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Consumer Reports Updates Convertible Carseat Ratings – July 2014

CR rockThe updated ratings on convertible carseats are published and the results are going to make some people happy and others not so happy. There’s just no way around that. Parents who already own top-rated convertible seats are going to be happy while those that own seats at the bottom of the lists may be less-than-pleased. Some may even question whether they made a mistake buying “X” carseat instead of “Y” carseat.

Before we get to the CR top rated picks, let’s talk about what the “BEST” convertible carseat is. We say this all the time as Child Passenger Safety Technicians, but it’s the truth, hence why it’s repeated so often. The BEST carseat is the one that fits your vehicle (installs tightly), fits your child (is appropriate for their age/weight/height), and that you can use correctly on every single ride. And of course it needs to fit your wallet too. The best carseat is not necessarily the most expensive carseat you can (or can’t) afford. And it’s not necessarily the carseat that matches the rest of your nursery collection or the one that everyone raves about online.

While we think our Recommended Carseats list is a great place to start, the seats on our list aren’t going to work for everyone and every situation. Remember – what works best for *your* child in *your* vehicle might not be the best choice for your sister or your neighbor or your friend, and that’s important. For example, a loosely installed carseat or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. A convertible carseat that doesn’t fit rear-facing in your car is not going to be the best choice for your child either.

The Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison – Size Matters!

It’s important to point out that this round of ratings is based on crash test results using their previous testing methodology (30 mph, FMVSS 213 standard bench, testing with 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelt or LATCH and no blocker plate). Convertible seat testing with their new crash test methodology is underway, but those results will not be published until some time early next year. For more info on Consumer Reports’ new crash testing program please see our previous blog on the subject:

The Safest Infant Carseats? New Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

Currently CR evaluates carseats on several points, including fit-to-vehicle, ease-of-usage, price and crash test performance. We can’t comment on specific scores but after our meeting with CR last year, we do have a general idea of how their ratings are assigned within these categories.

They brake down the convertible carseat ratings into 3 categories:

  • Convertible seats rated to 40 lbs.
  • Convertible seats rated to weights higher than 40 lbs. (what we call “higher-weight harness” convertibles)
  • All-in-One seats that can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and also as a belt-positioning booster.

In the up to 40 lbs. category, the Cosco Scenera, Scenera 40RF, Cosco Apt 40RF and Safety 1st onSide Air were their top rated picks. I don’t think the Scenera 40 RF is still being made or sold anywhere but the “regular” Cosco Scenera, the Cosco Apt 40RF and the Safety 1st onSide Air are all widely available and they are all budget-friendly seats (under $100) too. Just don’t expect them to fit your child for as long as larger competitors. These are basic, budget-friendly seats for infants and toddlers that should last many kids until at least age 3 and some to age 4. They also make great travel seats.

Cosco SceneraCosco Apt 40 RFSafety 1st onSide Air - stock

In the over 40 lbs. category, the Chicco NextFit is the top rated convertible seat followed closely by the entire Britax convertible lineup – Britax Advocate G4, Britax Boulevard G4, Britax Pavilion G4, Britax Marathon G4 and Britax Roundabout G4. The Britax Roundabout G4 and the Evenflo SureRide were rated as “Best Buys” because they offer good value for their price but they also received good scores in all categories.

Chicco NextFit - blogBritax Advocate G4 - OnyxBritax roundabout G4 - onyx

In the “All-in-One” category – the Evenflo Symphony was the top rated seat among the 5 models tested.

Evenflo Sym65 - Ocala

You can find their newest ratings on convertible seats at their website, www.consumerreports.org. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to see the full ratings report.

CarseatBlog’s Updated List of Recommended Carseats for Preemies & Multiples!

Huggable Images Preemie Doll in Cosco Light 'n ComfyWe’re happy to announce that we’ve updated our list of Recommended Infant Carseats for Preemies & Multiples! Since we last updated that list, we’ve reviewed (or are in the process of reviewing) several new or updated infant seats that we feel comfortable adding to the list. And even one convertible seat!

Please join me in welcoming the Cosco Light n’ Comfy Elite, Evenflo SecureRide 35 (aka Serenade), Graco SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect, Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect, Nuna PIPA, Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35UPPAbaby MESA and the Maxi-Cosi Pria Convertible (specifically, the model with the TinyFit insert).

All of these seats have a minimum weight rating of 4 lbs, fit our Huggable Images preemie doll well, are easy to use correctly and are relatively easy to install properly in a variety of vehicles.  While many parents may not think fitting a 4 lb. preemie is important, we know from experience that babies sometimes come earlier than expected and are well under the typical 7 pound newborn size.  We have links to the full reviews for each of these seats as well as other important information on our page dedicated to preemies and carseat issues.

Additionally, we’re very pleased that four of the seats now on the list are priced under $100! The Cosco Light n’ ComfyEvenflo Embrace LXSafety 1st Comfy Carry Elite Plus and Safety 1st onBoard 35 are all “budget-friendly” carseats.  And let’s face it – price and value are always important but those factors take on special meaning if you’re operating on a tight budget and/or if you’re faced with the reality of having to buy two, three (or more!) of everything.

Here at CarseatBlog we really appreciate the fact that CR manufacturers are paying more attention to the needs of preemies and low birthweight babies. With fourteen infant carseats and one convertible now on our list, in all different price ranges, this is a giant leap in the right direction. We have several other seats under review at the moment so hopefully we’ll be able to recommend a few more options in the near future!

Great Coupon Code Carseat Deals at Amazon

Some nice deals on some of our Recommended Carseats this week at Amazon.com:

Save $30 on select Britax convertible and combination carseats with coupon code BRITAX30.  The Britax Boulevard G4 as low as $226 and the Britax Frontier 90 as low as $234.

Save 20% on select carseats and baby gear with coupon code SUMMERGEAR.  The Evenflo Maestro in Wesley is only $64!  The Graco SnugRide 35 Click Connect is $104 in Tangerine.

 

CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats List – 2014 Update!

The-Best-RibbonIt’s been 9 months since we last updated our list of recommended child restraints. Some models have been updated, some discontinued and many 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 2014 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 lock-offs 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 13 years now and has like a zillion websites on the topic. Our newest blog writers, Jennie (an experienced CPS Technician) and Alicia (nurse and former tech), are moms with younger kids who can actually use the infant seats and convertible 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 12 kids ranging in age from 10 months 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 bucked 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, if only because a list of every seat we like would be too inclusive, so products that we don’t include may still be worth 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!