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When looking for a convertible car seat there are many factors that need to be prioritized. Which is the safest convertible car seat? Which seat is going to have the best longevity? Am I going to be able to fit three seats across the backseat of my car? Whether you’re shopping in a store (recommended) or online (also recommended – with us, at least!), all of these factors can add up to a challenge.
There are a number of excellent brands that you should consider, including Clek, Peg Perego, Diono, and Britax. These are our top convertible car seat brands at Magic Beans, so for this article I’d like to focus on two frequently compared brands, and hopefully this will help you figure out what to get. Before I get into the comparison, though: remember you can always book a free consultation with one of our baby gear gurus to help you figure out what is specifically right for you.
So, your question for today is: should I buy a Britax Clicktight car seat or a Diono convertible car seat? We hear this question a lot, and it’s not an easy choice – they’re both very well-regarded and safe brands. However, they are very different in many ways.
Just visually: Britax car seats look more like comfy barcaloungers, and Diono seats look more like seats for an older toddler. This is because the Diono seats are 3-in-1 seats: they transform from convertible car seats that are safe for infants all the way up to belt-positioning boosters for big kids. This makes them great in terms of longevity, but it also may mean that they aren’t optimized for each individual stage from infancy all the way to grade school.
When thinking about these two brands when the baby is growing out of an infant car seat, many times I’ll recommend Britax because I think the baby just fits more comfortably at that 9-months-to-1-year time frame. However, as the child grows older, their lankier bodies will eventually fit quite nicely in Diono seats.
Pro Tip: Most convertible car seats do not stay with the original child for whom the seat was purchased. That is, once a second child comes into the mix, most parents hand down the convertible car seat to the next child and get a new seat for the older child (like a Britax Frontier). So if you think you are going to use that Diono for your six-month-old until he or she is six years old, you should just know that rarely happens.
So it is my opinion that a baby is more comfortable in a Britax, but you’ll be happy with your Diono as the baby becomes a toddler/little kid.
But comfort certainly isn’t everything, because obviously safety is of the utmost importance! (That’s what car seats are for!)
Ease of installation is much more closely related to safety than you would think: an improperly installed seat simply doesn’t protect your child the way it should. And when it comes to ease of installation, Britax Clicktight car seats are just phenomenal. Turn a knob and thread in your seat belt, and you can install the car seat by yourself without much hassle.
Diono seats used to have an installation advantage with their Super-LATCH system, which extended the use of LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tether for CHildren), but since the car seat laws have changed, super-LATCH has pretty much become obsolete since LATCH regulations now take into account the combined weight of the seat and the child.
Speaking of weight of the seat, you can’t talk about Diono seats without knowing that they have an extremely strong steel alloy frame. (How strong? Read this blog to find out!) Many people think that you get a Diono seat because it folds (which is does) and, most famously, becasue you can seat three across the back seat, but the real reason that you should buy a Diono seat is because it is very, very, very, very safe. That steel alloy frame stays solid and strong in a crash. They also pass NCAP tests, which are the most severe tests performed on cars and car seats.
As for getting three across the backseat: my first suggestion, if you have three kids of the age that they would require three-across seats, is that if it is possible for you to get a minivan, you should. That might not be financially possible for everyone, and some just don’t like the stigma of being a minivan driver. In my experience, getting a minivan is the best solution, but if you do have to get three across then Diono seats are a great option.
There are also plenty of choices in the Diono range: along with the R100, R120 and RXT, there’s also the Olympia, Pacifica, and Rainier. The latter three have enhanced materials and improved side impact protection, but it does make them wider, so go for the “R” varieties if you want to get three across. (By the way, Clek car seats also work great for three across! Look for car seats 17″ wide or less.)
At the end of the day, it comes down to your priorities: if you’re prioritizing easy installation and cushiony seating, go with Britax Clicktight. If you need the reassurance of steel, if you need a narrow seat, or if you’re prioritizing longevity, then Diono may be your brand.
We cover both these brands and more in our Car Seat Buying Guide, and you can also find some quick stats on our Convertible Car Seat comparison chart. Finally: if you live in New England, come on by one of our stores! We have both of these brands on display, and we’ll even help you try out your seat of choice in your car.