Price: $96 to $160.
Type: Convertible seat.
Limits: 5 to 35 lbs. rear facing, 22 to 50 lbs. front-facing, 40 to 100 lbs. as a booster.
NHTSA ease of use rating: Rear facing: Two stars out of five. Forward facing: Three stars out of five. Booster: Four stars out of five.
IIHS rating for booster mode: Not recommended.
Pros: It’s an infant seat! It’s a convertible! It’s a booster!
Cons: Twisty straps. Poor recline. And much more!
Comments: This best-selling seat is sold under a zillion aliases, as you’d expect from Cosco. It is marketed under the Eddie Bauer, Safety 1st, Cosco and Alpha brands in a variety of price points and spin-offs. We’ve seen it in a stripped-down version for $100 at Costco . . . and a deluxe version sold in stores that tops $200. It is now most often sold under the Safety 1st name, albeit with varying names (Alpha Omega, Alpha Elite, All in One, etc.)
The pitch for this seat is simple: you can use it from birth to college. Ok, perhaps not college, but this seat aims for a triple play: rear facing for infants up to 33 lbs., as a convertible with five-point harness up to 40 lbs. . . . and then as a belt-positioning booster up to a whopping 100 lbs. for toddlers and older kids.
The problem: it just doesn’t live up to the hype. It is poorly designed, hard to use and expensive. Our reader feedback hasn’t been kind to this seat: readers knock the instructions as “vague and confusing,” the belts are hard to adjust in the rear facing mode and the straps are so thin they constantly get twisted and snagged. Yet another problem: the highest harness slot in this seat (14.5”) is a full inch lower than other seats like the Britax Roundabout. Why is this a problem? That low slot means some parents will be forced to convert this seat to booster mode too soon for larger children.
As for safety, Consumer Reports pegged this seat as “poor” for rear facing fit to vehicle, although overall crash protection was very good. (This was in a previous report that is no longer online). And adding insult to injury, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says this seat in booster mode is “not recommended.”
Bottom line: the basic design and technology of this seat is about 15 years old and is showing its age, in our opinion. Yes, it is a top-selling seat on Amazon with 250+ five-star reviews, no doubt due to the $100 price tag and the promise that it is an “all-in-one” solution for infants through booster age kids. But we’ll respectfully disagree with the masses on the Alpha Elite—this seat is a loser.