I hope you won't mind answering! You know so much about car seats!
The baby has just about outgrown her travel-system seat, so we need to get her a new one. We are going to buy a new seat for the preschooler as well. She's about 26 lbs., 3 feet tall.
I'm looking at the Sunshine Kids Radian 65. Will I, in your opinion, be able to fit two Radians in the back of a RAV4 with enough room for a non-teeny adult to sit between them? We're going on a LONG car trip soon and I'd like to be able to ride in back with the kids, so that I don't have to unbuckle myself and twist myself around every time they need something.
(Right now we have a Britax Boulevard and one of those click-into-a-base seats, Combi-smth-or-other, and there's no room for me to sit in between.)
If it's after a certain year (I think 06) your second row can actually only hold 2 occupants at once.
Also, in all Toyotas with advanced air bags, the car seats may not touch the back of the front seats, at all. Because the RAV 4 has such a small (front to back) back seat (a Prius is much bigger this way) I do not think a Radian is a great choice ESPECIALLY if you have advanced airbags.
If you have a pre-2006 (or whenever the belt design was changed) RAV4 you can put a Radian in the middle spot, BUT it is a difficult install (usually takes 2 people, even for technicians experienced in installing Radians.)
If that is the case, a Boulevard outboard (rear-facing) should overlap perfectly with the Radian (rear-facing) to fit perfectly.
However if you have a newer one, like I said, you may not put 3 people in the second row at all. Sorry. And with the new design when you do switch to a convertible, I don't think the Radian is the one for you (my current-product recommendations would be the First Years True Fit or the Safety 1st Complete Air, but there may be more out by then. )
So, let me know the model year, and I can be of more help.
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Our RAV4 is from 2005. The plan would be to have two car seats in the left and right positions, with myself in the center seat. I want to be in the middle rather than to one side, for ease of assisting either kid and also to defuse hostilities. (Baby pulls sister's hair and preschooler steals sister's toys.) I'm not very tall and don't need much legroom; if my butt can fit on the seat, then I'm good. ------------- Back when Kid #1 was a baby, we had her Combi Centre rear-facing travel system seat in the middle position, I rode on the right, and the border collie (seatbelted) rode on the left, to give you an idea of the room we have to work with. --------------
We're buying two new seats, one per kid. Our two existing Britax Boulevard seats that we now use for the preschooler (one in each car) will be moved to my car, where it doesn't matter that they are bulky because I can't ride in the back with them when I'm driving anyway.
The preschooler's seat faces forward. The baby's seat will initially face rearward, and be placed behind the passenger seat, which will be scooted up towards the dash (to give more room in the back) because there's nobody riding in it. Baby is almost old enough to turn her seat around, though she's not quite heavy enough.
We are wary of Safety 1st products.
[ February 07, 2010, 01:22 AM: Message edited by: Yozhik ]
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There is no reason to be wary of Safety 1st products in my book. They are made by the same company as Eddie Bauer and Cosco and Maxi Cosi and a host of other products. I am squeamish about the Designer 22 infant seat but other than that, and a few issues with harnessed booster seats, they make some excellent seats.
In a 2005, there are a few concerns with you being in the middle. Is there a lap/shoulder belt in the middle? (Probably yes.) Is there a headrest in the middle that adjusts at least to the level of the tops of your ears? (Probably no.) If the answer to either of those questions is no, you would be safest in another seating position.
Are you aware how much safer the preschooler would be rear-facing? If you are, I'll let it go. If not, I'd love to provide you with some links and information. I do encourage you NOT to turn the baby around when he hits the minimums. The law may allow it but the laws of physics aren't dictated by us. Rear-facing is safer, and hugely safer for all kids under 2 especially. If you're not willing to shoot for as long as possible, the limits of the seat, or even 4, please, please, shoot for 2.
I would be hesitant to use the Boulevard forward-facing (I do not use mine forward-facing, ever) after recent releases of NHTSA compliance data in which it was revealed that the Britax convertibles barely passed Federal limits in several categories, and Transport Canada data in which several forward-facing Britax convertibles (and not many other seats) failed spectacularly in crash tests, and the harnesses ripped out. It's something I think parents should be aware of when choosing/changing seats in a situation like yours; I might, in your situation, just put the baby in the Boulevard in both cars, rear-facing.
If you're bound and determined to keep your daughter forward-facing, I would not waste money on a convertible seat for her, since she would only use half the features of the seat, if you get what I mean-- she would only use the forward-facing feature and not the rear-facing. I would instead buy a forward-facing only or forward-facing to (good) booster seat (beware, many do not make good boosters.) On my list of forward-facing seats that either do or do not convert to a booster (with notes, in no particular order):
-Britax Frontier. Makes the tallest high-backed booster currently on the market, harness to 80 lbs. (but usually outgrown around 60-65; tether required after 65 lbs.) Tends to position the belt well on kids who have outgrown the harness. Difficult to install in many cars. 9 year expiration. Kind of wide for your purposes, I think.
-Graco Nautilus and Nautilus Elite. The Elite has comfort memory foam, a width-adjustable headrest, and a lockoff (and a much higher price and more limited cover selection.) Tends to position the belt well on most kids who have outgrown the harness. 6 year expiration for high back portion, but also becomes a backless booster, and that portion has a 9 year expiration. Tends to be an easy install.
-Evenflo Maestro. Newer seat. Positions well in booster mode BUT booster mode and harness mode will be outgrown at the same time by height. So you'd only get use of it as a booster (and limited at that) IF she hit the weight limit before the height limit. Fairly narrow.
-Graco CarGo. Nice tall slots for a 40 lbs. seat, depending on how old she is at 26 lbs. might get her to 5 or 6 (safe booster age) by height and weight. Also VERY narrow (takes up the same amount of room as a Radian at the widest point, and only slightly more at the base.) Great for 3 across situations. Does not make a good booster, but cheap enough I'd consider it as a forward-facing harnessed only seat.
As far as narrow convertibles, the Safety 1st Avenue, Safety 1st Complete Air, Cosco Scenera, and Radians are pretty much it for ones I'd recommend at all. (I have a Complete Air and while I'd call it a "medium difficulty" install, its nice features more than make up for that in my book.) All my other recommended convertibles are much wider. However, as I said, I think that the Radian would not be a great fit in your car, except in the middle position, where it is an extremely difficult, two-experienced-people kind of install. I would advise steering clear of it.
Also, if your daughter is forward-facing, for optimum safety we would advise that she should ideally be in the middle position, and the baby who is rear-facing outboard whenever possible.
I think there are plenty of seats that you could get next to each other and leave room for another passenger (who doesn't have an immense butt. ) You could probably fit at least a few of those forward-facing seats next to a rear-facing Boulevard, too. If you have a headrest and shoulder belt in the middle, possibly you could squeeze between two of most of the seats I've listed. However, it might be a tighter squeeze. And, whatever you do use seatbelt not LATCH for your installs. Doing so will allow you to move the seat a little more toward the outside of the car and leave a little more room in the other seats.
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