Here at CarseatBlog, we like to think of ourselves not just as CPS Techs and Instructors, but also as Connoisseurs or Aficionados of fine child restraint products. Darren, Heather and I have all been active in the field of Child Passenger Safety since the late 1990′s and through the last decade we’ve witnessed an astonishing wave of safety-related engineering and innovation. Along the way, we learned to appreciate good design, outstanding engineering and quality components. We’ve seen gems and busts. We’ve seen trends that came and went and those that just took off and changed the game forever. So, what constitutes a great child restraint and makes it worthy of a “Best CR of the Decade” nomination? Well, innovation for starters. Greatness often begins when someone dares to think outside of the box, push limits, and ignore the naysayers. To all those rebels out there – we salute you!
Every CR has some downside or disadvantage but the following seats were chosen for recognition because they were game-changers, trend-setters, incredibly innovative or just plain ahead of their time:
Best Infant Seats of the Decade
Fisher Price Stay-in-View with 5-pt harness (2000-2001): Ah, the beloved SIV. How we loved thee and lamented your loss when FP decided not to make carseat anymore. Anti-rebound base with built-in mirror. Amazing, soft carry handle/strap. Hmmm… those patents should be expired, or close to it, by now. Right?
Britax BabySafe (2004): Sadly this gem was just ahead of its time and the average American consumer wasn’t yet ready to embrace its hefty pricetag. Rigid LATCH attachments, anti-rebound bar, foot prop (aka European load leg).
Graco SafeSeat Infant – Currently Available as SnugRide 32/35 (2005-Present): Trend-setter. Not the first infant seat rated beyond 22 lbs but this was the one that really started the trend of infant seats rated to higher weights (30+ lbs.)
Orbit Baby Infant (2006-Present): Not only does this ”system” have the ultimate cool factor, it’s also possibly the most innovative infant CR to date.
Chicco KeyFit (2005-Present): Set the standard for ease-of-use and ease-of-installation. First conventional infant carseat designed to fit preemies and small newborns well.
Best Convertible Seats of the Decade
Britax Marathon 65 (2002-2010): This seat changed the game and set new standards for future convertible seat models. It also proved that Americans were willing to spend $250+ on a carseat. That reality paved the way for more innovation and better quality products from all CR manufacturers.
Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL (2009-Present): First, and still the only convertible model rated to 45 lbs in the rear-facing position. Innovative SuperLATCH attachments, rear-facing tether, SIP, SafeStop load-limiting device.
Evenflo Symphony 65 (2009-Present): Not the first 3-in-1 product but the first to actually do all 3 things well (rear-facing, forward-facing with harness and belt-positioning booster). Proof that Jack-of-all-Trades doesn’t have to mean Master-of-None. Plus, bonus points for innovative SureLATCH attachments and easy-to-understand rf/ff LATCH belt routing system.
Orbit Baby Toddler (2008-Present): Convertible seat that can utilize the Orbit system’s docking station base in the rear-facing position. Again, the innovation that went into this seat and the entire Orbit Baby System is remarkable.
Best Forward-Facing or Combination Seats of the Decade
Britax Super Elite (2001): First conventional carseat rated past 60 lbs with a 5-pt harness. Also the first to nearly incite a riot when the demand far exceeded the initial supply. This seat changed the game and solidified the demand for higher-weight harnessed seats.
FP Futura 20/60 5-pt (2000-2001): Certainly not the prettiest carseat ever but this baby was the first conventional higher-weight harnessed seat and the long beltpath installation routing made the Futura 20/60 compatible in almost every seating position in any vehicle.
Graco Nautilus (2007-Present): The first higher-weight harnessed combination seat that was actually a decent booster for many kids. Generally easy to install properly. Extended lifespan is a big bonus!
SafeGuard Go (2006-2009) Currently Available as Dorel Go Hybrid Booster: Innovation and quality made this niche product a winner! Dorel bought the design from SafeGuard and the newest Dorel version is slightly different from the original but still a great product for travel or seating 3-across in a narrow vehicle. Just remember that it always requires an available top tether anchor if using the 5-pt harness.
Britax Frontier 85 (2009-Present): A “perfect carseat” doesn’t exist but this combination harness/booster seat is as close to perfect as we’ve ever seen. Also the first forward-facing seat to mandate a 2 year age minimum requirement. Britax gets extra kudos and brownie points for that stance.
Best Belt-Positioning Boosters of the Decade
Jane Indy Plus/Team Plus (2006-2009): First highback booster available on “this side of the pond” to offer rigid LATCH attachments. Unfortunately it wasn’t very well marketed here in the US and is no longer available.
Graco Turbo (2002-Present): The first better-than-average, affordable, mass-market highback booster. Millions of kids are riding safer in the car since 2002 thanks to Graco and their popular Turbo booster. That’s worth recognition in my book!
Clek Oobr (2009-Present): High quality, innovation and cute funky covers that appeal to big kids. Rigid LATCH attachments are a big bonus! Can’t wait to see more products from this manufacturer!
Cybex Solution X-fix (2010-Present): High quality, innovative booster with a unique approach to energy management. Rotating rigid LATCH attachments and innovative reclining headrest. We’re looking forward to more Cybex CRs in the next decade!
Actually, we’re looking forward to all the new, innovative CRs (and strollers too!) that are on their way in the near future. There were several that we were able to preview at ABC and a few others that were just mentioned as being in the works but sounded really promising. Anyhow, I think it’s safe to assume that the next decade is going to be full of some amazing new CRs that will hopefully promote best practice, reduce misuse and most importantly – reduce the quantity and severity of injuries to children in motor vehicle crashes.