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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!

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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.

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
www.CarseatBlog.com  ©2015 All Rights Reserved

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.

Britax Marathon ClickTight GIVEAWAY!

Britax Marathon ClickTight Giveaway!

  • To enter, you MUST reply to this blog and leave a comment below (only 1 comment per household).
  • For extra entries, be sure follow the Rafflecopter instructions to Visit our Facebook page, Visit the Britax Facebook page and tweet about the giveaway!
  • Share our giveaway on Facebook!

This promotion is now closed. Thank you for participating ~ a winner will be announced soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest open to all residents of the USA, including those residing in Alaska and Hawaii.

See our review of the Marathon CT here: Marathon CT Review

MA CT cowmooMA CT rioMA CT twilightMA CT vibeMA CT verve

*Does not include Prescott fashion found at BRU.

Order a Marathon CT at Amazon.com

Now for the fine print (these may be in addition to the rules listed in the Rafflecopter terms)

Winner must have a USA shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded, choice of colors will be limited to those in stock at Britax USA at the time the contest closes.

You are not eligible if you have previously won a carseat or any sponsored giveaway at CarseatBlog.com during 2013 or 2014 (our own giveaways of goody bags and such don’t count if no sponsor was mentioned). Blog writers and editors are also not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count.

We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason.

The contest will close on February 8, 2015, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

Good luck!

Please note: If this is your first comment at CarseatBlog, or if you are using a different computer/device or a new email address, your comment may not appear immediately. It will not be lost; it may just take a few hours for it to be approved. Thank you for your understanding and patience as this is the only way we have to reduce comment spam.