Baby Trend’s sleek booster may not be the smart option parents are hoping for.
The Baby Trend Hybrid Booster 3-in-1 Car Seat is one of the more attractive car seats that I’ve seen for kids. Just like the other popular convertible car seats/ booster seats on the market, it claims to help keep your child safe for many years. While the features are great, it seems that comfort and function may have been overlooked by Baby Trend when this car seat was designed.
Let’s talk first about the most desirable selling point of this car seat- the fact that it’s hopefully the last seat you’ll ever buy for your kid. Since it’s front-facing only, you have to start that happily ever after once your child is old enough for a front facing seat. Once your kiddo is good to go forward, usually at 22-50 pounds, they can use the first stage of the seat: the standard forward facing car seat, aka harnessed booster.
At 30 to 100 pounds, they can switch the car seat into a high back booster seat. Finally, at 50 pounds up to 100 pounds, the seat morphs into a backless booster chair. This changing capability is music to parents’ ears. Any piece of multi-tasking baby gear gets a good grade in my book.
Stage to stage is rough. The downside of this particular hybrid car seat is that changing it from one stage to another is a royal pain. Most convertible car seats or booster seats make it pretty easy to remove a few parts to make it into the booster chair.
This car seat didn’t make things so easy. The instructions look easy, but adjusting the headrest to get it all the way up and removing the safety harness took way too long to do. Even a college education did not help me to figure out the transition easily, and it took a couple of hours to do.
Belt guides aren’t great. Once you get it into the second stage, the Baby Trend Hybrid Booster 3-in-1 is nice and all, but the seat belt never seemed to sit right. With this stage, the seat belt from the car is used to secure your kiddo. There are some belt guides on the shoulder, but they are really hard to find and even harder to get the belt through. Plus, this means you have to use to latch system to install the car seat, which is no fun with this model (keep reading to see why).
How-to & Style Video
Going in the Car
Before you can get the car seat in the car and begin your hybrid booster seat journey, you have to put the seat together. Yet again, my college education was of no use during these efforts. Even my engineer father-in-law had to put some real thought and muscle into putting the seat together.
It was so difficult to get into the base, and it’s sad knowing that it’ll be just as tough to remove the base when I want to convert the chair to another stage. Once put together though, the chair looks really nice and has a very modern design.
Even worse to install. I have installed my fair share of car seats. I like to think that I’ve mastered the latching technique at this point. Boy, did this booster prove me wrong. It had me wondering if I attached the latch belts wrong to the seat, if I attached them wrong to the car tethers, and even if my car tethers were defective.
My final conclusion is that the seat design is the thing that’s wrong. The way the latch belts attached to the seat in the first place is a bit wonky, and that makes them really hard to tighten. The seat, once totally installed to my best ability, just didn’t seem very secure.
Lightweight and not bulky. Now to the great part of the seat going in the car: its size. There was so much leg room for my kid! It wasn’t heavy to put in and out of the car since it only weighs about 18 pounds. Plus, the seat was only about 19 inches wide, so it doesn’t hog the whole back seat. This was so nice, because once my son was ready to face forward, I was so over those big bulky car seats that take up the whole car and leave everyone squished.
I love a good narrow highback booster, and we have a lot more options in our Best Booster Seat article.
Comfort Features for Littles
6 Position Headrest. This is one of the best features for the kids. The headrest can move into different positions to help accommodate each kid’s height as they grow. This was nice because I could put the headrest right where I needed it for good side impact protection and good head support during those wonderful car naps.
However, the headrest doesn’t just glide up or down. It is so hard to position. I had to take the seat out of the car and really muscle it into place because I just couldn’t get a good angle to do it from the back of my SUV. Once you move it a few times, it does get a little easier, so future transitions should be alright.
Cup holders. I didn’t know how great car seat cup holders were until I actually had one. My days of passing back a drink every 10 minutes were over. The Baby Trend Hybrid has 2 beautiful cup holders, one on each side. They are big enough to fit a decent sized cup (dare I admit to saying a Happy Meal drink?) or a water bottle or a sippy cup. Plus, they can put snacks in the other side. No more bugging mommy for each little sip or snack! That makes both of us more comfortable.
Proper padding. This car seat is padded in all the right places. The Hybrid has padded armrests, a padded seat, a reversible comfort padding insert, and shoulder/chest padding for the safety harness. I like this feature because it means that those younger kids who are just starting out in the booster seat can be comfortable. I would take this seat on a long trip and not worry about my baby being comfortable.
My complaint about the padding is that it made the fitting the child into the car seat awkward. The padding insert took up a lot of space in the seat, which is small from the get-go. Also, the harness padding made the harness not fit right and made the chest buckle sit at a too-low-for-safety position. So, while it seems comfortable, I fear that the comfort might interfere with the safety of the seat.
The Best Parent Feature
WASHABLE. Yup, that’s correct, all the padding inserts, armrests, and seat cover are machine washable. Those are glorious words to hear for a clean-freak mom like me. Car seats can get really nasty, especially during long car trips or during those risky outings during potty training.
Luckily, the fabric is pretty stain and water resistant from the start. Anything that does set in can be washed out later. The only problem here is that you have to take apart the car seat to get the washable parts off. This means a major headache and a good chunk of time.
Several Color Options
This car seat meets all safety requirements in the US, so it’s pretty safe. The padded headrest gives it good side impact protection for those smaller kids. It has the 5 point safety harness for that first stage of the convertible car seat. This is the worst part of the car seat. It might be designed to keep the child safe, but it falls short of that calling. Here’s what I don’t like about the harness:
- Moving and removing is so complicated! There is this strap holder in the back that looks like a torture device (and it kind of is). You have to really master the art of removing it before you can adjust or remove the harness. It literally takes almost 20 minutes just to remove the device. Not at all convenient!
- Bottom buckle is bad. There is only about 6 inches from the back of the seat to where the bottom buckle emerges from the seat. That means for most bigger and older toddlers, they’ll be sitting right on the buckle. That’s especially bad news for little boys who are a bit more sensitive in that region. Plus, try buckling the straps in when you kid is sitting on the buckle. Rough.
- Chest buckle breaks. This seat is notorious for having the chest clip break in half. In. Half. If that’s happening during getting the kid in and out of the seat, what would happen during an accident? That’s bad and unsafe quality, if you ask me.
- Hard to buckle and unbuckle. The plastic is clearly cheap and doesn’t like to cooperate. You can’t buckle any part of the harness with only one hand. That makes it harder on moms and older toddlers learning to help out. I had to use both thumbs to press hard on the bottom buckle to release the strap buckles, and the chest clip is so hard to clip together or unclip. Another design flaw.
- Thin straps seem flimsy. This might seem nit-picky, but the straps aren’t high quality. They’re very thin and that makes it easy for the buckles to slide around. They are so thin that they get easily pinched in different areas of the car seat, and it seems to me like they could wear and tear easily. Not comforting when you’re talking about a safety harness.
- 2.5 stars, 11 reviews- Walmart
- 3 stars, 46 reviews- Target
- 2.7 stars, 7 reviews- Kohl’s
- Lightweight and not bulky
- Sleek design
- Great moveable headrest
- Cup and snack holders for kiddo
- Nice padding in the seat and arms
- Washable seat cover!
- Tough to transition from stage to stage
- Hard to put together
- Difficult to install in vehicle
- Extra padding makes kids fit awkward
- Safety harness is flimsy and hard to buckle
- Bottom buckle sits in an uncomfortable spot
Ease of Use Ratings
When it comes to safety, installation and ease of use are incredibly important. While all car seats are required to pass federal safety testing, some are easier to use than others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration computes an ease of use rating for every car seat in several categories. See the ratings below.
Overall, the booster seat received a rating of 4 stars, as shown in the table below, while the forward-facing mode received a rating of 3 stars.
I like Baby Trend, and I really want to like the Baby Trend Hybrid Booster 3-in-1 Car Seat. The convertible car seat has a beautiful and modern design and has all the promise you could want in a hybrid booster seat. It has three stages to fit kids up to 100 pounds, extra padding, moveable harness and headrest, cup and snack holders, and washable seat covers.
However, the functionality of the seat is terrible. It is a nightmare to put together and install into the car. Switching from one stage to another is much harder than it needs to be and is really time consuming. The 5 point safety harness is terrible and neither parent nor child-friendly. For a few extra dollars, I’d say go with a Graco or Evenflo convertible car seatand you’ll be much happier.