Evenflo, Sunshine Kids, and Safety 1st seats
What's so special: Similar in price and features to the ComfortSport, the Titan offers one extra advantage: It has a particularly low bottom harness slot for rear-facing use, which makes it one of the few convertibles that can actually provide a proper fit for a full-term newborn. "That may make it a good option if you don't have the budget to buy both an infant seat and a convertible seat," says Patty DiFilippo, director of the Essex/Morris Car Seat Inspection Station, in Livingston, New Jersey.
Sunshine Kids Radian 65
What's so special: It might not be a household name yet, but Sunshine Kids has made a big impression in child-safety circles. This seat is not only a dream to install, but its narrow width also makes it easy to squeeze next to other car seats, and it can be folded when it's not in use. Most notably, it has a harness that can accommodate children from 33 to 65 pounds facing forward. Who needs that? "It's not a must, but any child can benefit, since five-point harnesses can provide additional protection," says Kristy B. Arbogast, PhD, associate director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "These higher-weight seats should be most seriously considered for young children who are on the husky side or for children over 40 pounds who are behaviorally unable to stay in position in a booster seat," she adds. Also available in the Radian 80, which holds children up to 80 pounds.
One important note: LATCH anchors in most vehicles are not intended to be used with children over a certain weight, usually 48 pounds. If you purchase a car seat like this with a high weight limit, you should stop using both the lower and top tether anchors when your child exceeds the weight limit stipulated in your vehicle manual; install the car seat using the vehicle seat belt only.
Combination seats are designed to hold children facing forward in a five-point harness. When the child reaches a specified weight, you remove the harness and convert the seat into a booster seat, which elevates a child so the car's seat belt can restrain her. Booster seats come in two versions -- a low back and a high back (the latter looks like a car seat) -- but neither style has a harness; they are used only with a seat belt.
Safety 1st Apex 65
What's so special: This easy-on-the-wallet and easy-to-install seat keeps children facing forward in a harness that holds up to 65 pounds; then it converts to a booster seat that will hold a child up to 100 pounds. Though its wide girth takes up precious real estate in the car, it accommodates huskier children well. This seat is also sold under the Cosco brand as the Alpha Elite Apex 65.