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Convertible Carseat Ratings – June 2015 Consumer Reports Update

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Britax Marathon ClickTight, Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Graco Contender 65 Score High Ratings for Convertible Carseats

CR rockIn June, Consumer Reports added new models to their convertible carseat ratings.  A few newly tested products did quite well, with the Britax Marathon ClickTight and Boulevard ClickTight topping the overall ratings.  The Graco Contender 65 also did quite well overall, just above its competitors in the budget “Best Buy” category of highly rated models.

With new weight limits on the LATCH system of attaching carseats, seatbelt installations are back, especially for heavier forward-facing children.  So, we love the ClickTight system for super easy seatbelt installs, and the Boulevard CT (Our Review) and Advocate CT also offer exceptional rear-facing height limits and appear in our Recommended Carseats list.   We also share concerns at Consumer Reports about a possible harness issue on certain ClickTight convertible models.  While new models are revised to address this concern, we still advise parents to check the harness system periodically to verify.

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 Convertible seat testing with their new crash test methodology is underway, but those results will not be published until some time later this year.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 break 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 updated over 40 lbs. category, the Britax Marathon and Boulevard ClickTight models top the ratings, followed very closely by another of our Recommended Carseats, the Chicco NextFit.  After that, the rest of the Britax convertible lineup – Britax Advocate G4, Britax Boulevard G4, Britax Pavilion G4, Britax Marathon G4 and Britax Roundabout G4 all perform well. The Graco Contender 65Britax 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.  The Safety 1st Advance SE 65 was also added to the ratings with a very good crash protection score, but a middle-of-the-pack overall rating.

So, what is the “BEST” or “SAFEST” convertible carseat?  We are asked this all the time as Child Passenger Safety Technicians and it’s worth repeating the answer.  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 no one can say which is the “SAFEST” carseat for any particular child or vehicle, if you’ve selected the “BEST” one for your own situation and install and use it correctly, then it will provide very good protection for your precious cargo.

While we think our Recommended Carseats list is a great place to start when shopping for the BEST carseat.  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!

You can find Consumer Reports’ 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.

Memorial Day Weekend Sales – Hot Deals on Carseats & Boosters

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Some of these Amazon Prime deals may have longevity but most are going to be strictly “while supplies last”, so don’t dilly-dally if you find a great price on something you really need or just seriously want.  I’ve only listed items with FREE SHIP and FREE RETURNS just in case it doesn’t work out.  Here at CarseatBlog.com we always recommend that you “try before you buy” but we understand that’s just not possible in many situations. Free shipping and free returns with Amazon Prime, in case it doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, is the next best thing!

 

Infant Carseats

safety 1st onboard 35 air - flutter Graco SnugRide 30 - metropolis B-Safe 35 red

Britax B-safe 35 Infant Car Seat in Black, Red or Sandstone for $168

Safety 1st OnBoard 35 Air in Decatur or Flutter for $115

Safety 1st onBoard 35 Infant Car Seat in Orion Blue or Orion Pink $89.99

Graco SnugRide 30 Classic Connect in Metropolis for $59.99 with coupon  ($74.99 minus extra 20% off with clipless coupon – you’ll see discount appear at checkout if coupon has been applied) 

Graco SnugRide 35 Click Connect in Tangerine for $93.59 with coupon ($116.99 minus extra 20% off with clipless coupon – you’ll see discount appear at checkout if coupon has been applied)

Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect Car Seat in Azalea for $139.99

 

Convertible Carseats

Britax roundabout G4 - onyx Maxi-Cosi Pria - blue Graco Size4me - nyssa

Britax Roundabout G4.1 in Onyx or Silverlake $144.00

Combi Coccoro in Grape $191.99

Graco Contender 65 in Sapphire $119

Graco Size4Me 65 in Nyssa $129.00

Graco MyRide 65 in Jigsaw $95.99 with coupon ($119.99 minus extra 20% off with clipless coupon – you’ll see discount appear at checkout if coupon has been applied)

Evenflo Momentum in Lilac or Bailey $125.99

Evenflo SureRide DLX in Paxton, Bishop or Nicole for $85 or less

Evenflo Symphony Elite 3-in-1 in Modesto $183.98

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

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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

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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!