Diono Rainier Diono Olympia
The New Series of Diono Convertible-Booster Car Seats
The Diono company has been manufacturing high quality child car seats for many years and these seats have justifiably been very popular amongst parents.
This popularity is almost certainly due to the fact that these seats have managed to combine some great premium safety features with some all important convenience factors. One of the most valuable practical benefits of the previous range of convertible-booster seats has been that they are very narrow (just 17 inches wide).
This narrow profile means that seats like the Radian RXT, R120 and R100 are able to fit “3 in a row” in most standard sized family vehicles. This ability to fit them side by side is a great feature for anyone than plans to have at least 3 children.
However, although this previous range of seats is still on the market, Diono has recently released 3 new seats that will probably replace the previous range altogether in the future.
The new Diono seats are called the Rainier, the Pacifica and the Olympia and they all rated as suitable for use from 5 lbs upwards.
I have already compared the top-of-the-range Diono Rainier with the older Diono Radian RXT and you can read that post here.
The purpose of this post is simply to compare the top-of-the-range Rainier with the entry-level Olympia so that you can make a more informed decision when you come to decide whether or not to buy one of these seats.
Whilst the Rainier and the Pacifica are almost identical seats (aside from the extra wide head wings on the Rainier), there are some very important differences between the Rainier and the Olympia that explains why there is a price difference of about $90 between them.
So, what are the similarities and differences between the Diono Rainier and the Diono Olympia?
Rainier vs Olympia– Common Features
Before discussing the differences between these 2 seats, let’s just take a look at the impressive list of common features that are found on both seats.
Both seats come with:
- Full steel frame and aluminum reinforced sides
- Reinforced extra deep sidewalls with energy-absorbing foam for superior head and body protection
- SuperLATCH system makes installation easy (see video below)
- Space saving design allows extra room for passengers while providing spacious interior for child
- Folds flat for travel and is FAA certified
- NCAP crash tested in severe accident conditions
- Memory foam for added comfort
- Energy absorbing EPS foam and side impact protection
- Extra-long leg support for comfy road trips
- Multiple harness and buckle positions for custom fit
- Safestop® energy-absorbing harness
- Additional forward-facing recline position to accommodate different types of contoured vehicle seats, 12-position adjustable headrest, 5 shoulder and 3 buckle positions deliver a comfortable ride.
- Rear-facing tether capability
- Additional set of harness pads included to use only when the child is over 65 lbs in the 5-point harness
- Expandable sides and long seat bottom allow proper leg support
- Sits low on vehicle seat for easy child boarding and improved safety performance in a crash
- Angled cup holder keeps a variety of drinks upright and within easy reach
- Cover is machine washable and dryable
- Rubber bottom grips for no-slip installation
- Industry leading 12 year product life (from date of purchase)
One thing to bear in mind about the Rainier and Pacifica seats is that they are wider than the previous models at the top, due to the new reinforced side wings. The seats are still 17 inches wide at the base, but they are now wider at the top (6 inches more) and this “might” affect whether or not you can fit 3 in a row across the back seat of your vehicle.
On the Diono website, they simply state that the “space saving design allows extra room for passengers while providing spacious interior for the child”.
I would suggest that if you need to fit 3 across the rear seat of your vehicle, you should ensure that you buy the seat from somewhere that has a Free Returns policy (like Amazon), so that you can confirm that it will fit correctly prior to committing fully to the purchase.
If you need to fit 3 in a row, but the new series of Diono seats just won’t fit, you should have a look at the Radian RXT, R120 and R100 seats instead.
Rainier vs Olympia – The 5 Differences
#1 Extra Wide Head Wings
Perhaps the most significant difference between the Rainier and the Olympia is the fact that the Rainier comes fitted with extra wide head wings and the Olympia does not. In fact, the Rainier is the only seat in the range that comes fitted with this extra safety feature.
These head wings are designed to provide added protection to the head area in the event of a side impact collision. They certainly look impressive and reassuring, but whether or not they actually make much of a difference is another matter. Diono claim that they do and I certainly have no evidence to suggest that they do not.
I have previously stated that I would certainly pay the extra $20-25 and choose the Rainier over the Pacifica since these seats are designed to last for the entire “car seat life” of your child and paying an extra few dollars for an additional safety feature that might help to protect them in a side impact collision is a small price to pay in my opinion. Although side impact collisions are less common than frontal and rear collisions, they are often more serious and cause more significant injuries.
In addition to the safety issue, these head wings also make the seat look more comfortable and provide your child with a place to rest their head that is much closer to the central position. When your child graduates to the belt-positioning booster mode, this ought to help to prevent them from slumping their heads too much to the side when they fall asleep on longer journeys.
However, there is a much bigger price difference between the Rainier and the Olympia seats (due to other differences) and I suspect that there will be some parents that quite simply cannot afford to easily pay the $339.99 price tag on the Rainier and need to think more carefully about the other differences before making such a big investment.
#2 Rear-Facing Weight Limits
The Rainier (and Pacifica) can be used rear-facing up to 50 lbs.
The Olympia can only be used rear-facing up to 45 lbs.
As I have previously stated in my reviews of the Rainier and Pacifica seats, the extra 5 lbs is unlikely to be useable for most children. The reason for this that kids almost always outgrow the height limits before the weight limits.
Data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrates this point.
Their shows that the the average height of a 5 year old boy is between 41.7 and 44.2 inches, but at the same time the average weight is 37.5 to 44.7 lbs.
Note: The rear-facing height limits of the Rainier, Pacifica and Olympia seats are identical at 44 inches.
This means that many kids will not be able to take advantage of the Rainier or Pacifica’s extended rear-facing – certainly those at the upper limits of the normal height/weight ranges will not get full use.
So, although it is nice to have the option of an extra 5 lbs rear-facing if your child is on the small side, the reality is that the rear-facing weight limit of 45 lbs is probably going to be perfectly adequate for the needs of the vast majority of children.
Always try to keep your child rear-facing for as long as they remain within the height / weight limits for this!
So, unless your child is likely to be exceptionally short and/or wide, I wouldn’t worry too much about the slight difference in rear-facing weight limit between these seats.
#3 Forwards-Facing Weight Limits (Harness Mode)
The Rainier (and Pacifica) can be used in forwards-facing harness mode up to 90 lbs.
The Olympia can only be used in forwards-facing harness mode up to 70 lbs.
This is a much more significant difference in my opinion than the rear-facing weight limit difference. As any parent that has witnessed their child squirming, fidgeting or sleeping in their belt-positioning booster seat will tell you, harnesses provide a much more reliable and secure restraint than the adult seat belt.
It is almost impossible for a child to get into a dangerous position when they are wearing a 5-point harness, whereas it only takes a slight adjustment of their shoulder position (either by leaning forwards or to the side, or by falling asleep in their seat) to make the belt position unsatisfactory in booster mode.
So, I would definitely pay extra for the peace of mind of being able to keep my child in a 5-point harness for as long as possible, and an extra 20 lbs is a very significant bonus.
Note: the height limit in this mode of use is 57 inches for both seats.
#4 Forwards-Facing Weight Limits (Booster Mode)
The Rainier (and Pacifica) can be used in forwards-facing booster mode up to 120 lbs.
The Olympia can only be used in forwards-facing booster mode up to 110 lbs.
I wouldn’t be as concerned about the booster weight limit since many children will be ready to use the adult seat belt on its own by the time they reach 110 lbs. The CDC growth charts suggest that most US children will outgrown the 57 inch height limit before the weight limits in any event.
It is nice to have the option (if the need arises), but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.
Note: the height limit in this mode of use is 57 inches for both seats.
Safety Note: Please read the IIHS Booster Seat Evaluation Test Results at the bottom of the page.
#5 Deluxe Infant Body Insert
The Rainier (and Pacifica) come with the Deluxe Infant Body Insert (see images at top of the page).
The Olympia does not have an infant body insert at all.
The relevance of this depends upon whether you are buying a seat for a newborn baby or as an upgrade from an infant car seat.
Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable using the Olympia for my newborn baby and would happily pay the extra for the cosy looking insert to provide added padding and a more snug fit (especially around the head area).
The Car Seat Lady Demonstrates How to Install RF with LATCH
Where to Buy the Diono Rainier and Diono Olympia
If you are still undecided, you can:
Diono Car Seats in Canada
Booster Mode – IIHS “Not Recommended” Rating
Since writing this comparison review, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has published its November 2014 “Booster Seat Evaluation” results. Unfortunately, the Diono Pacifica and Olympia seats scored very badly in these evaluations and have been awarded a “Not Recommended” rating.
The problem seems to stem from the fact that the shoulder belt guides on the Pacifica and Olympia put the shoulder belt in a position that touched the child’s face in a number of safety belt configurations.
So, the bad news is that these seats cannot be regarded as safe to use in booster mode.
However, it is not all bad news:
- These seats can still be used in rear-facing and forwards-facing harness modes for longer than other convertible car seats;
- The Diono Rainier does NOT suffer from this problem and intact gets a “GOOD BET” rating from the IIHS. This difference is due to the fact that it has an adjustable head rest that means that the belt guides can be moved into an acceptable position. So, if you like these Diono seats and don’t want to have to change to another high-backed booster seat when your child exceeds the “Harness Mode” weight/height limits (see above), you should consider buying the Rainier instead. Alternatively, you can consider one of the older Diono seats.
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
Do You Need More Help?
If you need any further advice or assistance whatsoever, please feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help.
If you have any other questions or feedback about my Diono Rainier vs Diono Olympia post, please just leave a comment in the box below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org