Evenflo SecureMax Gold Rear Facing Only Car Seat Review

(Last Updated On: July 3, 2019)
Evenflo SecureMax Gold

Evenflo SecureMax Gold

Evenflo has created a special line of premium car seats and strollers that consists of products we already know but with special padding and some special features added to them.  We’ll start our look at these car seats with the SecureMax.  This rear facing only car seat is so fancy, its full name is Evenflo Gold SensorSafe SecureMax Smart Infant Car Seat with SafeZone Load Leg… but we’ll call it the SecureMax for short.

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • Weight range: 4-35 pounds
  • Height range: 17-32 inches or until the child’s head is 1 inch from the top of the seat’s shell
  • Lowest harness height: 6 with insert, 7.5 inches without insert
  • Top harness slot: 11.5 inches
  • Hip slots: 8.5, 6.5, and 4.5 inches wide

Measurements

  • Seat weight (carrier only): 9 pounds
  • Base width at widest point: 17 inches
  • Base length: 26 inches long
  • Base width: 14 inches wide
  • Base weight: 10.5 pounds with load leg, 8.3 pounds without load leg
  • Front to back footprint with handle down: 31 inches long
  • At least 1.5 inches of clearance between the SecureMax’s seat shell and the vehicle seat in front of it is required

Unique Features

  • Robust low birthweight insert for infants weighing 6 pounds or less
  • Vibrant color choices!
  • Plush padding
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Removable load leg
  • SensorSafe
  • Fit-loc belt tightener lockoff
  • No rethread harness

Removable Load Leg

Evenflo SecureMax load leg

Evenflo SecureMax load leg

The SecureMax’s base includes a load leg.  This feature can reduce rotation in the event of a frontal crash.  We only see load legs on a handful of car seats at the moment — all of those seats have a much higher price tag than the SecureMax, so families who are looking for that feature will find it at a reasonable price here.  Unlike some other load legs we know well, the SecureMax’s remains locked firmly in place when it’s not in use.  That made carrying the base around fairly simple since there wasn’t an errant load leg flopping about.

Evenflo SecureMax Gold load leg release button

Evenflo SecureMax Gold load leg release button

If you’re unable to use the load leg for any reason, it can be detached from the seat and stored elsewhere.  However, since it stores so nicely on the base, I’m not sure how this would be an advantage unless you were moving the base around a lot and found it too heavy with the leg attached.

Evenflo SecureMax Gold load leg removed

Evenflo SecureMax Gold load leg removed

Just in case you’d like to remove the load leg, here’s a quick rundown of the process.  First, extend the load leg, then lift the cover over the manual storage area on the base to expose a red button.  Press that button while pulling the load leg straight out from the base.  That’s all there is to it!

SensorSafe

Evenflo SecureMax SensorSafe chest clip

Evenflo SecureMax SensorSafe chest clip

Like some other Evenflo and Cybex car seats, the SecureMax includes the SensorSafe system, which includes a special chest clip and a receiver that plugs into the vehicle’s OBD port. This system also works with an app that caregivers must download to their phones. All of this combines to do one important thing: remind caregivers when a child is left inside the car. Since preventing hot car deaths is never far from our minds, we welcome this system.

Cybex Eternis S SensorSafe 2.1 chest clip

Cybex Eternis S SensorSafe

Here’s how it works: plug the receiver into your vehicle’s OBD port. Then, download the goodbaby SensorSafe app to your phone. This app does a number of things, but the most important thing it does is alert you, then alert a backup caregiver if your child is left in the vehicle.

This flip phone could not use the SensorSafe app

This flip phone could not use the SensorSafe app

The emergency contacts feature requires those emergency contacts to also have the app. We don’t find this ideal — relying on other people to have the same app installed could be a bit of a burden. In my case, I’d be likely to have my parents be that emergency caregiver and their flip phone (no, I am not kidding) does not install apps. I’d prefer to see these secondary contacts notified in some other way that’s more accessible.

The system checks to see if the chest clip is connected — there’s a battery embedded in the clip itself. The manual warns to not leave the chest clip connected when the child isn’t in the car because it will wear the battery out.

I tested the system by installing the adapter into my OBD port, then using the app to connect both my car and the SecureMax. I was also prompted to add an additional contact to our little family.

On my first trip with SensorSafe fully engaged on my phone and via the adapter in my car, a very pleasant yet striking set of tones played when I turned off the car. That was my initial reminder that the chest clip was connected — it’s pretty hard to ignore! I purposefully left the chest clip connected to see what would happen. Within seconds, I got a notification on my phone that a child was left in the car. That notification included the location of my car and asked if I wanted to alert my alternate caregiver or call emergency services.

Note: I was reviewing the Cybex Eternis and this seat at the same time.  If a caregiver has SensorSafe equipped seats from both Cybex and Evenflo brands, the receiver should work for all seats in the vehicle. If caregivers have any troubles with app compatibility please contact Evenflo’s customer service   The receiver works for both brands.  I

We’re pretty low-tech around here when it comes to preventing hot car deaths. Our mantra tends to be look before you lock, lock before you leave. But we also encourage caregivers to implement any system that works for them. If a caregiver chose the SecureMax solely because the SensorSafe system gives them confidence that they’ll avoid such a tragedy, we’re all for it.

Handle Positions

Evenflo SecureMax handle position label

Evenflo SecureMax handle position label

The handle must be in position 1 — carry — when the seat is being carried.  When in the vehicle, the handle must be in any locked position.  There’s a label on the side of the seat clearly stating that requirement.

No Rethread Harness

Evenflo SecureMax headrest adjuster

Evenflo SecureMax headrest adjuster

The harness and headrest adjust quite easily by pulling a little handle at the top of the headrest.

Waist Adjustment

Evenflo SecureMax waist harness straps

Evenflo SecureMax waist harness straps

The SecureMax has three harness positions for the child’s hips.  The manual includes guidelines for when to use each setting.  Unlike the SecureMax’s less featured cousin, the LiteMax, I quickly found that following those guidelines was critical for the correct fit with my Huggable Images dolls.  This isn’t exactly a concern — once I’d moved the straps to the correct position for my doll’s size, the fit was great.  However, unlike the LiteMax, which fits newborns and preemies pretty well right out of the box, the SecureMax ships with the harness in a larger position than the one that fits newborns well.

We worry that this extra step — of having to read the guidelines, then move the harness straps manually before use — will lead far too many caregivers to use the seat incorrectly.

Evenflo Gold Program Features

For this portion of the program, we’ll let the Evenflo Gold website be your single source of truth for the fine print, but we’ll share the highlights of this program.  The SecureMax is part of the Evenflo Gold family of products, which include a few special goodies that other Evenflo products do not.  That includes:

Installation: Lower Anchors

Evenflo SecureMax belt path and lockoff

Evenflo SecureMax belt path and lockoff

Installing the SecureMax with lower anchors was pretty darn easy.  First, remove the lower anchors from their storage spots on the base, then squeeze the handle on the lockoff to open it.  Unhook the middle of the lower anchor webbing from the little tab under the now-open lockoff, then connect the lower anchor connectors to the lower anchors in the vehicle.  Pull the loop in the lower anchor webbing while pressing the base down gently.

Evenflo SecureMax lower anchors

Evenflo SecureMax lower anchors

Once most of the slack is removed from the webbing, close the lockoff by moving the arm down and back into the base.  When the indicator on the lockoff turns green, the base is installed securely.

I found that it sometimes took an extra push on the lockoff to move that indicator into the green.

Installation: Vehicle Seat Belt

Evenflo SecureMax vehicle seat belt installation

Evenflo SecureMax vehicle seat belt installation

Like installing the seat with the lower anchors, the Fit-loc lockoff made installing the SecureMax with the vehicle seat belt pretty simple.  Set the base on the vehicle seat, then open the lockoff.  Thread the vehicle seat belt through the belt path and under the now-open lockoff.  Pull most of the slack out of the shoulder portion of the belt while pushing the base down gently.  Once the slack is removed, close the lockoff and check that the lock indicator is green.

That’s it.

Installation: Without the Base

Evenflo SecureMax baseless install with canopy extended

Evenflo SecureMax baseless install with canopy extended

The SecureMax has some very exposed belt guides for baseless installations.  Families who plan to travel via taxi, ride shares, or who need to install a car seat without the base on a regular basis may find the SecureMax a strong choice.  To install without the base, set the carrier on the vehicle seat with the handle in any locked position.  Pull enough of the vehicle seat belt out to thread the lap portion of the belt through the belt guides, then buckle the seat belt.  Push down on the inside of the carrier while pulling on the shoulder portion of the seat belt to remove the slack.  Once the carrier is fairly secure, hold the seat belt in place with one hand while pulling the seat belt all the way out with the other until the child lock mode is engaged.  You’ll hear that satisfying clicking sound when it is.

Feed the remainder of the vehicle seat belt back into the retractor, then test for movement.  Make sure that there’s no more than 1 inch of movement at the belt path.  If the seat is still moving too much, repeat the process until all of the slack has been removed.  Often, those last few clicks on the seat belt make all the difference in a secure installation!

Evenflo SecureMax baseless install recline angle indicator

Evenflo SecureMax baseless install recline angle indicator

Note: the baseless recline angle indicator label is only on one side of the seat.  So if you’re installing the SecureMax without the base on the driver’s side like I was, you’ll have to walk around to the other side once you’re done installing the seat to confirm that the recline angle is correct.

Fit to Child

Preemie Doll

Evenflo SecureMax preemie doll

Evenflo SecureMax preemie doll

Many of Evenflo’s car seats fit the tiniest of passengers quite well so it wasn’t a surprise when we saw how well our preemie doll fits in the SecureMax.  Our doll weighs 4 pounds and is 17 inches long. The harness is on the lowest slot and we’ve got the low birthweight insert in use.  This Huggable Images preemie doll fits quite well in the seat and has room to grow.

The hip straps were in the smallest position for our doll.

Newborn Doll

Evenflo SecureMax newborn doll

Evenflo SecureMax newborn doll

Our newborn doll weighs 7 pounds and is 19 inches long.  Since this doll weighs more than 6 pounds, we’ve removed the insert and again find that the seat fits the doll well!

The hip straps were in the smallest position for our doll.

3 Months Old

Evenflo SecureMax three months old

Evenflo SecureMax 3 months old

Our 3 month old model weighs 12 pounds and is 24 inches long.  She’s also having a tough day (though I assure you, she was back to her usual happy self shortly after this picture was taken!) but despite her displeasure, the seat fits her very well.

The hip straps were in the middle position for her and that worked well.

4 Months Old

Evenflo SecureMax 4 months old

Evenflo SecureMax 4 months old

We met up with our model again, now she’s 4 months old.  She weighs 14 pounds and is 24 inches long still.  Once again, the SecureMax fit her very well and she’s still got plenty of room left to grow in this seat.  This pose also shows her willingness to be a spokesperson for how comfortable this seat is!

16 Month Old Doll

Evenflo SecureMax 16 month old doll

Evenflo SecureMax 16 month old doll

Our 16 month old Huggable Images doll is 31 inches tall.  It’s rare that families would want to use a rear facing only car seat for this long but we wanted to give you a sense of how it would fit a toddler.  While our doll has a couple of clicks left on the headrest, the harness is quite narrow-set so we worry that it wouldn’t be a very comfortable ride for a child this size.

Important Information: Where to Find

Evenflo SecureMax FAA approval label

Evenflo SecureMax FAA approval label

FAA Approval: The SecureMax is approved for use on aircraft without the base.  The approval label is located on the inside of the seat’s shell, on one of the pillars that extend down. Note about SensorSafe: when the SecureMax is installed on an aircraft, the SensorSafe chest clip must be unfastened before take off due to an FAA regulation around portable electronic devices.

Evenflo SecureMax manual storage on base

Evenflo SecureMax manual storage on base

Manual Storage, Base: The SecureMax has two different storage spots for the manual.  It can be stored in a compartment on top of the base, adjacent to the load leg indicator.

Evenflo SecureMax manual storage on carrier

Evenflo SecureMax manual storage on carrier

Manual Storage, Carrier: If you’re travelling with the carrier alone, the manual tucks into a little pocket inside the cover.  That pocket is just under the child’s right foot.

Evenflo SecureMax date of manufacture label

Evenflo SecureMax date of manufacture label

Date of Manufacture label: The SecureMax has a 6 year lifespan.  The date of manufacture label is on the inside of the base.  There’s also a label on the inside of the back of the carrier.  The location is a little hard to describe — it’s basically behind the handle toward the top of the seat’s shell.

Overall Thoughts

The SecureMax takes the type of well-fitting, easy to use Evenflo rear facing car seats that we already know and adds some really nice features.  Coming in at a fairly reasonable price, we can definitely see where families would find that the SecureMax has a lot to offer!

Giveaway!

Our friends at Evenflo are giving away one SecureMax Gold to a lucky reader in the United States. Read our terms and conditions, then enter below for your chance to win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway