The ratings on convertible carseats are in and . . . Consumer Reports agrees with the Blog! No, it’s really not *that* cold yet, but it is nice to have the publication that many parents trust agree with you on what the best convertible seat may be (see our Recommended Carseats page). Before I get to the CR top rated picks, let’s talk about what the “best” convertible carseat is. We say this all the time as techs, but it really does ring true, hence why it’s repeated so often. The best carseat is the one that fits your vehicle (the best), your child (the best), and your wallet. A carseat that, when installed, seems like it’s made for your vehicle AND your child, is the one that is the best carseat for you. It may not be what your neighbor or best friend uses and that’s important. A loosely installed carseat or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. Ultimately what the carseat does is contain your child in a crash. By being coupled to the vehicle, it allows the vehicle to crush and lengthens the ride down time, reducing your child’s chance for injury. Sure, we’d like to imagine that all that EPS foam/EPP foam/air pads really do reduce injury–it certainly does in bike helmets–but we don’t know for sure because the government hasn’t specified a way to measure its effectiveness in carseats. So this all points back to having a correctly fitting carseat.
Consumer Reports evaluates carseats on several points, including fit to vehicle, price, features, and safety. In the past, CR has done some, um, unique testing on carseats that put into question their choices for Best Buys. CR even rated an overhead shield carseat with a rear harness adjuster (yeah, those aren’t made anymore) highly many moons ago when 5-point harness carseats were plentiful. The Blog has learned that apparently CR places a 20% emphasis on their crash protection score into their overall rating. We will try to confirm that and also that they supposedly weight Head Injury Criterion (HIC) higher in their crash protection score than head excursion. HIC is important in the scheme of things since it measures acceleration of the head, but we have been told that head injuries from excursion (how far the head comes out of the carseat) are the leading cause of injury to children . Head excursion is considered by some experts as a somewhat more important factor in crash test results.
As techs, we’ve scratched our heads at their choices more than once. But this year, it looks like they made a concerted effort to truly evaluate carseats. Again, I take issue with a few of their ratings based strictly on looking at their little colored dots, but I’m pleased for the most part that we won’t have to do damage control this year. So, what are their top picks? I know you’ve been waiting! And I’m such a tease, lol. OK, wait no more, I’ll tell you. They broke down the convertible carseats into 2 categories: 40 lbs. harnessed seats and over 40 lbs. harnessed seats (what we refer to as “higher weight harness” seats).
In the 40 lbs. category, the Dorel Cosco Scenera 40RF ($55) was their top pick! And not only is it a great seat for the smaller sized seats, it’s a budget seat! It’s more expensive twin, the Safety 1st onSide Air ($100), is second. Or should I say tied given that they have identical colored dots? The regular ol’ Cosco Scenera ($60) that only rear-faces to 35 lbs. comes in a close third. And wow, where are they getting those retail prices? The only place I’ve seen these budget seats that expensive is at BRU. Since you’re dying to know, the Combi Coccoro was last in their ratings scale, with a solid black circle for “rear facing fit-to-vehicle.” That makes me sad :(.
In the over 40 lbs. category, Britax steals the show. The Boulevard 70 CS, Boulevard 70, Advocate 70 CS, and Evenflo Momentum 65 Deluxe all rate the same. The Marathon 70 and Roundabout 55 round out the top 6 higher weight harness carseats. Their lowest rated HWH seat? The Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL (I guess they weren’t able to test a Diono Radian). I am curious as to why they included the entire Britax convertible line and not the Sunshine Kids/Diono line; only the XTSL was listed. I also didn’t see the Evenflo Symphony 65 listed.
So, it’s an interesting list to see and something we’ve been waiting for since it’s been several years since the last convertible carseat review. It’s good to see what we consider improvement in their ratings, though it’s still perplexing that we as readers don’t know exactly what their ratings scale really is. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m glad their ratings are more in line with what we techs see and recommend every day. You can find their newest ratings on convertible seats currently only at their website, www.consumerreports.org. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to see the report.