to chop up your carseat rather than just throw it away, lest anyone try to use it) before they start to show any significant wear. The oldest one (the Roundabout, with an adorable safari-pattern cover that was only made very briefly) has lost its big ugly warnings tag, but the cover itself could almost be new, in spite of carrying its third child.

One note: in spite of what you may have read/heard elsewhere, do not hesitate to wash both the car seat cover and the straps in your washing machine should circumstances require (like, you know, carsickness--I'm sorry, a surface wipe is not going to take care of vomit!!). Just don't use bleach, which can weaken the straps, and don't dry them in the dryer.

Good luck on your quest for another Britax!

Annalea said...

I've tried to stay away from Britax seats for that very reason . . . afraid we'd never go back! lol

But when I see my oldest in his booster, I have this feeling that he's just not massive enough yet to be even nearly safe in an adult belt . . .

Why don't they make minivans with seat restraints that actually WORK for children? Seems so counter-intuitive. Then again, as things stand, buying a slew of Britax seats for the whole gang is less expensive than buying one of the minivans that do come with built-in child seats.

Okay, I guess I've got some reading to do . . . ;o)

P.S.) Was the Rabbit in her seat with loose straps just for the photo?

MKMT said...

So are you sold on Britax? I've always bought cheapest and never looked real closely - the only sales pitch I've ever gotten on carseats was trying to talk me into a $300 Britax, which I promptly discounted. Was I too hasty, especially if I could get "gently used?" Pave the way for me, dear cousin.

The Scribners said...

I somehow stumbled on to your blog and wanted you to know the I too was bit by the Britax bug! we have 2 marathons that we have had for 2 years that I love as much today as the day I bought them!! Yay for safety and comfort!!