I co-teach a short introductory car seat course on a regular basis. We explain why car seats are important, discuss best practices, and then take the expectant parents out to their cars to install their car seats. We demonstrate installations in the classroom using our test bench.
I mention all of this because we’ve found a rear facing only car seat that’s amazing for this purpose — the Evenflo LiteMax. It has a giant lockoff device that the parents in my class can see clearly, even from across the room. So that’s my inherent pro-LiteMax bias. But it’s more than just nice for demos, it’s a budget-friendly rear facing only car seat that has an important new feature: a 3 pound minimum weight limit! The slightly more-featured LiteMax DLX and SafeMax rear facing only car seats also boast this new lower weight limit.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 3-35 pounds
- Height range: 17-32 inches tall or when the child’s head is within 1 inch of the top of the seat’s shell
- Lowest harness slot: 4 inches
- Other harness slots: 6 and 8.5 inches
- Highest harness slot: 10 inches
- 2 crotch buckle positions: 4.5 and 6 inches from the back of the seat pan
- Seat weight: carrier only, 7.8 pounds
- Base length: 23 inches long
- Width at widest point: 17.5 inches
As of August 2019, the LiteMax and SafeMax rear facing only car seats are approved for 3 pound passengers to ride in! This means that caregivers who have a tiny passenger can give that tiny passenger a safe ride home for a very reasonable price!
Here’s Evenflo’s statement on this retroactive change:
Can I use the Evenflo LiteMax infant car seat if my baby is less than 4 lbs?
The Evenflo LiteMax and Evenflo SafeMax infant car seats have updated weight and height requirements, noted below, to allow their use with small occupants:
Weight: 3 – 35 lbs (1.4 – 15.8 kg)
Height: 15.75 – 32 in (40 – 81 cm)
Approval of your child’s healthcare provider
This update is a retroactive change to existing Evenflo LiteMax and SafeMax infant car seats. The following guidelines regarding the use of the infant insert must be applied:
Date of manufacture 1/1/2018 or newer – infant insert is OPTIONAL for child fit
Date of manufacture 12/31/2017 or older – infant insert is REQUIRED for infants who weigh between 3 – 4 lbs and OPTIONAL for infants who weigh over 4 lbs. *Please call Evenflo if your seat doesn’t include an insert.*
The head pillow, harness covers and buckle pad are OPTIONAL for all Litemax seats, regardless of the date they were manufactured.
As with any child using a child restraint, please ensure that all the other requirements set forth in the instruction manual for the child restraint are met.
The LiteMax’s lockoff is one of my favorite things about this seat. It makes for a very simple installation with either the lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt. Unlike some other lockoffs, this one is not spring loaded so when you release it, there’s no chance that it will smack you in the face when it’s released. It also means that when you release it, you’ll need to apply a bit of pressure to the black lever at the end of the lockoff to release the lockoff and expose the webbing or seat belt underneath.
Note: newer versions of the LiteMax have an updated one-step lockoff that is even easier to release than the model shown here!
Meet the Seat
When it comes to features, the LiteMax is kind of a bare bones car seat. It has standard lower anchors, the model we reviewed did not include extra infant padding — just a headrest, though it does have buckle tongue storage on the cover.
Despite the bare bones nature of the seat, it does offer 3 crotch buckle positions, 3 hip harness positions, and 2 harness loops. That means the LiteMax can be adjusted to fit a wide range of kiddos!
Recline Angle Adjuster
The LiteMax has a fairly significant range of recline angles. It becomes a really nice option for vehicles that have a recessed seat bight. Adjusting the angle is pretty simple — just pull on the gray triangle on the end of the base and the recline foot will extend. To put it back in, just pull the same triangle and press down on the base.
Vehicle Seat Belt
Like so many car seat bases, installing the LiteMax’s base with a vehicle seat belt is pretty straightforward. Open the lockoff, then thread both the lap and shoulder portions of the vehicle seat belt through the belt path and under the lockoff. There’s a handy label on the lockoff that says “vehicle belt goes here,” that makes it easy to find! Buckle the seat belt, pull out some of the slack from the belt and close the lockoff. Check your work by giving the base a firm handshake at the belt path and make sure it moves less than an inch in any direction.
Note: it can take a little bit of effort to close the lockoff. Press straight down on the big gray piece until the black tab at the end clicks into place.
Installing the LiteMax with lower anchors is an equally painless process. Make sure the anchors are in the belt path and threaded underneath the lockoff. Attach the anchor connectors to the lower anchors in the vehicle, pull straight up on the webbing to remove the slack from the lower anchor connectors, then close the lockoff.
Check your work by giving the base a firm handshake at the belt path and make sure it moves less than an inch in any direction.
Installation Without the Base
The LiteMax has baseless belt guides that are fairly easy to access. To install the carrier portion of the seat only, set it on the vehicle seat with the harness facing the back of the vehicle. Pull the vehicle seat belt out and thread the lap portion through the baseless belt guides. Pull all of the webbing out until the seat belt locks, then feed the seat belt back into the retractor until there’s less than 1 inch of movement at the belt path. Since the LiteMax is so lightweight, installing via this method makes the seat a nice option for travel or taxi use.
Fit to Child
Here’s our Huggable Images preemie doll. The doll weighs 4 pounds and is 17 inches long. With the harness on the smallest setting, our preemie fits well in the seat. While our doll is the 4 pound model, the LiteMax is now approved for use with even smaller infants who weigh at least 3 pounds. If you need to use the Essential LiteMax for an infant that small, please call Evenflo to ask about infant padding and we definitely recommend working with a hospital-based CPST program to approves the fit before heading home. This change to the 3 pound minimum weight is absolutely a game changer for hospitals.
Our Huggable Images newborn doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. Like the preemie, this doll fits very well in the harness and has plenty of room to grow. This doll seems to fit better with the headrest in place.
Three Months Old
Our three month old model weighs 15 pounds and is 22 inches long. Her mom prefers that she model while sporting these amazing bows and we’re happy to oblige. Like our doll models, this little one fits well in the LiteMax and has plenty of room for future growth.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval Label — the carrier portion of the LiteMax is approved for use on airplane. The approval label is located on the inside of the carrier, near the lowest harness slot.
Date of Manufacture Label, carrier — the carrier’s label is located on the underside of the seat’s shell, near the lower harness slots.
Date of Manufacture Label, base — the carrier and the base each have their own date of manufacture labels. The bases’s label is located on the underside of the seat’s shell, near the lower harness slots.
Manual Storage — the manual stores on the underside of the carrier portion of the seat
The LiteMax is one of most budget-friendly rear facing only car seats on the market today. But like the other budget-friendly options out there, that low price doesn’t make it a poor choice — it’s packed with nice ease of use and installation features and installs without too much trouble both with the base and without the base. Now that it’s a viable option for some preemies, it brings an exciting new option to the hospital-based CPST programs that focus on getting all of those tiny passengers home safely.