I got this car seat 4 wks prior to the birth of my son. I did a lot of research and was debating between First Years True Fit, the Graco MyRide 65, and the Evenflo Symphony 65. I didn't want to bother with an infant carrier/travel system again since this will be my second child and didn't want to carry the bulky, heavy infant carrier in one hand and have to worry about holding my 3yr old's hand in my other hand (plus whatever else we may have with us). I plan on using an infant carrier that straps to my body instead of the car seat types.
With that said, I chose this one, not only because it was closer to my budget but also because of the high ratings of ease of use it recieved. I love how everything is labeled (although I can see how that can be a little overwhelming too). I do have a minor gripe about pads on the car seat. Because of the easy off pads (which being a mother of a 3yr old, I know will be so handy- her Graco Nautilus is NOT fun to have to remove the padding for cleaning), but because of the easy off pads on the Frist Years C650, there are gaps where the buckle and straps would thread through that I foresee being a comfort issue because the gaps expose the hard base of the car seat both around the crotch buckle and around the shoulders. The infant pad inesert seems like it should have some sort of velcro on the back to hold the sides in place- I worry about it folding over on my little guy. I live in FL and worry the plastic/metal that is exposed on these small areas will get hot in the summer. Also, there are BIG warning labels sewn onto the front of both the infant padding insert and the front of the carseat padding iteself. I was able to flip the infant padding over but am not able to do so with the other padding for when he gets bigger. These concerns are all comfort related though and I do not foresee it a safety issue. I'm going to have my 3 year old test it out first..... UPDATE: I had her test it FF and she said it was so comfy. ;) She's 39 inches, 38 pounds. Now, we didn't travel far where she'd be trying to go to sleep but she approved on an initial test.
I read complaints about the cup holder's position. Let me say, my 3 rd old can easily reach a cup in the holder and can replace it- which is a bit more difficult but she didn't seem to care. It is positioned a little further back and with the wide side wings of the carseat, it could case uneccessary spills (especially while the car is moving) but by the time a child is old enough to reach for a cup, drink on his/her own, AND put it back in any holder, the position of the cup holder isn't horrible. I did have an issue inserting the cup holder over/around the latch buckles on one side (my car is pre-LATCH era, so the buckles remain clipped back while I use the seatbelts for installation). It does give you the option of putting the cup holder on the left or right of the carseat but the side without the LATCH buckles (in RF) is the side the door closes on (driver's side) and the door won't close with the cup holder hooked on that side. Again, small gripes in the main scheme of things.
I also read many reviews, and one of the biggest complaints was about how "big" this seat is and fear of fitting it in a car. I would say to those, yes it's big & could be an issue in some smaller cars (RF WITH headrest installed) but it's big for a reason: safety. Compared to my Graco Nautilus for my 3year old, it's no taller which for FF is good. It may be slightly wider but I drive a 97 Mazda 626 and only have an issue with fitting this seat behind the driver's seat RF WITH the head rest installed. I'm 5 ft 5 but I prefer to sit as far from the steering wheel/air bag as possible. I may just need to pull my seat up further OR switch this seat with in RF with headrest with my FF car seat. Problem solved.
In my car, to get it on the proper recline, I'm going to have to insert a pool noodle or something. My seats have a pretty deep bucket, which was the problem I have read about others as well. I probably won't be able to fit a 3rd adult between the two, but that would be the case with any convertible car seats side by side. I do love the easy to read levelor---- I can never eyeball if a line is horizontal to the ground accurately.
Another main concern I had was from the complaints I read regarding access to the tightening belt when in RF. In my car, yes, the belt harder to get to against the back of the seat BUT once it's at the correct "snuggness" to your child, you shouldn't have to adjust it until he/she grows again because the shoulder straps are in a loop-like configuration. You simply pull one side of the straps out as far as you can/need, slide your baby into that side and do the same on the other side. Now, I didn't actually test this with my 3 yr old- she's too big to test RF (and my son isn't here yet to use it on) but it seems like it should work just fine this way. I did have my daughter's baby doll in there as a test and it worked this way.
I haven't actually installed it into my car so I can't really say anything regarding how easy it is to actually get it tight. My car is a 97 Mazda so I will have to use the seatbelt method rather than the LATCH system, which is why I was sold on the EASE of USE ratings on this seat. All the other seats I've had to install (I've gone through 3 with my daughter), have been a pain. I wasn't able to get the infant carrier tight enough to keep it from sliding too much and the 2 convertibles we've used take multiple attempts to install and a good deal of exersion. I'm hoping this one will be easier as it is highly rated in the category and the labels and directions seem pretty clear cut, but we'll see. I would have installed it before I wrote this review so I can give all information but my car is going into the shop tomorrow and I don't know when I'll be getting it back.
....My husband's car is a 99 Toyota Camry, which is slightly larger but still requires the seatbelt method of installment. I'll have to test it in his and see if I can update my post afterwards.
I looked at a couple 5-100 pound seats and decided against those because once your child outgrows this (65lbs), he/she can ride on a booster that costs a lot less. ALSO, every car seat has an expiration date. My daughter is 3 and weighs 38lbs. I don't THINK she will outgrow a 65pound seat before the expiration date lapses.
I hope this was helpful. Good luck
ProsEase of Use: Easy removable pads, Easy to read levelor
Easy to read labels
ConsPadding Gaps where the buckles feed for future heights