Convertible Car Seat Review: Evenflo SafeMax All-in-OnePrice: $163-$280

Type: All in one seat—convertible plus booster.

Limits: 5 to 40 lbs. rear facing, 22 to 65 lbs. forward facing, 40 to 12o lbs. belt-positioning booster and backless booster.

NHTSA ease of use rating:
Convertible mode: Three out of five stars.
Booster mode: Four out of five stars.

IIHS rating for booster mode: Best bet.

Pros: Plush cover, no rethread harness, premium LATCH.

Cons: Big, wide seat may not fit in larger vehicles. Switching to booster mode can be frustrating.

Comments: Evenflo has moved aggressively into “all-in-one” seats in the past few years. These seats combine a convertible (front and rear-facing) seat with a harnessed booster designed for use up to 120 lbs. Evenflo’s first stab at this was with the Symphony, which is still for sale even though it debuted way back in 2008.

The new Evenflo SafeMax is a beefed up Symphony with several additional features.

Example: the new “SafeZone” headrest with beefy side impact protection. Also new is Evenflo’s Parentlink Premier service, which offers you a live video chat with a car seat specialist to go over any questions you have on installation.

That might come in handy when you are converting this seat from convertible to booster mode. More than one reader told us how frustrating/complex this can be, since you have to remove the seat pad and make several adjustments to the seat.

(We should point out that Evenflo uses the “Safemax” name across their line, which is confusing. There is a SafeMax infant car seat, SafeMax convertible booster and so on. The seat we are referring to here is the Evenflo SafeMax All-in-One.)

As always, Evenflo makes the SafeMax in several versions, including a Platinum SafeMax which has upgraded fabrics with “OutLast Performance” technology. This is supposed to keep babies cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. We’ve heard mixed reviews on the durability of the OutLast fabric, with some readers saying it frayed after a year or so’s use. Also: it’s hard to verify the OutLast claims as accurate or just marketing hype.

Speaking of hype, Evenflo is touting its SafeMax seats are “roll-over tested” for safety. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, this sounds great . . . except there are no national roll-over safety standards for car seats. So Evenflo’s safety standard was set by—Evenflo. There is no way to independently verify the claims that this seat would be safe in a roll-over crash.

Other concerns for this seat: even though the SafeMax touts a rear-facing harness limit of 40 lbs, you can only use this seat rear-facing with the headrest in the three LOWEST positions. That means kids will most likely outgrow the SafeMax rear-facing long before the 40 lbs.—so much for extended rear-facing use.

The SafeMax is a big seat 22.5″ wide and 25+ lbs. Fitting other car seats in a back seat with the SafeMax is a challenge; and the weight means you probably won’t want to move this seat often from vehicle to vehicle.

On the plus side, we liked the premium LATCH, no rethread harness and overall plushness of the SafeMax. If you take long road trips, your kiddo will be happy in this seat. And the SafeMax All-in-One is sold in multiple stores and web sites—the lowest price we see as of this writing was $163 for the Platinum SafeMax at Walmart. That’s a good deal!

Bottom line: Evenflo’s SafeMax is a good seat. Yes, we are bit skeptical of the “all-in-one” seat hype—usually these seats compromise somewhere. In the SafeMax’s case, that would be extended rear-facing use, which is practically not possible in this seat for average-size kids. Meanwhile, we’ll give this seat the same rating as we gave Evenflo’s other all-in-the one, the Symphony. Rating: B+