Quantcast

News Archive

CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats List – 2015 Update

The-Best-RibbonIt’s been a little over 7 months since we last updated our list of recommended child restraints. In that time some models have been updated, some discontinued and new products have been introduced. A few weeks ago we started the process of revising and updating the entire list and after much thought and discussion we arrived at a consensus. Behold our Updated 2015 List of Recommended Carseats!

We acknowledge that many certified child passenger safety technicians have had it ingrained upon them that they are supposed to act completely neutral toward child restraints. All current seats pass the same FMVSS 213 testing, they are all safe when used correctly, etc., etc. In the course 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 that the best seat is the one that fits their child, installs well in their vehicle and is easiest for them to use correctly. Nothing wrong with that.

However, the reality is that once you’ve installed even a dozen different seats, you quickly learn that there are real differences. Some child restraints do tend to install better in general, while some really are easier to use in general. Features like lockoffs for seatbelt installations and premium push-on lower LATCH connectors do make a difference in the vast majority of installations but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every seat that lacks those features is a bust or not worthy of your consideration.

Many years ago, the mighty NHTSA started recommending seats. 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 child and vehicle than the recommendations of an experienced technician! Enter another respected institution, the IIHS. A few years back they began rating booster seats based on fit to a standardized 6 year old dummy. Again, no crash testing whatsoever. Again, no guarantees that the results would apply to your child in your vehicle.

So, who is CarseatBlog to go recommending specific child seats? Well, Heather and Kecia are very experienced Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructors. Darren has been a certified technician for 14 years now and has like a zillion websites on the topic. Our newest blog writers, Jennie (an experienced CPS Technician), Alicia (nurse and former tech), and Andrea (long-time CPS Tech and Tech Proxy) are moms with younger kids who can actually use many of the seats that our own kids have long outgrown. We also like to think that we’ve earned a respectable reputation in the child passenger safety community of manufacturers, agencies and advocates.

Most importantly, though, we’re just parents who have used a lot of different car seats. Collectively, we have 15 kids ranging in age from 1 to 17. We’ve been through every stage, survived every transition, and personally used an astonishing number of different carseats and boosters. So, about 6 years ago, CarseatBlog broke the unspoken rule and began providing expert recommendations for carseats to parents. Like many other 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. And like parents, we know all carseats aren’t created equal!

With all that said, please take our recommendations with a grain of salt. They are merely opinions, after all. And while we did thoughtfully consider the pros and cons of each seat and combine that with our personal experiences with the product – there’s no crash testing involved. Some seats were omitted because we opted to include a similar model from the same manufacturer. For others, we simply didn’t have enough experience with the product yet to form an opinion. There are a number of products that we don’t mention just because a list of every seat we like would be too inclusive. Carseats and boosters not on this list may still be worthy of your consideration! Conversely, some seats 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 carseat or booster shopping!

Britax Phasing Out Rear-Facing Tethers on Convertible Carseats

Britax Versa-Tether on New ClickTight Convertible Carseats for Forward-Facing Use Only

Effective January 28th, 2015 (approximately), production of the Britax ClickTight convertible carseats (Marathon CT, Boulevard CT and Advocate CT) had a running change that effectively removes rear-facing tethering as an option.  Expect some retailers to start receiving updated models in early to mid-February.

  • Rear-Facing Tethering is being removed as an option from user guides and labels.
  • Changes to all (3) ClickTight models happened at same time
  • NOT Retroactive to previous production.  Seats made prior to this date can be used as labeled (seats labeled with option can be RF tethered if compatible with vehicle)
  • Swedish method issues being driven by less compatibility with vehicles, particularly occupant detection systems and vehicle manufacturer concerns
  • Australian method is difficult at best even with an extender.  Also, not preferred by consumers because ingress and egress issues for the child.
  • The Anti-rebound bar (ARB) will be available to purchase as an accessory hopefully in the next 30-60 days on the Britax website http://www.britaxusa.com/store.

G4.1 Convertibles

  • G4.1 Convertible carseat models (Roundabout, Marathon, Boulevard, Advocate) will adopt this change sometime around mid-2015
  • Updated labels and owner’s manuals will determine when a specific model has changed.
  • Prior to that time, newer production may transition to RF tether accessory straps with fabric loops, rather than a metal ring, like the ones that ship with the ClickTight models.
  • Anti-Rebound bar is available for convertible models made after June, 2010, excluding ClickTight and Classic series models.

Rear-facing is still the safest way to travel for young kids, within the limits of their convertible carseat.  Even without a rear-facing tether, Britax ClickTight convertibles will allow many kids to continue rear-facing until 3 or 4 years old.

Rear-Facing Tether On the Original Britax Roundabout

RF Tethering in 2003

The authors of CarseatBlog have endorsed rear-facing tethering since it was introduced in the late 1990s on the original Britax Roundabout.  We also understand that it can be difficult or impossible to accomplish in some vehicles, and may conflict with passenger-side occupant detection systems in other vehicles.  With the lack of real-world data showing how many consumers adopted this technology and a lack of studies about how effective it may be at preventing serious injury, we appreciate the transition to anti-rebound bar systems in general.  We note that most convertible carseats in the USA lack any type of anti-rebound feature, and rear-facing is extremely safe with or without an anti-rebound system.

Our main misgiving about this change is that the anti-rebound functionality will not be included in the box as a standard feature in the USA (The ARB is now standard in Canada).

The Britax Boulevard and Advocate CT and G4.1 models remain on our Recommended Carseats List for 2015.

Locking Clips – No Longer Standard Issue

Locking ClipIt used to be that you could expect a metal locking clip to come with every carseat that didn’t have a built-in lockoff but those days are gone. Both Evenflo & Dorel have recently decided to exclude the locking clip on their carseats. Why? Because parents misuse them more often than they actually need to install their carseat using one. In other words, the locking clips were more often part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

I have to say that I agree with this assessment. In the field, I see more locking clip misuse than proper use. Most parents have no idea what that metal clip is for but if the carseat comes with it then it has to go somewhere, right? Wrong. Most of the time – a locking clip is not needed. More on that below.

Retail models of Evenflo convertible and combination carseats now come with a statement attached to the harness alerting consumers to the change and providing information on who to call if you really do need a locking clip. You can also buy a locking clip from a local baby store or even use one that you took off a different carseat. Locking clips are the ONLY component that you can swap from seat to seat, even across brands.

Evenflo infant seats and institutional models sold to CPS programs will continue to come with locking clips.

Locking Clip Notice - Evenflo

 

Dorel seats have also gone locking clip-less across all their brands (Cosco, Safety 1st, Eddie Bauer & Maxi-Cosi). Unlike Evenflo, who continues to provide locking clips with their infant seat models, none of the Dorel seats have locking clips included anymore. So if you’re purchasing any Dorel infant seat that doesn’t come with a lockoff and you’re planning to install the carseat with seatbelt – consider yourself warned. You may want to order a locking clip before you need to install the seat, just in case you wind up with a tilting issue. Read on for more info on that. Below is a page from a Dorel instruction manual.

Locking clip info - Dorel manual

 

Now, let’s review the reasons you would actually NEED to use a locking clip and some reasons why you might WANT to use one.

You NEED to use a locking clip (or a carseat with a built-in lockoff device) if all 3 of these conditions exist in your vehicle:

  • Your vehicle was made before Model Year 1996 AND
  • You have a lap/shoulder belt that is one continuous piece of webbing AND
  • The lap/shoulder belt has a sliding latchplate and an ELR retractor (this means the seatbelt has no pre-crash locking features and the seatbelt will only lock in emergency situations like hard breaking or a crash)

If your vehicle was made AFTER 1996 then your seatbelts are required to have some way to lock to keep a carseat in place tightly during routine driving. If you are installing a carseat and you’re not going to use lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle, and your carseat or infant seat base doesn’t have a built-in lockoff device, it’s imperative that you understand how your seatbelt locks. Most vehicles have switchable retractors but some vehicles or specific seating positions have locking latchplates instead. It’s very important to know what your vehicle has and to understand how these features work before you install any carseat with a seatbelt. See your vehicle’s owners manual for specific information on how to install a carseat in your vehicle using the seatbelt. If you have questions, please visit our car-seat.org forum and we’ll be happy to help answer them.

You may WANT to use a locking clip if you are installing an infant seat base with seatbelt under these conditions:

  • You are installing with a lap/shoulder belt that is one continuous piece of webbing
  • Your infant seat base does not have a lockoff device for the seatbelt
  • Your vehicle has a switchable retractor
  • Your base starts to tip sideways over time due to the locked seatbelt exerting pressure on the side of the beltpath
Base tipping - locked retractor

Infant seat base tipping sideways

 

For more info on proper use of locking clips please visit Heather’s very helpful webpage:  http://www.carseatsite.com/lockingclips.htm

Britax B-Safe 35 & B-Safe 35 Elite Infant Seat Preview

Happy Birthday B-Safe 35Greetings from the Britax launch event in NYC! Today Britax USA officially introduced the newest member of their carseat family to the world. Welcome, Britax B-Safe 35 & B-Safe 35 Elite rear-facing infant seats!

Check out yesterday’s Sneak Peek blog for all the official specs and features. Today I will focus on pictures and first impressions.

Britax B-Safe 35 Top View Britax B-Safe 35 Infant Fit

What I love:

  • Unique, center-pull lower LATCH anchor installation with premium push-on lower anchor connectors
  • SafeCell impact-absorbing technology in the base
  • Dimensions small enough to fit preemies well
  • Wide beltpath guides on carrier for easier installation without base
  • Spring-loaded adjustable base with 3 positions
  • New cinching lockoffs for seatbelt installations
  • New smaller chest clip design
  • Extra large canopy
  • Easy-to-remove cover on Elite model
  • Designed to take up less space in the vehicle
  • Made in USA, a rarity for infant seats!

B-Safe 35 seats will be shipping in late December and should be available in stores by late January.  Elite models will follow about a month later. Price point for B-Safe 35 is $209. Elite is $249. “Shower Collection” fashions for Elite model (bright colors) will be available in early March. O Canada – you will be getting your new B-Safe 35 (and yes it will be rated to 35 pounds!) sometime in January!

Britax B-Safe 35/Elite Base Britax B-Safe 35/Elite Base Bottom View

Britax B-Safe 35 Base Seatbelt Lockoff Britax B-Safe 35 Lockoff Closeup

Britax B-Safe 35 Recline Angle Indicator Brtiax B-Safe 35 Elite in B-Agile Stroller