Car Seats We Don’t Recommend
Below we’re going to share a few car seats that we don’t recommend and some alternatives that we like better. First, though, let’s pause here for an important reminder: all car seats are safe when they’re used correctly. Yes, even the ones on this list! Just because it’s not our favorite option doesn’t mean that it’s not safe, it just means that we like other seats better. So if you have one of these seats, don’t rush to replace it just because of this list! If it’s working for you, there is no need to rock the boat. But if you’re in the market for a new car seat for your little one, read on so you can make the best purchase for your family.
Uppababy Mesa V2 & Mesa Max
When we heard that Uppababy was upgrading its well-known Mesa infant car seat, we were excited! The original Mesa was always a popular premium infant car seat — but we felt it left some things to be desired, considering its price point. We couldn’t wait to see if the new versions upgraded some of the original Mesa’s weak points! We hoped for improved newborn positioning and advanced safety features like anti-rebound bars or load legs. And when we saw the Mesa Max’s additions of a load leg, anti-rebound handle position, and European seatbelt routing for baseless installation, we got our hopes up…
Only to be disappointed when we started to see actual infants using these new seats. The infant inserts of the Mesa V2 and Mesa Max both create a very awkward fit for the smallest passengers. And while these inserts are optional for both seats, we ran into another issue: without the infant insert, the harness may not get tight enough to pass the pinch test on babies under about 8lbs.
All this can create a whole lot of extra stress on new parents bringing their sweet baby home for the first time. And combine the fit problems with other, more minor complaints — like the heavy carrier weight and an internally narrow headrest that can make older babies uncomfortable — we’d direct luxury-minded parents to different premium infant car seats. Fortunately, car seat adapters are available to pair Uppababy strollers with some of our favorite high-end infant car seats!
The Chicco Fit2 strives to be a long-lasting infant seat, but unfortunately, it isn’t great for tiny babies or big ones either! While it’s marketed as an infant-to-toddler car seat that can last two years, most children outgrow it by height before that two-year mark, so it falls short of that promise for all but the most petite children. And compared to Chicco’s other infant car seat options, which have excellent harness fits on the tiniest preemies, the Fit2 isn’t a good choice for preemie parents either — its bulky headrest creates awkward head positioning for newborns that can’t always be fixed even with harness adjustments. Weighing in at approximately 12 pounds, it’s on the heavier side compared to most other infant car seats. Additionally, it doesn’t offer as many stroller compatibility options as other Chicco models. There is one niche situation where the Chicco Fit2 may be the best car seat for a family’s needs — city dwellers or folks who don’t have a car may find that a few extra months of infant car seat convenience make a difference when navigating rideshares and taxis with a toddler who still needs to rear face but would have outgrown other infant car seats. While it’s heavy, the Fit2 with a compatible stroller offers better mobility than a lightweight convertible car seat would offer. However, parents may still find themselves needing to bring a convertible seat along once the Fit2 is outgrown; and outside this specific scenario, there are better options out there to meet most families’ needs.
Baby Trend Secure Lift 35
If you utter the name Baby Trend too close to an experienced CPST, you’ll probably hear them gasp out of… dread? Fear? Disgust? Whatever you want to call it, Baby Trend car seats present a lot of challenges. We’ve chosen one specific model here, but our complaints apply to other Baby Trend infant car seats too. These seats are quite complicated under the hood, with strange rules and tiny adjustments that are easy to miss — for example, the crotch buckle length must be constantly adjusted so that the buckle always sits 0.25”-0.5” above baby’s legs, but the manual’s instructions on making this adjustment are so confusing that even CPSTs can struggle to interpret the proper procedure here. The base is difficult to install and the recline indicator for smaller infants is a major pain too — there is a bubble indicator on each side of the carrier, and for whatever reason it’s really hard to get both bubble indicators to fall into the correct zone at the same time. And with the recline indicator on the carrier instead of the base itself, installing the base can be a long process of trial and error. While Baby Trend has improved the way its seats fit smaller newborns — which we are happy about, since some of their older models had very high harness slots and couldn’t safely fit average sized newborns at all — the low birthweight routing on some of their seats is also a challenge to use.
Overall, we understand the appeal of Baby Trend seats on paper: they’re inexpensive, usually stocked on the shelf at your local Target or Walmart, and they are compatible with popular Baby Trend strollers. However, the cons outweigh these benefits by a long shot, in our opinion. Grab a different infant car seat in your budget, one that will be easier to use correctly — and if you really need that Baby Trend jogging stroller, well, wait to bring your little one out running until baby is old enough to use the stroller’s built-in seat without needing to ride in their car seat.
Baby Trend Cover Me
Baby Trend Cover Me looks like an interesting seat at first glance! It’s not every day that we see a convertible car seat with a canopy, and Baby Trend thinks that this is a feature that parents are interested in having. But if you open the manual and start reading it, you’ll find it’s a lot more complicated than most of the car seats on the market. This seat has a lot of unusual rules, such as you must remove the cup holders when installing it rear-facing (but you must put them back after installing), the harness covers are required (unless using the low birthweight harness routing), and the buckle tongue must be 0.5-1″ above the child’s thighs. For some reason, It also has two kinds of recline indicators for rear-facing, which is unique to Baby Trend. The more reclined position for kids under 23 pounds is quite sizable front to back. This seat has a low birthweight routing that, while rather complicated, does indeed give a good harness fit for very small babies. However, the fit for average-sized newborns is complicated by the unique crotch buckle rule mentioned earlier in this paragraph. Some newborns won’t be able to get a proper fit. The installation is straightforward as long as you follow all of the rules outlined in the manual. It’s just a seat with a high likelihood of misuse due to having more rules than other seats. There are much better options on the market as long as you aren’t set on having a canopy.
Maxi Cosi Pria
We know, we know: the Maxi Cosi Pria is a really pretty car seat! It looks like a plush, comfy, premium car seat option. But we’re going to tell you a secret: the Maxi Cosi Pria is, more or less, a dressed-up Safety 1st Grow and Go. Yep, the Pria is basically a $150 car seat with an extra-fancy cover (and a few other small differences). What does this mean for consumers? Well, it means that the Pria lacks any nice features that justify the price. Compared to other car seats in the $300-350 range, the Pria just doesn’t measure up.
It has a lower rear-facing height limit than other seats in that range, at 40 inches, and overall it’s not a tall or long-lasting seat. And it’s much harder to install without any fancy features like lock-offs, seatbelt tensioning devices, or fancy LATCH technology to make it easier. You also won’t find advanced features on the Pria, such as anti-rebound bars or impact-absorbing crumple technology. These are things we pretty much expect out of a premium car seat. Overall, the user experience doesn’t usually live up to the premium marketing and price point.
Safety 1st Grow and Go
This car seat, from Maxi Cosi’s sister brand Safety 1st, is like the Pria’s less-fancy cousin. It’s a popular option for families on a budget because it’s affordable. And you can usually find it in stock at your local Target or Wal-Mart. But even at its lower price point, this car seat isn’t always the best bang for your buck! Like the Pria, the Grow and Go has lower rear-facing limits than many other options, and the Grow and Go has such a short headrest that many kids outgrow it rear-facing by the 1-inch rule before they even reach the 40” height limit.
It’s also difficult to install for many caregivers because the seat portion of the Grow and Go is much wider than the base area that sits on the vehicle seat — this can lead to tipping issues in some cases. Lastly, even when it’s turned forward facing, the Grow and Go tends to be outgrown quickly due to its lower harness height than many competitors. Overall, there are other car seats in the same price range that tend to be easier to use and last longer!
The Diono Radian line includes a whole bunch of different seats, like the Radian 3R, 3RXT, 3QXT, and more. We’re grouping them all together in one entry because they all have the same drawbacks!
We’re just gonna say it: the Radian seats are very, very difficult. They have a lot of removable parts to keep track of and a lot of rules to check and re-check. Many parents miss the small, but required, harness adjustments that must happen at certain weight milestones. Radians are difficult to install correctly — and we’ve found them to be incompatible in many vehicles when forward-facing. While they are narrow, we’ll give them that, Radian seats are huge front to back when rear-facing unless caregivers purchase a separate accessory, the Diono Angle Adjuster, to make the car seat more upright and compact.
Beyond these issues, Diono makes a lot of promising marketing claims that the Radian seats just don’t live up to.
For example, many parents are attracted to the idea of a single seat from 5lbs to 120lbs — but the Radians don’t usually fit newborns well. And they’re outgrown by height long before any child nears that 120lb mark. In fact, the booster mode doesn’t last much longer than the forward-facing harness mode before it’s outgrown by torso height. Other parents are attracted to the claims of being a travel-friendly, folding car seat… but the Radians weigh in at about 25lbs. So they aren’t exactly convenient to drag around airports or Ubers.
And, of course, the Radians are touted as being one of the first narrow, three-across-friendly car seat options — but nowadays, more and more car seat manufacturers are engineering narrow car seats. And many of these new options are both longer lasting and easier to use than any Radian. The bottom line: whatever a Radian can do, something else can probably do better!
Evenflo Everykid & Evenflo Everyfit
Here’s another case where a budget-friendly car seat may just be more trouble than it’s worth! The Everyfit/Everykid is notorious for its very difficult rear-facing install: even when installed correctly, this seat tends to slide down on the vehicle seat so that the child ends up very over-reclined. To fix this, parents may have to completely re-install the seat after just a few rides. And while we love that Evenflo’s customer service team is always ready to work with parents to help with this issue, we’d prefer parents choose a seat that’s easier to install in the first place!
We’ll add here that Evenflo has another seat, the All4One/All4One DLX, that looks very similar to the Everyfit/Everykid, but has a whole lot of improvements! This seat has an updated recline adjuster and a better recline indicator, so it doesn’t have the same install problems as the Everyfit/Everykid. Parents who are set on an Evenflo all-in-one seat should consider the All4One line instead!
Here’s the thing about Graco: they make a ton of different car seats. And in general, Graco seats are pretty long-lasting and user-friendly. So why do we have any Graco seats on our list of car seats that we don’t recommend? Well, mostly because we like other Graco seats better. We have chosen to recommend those Graco seats that have stand-out features above all the other seats in the Graco lineup!
The Graco Triride is… long-lasting and user-friendly. It’s a fairly basic car seat, though. It can be compact front-to-back, but beyond that, it’s wide, and it offers no extra features that make it stand out. But the Triride is very similar to the Graco Triogrow Snuglock, which is one of our most recommended seats! We love that the Triogrow Snuglock has Graco’s Snuglock technology for a suuuper easy installation. The Triride does not have this feature, but it’s only $10 cheaper than the Triogrow Snuglock. So we’d definitely upgrade to the Triogrow!
Graco Extend2Fit (2-in-1)
Proceed with caution! That’s what we say to parents who are interested in the original (2-in-1) Graco Extend2Fit. This is the most affordable seat on the market that rear faces to 50lbs and 49”, and it has other nice features too, like its compact front-to-back rear-facing footprint and its unique extendable footrest for extra rear-facing legroom. But this seat can have installation and compatibility issues for forward-facing children under 40lbs. So, if you have a child whose weight falls in the upper percentiles and you know you’ll rear face as long as possible, this seat can be a great option! But for parents of petite children — who may not reach 40lbs until 5-6+ years old — or anyone who may forward face before their child reaches 40lbs, well… proceed with caution!
More information on the Graco Extend2Fit and its forward-facing issues can be found in our full review!
Graco 4ever DLX & Graco Premier 4ever DLX Extend2Fit Snuglock
The Graco 4ever line is extremely popular. So why do the 4ever and its sister seats make this list? It comes down to marketing, longevity, and the seat’s realistic usable life!
In general, we don’t love all-in-one-style seats. Yes, they’re all the rage right now! But in our experience, all-in-one seats just can’t quite do everything perfectly from rear-facing all the way to booster mode. In the case of the 4ever, specifically, it’s a nice harnessed seat! Many people love this car seat in rear and forward-facing harness mode, and they don’t understand why we don’t love it overall. But the issues start when children graduate to high-back booster mode.
Compared to dedicated high-back boosters, which usually sit lower on the vehicle seat and offer a taller backrest, the 4ever booster is difficult to buckle and outgrown quickly. Many big kids prefer the independence and maturity that come with a dedicated booster that they can use without adult help. Not to mention, car seats get gross, even if you wash them regularly — we bet your 8-year-old doesn’t want to roll up to car line in the same car seat they potty-trained in! The Graco 4Ever DLX Grad 5-in-1 has some improvements over the other versions of this seat. Most notably, it includes a seat belt trainer for kids who are between 50-120lbs and 43-60.” We do like this added mode as it’s much better for the older children who still need a booster. You can find our full review of that seat here.
Now let’s talk cost:
Many parents invest in the 4ever and its sister seats because they believe they’re purchasing the last car seat their child will ever need. Even if this were the case — and it’s not, since most kids end up in a separate booster eventually — it can come out cheaper in the long run to purchase a slightly less expensive convertible car seat and then a separate booster down the road. Of course, if you find a deal on the 4ever, this may not apply — but just have realistic expectations about your new seat’s useful life. It probably won’t be the last car seat your child ever needs!
Graco Slimfit 3-in-1 & Graco Slimfit LX
Are you ready to be confused? Okay, deep breath:
- Graco Slimfit3 LX
- Graco Slimfit
- Graco Slimfit LX
Yep, three almost identical names for three seats that are very different! The Graco Slimfit3 LX is the only one we recommend. The Slimfit3 LX is under 17” wide, it’s compact front to back, and it’s an excellent option for tight spaces and 3-across setups.
The Slimfit (also known as the Slimfit 3-in-1) and the Slimfit LX (no 3!) are completely different seat models than the Slimfit3 LX. Trust us, we’re annoyed at the name choice too. We don’t recommend the Slimfit or the Slimfit LX — which is the same as the original Slimfit, with a fancier cover. Despite the name, these seats are both 19” wide — much too wide for most 3-across setups — and they’re also large front-to-back when rear-facing. They don’t have the nice features of the narrow Slimfit3 LX, like a seatbelt lock-off or mesh ventilation panels in the cover. But, unfortunately, the Slimfit shares an Amazon listing with the unrelated Slimfit3 LX. It’s easy to get it all mixed up!
If you’re shopping for a narrow seat, make sure you’re getting the right one! For the Slimfit3 LX, check for the 3 in the middle of the name. On Amazon, it’s sometimes called “Slimfit with 3-across Fit” and the color options are Kunningham, Stanford, and Katrina. Unfortunately, the Slimfit3 LX is more expensive than the original Slimfit due to all the added features.
Evenflo Chase Plus
While the Evenflo Chase Plus car seat may seem like an attractive option due to its affordability and design, we have several reservations that prevent us from recommending it. Most notably, the car seat features a disappointingly low harness weight limit of just 40 pounds (but it’s easy to miss this, because the packaging lists the booster weight limit of 120lbs without specifying the harness weight limit). This is significantly below the 65-pound industry standard, which not only reduces the product’s lifespan but also requires parents and caregivers to transition their child to the booster mode much sooner than they would with other models. Some higher percentile kids may reach 40lbs as young as 2 years of age! But we highly recommend that children are at least 5 before moving to a high back booster and this car seat would not get most kids to 5 with its 40lb harness limit. In addition, the high back booster mode is short-lived since the headrest only has one fixed position. This means that another booster will be needed once this seat is outgrown in booster mode as well. All-in-all you will save more money by buying a different option.
Baby Trend Hybrid
While the Baby Trend Hybrid car seat may appear to be a versatile and cost-effective option, we cannot recommend it. A primary concern is the instruction manual, which details more installation methods than any other car seat on the market. While this may seem like a benefit, it often leads to confusion among parents and caregivers, increasing the risk of incorrect installation—a key factor in car seat efficacy. Furthermore, the Baby Trend Hybrid’s harness weight maximum is only 50 pounds, which falls short of the 65-pound limit that has become the industry standard for most harnessed car seats. This reduced weight capacity limits the longevity of the product, necessitating an earlier transition to a high back booster in some cases. For these reasons, we advise parents and caregivers to consider other, more reliable car seat options that prioritize clarity of installation and extended weight limits.
Shop the car seat sales like a pro!
When you know what you’re looking for, watching for car seat deals can be a low-stress process! We hope this post helps explain why we don’t recommend these popular car seats and steers you towards some of our recommended car seats instead. If you need more guidance, head to our Car Seat Buying Kits and make sure you’re choosing a seat that will meet your needs now and long term.
Affiliate links are included above. Safe in the Seat earns a small commission when you purchase through these links at no cost to you. We so appreciate your support.