- Evenflo SafeMax Review: Will You Love This Seat? - August 28, 2022
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Evenflo often breaks the mold when it comes to car seat safety. They were one of the first adopters of side impact testing in their products, and they were the very first manufacturer to conduct rollover testing of their car seats.
The Evenflo SafeMax comes in two different varieties, so we’ll look at both of them today in this Evenflo SafeMax Review. The infant car seat has an anti-rebound bar and has passed rigorous testing with its advanced safety features. It also includes plenty of conveniences you’ll love as a parent.
The All-in-One will get you through your child’s infant years all the way up until they’re ready to graduate from a car seat. It has the same safety and convenience, but it’s comfortable, too, so both you and your child will love it.
About the SafeMax Infant Seat
The Evenflow SafeMax infant seat is, of course, for infants only. It’s meant to be rear-facing until your child is two years of age, which is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.
It only comes in black, which admittedly, is pretty boring. But until your child is a bit older, they won’t care much, so you’re safe from the wrath of fit throwing and tantrums there. It’s one of the safest infant seats you can buy, and while the All-in-One is also intended to be rear-facing, you’ll see later on in our review that this may be a better choice to start out.
Evenflo SafeMax Infant Seat Specifications
- Rear-facing only
- Anti-rebound bar on base
- 4-35 pounds
- 17-32 inches
- The child must be at least 1 inch shorter than shell
- 3 crotch buckle positions
- 4 harness height positions
- 3 hip-width positions
- Thick EPS foam for energy absorption
- All soft goods including covers and straps are machine washable
- FAA-approved for airplane use
- Dual-zone weight recline indicator
- 6-year lifespan
There are several ways in which you can install the Evenflo SafeMax infant seat. It comes equipped with what they call a seat belt lock-off. It’s intended to eliminate the need to lock the seat belt in place.
The lock-off is also used for LATCH installation, but you can’t use it for both seat belt and LATCH installation at the same time, so you’ll have to choose which you prefer. You can also use the car seat without the base, thanks to the seat belt notches included in the carrier, but it’s not nearly as safe, so it should only be used sparingly or in emergencies.
Recline angle indicator
One very important piece of each installation method is the recline angle indicator that ensures your baby is in the correct position at all times. There are two different weight ranges, so you’ll need to know how to use the indicator when installing the seat.
Use the light blue area for infants 4-20 pounds and the green area for infants 20-35 pounds. If you can’t get an appropriate incline, you can insert a rolled towel or blanket under the foot of the base. The indicator is easy to read, but it’s only on the left side, so it’s difficult to see when installing the seat on the driver’s side of the car.
To use the LATCH system, simply detach the lower anchor connectors from the base. Make sure your recline angle is correct by pressing down on the base as if it were fully tightened and then turn the knob to adjust the recline foot.
Push down on the lock-off door and push the button at the same time to open the lock-off. You can then attach the hooks to your lower LATCH anchor bars and tighten the straps as much as possible before closing the lock-off door again.
If you can’t close the lock-off door, try loosening the straps just slightly. Check to make sure you have less than an inch of movement from front to back and side to side. If you’re doing a LATCH install in the center seat, you can borrow anchors from your outboard seats as long as the spacing between the anchor bars is appropriate and your vehicle will allow it, so check your manual first before completing the installation.
Seat belt installation
Set the base on the seat of your vehicle and press down as if your child were in it to make sure the recline angle is appropriate. Rotate the knob to adjust the foot as needed until you see green in the recline angle indicator window.
Push down on the lock-off door and push the button to open the lock-off. Make sure to route the lap belt and the shoulder harness of your seat belt through the belt path and buckle. Pull the slack out of the seat belt before you close the lock-off.
If the lock-off won’t close, loosen it a bit and try again. After you close it, check for tightness in the car seat base and make sure there’s less than an inch of movement from front to back and side to side. If your seat belt is a lap belt only, route the lap belt and the extra tail of the belt through the belt path and the buckle before closing the lock-off.
If your seat belt buckle is in the way of the lock-off, move the base slightly to one side and move the button out of the way. If you have inflatable seat belts, use the LATCH installation method instead, because the Evenflo SafeMax is not compatible with inflatable seat belts.
If you need to install your SafeMax carrier without the base, simply route the lap belt through the guides on each side of the carrier and leave the shoulder harness against the back of the seat. Ensure that the seat is in the correct recline position using the indicator window.
Lock the seat belt using the locking mechanism at the retractor and remove all slack. If you need help figuring out how to lock your vehicle’s seat belt, consult your manual. Most vehicles have this capability.
Most newborns will need the second set of harness slots, so you’ll have to make that adjustment before you use it. The seat currently ships with the straps in the third set, which is too high for an average newborn, and certainly too high for a preemie.
However, if you have a preemie, you’ll have to expect to make adjustments anyway, because nothing is tailored to fit preemies. Unfortunately, you just can’t expect manufacturers to cater to the minority. The good news is that if you have a preemie, your baby will fit really nicely in this seat after you make those adjustments.
At the lowest harness setting, the smallest crotch buckle, the tightest hip setting, and with the infant insert, your baby will be safe. These settings are crazy small and will easily fit a child as little as 4 pounds. While these adjustments are kind of annoying, making them will ensure the safety of your child.
As your child ages, what you might find is that you’ll have to continue to make adjustments and remove padding to keep them comfortable. The stated seat limits are correct, but they don’t give you much slack. What you will find is that your child may fit with several inches still to grow into the shell, but the harness won’t loosen much more than an inch to get them in or out of the seat.
It can be a frustrating experience for everyone. However, it does indeed fit a child up to 32 inches with an inch left in the shell, even with a long torso, so you can be sure that your child will fit until they need to graduate.
Maintenance and adjustments
Thankfully, maintenance on this seat is actually pretty easy, because taking a car seat apart can get pretty ugly. The entire cover is machine washable, which is fantastic because they can get grimy really fast. Unfortunately, adjusting the harness isn’t all that simple.
And it doesn’t even ship at the appropriate setting for most newborns, so you’ll have to adjust it right away. It’ll likely take a good 10 minutes to adjust. And that’s just the harness. That’s not the crotch or the hip straps. It’s also good to remember that you can’t put the infant insert into place without removing the harness from the splitter plate first and then routing it through the insert.
It’s kind of a pain. Adjusting the hip width is tricky because you have to work it through two different slots and mess with a bunch of foam lining in the shell. Granted, the foam lining is there for safety, but it still gets in the way of these adjustments.
- Fits preemies and low birth weight infants well
- Generous height adjustments accommodate tall babies
- Numerous adjustments in shoulders, crotch, and hips as your child grows
- Plenty of padding for comfort and safety
- Large canopy
- Side impact and rollover tested with EPS foam lining
- Seat ships with incorrect harness positioning
- Adjustments can be difficult
- The seat could be longer lasting if the harness were longer
About the SafeMax All-in-One
This car seat was actually the first to pass any sort of rollover testing. It comes in some exciting colors, which the kids love, and it has some pretty exciting features. You can use it from birth until your child doesn’t need a booster anymore and it has integrated cup holders.
Most rear-facing car seats carry a restriction that says that your child can’t sit in it if their head is above the top of the head restraint when it’s in any of the three lowest positions. The SafeMax All-in-One carries this restriction as well, so it can be difficult to use it for extended rear-facing use. However, it truly shines in forward-facing situations and it may be the best thing since sliced bread.
Evenflo SafeMax All-in-One Specifications
- Rear-facing weight allowance: 5-40 pounds
- Rear-facing height allowance: 19-40 inches
- The child must be 1 inch shorter than the shell
- Forward-facing weight allowance: 22-65 pounds
- Forward-facing height allowance: 28-50 inches
- Harness slots: 6-17 inches
- Booster weight allowance: 40-120 pounds
- Booster height allowance: 44-57 inches
- 10-year expiration
Because the SafeMax All-in-One can be used rear-facing, forward-facing, and as a booster, there are plenty of ways to install it. We’ll go through all of them. Surprisingly, it’s not too confusing.
The SafeMax has SureSafe lower anchor connectors that make it easy to get them connected. The lower anchor strap ships in the belt path that’s intended to install the seat forward-facing. If you’re going to install it rear-facing, it adds a step.
First, you need to move the strap containing the lower anchors to the correct belt path. It’s easier to see the strap if you lift up the infant pillow and the cover. Place the lower anchor connector on the rear-facing belt path. Smooth out the straps so they lie flat.
After you have the lower anchor strap in the correct belt path, it’s not hard to install the seat with its SureSafe connectors. You can use the optional anchor guides to help if you need them. SureSafe connectors simply push onto your car’s LATCH system, so when installing the seat, find your lower anchors using the anchor guides and push the connectors into place until you hear them click securely.
Once you click the connectors into place, tighten the straps on the connectors to ensure a secure fit and make sure your seat doesn’t have more than an inch from front to back or side to side.
You can also install the SafeMax car seat using your vehicle’s seat belt, but you can’t use it and the SureSafe connectors at the same time. If you choose to use the seat belt, move the lower anchor assembly to the forward-facing belt path first.
Place your car seat into position and make sure the incline is appropriate. Next, insert the lap belt and the shoulder harness portion of your seat belt through the rear-facing belt path. You may need to unhook the seat pad and move it out of the way to see. Remove all slack from the seat belt and lock the retractor. Check your owner’s manual for how to do this.
If you’re installing the seat forward facing out of the box, the lower anchor strap is already in the right position. If you moved it to install it in the rear-facing position, you’ll now have to move it back. Then install the SureSafe connectors by pushing them into your car’s LATCH system the same way you did in the rear-facing position.
They should click into place securely as before. After you click them into place, tighten the straps. Once again, make sure your seat won’t move more than an inch from back to front or side to side.
To install your SafeMax using the seat belt, follow the same steps for rear-facing installation, but insert the seat belt into the forward-facing belt path instead.
It’s likely that when your car seat is installed facing forward, you’ll have to adjust the headrest as your child grows. It can prove difficult, especially if you have the seat installed correctly. The tighter the seat, the tighter the headrest.
It’s not impossible, but it may take quite a bit of strength to squeeze your hand behind the headrest and the seat to access the handle and move the headrest up. If it’s too difficult, you may have to remove the seat and install it again.
Converting your SafeMax to a booster is no picnic, so you better be sure your child is ready. It’s frustrating and challenging to do, but you’ll only have to do it once. Hopefully. Make sure you have the manual and read it thoroughly.
If you skip a step or miss even a small instruction, it will throw the whole process off. The first step is removing the cover. It gets easier the more you do it, but you should only have to do it once. The clips are pretty big, but once you figure out which way to pull them, it’s not too hard. Once the cover is off, remove the anchor strap from the bottom and set it to the side for later.
From the back of the shell, wrap up the harness. The chest clip buckles in at the base. On the back of the seat, you’ll see plastic feet to hold the harness in place. Finally, insert the harness covers into their slots. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s all meant to pack away against the shell nicely in case you have to use it again.
Everything will stay together so you won’t lose it. Plus, if you don’t pack it away just so, your child may be uncomfortable sitting on it, because it’s meant to be a high-back booster. Nothing actually comes off of the seat.
The manual says at this point you should recline the seat fully and take out the crotch buckle, but because the harness is wrapped up tightly in the back, it could prevent the seat from reclining. It may be more effective to take out the crotch buckle first, but every user could have a different experience.
Once the buckle pops out, it stores on the seat. Now you can insert the lower anchors into the forward-facing belt path again, put the seat cover back on, and tuck away the lower anchors. The seat pad goes back on easier than it comes off, and because you know where the clips go, they’ll slide back on better than they came off.
Sizing will be a bit different for every position. The seat is designed to grow with your child and it accommodates different height and weight ranges, depending on how you have it installed.
All of the padding is meant to be used in the rear-facing position. You can’t use it in any of the others. You may choose to use it or not, depending on how your child fits in the seat. If you have a very small infant, the padded headrest may be useful, but most average newborns will fit fine without it.
Getting a larger baby in and out of the rear-facing seat, despite the high sides, is actually quite a bit easier than most other car seats. The rear-facing height range tops out much higher than the SafeMax infant seat, so even at 36 inches, your child will have plenty of room to grow before turning them around.
This is a huge blessing, given that you’re not supposed to turn your child around until they’re at least two years of age, and leaving them rear-facing for as long as possible is always the safest thing. As for preemies, this seat may not be ideal.
You’d be better off going with the SafeMax infant seat. It accommodates heights and weighs just a tad smaller than the All-in-One. However, you could make it work by using all of the extra paddings if you check with your doctor first.
Whether your child just turned around or is 7 years old and 46 inches tall, they’ll fit nicely in the forward-facing configuration. The height ratings are quite accurate. It’s comfortable and easy to get into, although for smaller children, you may find yourself waiting for a minute or two for them to climb over the high sides.
Even better, the chest buckle takes some time to figure out, so if you have a little Houdini on your hands, it may be a great option for you. Your child should have plenty of room to grow, even if you haven’t reached the booster stage yet.
After the struggle it is to convert to a booster, you want to know it’s at least comfortable for your child, right? Luckily, it is. The seat belt guide is made of the same soft fabric that’s on the headrest and it’s easy to pass the seat belt through.
However, the large size of the seat may make it tough for a child to buckle themselves in, so that can be a difficult obstacle to overcome every time you get in the car. The size of the seat and the amount of padding are what makes it so safe, so it’s a give-and-take situation. The belt fit is fantastic and the shoulder strap and lap belt both fall right where they should.
Here’s where the Evenflo SafeMax All-in-One really goes above and beyond most other car seats. It has a lot of pretty cool features, some you can’t even see.
This safety feature surely gives you peace of mind. It sounds awesome and it’s just an extra security measure that keeps your little one as safe as possible. However, there are no federal standards that dictate rollover testing, so Evenflo designed their own.
That’s a pretty incredible feat, and I’m not downplaying it. It’s simply important to consider that we don’t have any standards on which to evaluate its effectiveness. There are FAA standards that all car seats must pass for use on an aircraft, so we do know this seat has passed that test.
While we can’t prove how well the seat would do in a rollover, we can make several assumptions based on its design. It has a huge headrest, a ton of padding and reinforcement, and quite sizable harness pads. A quote from Evenflo says the seat also includes premium materials that help to absorb and dissipate crash forces, which could be what makes most of the difference.
This service is included with your SafeMax purchase and it gives you the ability to meet virtually with an expert to install your car seat and get expert advice from a CPST. It’s just something a little extra that Evenflo does and others don’t.
The SafeMax All-in-One is part of Evenflo’s Platinum Series, which means it’s equipped with Outlast technology to keep your child even more comfortable.
The cover stays cool at all times, even when it’s hot outside. That means even when your seat is sitting in a hot parking lot or parked in direct sun, it won’t be too hot when your child gets back in. It’s also a beneficial feature on long car rides because it offers extra breathability to reduce discomfort from sweat. Most kids find that the seat is so comfortable, they don’t want to get out!
We can’t overlook one of the most important things a car seat must have: cupholders! These are equally important to kids and adults. For one, it gives our kids a place to put their drinks so they don’t spill.
They also double as toy and snack storage! How many times have you found hair ties, Hot Wheels, and Goldfish at the bottom of your car seat cup holders? Even worse, how many times have you tried to clean the cupholders to no avail? Ew. The SafeMax has cup holder liners.
Those are removable. Gone are the days of getting something sticky in the bottom and having to throw the entire seat away. Trust me. I’ve done it. Just take the liner out, wash it, and pop it back in. It’s so easy. Unfortunately, the liners are only compatible with the seat in forward-facing and booster configurations.
- A long-lasting car seat will get you from newborn through booster phases
- Super comfortable and safe
- Loaded with features like ParentLink PREMIER, Outlast technology, and cup holder liners
- SureSafe connectors make installation easy
- Comes with storage for all components in the booster phase
- Can be difficult to convert to the booster phase
- Cup holder liners are only compatible with forward-facing and booster configurations
- Seat size makes it difficult for children to buckle themselves
If you’re not sold on the SafeMax (even though you should be), here are some alternatives that are definitely worth a look.
Evenflo Symphony DLX
The SafeMax is like the Symphony DLX on steroids. So if you want to save a little green but still get a really good car seat, this one is a great choice. It’s a popular option and a premium car seat that has a rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster mode.
While it’s only rated up to 110 pounds in booster mode, the Symphony DLX it’s virtually identical in all other weight ranges. It comes with the SureLATCH connectors that make installation easy, and it’s side-impact tested for your peace of mind.
It has dual cup holders in the armrests, but it doesn’t have removable liners, and you won’t find the rollover testing either. However, it’s comfortable and safe.
Grow And Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
The Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat is a great choice if you want to make sure your baby has an extra-comfortable ride! This car seat is safe for rear-facing babies as small as 5 pounds, and the booster seat can support up to 100 pounds!
A lot of parents love this car seat because of how easy it is to wash. While this car seat comes with a grow-with-baby pillow and tons of padding, the cover for the car seat is easy to remove and machine wash. Even better, the Grow and Go All-in-one offers side impact protection.
There’s a 5-point harness to keep your babe nice, and snug in the car seat, with three different positions, and reclines available to ensure you’re able to get a perfectly snug fit while the car seat is in your car!
Graco SlimFit All-in-One Car Seat
If you’re a big fan of Graco products, their SlimFit All-in-One car seat is a wonderful option if you’re looking for customizability. This is a 3-in-1 car seat, which supports babes as small as 5 pounds, all the way to 100 pounds in the boost seat mode.
There are two cup holders that come with this car seat; however, they rotate away from the car seat, which makes this car seat a lot easier to install. Plus, Graco claims it adds 10% more space in the back seat. The SlimFit has been side, front, rear, and rollover tested and has passed all standard, as well as federal, testing.
There’s a No-Rethread harness system, which allows you to adjust the harness and the headrest without any stress. Plus, there are 10 headrest positions for you to choose from, making sure this car seat perfectly fits your babe as they continue to grow!
Answer: Evenflo ranks pretty high when it comes to car seats. Kids love them, parents, love them, and they’re tested pretty rigorously for safety. They come with a lot of features, and they’re also some of the more affordable options.
Answer: Evenflo tends to be bulkier in terms of padding, but both brands tend to have pretty comparable car seats in terms of features and pricing, so it really just depends on what you’re looking for. Most people have preferences when it comes to brand and style, but they’re very similar.
Answer: Generally, you get what you pay for. Britax doesn’t make their car seats to win awards. They make them to be the safest they could possibly be in real-world situations.
Most of them come with integrated steel frames that will hold up under even the worst crash scenarios. Even better, Britax products perform better and exceed even the safety standards required by law. Are they expensive? Yes. Are they worth it? Absolutely.
Answer: The Britax Boulevard, by far, outranks all other convertible car seats in most categories. However, the Britax Advocate and the Britax Marathon are close seconds.
Next are the Nuna RAVA and the Chicco NextFit Zip. After that, you’ll find things like Graco and Evenflo. It’s not because they’re not good, it’s just because they’re simply not as premium. However, they’re also not as expensive. So if you want a good car seat for a lot less money, these are great options.