Combination car seats fill an important gap in the car seat market — forward facing only seats that allow children to remain in a harnessed car seat until they’re truly ready to move to a booster seat. Until now, seats in this category ranged in price from $100-$300 or so, leaving a significant gap at the lowest price point.We’d like to introduce the Cosco Finale, which comes in at the staggeringly low suggested retail price of $49 for the base model and $59 for the more plush cover.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Lower anchor weight limit: 50 pounds
- Forward facing weight range: 30-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: 32-49 inches tall
- High back booster weight range: 40-100 pounds
- High back booster height range: 43-52 inches tall
- Lowest harness position: 13 inches
- Middle harness position: 14.5 inches
- Highest harness position: 16.75 inches
- Booster belt guide position: 18.25 inches at bottom of belt guide
- Lower anchors not permitted in booster mode
- Expiration: 10 years
- Width at widest point (shoulder area): 17 inches
- Width at narrowest point: 16 inches at bottom in front
- One-position crotch strap: 7 inches from the back of the seat shell
- Seat pan depth: 13 inches
- Shell height: 26 inches
- Weight: 8 pounds
- Cup holder
- Lightweight for travel
- FAA approved in harness mode
- Easy care cover
- Extremely budget friendly
- Good option for three car seats across
Installation: Harnessed Mode
Vehicle Seat Belt
We installed the Finale in a variety of vehicles. We had a similar struggle in many of them, a 2010 Odyssey included: the vehicle seat belt’s buckle hit the belt path in an awkward position. To alleviate this challenge, we twisted the female portion of the buckle 1-3 turns before buckling the seat belt. This solution worked well in vehicles with longer, flexible buckle stalks. Installing the Finale in vehicles with a tall rigid belt stalk or recessed buckle stalks may be difficult.
The Finale’s lower anchor weight limit is 50 pounds. This means that when installing the Finale for children who weigh less than 50 pounds, either the vehicle seat belt or the lower anchors can be used (but not both!). Here are the guidelines:
- Children who weigh 50 pounds or less: vehicle seat belt plus top tether OR lower anchors plus top tether
- Children who weigh 50 pounds or more: vehicle seat belt plus top tether only
The top tether is a critical step of the harness mode installation. The manual requires the top tether always be used when the Finale is installed in harnessed mode.
Challenges with the Lower Anchors
The lower anchor webbing isn’t threaded through the belt path when the seat ships so there’s a little assembly required.We found that the lower anchor webbing is fairly short and attached to the seat on the underside of the seat’s shell, kind of far from the lower anchor belt path. This placement can make one side of the webbing seem tight while the other side seems loose. We spent a rather lengthy amount of time working through this issue and discovered the solution.
To set up the seat for use, thread the lower anchor webbing through the belt path. Leave the adjuster on the child’s right side — this is the same side as where the webbing attaches. This evens out the tension across both lower anchors.
Sometimes in the course of writing reviews, our pets get involved in the process. Review cat Max found the Finale a fantastic place to take a rest!
Fit to Child: Harnessed Mode
We’re pleased to see that the minimum weight for the Finale is 30 pounds. This should help keep the smallest of passengers riding in a rear facing car seat until they’re ready to move to a forward facing car seat — ideally around 4 years old.
The lowest harness slot worked well for our model who meets the minimum height and weight requirements for the seat. There is a single crotch buckle setting. This might cause little ones using the seat to slide forward a bit but offers room to fit for bigger kids. We’d suggest verifying that children on the smaller side don’t slide around when buckled in before using the Finale for those children.
The harness seems a little short for a seat with a 65 pound weight limit. Children who are at the upper end of the weight limit may not have enough length in the harness for a comfortable fit.
4 Years Old
This young model is 4 years old. He weighs 40 pounds and is 43 inches tall. The Finale fits him well and he’s got plenty of room to grow. We do advocate that children ride rear facing as long as possible, ideally until they’re around 4 years old. We were pleased to see that the Finale offered a good harness fit for this model, who just recently started riding forward facing full time.
5 Years Old
This model is 5 years old. She weighs 40 pounds and is 44 inches tall. The Finale has three harness height positions. This model can comfortably use the middle setting for a short while. In the third position, the harness is above her shoulders and would provide her with probably a year or more of room to grow.While she easily buckled the seat on her own, she could not undo the crotch buckle without assistance. She found the seat comfortable and was particularly pleased that she could choose which side to install the cup holder on.
7 Years Old
This model is 7 years old. She weighs 45 pounds and is 46 inches tall. She rides in a booster seat most of the time but is happy to help us show how the Finale fits children who are at the upper end of the harnessed mode for this seat.She has a small amount of room above her shoulders to grow. Since this seat has a 49 inch upper height limit for the harness, she may outgrow the harness at about the same time that she hits that 49 inch limit. She found the shoulder straps to be set a bit more narrowly than she liked. The harness of this seat may be too close set for some older and larger Littles.
Converting to Booster Mode
To convert the Finale from harness to booster mode, remove the seat from the vehicle and flip it over to access the back. Remove both sides of the harness loops from the splitter plate, then remove one buckle tongue and the piece of the chest clip on the same side. Slide the harness out of the slot at the hip, then pull the entire harness out. Remove the crotch buckle, then store the harness and crotch buckle in a safe place.
We advocate that children be at least 5 years old before converting from a harnessed car seat to a booster seat. The lower anchors cannot be used to secure the Finale to the vehicle in booster mode, it must be buckled in when not in use.
Shoulder Belt Guide
The manual states that the Finale can be used in high back booster mode with or without the belt guide, whichever gives a better fit on the child. We’re grateful to see this option because we encountered a bit of trouble with the belt guide.The belt guide itself was tricky to use — the shoulder belt did not retract through the belt guide, so a caregiver would have to thread the seat belt back into the retractor each time the child uses the seat.For a child of safe booster age, this could be a frustrating situation for both the caregiver and the child. The safety risk when a vehicle seat belt doesn’t retract is that the child would leave the belt loose and prevent the seat belt from securing the child properly in the event of a crash.
Without the belt guide, the seat belt fit most of our models well but it didn’t always lie directly on the child’s shoulder. Sometimes it hovered just in front of the child a bit. While this isn’t a safety concern if the belt is still close to the child, having the belt not slide easily in and out of the retractor can make staying in the correct seating position a challenge for booster riders.
Fit to Child: Booster Mode
5 Years Old
At 5 years old, 44 inches, and 40 pounds, this model is just a hair over both the height and weight minimums for booster use. She’s kindly showing how the smallest allowable model will fit in this seat. Since the manual says the belt guide is optional, we tested the Finale for her in booster mode both with and without the vehicle seat in the belt guide. The shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt did not contact her shoulder without the belt guide, so we tried threading the vehicle seat belt through the belt guide. Unfortunately, when we put the vehicle seat belt through the belt guide, the shoulder portion of the seat belt landed in the middle of her neck, which she found very uncomfortable.The lap belt hit her low on her hips, contacting her thighs, but at the armrests the lap belt bunched a bit. We recommend using the harnessed portion of a combination car seat until it is outgrown and the child is at least 5 to 6 years old. In this case, the booster fit is so awkward that we would certainly suggest she get a bit closer to outgrowing the harness before transitioning to a booster seat.Another challenge she faced when using this seat in booster mode was with buckling herself into the seat. She wasn’t able to buckle the seat herself and found the belt guide too difficult to thread on her own. If this were her full-time seat she would need parental help to buckle every time she got in the car.
7 Years Old
Our 7 year old model weighs 45 pounds and is 46 inches tall. Like our 5 year old model, she also had trouble threading the vehicle seat belt through the shoulder belt guide without adult assistance. She was rather frustrated because she’s used to being able to independently buckle herself in.
Without the seat belt in the belt guide, the shoulder belt hovered in front of her body. The guide did move the belt to a more appropriate part of her shoulder, but the vehicle seat belt still did not make full contact with her collarbone. Unfortunately, while the lap belt fit was good, the shoulder belt fit was not.
7.5 Years Old
This model weighs 62 pounds and is 50 inches tall. At that height, she’s at the top end of the height range for booster mode. When I set the Finale up in my car, she climbed right in and told me it’s her new favorite booster!Like our other booster models, this kiddo had a hard time getting the vehicle seat belt to retract in the shoulder belt guide. We found that pulling it out of the guide worked well and she had a great belt fit without the guide being threaded. This Finale fits this model better than our other, smaller booster models so we’re seeing that the booster belt fit varies from child to child.
Weighing in at a seemingly unreal weight of just 6.5 pounds, the Finale would be a great option for airplane travel. It’s approved for use on aircraft in harness mode. Like all booster seats, it’s not approved for air travel without the harness since airplanes only have lap belts and booster seats require a lap and shoulder belt.
Important Information: Where to Find
The manual stores on the back of the seat’s shell above the top harness slot.
Date of Manufacture and Expiration
The Finale has a 10 year expiration. The date of manufacture label is located on the label on the back of the seat’s shell.
It’s also stamped into the seat’s shell.
The FAA approval label is on the shell of the seat, right behind the child’s right shoulder. It’s approved for use in harnessed mode on aircraft, but not in booster mode since booster seats require a lap and shoulder belt and airplanes have lap only belts.
At just $49.99 retail price (no, that’s not a typo!) the Finale represents an important innovation in combination car seats that can keep a child harnessed for quite some time. The Finale shines in harnessed mode but falls a bit short in booster mode. This is a compromise that we can live with. We’d suggest that families who use the Finale focus on using it in harnessed mode, then consider a different booster option when it’s outgrown in harnessed mode. Despite the limitations and challenges of booster mode, we could not be more thrilled to see the Finale on store shelves!
Huge Milestone! Great Giveaway!
To celebrate reaching 250,000 members in our Facebook Group, our friends at Cosco have generously provided a Finale for our lucky readers. Read our terms and conditions, then enter below for your chance to win!
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