Is this inexpensive harnessed car seat/booster seat combo right for your needs?
At first glance, the Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat looks fantastic. It has a small and sleek design, attractive styling, and an even prettier price tag. All of that combined with fantastic safety ratings makes for a safe choice for a harnessed car seat and booster seat 2-in-1 combo.
It’s a great choice, especially for parents who travel a lot. But it might not be so great for everyday use.
Here’s what I’ve found by studying the reviews and specs.
2 Ways to Use
Before we delve into the other features, let’s get a good look at how you use the car seat.
The Harnessed Car Seat
The first mode is the good old forward facing car seat. This mode works for kids who weigh 22 to 50 pounds and are between 28 and 50 inches tall. This means that beginning at about age 2, you can use this seat for your kiddo. Until then, let them ride rear facing for safety.
The car seat has a 5 point safety harness that can be adjusted for comfort. There’s 4 different shoulder strap spots and 2 different bottom buckle spots. This helps you get the right fit as your child grows. You can also adjust the tightness of the harness using the easy front button. Simply pull strap to tighten and push lever to release!
The Belt Positioning Booster
The second mode is a belt positioning booster. This booster can be used once your child outgrows the limits for the 5 point safety harness, or when they reach 40 to 110 pounds and 43.3 to 57 inches. And they should be at least 4 years old for this mode.
When used this way, the highback booster has an auto-adjust belt path keeps the belt at the correct shoulder height for your child. This keeps the ride safe and comfortable for your big kid. Also, be sure to keep the booster either latched or buckled in whether its in use or not! This keeps it from becoming a projectile if there’s a crash.
Now that you understand the 2-in-1 car seat thing, let’s talk about how safe this seat is. It’s easy to look at the seat’s price tag and assume that a cheap price might mean compromised safety. But it doesn’t!
This car seat doesn’t only meet all safety standards, but it exceeds many of them. It has especially good side impact protection since it’s been rated at 2 times the federal safety standard. If you want to know exactly which standards they test for, check out Evenflo’s website.
But it doesn’t end there.They test for temperature safety too! This means that the buckles and body of the seat will withstand the very cold and hot temps that your car can reach. You can feel good that it has been designed and tested at for structural integrity at all applicable energy levels and temperatures.
The Maestro is also rated as an FAA approved car seat. The booster wins the Best Bet rating from the IIHS. That’s literally as safe as a booster can get!
You know about the seat itself and how safe it is, but what about everything else? Here are some of my favorite extra features.
- 2 cup holders. They even have elastic bands, so they’ll stretch to fit most water bottles, sippy cups, and snacks of various shapes and sizes.
- Storage for the harness. When you are done with the harness, you can keep it attached ever-so-discreetly to the seat, so you won’t lose it. Genius!
- Latch straps for the lower and upper parts of the seat. These make installation safer. You can still use your own car’s seat belt, too.
- Machine washable seat pad. Score!
- Small design. Only 17 inches wide at the base, and only weighs about 12.7 pounds.
I’ve painted a lovely picture of these car seats. So you might be wondering, are there any negatives? After all, this thing gets rave reviews! But let me tell you, there are some bummers about this seat. I can break these issues into 3 big categories: installation, harness, and comfort.
I mentioned the latch straps, which is a nice feature to have. But I didn’t mention how annoying they are! They are so hard to get tight! The product manual gives you the way to do it correctly, which involves you putting your full weight on the car seat. Even then, the seat wiggles more than the recommended 1 inch.
Then there’s the releasing of the latch tethers. There’s this little button that says push to release, but it’s lying to you. Pushing it won’t do anything to release the tension. Unstrapping this seat if you use the latch system is a nightmare, and makes moving the seat around a real pain.
I love and hate this harness. It’s not a bad harness in that seems sturdy enough. I also love that you can hide it when you go to booster mode.
What I hate about it is adjusting the harness. If you want to pull the lower strap to tighten it, it doesn’t always work! One strap likes to get trapped behind the car seat, so the shoulder straps end up being uneven and impossible to get tighter. You literally have to uninstall the car seat and go to the back to free the trapped strap in order to remedy this.
Then there’s adjusting the height. If you want lower or higher shoulder straps, you have to rethread the whole harness, which is a total pain! And the positions of the straps overall aren’t very accommodating to tall kids, who might feel pinched pretty quickly.
The last thing that I just don’t love about this car seat is the comfort level. The seat pad is machine washable, which is nice. But I find it quite thin. And there’s not a lot of padding overall. Not in the bottom, the sides, or the headrest. Which is likely fine for a car seat designed for older kids. But still, I’d appreciate a bit more comfort.
This isn’t a section that I’d normally include, but for this car seat, it just made sense to discuss the best uses for this seat. This car seat isn’t terribly bad for everyday use, but I feel that it has better uses elsewhere. Here are the situations that this car seat is best suited for:
If you are going on a trip and want a travel seat for your 2 to 4 year old, then this one’s hands down the winner. It’s inexpensive, so you can justify buying it for a one-time trip. It’s crazy light and easy to carry. It isn’t very large, so getting it in and on the plane would be a breeze. And it’s FAA approved and ready to fly!
If your kiddo travels from time to time in your spouse’s car, your parents’ car, or a friend or babysitter’s car, then this seat would be ideal. Again, it’s small and easy to move around. It doesn’t take up much space and is very affordable. Great for a vehicle that’s not ridden in every day.
Car with Multiple Car Seats
Since the base is only about 17 inches wide, this is a great option when you are trying to fit 3 car seats across one back seat. And that low price makes it so much more doable to buy more than one at a time. In our overall best booster car seat review article, this is one of the narrowest options!
- 4.6 stars, 155 reviews- Walmart
- 4.8 stars, 607 reviews- Toys R Us
- 4.9 stars, 390 reviews- Target
Overall, the Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat is a pretty good deal. It offers all the basics of a 2-in-1 car seat at a really low price.
You’ll get a harnessed car seat and a highback booster all in one. It’s a safe car seat from a reliable brand, too. Not to mention the cup holders and machine washable pad.
But at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. This seat is a pain to install and take out of the vehicle. The harness isn’t the greatest, and has to be rethreaded for adjustments. And the comfort level is sub-par.
If you just need to take a trip on an airplane, or if you need an alternate car seat to put in a second car, then get this seat! It will serve you really well. It will work well if you are struggling to fit many car seats into one vehicle as well.
But if you want a comfortable and reliable seat for everyday use, I’d keep looking. Yes, it will cost more to buy a nicer seat. If you need something that can be used easily day in and day out while keeping your kid comfortable, I would suggest looking at a slightly nicer car seat.