I have somewhat different criteria for my teen drivers, with more emphasis on crash test results and safety features. For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is above around 2,750 lbs., but only if it has great crash test results. While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park. That’s important for new drivers. And of course, compact cars are less expensive to buy and maintain. I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results that Consumer Reports and the IIHS factor into their recommendations.
Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans from their list, even top performing models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test. In fact, some models they recommend do very poorly in this newer crash test. Like Consumer Reports, many of their recommendations are well over $10,000.
4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY crash test, including the newer small overlap test
Around $10,000 or less to buy.
Good visibility and handling.
Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs. Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know. More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel. But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.
2017 Britax Infant Car Seat Recall: Britax B-Safe 35, Britax B-Safe 35 Elite and BOB B-Safe 35
Britax announced a recall today in cooperation with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other regulatory authorities. This recall involves the chest clip on certain B-Safe 35, B-Safe 35 Elite and BOB B-Safe 35 infant car seat models manufactured between Nov. 1, 2015 and May 31, 2017, as identified on www.bsafe35clip.com. Over 200,000 units may be affected.
Britax has determined that the center tab on the chest clip – on certain rear-facing only car seat models – can break presenting a choking hazard to an infant in the car seat. There have been no choking injuries reported.
Users can continue to safely use the affected car seats if they remove the chest clip or monitor the center tab of the chest clip for signs of breakage. The chest clip is not a required safety device: it is added to the harness system to help position the shoulder straps.
Look for the Date of Manufacture (DOM) label on the back of the infant car seat shell.
Compare the DOM details to the model numbers and date range listed on the site.
If your seat is affected and you registered your seat, you will automatically be sent a free replacement chest clip.
If your seat is affected and you didn’t register your seat, you can order your free kit on www.bsafe35clip.com.
Until you receive your replacement chest clip, you can continue to safely use the car seat as long as you remove your current chest clip or monitor the center tab of the chest clip for signs of breakage.
Before installing the new replacement chest clip, review the printed step-by-step instructions and/or watch the how-to video on the site.
Britax Child Safety, Inc. (Britax) is recalling certain B-Safe 35, B-Safe 35 Travel Systems, B-Safe 35 Elite, B-Safe 35 Elite Travel Systems and BOB B-Safe rear-facing infant child safety seats, model numbers E1A183F, E1A185M, E1A185P, E1A186R, E1A203F, E1A205M, E1A205P, E1A206X, E1A206Z, E1A207E, E9LU65V, E9LU66X, E9LU66Z, E9LU67D, E9LU67E, EXA185M, S02063600, S02063700, S03803400, S03803500, S03803700, S03803800, S03803900, S04144400, S04144500, S04144600, S04145000, S04402800, S04884200, S04884300, S04975600, S04978900, S05260200, S06020300, S06020400, S06020500, S06020600, S06020700, S06020800, S06020900, S06147100, S921800, E1A215T, E1A215U, E1A216P, E1A221Q, E1A225C, E1A225U, E1A226L, E9LS51Q, E9LS56C, E9LS56L, E9LS57F, E9LS57G, E9LS57H, EXA216L, S01298600, S02063800, S02063900, S02064000, S04281200, S04281300, S04628500, S06018800, S06020000, S06020200, S923700, E9LT34A, E9LT34C, E9LT35X and EXLT34A. The affected child safety seats have a center tab on the chest clip marked “ABS” that may break.
Britax will notify owners and will provide a replacement chest clip marked “PC”, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin June 21, 2017. Owners may contact Britax at 1-833-474-7016 or visit www.bsafe35clip.com.
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.
Late one night at the Graco factory, some smooth Barry White was heard playing, some carseats were hanging out, and about a year after the Extend2Fit’s original introduction, the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit All-In-One was born. It’s about the perfect combination of what you could want in a carseat: the Graco’s super popular 4Ever 4-In-1 carseat and the Extend2Fit convertible carseat with the fabulous leg extension that eases parents’ minds about cramped rear-facing legs. The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit is a busy seat for busy families: it rear-faces, forward-faces, becomes a highback booster, and converts to a backless booster.
Weight and Height Limits:
Rear-facing: 4-50 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below adjustment handle
Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
Highback booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old
Backless booster: 40-120 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old
It’s the travel season and for many families with small children, that includes flying somewhere. Since so many carseats are heavy and bulky, it makes sense in some cases to invest in a lightweight carseat just for traveling. Plus, this spares you the hassle of re-installing your main carseat when you get back to your own car, weary from traveling.
Ideally, a spare travel carseat should be lightweight (under 15 lbs), easy to install with the lap-only belt on an airplane seat and narrow enough to fit in a typical coach seat. With that criteria in mind, here are several options to consider.
Infant carseats – no need to buy anything new as long as your current infant seat can be installed without the base. I guess it’s possible to drag the base with you on the plane but that’s just making life harder than it needs to be. As long as your infant seat allows installation without the base (most do but there are some exceptions so make sure you know for sure), it’s easy to install the carrier rear-facing with the lap-only belt on the plane.
If you’re leaving the base at home – make sure you practice baseless installation a few times so when you arrive at your destination you know how to install the carseat properly in the car, using a typical lap/shoulder belt. Here is a video that demonstrates my technique for quick and easy installations of an infant carseat without the base.
Stay clear of products like THIS and THIS. These products are NOT acceptable alternatives to using an actual carseat on the plane to restrain your child. Along the same lines – using a sling or infant carrier also isn’t a safe alternative for your baby or toddler because you aren’t allow to wear your child during take-offs or landings when the risks are highest. There is a good reason for this but the details are ugly so I’m not going to go into it right now. If you would like more info on why slings and infant carriers are not a safe alternative to using a carseat on a plane, please see the NTSB website.
UPDATED JUNE 2017
Convertible seats – if you intend to install the convertible seat rear-facing on the plane then you’ll be best served by a seat that is fairly compact which will increase your chances of the seat actually fitting rear-facing in the space you have to work with.
Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or up to 40″ tall. Forward-facing 22-65 lbs, or up to 43″ tall
No matter which seat you decide to take on the plane for your child – you will want to know where the FAA approval language is stated in case one of the flight attendants asks to see proof that your carseat is certified for use in an aircraft. Look for RED lettering on one of the sticker labels on the carseat. The FAA language is required to be written in red. The language can vary slightly but in general this is what you’re looking for:
For forward-facing kids, you’ll be best served by a seat that’s lightweight, fairly narrow, with tall top harness slots and a weight limit of 50 lbs. or more. Keep in mind that combination seats (aka harness/booster) can only be used on the plane in harnessed mode. Booster seats (or combination seats used without the 5-pt harness in booster mode) are not FAA certified and cannot be used on an airplane because all booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt, which airplanes don’t have.
Rear-facing 5-40 lbs., Forward-facing for children at least 1 year old, 22-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall. *Forward-facing beltpath is behind the back of the shell. This unique design means your FF child won’t have the metal latchplate of the airplane seatbelt in their back during the flight.
Unique product for kids over 1 year old who weigh between 22-44 lbs., and are under 40″ tall. *CARES harness is certified for use ONLY on the plane. It cannot be used in motor vehicles. It’s very useful for situations where you don’t need a carseat to use on the ground when you arrive at your destination. We have a review of the CARES Harness here.
Remember, only carseats with an internal harness can be used on a plane. You cannot use a booster seat on an airplane because booster seats require a lap/shoulder belt and airplanes only have lap belts. If your child rides in a booster seat and you are bringing it with you, you can gate check it or bring it on the plane and put it in the overhead bin (if it fits).
For more info on flying with kids and carseats – check out our related blogs on the subject: