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2015 Recommended Child Restraints for CPS Programs & Updated List of Where Carseats Are Made

Behold our updated list of Recommended Child Restraints for CPS Programs! Several popular options have been discontinued and a few new ones have been added so it was time to refresh the list. We hope to see more production moved to U.S. facilities since several ideal program seats on the list are out of reach for many injury-prevention programs because they are currently made abroad.

Speaking of where carseats are made, we also took this opportunity to update our County of Origin – Where Carseats Are Made blog. We added all the new models that have hit the market in the last 12 months. I’m happy to report that consumers now have more options for carseats and boosters made in the USA and hopefully that list will continue to grow in the future!

Made in the USA

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!

Lockoffs – What You Need to Know & Which Carseats Have Them

Graco Argos 80 Elite - installed with seatbelt using lockoff

CarseatBlog’s Carseat Lockoff Guide

As LATCH weight limits shrink due to new federal standards, more and more carseats require using the seatbelt once the child exceeds a certain weight. The problem with seatbelt installations is that most parents have no idea how to lock the seatbelts in their vehicle in order to properly install a carseat or infant seat base. Ask the average parent or caregiver what a switchable retractor is and you’ll probably get a very confused look in response. A what?? This is why every car seat in North America should come with a built-in lockoff! If you are installing with a seatbelt instead of lower LATCH anchors and your carseat has a lockoff device – use it and you will never have to worry about understanding pre-crash locking features on vehicle restraint systems.

Function of built-in lockoff device: A lockoff device can serve more than one function but its main purpose is to cinch or clamp the seatbelt in such a way that it cannot loosen and your tight carseat installation stays tight!  

Current list of carseats that feature lockoff(s)

Rear-Facing Infant Seats
Britax B-Safe (aka BOB B-Safe)
Britax B-Safe 35 & B-Safe 35 Elite
Britax Chaperone (discontinued)
Chicco KeyFit & KeyFit 30
Combi Shuttle
GB Asana 35 & Asana 35 AP
Graco SnugRide 35 Classic Connect
Graco SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect
Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect
Nuna Pipa
Orbit Baby G3 Infant
Peg-Perego Viaggio 4-35
Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air & onBoard 35 Air+
The First Years Contigo (discontinued)
UPPAbaby Mesa
Urbini Petal (and clones)
Convertible Seats
Britax  Advocate; Boulevard; Marathon; Pavilion; Roundabout (excluding "Classic" model)
Britax ClickTight convertibles (all models)
Chicco NextFit
Clek Foonf
Clek Fllo
Combi Coccoro
Graco Smart Seat
Orbit Baby Toddler
Recaro All convertible models (forward-facing lockoff only)
The First Years True Fit (discontinued)
Forward-Facing Combination Seats
Britax Frontier 90
Britax Pinnacle 90
Graco Nautilus Elite
Graco Argos 80 Elite
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Lockoffs on Infant Seat Bases

There are different types of lockoffs that require different routing so make sure you are following the directions that came with your carseat. Never assume anything. Below we discuss the two most common types of lockoff systems.

iDrive You Crazy

Prank gift box - idriveWith Christmas nearly upon us, it’s time to finish the holiday shopping! If you’re anything like me, you have no idea what to get for that special someone in your life. With smart phones, e-readers, and tablets more popular than ever, a techy-type gift would be great, but where to start?

Well, how about something to take that iPad or Kindle to the next level?

We all know the dangers of texting and driving. Hold the device up above the steering wheel and you obstruct your view of the road. Hold it in your lap and you risk spilling your coffee on it. Who wants that? If only there were a way to make texting/browsing/emailing while driving more comfortable and convenient!

Enter the iDrive! I found it at locally but it’s available from Amazon too! This steering-wheel-mounted device can hold your tablet right at hands’ level! Your eyes will barely have to leave the road while you finish that novel or play Sudoku.

Prank gift box - idrive 2

Even better, the iDrive can be mounted on a motorcycle, bike, or even a jet-ski!

Prank gift box - idrive 4 Prank gift box - idrive 3

Before you have a heart attack or throw your computer/mobile device across the room in fury (or veer off the road if you’re using an iDrive): I’m sort-of kidding.

I really did buy this, but it’s just an empty gift box meant to fool your loved ones. I’m planning on giving it to my husband. I’m not sure what I’ll put inside, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be far less likely to result in a vehicular manslaughter charge than a real iDrive would.

I can’t wait until Christmas morning, when I can witness the look of horror on my husband’s face. Ah, ’tis the season!

Not interested in an iDrive? Perhaps a NapSack would be the perfect gift for that special loved one or work colleague? Or a Family Blankeez for your sister-in-law or your child’s teacher. Maybe you know a new or expecting mom who could really use a Crib Dribbler Feeding System – it would certainly make a memorable shower gift! For the carnivores on your holiday list – how about bacon scented dryer sheets? Let’s be honest, there’s nothing like warm, bacon-scented clothes right out of the dryer on a cold winter morning! And there are plenty of other prank boxes to choose from – truly something for everyone on your list. 

Prank gift box - NapSack Prank gift box - family blankeez Prank gift box - Crib Dribbler Prank gift box - bacon dryer sheets Prank Bath and Brew  Prank Pet Sweep

CarseatBlog’s Holiday Gift Guide: Jennie’s Picks

‘Tis the season, and some of you might be racking your brains trying to figure out what to get those special someones in your lives. CarseatBlog is here to help with our list of fun and/or useful gifts for everyone on your list.

For the grown-ups:

Res-Q-Me

Res-Q-Me Keychain Escape Tool

This handy tool takes up little room on your keychain, but in an emergency it can cut through a seatbelt or break a window. Chances are you and your loved ones will never need it, but the few bucks is worth the peace of mind, in my opinion. Makes a perfect stocking stuffer for the driver in your life!

 

Windshield Cover

Windshield Covers for the Snow

This is the first year we’ll need to park a car in the snow. I’m not looking forward to spending precious minutes (in the freezing cold) scraping off snow and ice. Enter the windshield covers that supposedly let you lift them off and go. I forget exactly which model I got, but there are lots to choose from on Amazon. Hopefully they work!

 

Crio Bru

Crio Brü 

Know someone who loves coffee but wants to try something different? Or someone who hates coffee but enjoys warm beverages? Try Crio Brü, my new favorite drink. You brew it like coffee (in a french press is best), but it’s not coffee: it’s roasted, ground cacao beans. It’s unsweetened so it’s bitter, but much less so than coffee, and has a wonderful chocolatey flavor. You can add cream and sugar or other flavorings to sweeten it to your liking. I prefer it black or with an occasional dollop of whipped cream on top. There are lots of varieties to choose from, each imparting different undertones based on where the beans come from. They also have different flavor blends, like the Pumpkin Spice and Mint I just ordered. These would make perfect gifts for friends and neighbors for the holidays, or great host/hostess gifts any time of year.

 

Veeptopus

Veeptopus Strange Artwork

Have a history buff, octopus fan, or lover of surrealist art on your list? Veeptopus might be your answer. This guy has found a way to combine cephalopods with the Executive Branch by painting every American Vice President with an octopus on his head. He also has new lines featuring William Howard Taft cavorting with badgers, and some badgers wielding axes and Santa hats. Some might ask, “Why?” Others might ask, “Why not?” (I’m a “Why not,” and if anyone wants to buy me a gift, I’ll take the one with Taft wearing a badger mask atop the badger wearing the Taft mask. Classic stuff.)

 

For the kids: