I am just going to say it. Choosing a car seat can be hard. There are so many on the market it can be overwhelming as a parent to narrow one down. Preference is big factor as well. Do you want an infant bucket car seat, a convertible car seat that grows with your child, or a car seat that will go from infant to a booster seat? Cost then factors in. You could spend over $200 purchasing an infant seat, but your child will outgrow the seat causing you to have to spend probably over $200 again to purchase another car seat. Then if you purchase a convertible car seat that doesn’t turn into a booster seat you will need to purchase yet another seat. Then you have to decide how long you want your child to rear face.
My husband and I have been in this situation before, and now that we are expecting our second child we are in this predicament again. What car seat do we get? After much thought my husband and I decided we would use our current convertible car seat for our new baby, and look for a new car seat for our 2-year-old. We are big advocates for rear-facing children in their car seats for as long as possible so we wanted to find a car seat that could rear-face our 2-year old in our vehicle as long as possible. (Did you know rear-facing your children is 5 times safer than forward facing? The Car Seat Lady has a great article explaining why Here)
We also wanted a seat that could be used to eventually forward face, and then also turn into a booster seat. In our search, and after talking with a couple other parents, one of the car seat companies that stood out to us was Diono. We were intrigued by their full steel car seat design, the fact their car seats had 5-point harnesses, were convertible and would last a child from 5 lbs. – 120 lbs., and were slim. (Measuring our vehicle, Jeep Grand Cherokee, we found we would be able to fit three Diono car seats across in our back seat. Another parent I know, who drives a Pontiac Vibe, was also able to get 3 Diono car seats across her back seat.) So, my husband and I dove into the world of Diono car seats. What car seat did we get? We got the Diono Radian rXT.
The Seat: My first impressions of the Diono Radian rXT convertible car seat was that it was a SOLID seat. (I would expect nothing less from a full steel frame seat.) At 30 lbs. the seat is heavier than our current car seat. The second impression was how soft the seat fabric was. I actually have not felt fabric so soft on a car seat before. The harness strap pads are super thick, and the seat sits low so my daughter can more easily climb in and out herself. (Which as a 2-year-old she loves.) Because this seat can grow with your child it comes with an infant insert, and has 5 rise slots for the shoulder straps and 3 buckle positions. The Diono Radian rXT allows your child to rear face from 5 lbs. up to 45 lbs., forward face to 80 lbs., and can be converted to a booster seat that goes up to 120 lbs. This seat will last you a long time due to its 10-year lifespan. The Diono Radian rXT also comes with a safe stop harness for those who would like to forward face their smaller children once they hit the legal age and weight limit. It is also FAA certified, which means you can use it on an airplane, and you can even purchase carrying straps or a travel case so you can take it through the airport. (Did you know not every car seat is FAA certified, and if your seat isn’t certified you might have to check it? I personally did not know. You can read more about FAA certified car seats, and flying with kids on the FAA’s website. https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children/)
Our Install Experience: If you were stumped on what car seat to purchase then just wait till you have to install it. While my husband and I are sure we could have installed the Diono Radian rXT correctly ourselves we wanted to make sure, and since neither my husband nor I are certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST), we took our new Diono to a CPST to have it installed. We also figured while we were there we would have our current car seat inspected as well. I am glad we went. After our experience I HIGHLY recommend parent’s take their car seats to be inspected by a CPST. Why? Because there are so many things to think about when it comes to correctly installing a car seat, making sure your child is restrained properly in the car seat, and from our experience a lot of information that is hard to find.
We contacted a local Police Department and set up an appointment with one of their Officers who is a CPST. (Side note: Not every Police Officer or Fire fighter will be a CPST. If you want to take your seats to a Police or Fire Department please make sure you call ahead and ask to book an appointment with one for their CPST’s, if they have one. You can also search on http://cert.safekids.org/ for CPST’s in your area.) During our appointment the Officer inspected our current car seat, and we passed with flying colors. He also checked for items that could turn into projectiles in the car if we were in an accident. One of these items was our rear-facing mirror installed on the back-seat head rest so we could see our daughter. He made sure it was installed correctly and tightly and reminded us to check it often since in an accident it could turn into a projectile if not installed correctly. He also spoke to us about correct shoulder strap, and buckle placement. Then we moved on to the Diono Seat. When we brought the Diono Radian rXT out our CPST was impressed. (I think the words he used to describe the Diono was “Space Ship”. Haha!) He walked us through the differences between LATCH, or Super LATCH with Diono, and seat belt installation. Letting us know that either is fine to use. It just comes down to our preference, but that to use LATCH install the weight of the seat and child cannot be over 65 lbs. If the combined weight is over 65 lbs. then the seat belt must be used to install the seat. He explained to us about the tether, and that we should use it when installing a car seat whenever possible, and he also let us know about the 1-inch movement rule after you think you are done installing. (A correctly installed seat should move less than an inch from side to side or front to back.) He then put our daughter in the seat and he went over how to correctly buckle her into the seat.
Install Hiccup: The biggest issue we ran into when installing the Diono Radian rXT was it braced against our two front seats when installed rear-facing. Our CPST let us know that due to the types of airbags in our seats, and our air bag sensors, that the car seat should not touch the front seats. He moved our front seats forward to show us how much room we would have to make it so the Diono seat did not brace against ours. The driver and passenger seats were cramped. (My husband nor I would not be able to drive comfortably or safely in either of the front seats.) So, our CPST showed us how to correctly install our Diono Radian rXT forward facing. (By law our daughter is old enough and weighs enough to forward face, but we just prefer to keep her rear-facing as long as possible.) We thanked our CPST for taking the time to inspect our seats and educating us on proper car seat safety, and I went home to ponder my rear-facing predicament.
Research: When we got home I looked through the Diono Radian rXT seat owner’s manual, and my car manual again just to make sure I didn’t miss some information. When I still couldn’t find the information, I needed I went to Diono’s website to see if they had any information on if their car seats are allowed to “brace” in your vehicle. Their site says they can, but you should check with your car manufacturer. So, I contacted Jeep. They did not answer my question. Instead they referred me to Safekids.org and the NHTSA. I could not find the answer to my question on either of those websites. I then went back to Diono’s website to see if I had again missed any information, and found that they sell an accessory, an angle adjuster, that is supposed to give you a couple more inches in space for rear-facing car seats. (I had missed this in the owner’s manual.) So, I purchased one in hopes this would solve my bracing issue. (Even though Diono says it’s OK for the Radian to “brace”, but our CPST said it wasn’t, I wanted to err on the side of caution and find a way to properly install the car seat without it bracing against the front seats.)
Solution: Turns out the angle adjuster was just the ticket we needed. We installed the Diono seat, rear-facing, with the angle adjuster, and it no longer braces against our front seats. Both driver and passenger seats can be far enough back to be comfortable and safe. We also purchased Diono’s Ultra Mat to go under the car seat to help protect our leather seats.
Overall Thoughts: I am so glad we got this seat. Not only does my husband and I love this seat more than our other car seat, our daughter loves it more. (My husband’s reaction to the Diono Radian rXT was stating, “This seat is no joke.” Haha!) It was slightly more difficult to install than other car seats we have had, but the pros of this seat outweigh the install hiccups we encountered. (Please make sure to read, and re-read, your car seat and vehicle owners manuals before you install your car seats.) Our daughter has more leg room, and is just over all more comfortable riding in the Diono Radian rXT then her other seat. (I mean look at those smiles! She did not smile that much in her other seat.) She loves the fact she can get in and out of the seat herself, and she calls it her big girl seat. Because the Diono is so slim I can actually see over the seat when I am driving. (I also love the fact I will be able to rear-face both of my children which I feel will make it harder for my older daughter to both our newborn. Haha!) The biggest thing we love about this seat though is we feel, due to the seats full steel construction, that our daughter is safer, and we are happy she will be able to use this seat for a very long time. (While we know she was safe in our other car seat the difference to us is huge.) If you are in need of a slim convertible car seat I highly recommend you look into Diono car seats, and their car seat accessories. You might just end up a Diono car seat family just like us.
Price: The Diono Radian rXT retails on Diono’s website for $359.99. The angle adjuster and Ultra mat are not sold on Diono’s website, but you can search for stores in your area that sell Diono accessories via the Diono website. Near where I am located the Angle Adjuster retails for $8.54 and the Ultra Mat retails for $19.40. So over all you are looking at less than $400.00 for the Diono Radian rXT with Angle Adjuster and Ultra Mat. Even less if you purchase them on sale. For a seat that can go from newborn to booster, 5 lbs. – 120 lbs., it will definitely last you for its 10-year lifespan and save you TONS of money.
**Disclosure Statement: Even though I received free product in exchange for this review all opinions are my own. I am a parent myself and would never recommend a product I wouldn’t be comfortable using on or giving to my own child. A big thank you to our CPST for his installation help, guidance, and service.) **