Many certified child passenger safety technicians have had it ingrained upon them that they are supposed to act completely neutral toward child restraints. All child seats pass the same tests, they are all safe, blah, blah, blah. In their class to become certified, most techs were told never to tell a parent that one child seat or brand is better than any other. Instead, technicians are instructed to tell parents only that the best one is the one that fits their child, their vehicle and is easiest for them to use correctly. Nothing wrong with that.
Problem is, once you’ve installed even a dozen different seats, you quickly learn that there are real differences. Some child restraints do tend to fit better in general, while some are really easier to use in general. Even so, back in the CPS dark ages, rogue technicians who discussed the reality of different child seats were routinely burned at the stake! This very topic about the best or safest car seats even gave Marvin a career as a blogger!
Thankfully, those days of CPS witch hunts are long gone. The “no recommendations” concept came to an end a few years back when the mighty NHTSA started recommending seats themselves. They didn’t make these recommendations based upon crash testing. No, they were made upon a subjective determination of factors relating to ease-of-use. Ironically, these factors were no more likely to apply to someone’s own child and vehicle than the recommendation of an experienced technician! Enter another respected institution, the IIHS. They recently rated boosters based on fit to a standard dummy in a handful of vehicles. Again, no crash testing whatsoever. Again, no guarantee that the results apply to any particular child in a specific vehicle.
So, who is CarseatBlog to go recommending specific child seats? Sure, Heather and Kecia are very experienced certified technician instructors. Sure, I have been a certified technician for almost the entire decade and have like a zillion websites on the topic. Sure, we’ve all been involved with local Safe Kids organizations, SafetyBeltSafe USA and other groups. Sure, we’ve all developed a great reputation* in the professional CPS community. Most importantly, though, we’re just parents who have used a lot of different car seats. Like many products we use daily, we know which ones we tend to like in general, which ones we’d use without reservation for our own kids and which ones we are comfortable recommending to CarseatBlog readers and visitors.
Take our car seat recommendations with a grain of salt. They are opinions, after all. There’s no objective list of weighted criteria that we used. There’s no crash testing. There’s no exhaustive comparison of features or value. It’s just a list and it isn’t even all-inclusive. Some seats were left out because of space considerations. Others were omitted because we opted to include a similar model from the same manufacturer. In our Amazon.Com lists, some weren’t included because we couldn’t find them for sale there. There are a number of great options we don’t mention, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your consideration. Similarly, some we do list may just not work well for you, your child or your vehicle. We’re not saying these are the best or safest choices in child car seats, we’re just saying they’re models we think you should consider. If nothing else, it’s a good place to start when you are shopping!
Starting this week, we will be updating our Amazon.Com lists on the right sidebar of our homepage at www.carseatblog.com. These will be changed from time to time and will rotate different products we think are worth a look if you’re shopping for a new child restraint. In addition, Heather has created a list of recommended car seats that has some additional information to help you decide among them. Best of all, you can leave a comment if you think one of our recommendations is rubbish or if know a model you feel deserves a mention! Unlike some other organizations that think their word is the final one, we know our readers have recommendations just as valid as our own!
As I said, these lists are just a good starting point. There are some other proven ways to pick a good child seat. Ultimately, the only way to be sure it works well is to use it in your car with your kid. If possible, ask to borrow a floor sample and try it in the parking lot before going to the register. Stores that help you with this are doing a lot to earn your money, so please support them with your business! In any case, you might not realize until later something isn’t quite right. Be sure you get a good return policy whether you buy it locally or online. If you still are having a concern, be sure to visit a certified technician for a consultation before you return it. They might have some good tips or tricks to show you and can help teach you how to get a good installation every trip!
* Even if it is the kind of reputation you get by spending all your advertising profits schmoozing experts and manufacturer’s representatives at conferences and trade shows.