Price: $120 to $150.
Type: Convertible seat.
Limits: 5 to 40 lbs. (19” to 40”) rear facing, 22 to 65 lbs. (and 34” to 45”) forward facing.
NHTSA ease of use rating:
Rear facing: Three out of five stars.
Forward facing: Three out of five stars.
Pros: 40 lbs. rear facing! Side impact protection. No rethread harness. Affordable.
Cons: Huge seat makes for a tough fit in small or mid-size cars.
Comments: The Safety 1st Complete Air 65 was one of the first seats to feature side impact protection and a 40 lb. rear-facing limit when it debuted back in 2010. While other competing seats have matched those specs in recent years, it is relatively hard to find extensive side-impact protection wings at this price point.
The Complete Air also features a “QuickFit” harness system that adjusts the harness height without rethreading.
Parent feedback on this seat has been mixed: more than one reader mentioned the seat’s large size makes it a tough fit even in mid-size sedans, especially in rear facing mode. Other parents complained they couldn’t get the seat to recline enough in their cars; some used rolled up towels or noodles.
Consumer Reports echoed that complaint in their recent car seat ratings, giving the Complete Air 65 “poor” marks for rear-facing installations (both with seat belt or LATCH). On the up side, the Complete Air 65 earned a “best” rating for crash protection.
Folks who are able to install this seat like its overall quality—the no-rethread harness particularly wins praise for ease of use. No, this seat isn’t as polished as other premium brands like Britax and Recaro. Example: the base on the seat is unfinished plastic with rough edges. Upper-end seats have rubberized plastic bases, which better protect an auto’s seats. Of course, the Complete Air is $100 less than those seats, so there’s your trade-off.
Cleaning this seat is also a pain—removing the fabric takes a bit of effort. And the pad can’t be machine washed.
Bottom line: this seat is a good choice if you plan to use it forward-facing mode for older toddlers and install it in a larger vehicle or SUV. The 40 lb. rear-facing limit is great, but is negated by difficult rear-facing installation and limited crotch buckle room.
FYI: Safety 1st tells us the Advance line of car seats will be discontinued in the near future. They are still available for sale online as of this writing.