It's hard to beat the Evenflo Maestro's price, especially for a seat that converts from a forward-facing harness seat to a belt-positioning booster. Reviewers also say the Maestro is lightweight and easy to install. However, the seat only allows children to use the harness until they are 50 pounds, and parents report issues with hard-to-undo buckles and straps that dig into their kids' necks.
A few issues to note. The Evenflo Maestro offers a five-point harness in harness mode, a chest clip, side-impact protection, energy-absorbing foam and LATCH connectors. Evenflo says LATCH can be used regardless of the child's weight. In booster mode, it uses a vehicle's safety belts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names it a best bet for proper belt fit, but the seat receives average reviews in a separate round of expert safety testing. Those experts found that the seat harness didn't maintain proper tension, and the chest clip is difficult to move. In booster mode, the seat belt was hard to properly position on a child's shoulders, they found. In 2010, Evenflo recalled 18,000 Maestro seats after the model cracked in a crash test. Affected models were pulled from store shelves, and no injuries were reported.
Tricky harness, headrest and buckle. Reviewers say the Evenflo Maestro is easy to install, especially with the LATCH system. The harness must be rethreaded to change the height. The headrest is not adjustable, and several reviewers report problems operating the buckle, which they say requires a lot of pressure to undo. In ease-of-use ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the seat receives 4 stars in booster mode and 4 in harness mode. Testers criticize the tricky conversion from harness to booster mode that requires the harness be removed. Labels could also be more complete, they say.
Low weight limit for harness. The Evenflo Maestro converts from a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness to a high-back and booster. It features two integrated cup holders, armrests and a removable head pillow. The seat pad is removable and machine washable, but one expert says the fabric is tricky to remove. The Maestro receives mixed reviews for comfort -- some parents say their children are perfectly happy in the seat, but others say the padding seems thin. Several say the narrow straps dig into their children's necks. The seat is relatively lightweight for a combination seat, reviewers say. Harness mode can be used from 22 to 50 pounds and 28 to 50 inches; booster mode can be used from 40 to 110 pounds and 43.3 to 57 inches.
Short warranty. The Evenflo Maestro has a limited 90-day warranty, shorter than most one-year warranties. Evenflo gets mixed reviews for its customer service from reviewers. The seat expires six years from its date of manufacture.
Review Credibility: Excellent The Evenflo Maestro is one of CarSeatBlog.com's picks for best combination booster seats. Saying "it's a great lightweight seat for the money," editors praise the five-point harness for younger kids, four harness slots and dual cup holders. However, the seat is somewhat short when it's used in booster mode, the headrest is not adjustable and the buckle can be very hard to operate because it requires a lot of pressure, they say.
Review: Recommended Carseats, Editors of CarSeatBlog.com, September 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent The IIHS evaluates booster seats on how well they make a safety belt fit an average 6 year old. The Evenflo Maestro is rated a best bet, meaning the lap belt was flat or nearly flat on the thighs, and the shoulder belt was correctly positioned at or very near the mid-shoulder.
Review: Booster Evaluations for 2012, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Not dated
Review Credibility: Excellent The NHTSA rates car seats on a 5-star scale for ease of use, label content and clarity, instruction content and clarity, ease of installation and ease of securing a child. The Evenflo Maestro receives 4 stars in booster mode and 4 in harness mode, taking heat for a tricky conversion from harness to booster mode that requires the harness be removed. Labels could also be more complete, testers say.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Not dated
4. Baby Bargains
Review Credibility: Excellent This comprehensive book reviews baby gear and common baby brands. The authors review popular car seats based on expert testing and parents' reviews, as well as information from manufacturers and retailers. Their website offers up-to-date information, additional reviews, recall information and forums for parents to discuss baby products.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, Tenth Edition, 2013
Review Credibility: Excellent Editors of ConsumerReports.org test 13 combination and 33 belt-positioning booster seats, including high-back and backless models. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include editors' highs and lows for each seat -- helpful for parents who want a quick summary of each seat. However, there are a couple of discontinued models listed, and it's unclear when the tests were performed.
Review: Toddler Booster Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good The Evenflo Maestro receives 4.2 out of 5 stars in about 100 reviews on Amazon.com. Reviewers are fans of the low price, and they say the seat is easy to install, especially with LATCH. They also like the easily adjustable harness, narrow seat profile and cup holders. However, many complain that the buckle is hard to operate, and some say the seat doesn't seem as comfy as pricier models. Several reviewers also report that the narrow straps dig into their children's necks.
Review: Evenflo Maestro Car Seat Booster, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2013