2019 Recommended Carseats Update

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CarseatBlog Helps You Find the Safest and Best Car Seats for 2019

Once or twice a year we make incremental updates to our Recommended Carseats award list. A couple of aging products are usually removed, and some new ones added. There are jump links and an improved pull-down menu for easier access to each section of the list. The intent of this list is not to exclude the many fine carseats that didn’t make our cut, but instead to help consumers narrow down their choices to models we personally recommend. These are likely to work well with the widest range of children and vehicles. In order to have a reasonable list that doesn’t include dozens of products in each category, we make tough choices to include fewer products in each category that we feel are the best places to start your search.

We also have a shortlist of Editors’ Picks, an award for our favorite models. This more exclusive list narrows down our larger number of Recommended Carseats to our top choices. For most categories, we also select our top picks by budget category, limiting the selections to just one or two seats in each price range. If you are in a hurry or are feeling overwhelmed by too many options, this is the place to start! While premium carseats usually offer more features and tend to be easier to use, our midrange and budget picks are also very safe choices that we would use without hesitation for our own children.

If your favorite carseat didn’t make our list, please don’t worry! We’re not saying these are the best choices for every parent or caregiver in every situation. Our lists are simply a good starting point for consumers who are shopping for a carseat or booster. And since there are no guarantees, we always recommend purchasing from a retailer with a no-questions-asked free return policy of at least 30 days, or an online retailer like Amazon that offers free shipping and free returns on most carseats they sell directly. If a seat doesn’t work out for whatever reason, you don’t want to pay a restocking fee or $50 to ship it back!

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 standards, 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 encouraged to tell parents that the best seat is the one that fits their child, installs well in their vehicle and is easy for them to use correctly. We agree.

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 mean that every seat that lacks those features is not worthy of your consideration.

With all that said, please take our recommendations with a grain of salt. They are merely opinions, after all, and our criteria may vary from yours. Despite our best efforts, we recognize that no list of this type can be completely objective. And while our team of child passenger safety experts thoughtfully considered the pros and cons of each seat and combined that with our considerable hands-on experience with each product – there’s no crash testing involved. Some seats were omitted only 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 great products that we have reviewed, that missed the cut for our awards but are still worthy of consideration. Conversely, we recognize that some models we recommend won’t work well for everyone.

We hope you will use and share our recommendations as useful shopping advice in your search for the best carseat or booster for your needs!

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National Heatstroke Prevention Day 2019

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Today is National Heatstroke Prevention Day. It started 6 years ago to bring attention to children dying in hot cars. With every instance of a child left alone to die in a hot vehicle, we’re shocked, saddened, angered, and left wondering how a “good” parent could possibly forget their child. Many armchair parents are quick to comment about how they’d never forget a living, breathing child in a car while experts plead again to take steps so that it doesn’t happen again. This is a relatively new phenomena since frontal passenger airbags moved rear-facing children to the back seat; however, children have been dying in hot cars for much longer than that.

In the first 10 minutes a vehicle has been sitting in the sun, the temperature inside rises about 19°. After 20 minutes, it has risen about 29°. Before long, the inside temperature can be well above 140° depending on the outside air temperature. Cracking a window doesn’t matter: the sun’s rays heat the interior fixtures of the vehicle: the dash, steering wheel, seats, etc., which cause the air molecules to heat up. It’s science we all learned in grade school but have probably long forgotten. Hyperthermia, or high body temperature, occurs when the body’s temperature goes over 104°. A temperature over 107° can be deadly and it happens very quickly with children, whose bodies heat up faster than adults’.

So far this year, 24 children have died in hot vehicles. While we don’t have specifics for this year, historically 54% were forgotten and 26.3% got into an unlocked car and couldn’t get back out. The numbers trend upward with 2018 being the deadliest year, but there’s no rhyme or reason to each year’s count. Two things are certain: heatstroke deaths rise during the warmer months—though to be sure, deaths do happen during cooler months—and parents are distracted to the point where their brains forget there’s a child in the car.

 

Have you ever forgotten to take a daily pill? What about grabbing your lunch or drink on your way out the door? Have you set your phone down, walked out of the room, then forgotten where you put the darn thing? (No? Must be an age thing. Just wait—it’ll happen!) Perhaps you’ve gotten home from running several errands and left the bags in the car. If you have done any of these things, then you are not immune to forgetting a child in the back seat of a car. You can be as high and mighty as you want, but the same brain processes that go into remembering these routine daily things are the same processes that go into remembering the child in your back seat. And if you have a child, you probably have some level of sleep deprivation to add in as well.

Try this the next time you drive a routine route: pay attention. Pay attention for the entire drive of that routine route. Do you remember driving past that stop sign? How about making the 2 turns? I will fully admit that sometimes as I drive routine routes—from the store, for instance—I look, but I am not seeing. As I drive I make sure there are no obstacles in front of me or vehicles coming at me, but I don’t remember how I got from point A to point B. And this is how children get forgotten.

Read this Pulitzer Prize-winning article: Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? It’s long but it’s well-worth the read and will give you understanding into what happens when someone forgets a child in the back seat. As University of South Florida professor of psychology David Diamond explains, “Forgotten Baby Syndrome” is a real thing and it has to do with the way our brain memory systems interact. He offers 2 situations and explains how brain structures interact:

Condition 1: Parent 2, who may not normally take child to daycare, is tasked with daycare drop-off duties. The basal ganglia (the habit- or repetitive-based memory system—the one which allows us to remember how to tie a shoe or braid hair) suppresses the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which are the decision-making and multi-tasking systems that work together to make new memories. The hippocampus analyzes the situation for new information and the prefrontal cortex takes information and allows us to make new plans (e.g., need to swing by the daycare and drop off the baby). Since the habit-based memory system is in control (brain: must get to work), the parent is in auto-pilot mode and forgets there’s a child in the back seat.

Condition 2: Parent is under stress and forgets child in the back seat. In this instance, the amygdala (consider this “emotional” memory) activates under high pressure conditions which causes interference with the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (see how we need the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to make new memories?). When the parent is thinking about an extraordinarily busy day or errands they need to run before work, or they receive a phone call, etc., that may be enough to stress the amygdala. Further, sleep deprivation may cause the basal ganglia to go into overdrive and make habit-based memories, such as driving to work and forgetting there’s a child in the back seat, come through.

There are ways to make sure children aren’t forgotten in back seats; you can get around your brain’s dysfunctions. It’s by setting up layers of protection so that if you do forget, you can be reminded.

  1. If your child is missing, check your pool first, then your vehicle (including the trunk!) – check neighbor’s pools and vehicles second
  2. Arrange to have your childcare provider contact you when your child doesn’t show up that day. Make sure they have multiple contact numbers to call/text and that they keep calling until they reach a live person.
  3. Keep all vehicles LOCKED at all times, even when they are in the garage and keep your keys/key fobs out of reach
  4. Keep your wallet AND cell phone in the back seat when you are driving
  5. Another option, put one shoe in the back seat when you are driving—you’re not going to walk away from your vehicle without your other shoe!
  6. Make it a habit to always look in the back seat when getting out of the car
  7. Teach your children that it’s NEVER okay to play in the car or to go into the car to get something without a grown-up
  8. Teach your children NEVER to hide in the car or inside the trunk
  9. However, also teach your children to blow the horn repeatedly to attract attention if they are ever trapped inside a vehicle
  10. Use available technology: Some Evenflo carseats, the Cybex Sirona M, and the Baby Trend Secure Snap Fit have technology available to let you know if your child has been left in the carseat. Some vehicles also have backseat reminders, and Hyundai has a rear seat sensor system in some 2019 model year vehicles. Other vehicles, like Teslas, have air conditioners that will automatically come on if the interior temperature reaches 105° and they can be set to stay on after the vehicle is parked (Tesla states not to leave children unattended in their vehicles).

Let’s make it clear that cars aren’t babysitters: children shouldn’t be left in them to nap for any amount of time unattended and they shouldn’t be allowed to play in them either. Kids can get trapped too easily in vehicles or can put a vehicle in gear and a tragedy can happen in a split second. This goes for pets too!

And if you choose to leave a comment, which we always encourage, please do not be judgmental or we reserve the right to remove it.

If you’d like to read more, here are some links:

Ray Ray’s Story

Safe Kids Heatstroke Page

Kids and Cars Heatstroke Page

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Heatstroke Page

Haulin’ The Family: Ford F150 SuperCrew Review

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2019 Ford F-150 Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

When I was asked if I’d like to review the best-selling vehicle in the country, I said sure, figuring it would be something like an Accord or a RAV4. It turns out the best-selling vehicle in America is the Ford F150, which took me by surprise. I’m always up for driving a fully-loaded, brand-new vehicle for a week, though, so I was game to test out a 2019 Ford F150 SuperCrew Limited.

While it’s true that a lot of pickup trucks are probably bought more for work purposes than for family-hauling, pickups can be great options for people who need to do both, or for parents who just like the versatility of having a huge cargo area plus room to seat their kids.

This review will focus primarily on features that are important to the average parent, like safety, comfort, and, of course, car seats. Here’s a general video overview, and we’ll go into more detail down below:

Safety Features

As a Child Passenger Safety Technician, safety is my top priority when it comes to vehicles. A pickup truck’s large size will give it an advantage on the road, but that’s just part of it. Vehicle manufacturers are adding more and more safety features to satisfy customers and to improve their ratings in government and IIHS testing, and Ford has lots of safety options available for the F150.

The F150 Limited I drove came with all the safety features: blind-spot detection, lane-keep assist, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, backup camera with 360-degree view, cross-traffic warning and more. As you go lower in trim levels, you’ll lose some of those features, but even the base model includes automatic emergency braking.

The F150 also comes with a full array of airbags, including the option of inflatable airbags in the rear outboard seatbelts. I’ll go into more detail on those in the carseat section.

I’ll admit I’m kind of nervous about driving large vehicles (especially at first), so features like blind-spot detection help give me peace of mind that I won’t run over a Smart Car. I’m also notoriously bad at parking, and the larger the vehicle, the worse I do. That’s why I loved the birdseye-view camera to help me not be so crooked in parking spaces.

The Limited also has a feature that will essentially parallel-park the truck for you. I didn’t have an opportunity to try it out, but it seems like a great option for those of us who are parking-challenged.

Driving and Comfort

Oh, my, the comfort…Where to begin?

Let me start by telling you that the F150 Limited has massaging seats. You can stop reading now and just go buy one if you’d like.

The seats are also heated and air-conditioned, so if you ever need a little “me time,” you can just go hang out in your truck.

If you’re still cold even with the heated seats, take advantage of the heated steering wheel as well. If you have backseat passengers who aren’t in car seats, they will also appreciate the heated second-row seats.

The center console is absolutely enormous. You could—but shouldn’t—store a small child in there. BubbleBum for scale:

A panoramic sunroof brightens up the whole car, as do tons of cool blue lights at night. (Even the cupholders glow.) LED lights also illuminate the truck bed at night, making it easy to find stuff in the dark.

Automatic retractable (and lit) running boards make it easy for kids and shorter adults to get in and out of the truck without hurting themselves or making fools of themselves.

The Limited has the option of serving as its own WiFi hot spot, which can come in very handy on long trips with kids. The truck is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smooth integration.

If you don’t need to have anyone riding in the middle of the back seat, an armrest/cupholder console folds down for convenience and comfort.

Did I mention it has massaging seats?

I’m not an expert on truck beds and sizes and whatnot, so I won’t try to get technical about it. I do know that on the occasions we need to haul stuff, getting it into the bed of an F150 would be a lot easier than shoving it into the back of our Odyssey, as we do now. I didn’t need to haul anything other than groceries during my test-drive period, so I didn’t really put that feature to use, although I think my husband was itching to throw some lumber back there.

Jennie, enjoying a massage

I’m not going to say that driving the F150 felt like driving a car, because it didn’t, and that’s okay. The ride was kind of bumpy, but that’s to be expected with an unladen pickup bed. (Get the massaging chair going, and you can’t really tell the difference between bumps in the road and the lumbar roller anyway.) To be honest, after the first few minutes of driving, I didn’t even notice the bumpiness anymore. The truck handled very nicely, and driving it wound up being pretty fun, even if it did take some getting used to.

The F150 Limited does have a fuel-saving option that idles the engine once you’ve been stopped for a while. Although it saves energy, I personally don’t like the associated lag that happens once I start accelerating. The option is easy enough to turn off when you don’t want it, though.

Carseats

In many ways the F150 is a dream for carseats, but there are a few important details to keep in mind.

SNEAK PEEK: Nuna EXEC All-in-One Preview!

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Nuna EXEC All-in-1 Carseat Preview

A few months ago, I had an extremely cool opportunity to meet up with a small group of other technicians and the team at Nuna to see the new things they had been working on. And after keeping my mouth shut for several agonizing months, I can finally spill some beans, and trust me, if you’re a Nuna fan (or just a well designed, high-quality car seat fan) you won’t be disappointed.

Yesterday Nuna announced their newest car seat, the EXEC. The EXEC definitely looks a little different from the Rava and the Aace, but at its core, it’s an obvious member of the same car seat family. It’s like Nuna took the best parts of two already great seats, added a few extra safety and comfort features, and the result is this awesome all-in-one.

Nuna EXEC Features
  • The EXEC is an all-in-one seat: rear-facing, forward-facing and highback belt-positioning booster
  • Rear-facing: 5-50 pounds, up to 49″
  • Forward-facing: 25-65 pounds, up to 49″
  • Belt-positioning booster: 40-120 pounds, 38-57″, 4 years old minimum
  • No-rethread harness with 12 harness height positions
  • 4 rear-facing and 4 forward-facing recline options with easy push button adjust and no bubbles or lines or zones or any other indicator to keep track of
  • True tension doors, one for each rear facing and forward facing, as seen on the Rava, make installation an absolute dream
  • Anti-rebound bar, that both extends to give extra leg room for rear-facing AND flips around to become a leg rest for forward-facing.
  • EPP energy absorbing foam
  • Aeroflex™ Side Impact Protection System
  • Merino wool insert
  • Additional GOTS certified organic cotton inserts and harness covers
  • No added fire retardant chemicals
  • Spring touch shoulder belt guides make getting the belt into place a breeze for kids and adults, but hold it in place while in booster mode.
  • Magnetic harness holders
  • Delightfully narrow, to allow 3 across in most mid-size vehicles
EXEC Dimensions:

These are provided by Nuna, but will be verified once I get my hands on a final product in a few weeks.

  • Seat width at widest point: 18.5″
  • Seat height lowest and highest harness position: 26″, 33″
  • Inside shoulder width: 14″
  • Inside hip width: 11.5″
  • Seat weight: 26.6 pounds
  • 12 harness height positions from 5″ with insert to 17.5″
  • Crotch buckle positions 4″ with insert, 4.5″ without insert and 6.5″ at farthest position
So What’s New Here?

The first, biggest, coolest thing is the anti-rebound bar. In rear-facing mode, the anti-rebound bar is a super cool, adjustable component to reduce potential rebound in a crash. It can be adjusted in 2 ways: first, the angle can be adjusted up or down to ensure it lays flat against the vehicle seat back; second, it adjusts in or out to provide extra inches of legroom. I don’t have the exact details on how much extra room it provides at this moment, but when playing with a prototype a few months ago, it wasn’t insignificant. It also comes with a slipcover so that the fabric on the anti-rebound bar doesn’t get totally destroyed by shoes before you’re able to use it in forward-facing mode.

When you switch to forward-facing mode, the anti-rebound bar flips around and becomes a leg rest. Like a legitimate, substantial leg rest. It can be adjusted up and down in several positions and would provide a lot of comfort to little dangling legs. Also, you’ll find the EXEC offers more room for growth when forward facing than the Rava (top harness height is 17.5” on the EXEC vs. 16” on the Rava), which has been a complaint some have had about the Rava in the past. The EXEC will harness the vast majority of (typically developing, average-sized) kids to booster age.

In booster mode, the spring touch shoulder guides are this tiny detail that I am obsessed with. They spring open to let the belt in easily, but they hold it securely in place. The prototype had good mobility of the belt through the guides (no bunching), but we will have to confirm that on the final product. It was definitely a thing Nuna was keeping its eye on, which is a good thing.

Fine Print Details
  • 10-year lifespan
  • The cover is machine wash and air dry
  • 2 different fashions are offered currently, a black (caviar) and a gray (granite)
  • Crash replacement follows NHTSA guidelines(!)
  • FAA certified in rear-facing and forward-facing, not in booster mode (this is true of all boosters, it’s not a shortcoming of the EXEC)
  • MSRP $649.95
  • Available at Nordstrom and assorted small boutique shops for pre-order to be released on 8/21/2019.

I can tell you that even the prototype of the EXEC impressed me and that isn’t easy to do. Nuna has combined and I think, improved upon, two already excellent seats, to create a seat that could literally last you the full 10 years and potentially be the only one you’d ever need. There is a myriad of thoughtful details that make carseating easier and more comfortable for everyone involved. Nuna has a history of raising the bar in the car seat world and once we can do a full review, I suspect we will confirm that the EXEC is another example of that.

Hold on tight, the EXEC is coming soon!