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2018 Recommended Carseat Ratings Update

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CarseatBlog Helps You Find the Safest and Best Car Seats for 2018

Once or twice a year we make incremental updates to our Recommended Carseats award list. A couple aging products are usually removed, perhaps a replacement is added.  We’ve also added jump links and an improved pull-down menu to allow easier access to each section of the list. The intent of this list is not to exclude the many fine carseats that didn’t quite make our cut, but instead to help consumers narrow down their choices to models we most highly 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.

At the bottom is our helpful short list of Editors’ Picks, an award for favorite models rated by our expert staff. 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 carseats in each price range. If you are in a hurry and want to know what to buy, 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 one of our lists, please don’t despair! We’re not saying these are the best choices for every situation.  Our lists are simply a good starting point for consumers who are carseat or booster shopping.  And since there are no guarantees, we always recommend purchasing at a local store with a no-questions-asked free return policy of at least 30 days, or an online store like Amazon.com that offers free shipping and free returns on most carseats they sell directly.  Sometimes, even our favorite products won’t work for a particular family, so 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 minimum 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 often 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. 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 or those you find elsewhere online or in print. 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.  In fact, there simply is no comprehensive system for safety comparisons based upon proven crash testing methods for carseats from any agency or website in the USA or Canada.  In our ratings, some seats were omitted simply because we opted to include a very 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, but just missed the cut for our awards and are still worthy of consideration. Conversely, we recognize that some models we recommend won’t work well for everyone.

To summarize, our recommendations are a good starting place for shoppers and one of many resources to consider in your search.  If a carseat does not appear on our list, that doesn’t necessarily mean we dislike the product or even imply that we give it a “Not Recommended” rating.  We may simply not have a full review of it.

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

Reolink C1 Pro Review: Baby Monitor and Security Cam All-in-One

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Reolink C1 Pro Smart Home Camera Review

There are dozens if not hundreds of no-name home security cameras and baby monitors at Amazon.  It’s difficult to sort through all the paid and fake reviews just to find a decent one.  I limited my own search to a few preferences.  First, it had to be eligible for Amazon Prime for the return policy, just in case.  Second, I wanted at least 1080P HD, preferably higher.  Next, I preferred local recording capability, either FTP or SD card.  Finally, the company had to have a legitimate website and support information.

A handful of cameras met all my criteria, including the Reolink C1 Pro Wireless Smart Camera.  It has all the basic features you’d expect, including pan/tilt/zoom and 2-way communication.  It also has full desktop (Windows/Mac) and mobile apps (Android/Apple) that can manage all the settings.  Setup is a breeze and the peer-to-peer network allows operation on your home WiFi network and on cellular when you are away from home.  There are some additional features found in only a few of the more deluxe internet-ready cameras:

  1. 4MP sensor for up to 1440p resolution.
  2. Micro SD slot allows for local recording
  3. 2.4 and 5 Ghz WiFi network compatibility
  4. Dual MIMO antennas for improved reception
  5. Motion detection w/mobile app + email alerts
  6. Night vision infrared LED illuminators

I had no issues getting the C1 Pro going.  Once the app is installed, you follow the app step-by-step instructions, point your cellphone camera to the code on the bottom of the camera and it was working within just a few minutes.  The picture quality was very good on automatic settings, with resolution up to 2560×1440 at 25 frames per second.

 

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive for $85 or less on sale
  • Easy to setup and use on mobile and desktop
  • No pricey subscription required to record
  • High resolution 720p/1080p/1440p up to 25-30 fps
  • Relatively quiet pan/tilt movement
  • Works as a baby and pet monitor
  • Also handy as security/babysitter cam

Cons

  • No backup cloud storage if you need that capability for extra $$$
  • No battery or ethernet power, so you need a nearby power outlet
  • Expected lag and occasional connection issues when using cellular

Comparisons

Safest Family Minivans and SUVs for 2018 with 3rd Row Seats

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Safest Family Vehicles for 7 or 8 Passengers in 2018

Are safety and seating at least a few kids your most important considerations when selecting a new vehicle?  You aren’t alone!  SafeDad helps shorten the list of dozens of very safe 7+ passenger vehicles to just a handful of the safest for 2018.  Also, see last year’s awards for Safest 5-Passenger SUVs, Safest Family Sedans and Safest Used Cars with updates coming soon for 2018.

For 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety not only requires a “Good” result in the driver-side small overlap crash test to qualify for a “Top Safety Pick+” rating, but now also requires a “Good” headlight rating as well an “Acceptable” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test.  Many vehicles have not had this new test, so they may only earn a “Top Safety Pick” award in 2018.  The IIHS also demands a front crash prevention system.  These systems are not all created equal; some are only basic warnings that no longer qualify for an award, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and some are more likely to avoid a crash than lesser systems.  To earn IIHS awards, an auto-brake system with an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating is still required.  Note that even models that qualify with these systems may not actually have them available on anything but the highest trim levels with pricey options packages, so we help you sort through trim levels to find the right ones!

The NHTSA ratings remain the same, but they no longer allow consumers to see details of individual crash test results for each vehicle.  Instead, you may now only see the overall rating and a composite frontal (driver and passenger tests) and side rating (driver, passenger and rear pole impact tests).

Subaru and Honda have set a nice trend for inexpensive advanced safety feature packages available on low and mid trim levels.  This year, we again recognize Toyota for making all these features standard on all trim levels of many of their vehicles. That means even the least expensive Highlander and Sienna models now have advanced crash avoidance features in 2018, making these important improvements to safety easy to find on dealer’s lots!

Many publications use only either the NHTSA crash tests OR the IIHS ratings as the basis for their recommendations, leaving an incomplete assessment of overall safety.  Some are subjective and apply different standards based on personal preferences or corporate sponsors.  So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards?  It’s very simple and completely objective:

What 3-row vehicles make the cut to qualify for our awards?  Due to new IIHS Top Safety Pick requirements, only 8 make the cut this year so far, down from 11 last year in this segment.  Models that lack complete NHTSA testing but may be added to this list later include the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9.  Others may be added or removed as test results from the IIHS and NHTSA are updated, as many have not yet been tested in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test.   As a testament to how safe all these vehicles are for families, we recommend nearly all of the the 2018 qualifiers as well as those Honorable Mentions that fell a little short only in terms of the IIHS headlight ratings. The exception is the Mitsubishi Outlander, due to its relatively small size and various restrictions that make installations of multiple carseats more difficult than the others on the list.  If your vehicle is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe!  That said, here are the finalists:

  1. 2014-2018 Acura MDX
  2. 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica
  3. 2018 Honda Odyssey
  4. 2016-2018 Honda Pilot
  5. 2018 Kia Sorento
  6. 2018 Lexus RX
  7. 2017-2018 Mitsubishi Outlander
  8. 2017-2018 Toyota Highlander

For our top pick, we give preference to models that have already received a “Good” result in the newer passenger side small overlap crash test, as long as they received at least an “Acceptable” headlight rating and still qualify for the standard IIHS Top Safety Pick award.

And the Safest 2018 3-row Family Vehicle is:

2018 Honda Odyssey: At the time of this publication, the 2018 Odyssey is the only one of our qualifiers to receive a “Good” IIHS Small Overlap frontal crash test result for both driver and passenger sides.  In addition, it has stellar results in all the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.  Its long overdue “Superior” front crash prevention system avoided crashes in both IIHS tests and is STANDARD on the EX trim level and up.  The Odyssey’s only blemish is headlight coverage that kept it from an IIHS TSP “Plus” award, as it earned an “Acceptable” rating on Touring and Elite trims only.

While the EX and EX-L trims have only a “Marginal” headlight rating, they are still an impressive value for excellent safety with standard front crash prevention and top crash test results for around $34,000.  Also, in our opinion, the Magic Slide feature is very handy, and Odyssey is still the best family hauler on the market in terms of fitting multiple child safety seats.  In that regard, it’s also one of the few 3-row vehicles to earn the IIHS “G+” rating for ease of use with its LATCH car seat anchors.

2017 Toyota Highlander Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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2017-2018 Toyota Highlander Review Update: Standard Safety for your Family!

This is an update to our full review of the current generation Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid.  Starting with the 2017 Toyota Highlander, Safety Sense P is standard on all trim levels, thank you Toyota!  That makes it easy to find a model on a dealer’s lot that earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award and also makes active safety features much more affordable in LE and LE Plus trim levels.  The 2017 model also has a slightly refreshed appearance up front and in back.  In addition, a revised engine provides more power in V6 models plus improved fuel economy thanks to a stop-start system and a new 8-speed transmission.  As if in response to some of our critiques of the 2014 model, they have also added lower hybrid version trim levels with 8-passenger seating, increased the number of USB ports and removed some confusing guidance about car seats.  All welcome improvements!  The 2018 model is essentially unchanged from 2017.

Gallery:

The second row still offers a 3-row bench standard with 8-passenger seating, shown below with a Nuna PIPA Lite and a Britax Frontier.  Higher trims like the Limited in this review offer a 7-passenger version with a cupholder tray in the center that folds to make a center aisle.  The second row captain’s chairs are pretty standard and work well with most carseats.  Both include lower anchors as part of the LATCH system, and one extra top tether anchor is included in the middle of the 8-passenger model’s 2nd row bench seat.  This center seat of the 2nd row bench is smallish, but should fit some narrower carseats and offer limited 3-across carseat installation potential.  The 3rd row seat is mainly for kids, but could fit smaller adults on a short trip.  Three-across carseats would be difficult in the third row, even if all are narrow.  Unfortunately, there are no lower anchors and only a single top-tether anchor for the center of the third row.

 

Cargo space is easily configured with a fold-flat 60/40 third row seat.  Folded, it offers plenty of space for a futon and a full load of college move-in gear.  All head restraints adjust reasonably high for most adults and can be removed if necessary for carseat installation.

  

Likes:

  1. IIHS Top Safety Pick+ & NHTSA 5-star rating
  2. Toyota Safety Sense STANDARD on ALL trims!
  3. Plenty of cargo space behind 2nd row
  4. Fuel economy good for its class
  5. Improved interior and styling
  6. Smooth, quiet ride and comfortable seating
  7. Improved fuel economy on non-hybrid models
  8. Good visibility, standard backup camera and hands-free bluetooth
  9. Removed confusing restrictions on car seats in the center seats
  10. Solid acceleration and braking for a midsize SUV
  11. Retains an authentic, old-fashioned gear shifter

Dislikes:

  1. 2014Highlander8passcrossoverMinimum complement of 2 LATCH positions
  2. 2nd row bench passenger side buckle stalk placement
  3. Third row still not comfortable enough for adults
  4. Blind spot and cross-traffic alert only on XLE trim and up
  5. Safety Connect only available on Limited model
  6. Handling isn’t notable, even for a larger SUV

Conclusion:

With standard Toyota Safety Sense and other updates, we highly recommend the 2017 and 2018 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid.  Some other SUVs only qualify for top safety awards on the most expensive trim level, often only if you can even find the optional and pricey safety tech package on the lot.   It was a runner-up for our 2017 Safest Minivans and 3-row SUVs award, the strictest objective family vehicle safety award in the industry! With standard features, the entry level Highlander LE version with the 4-cylinder engine is a bargain for safety with a street price under $30,000.  We recommend at least the LE Plus model with the updated V6 and 8-speed transmission.  Surprisingly, it achieves a little better fuel economy than the 4-cylinder model, mainly because of the stop-start system.  The Hybrid LE is also an excellent choice with 8-passenger seating and excellent fuel economy.  The Limited AWD version in this review has an MSRP of around $43,000.  All trim levels have front crash prevention with auto-brake standard, so really any Highlander model is a great choice!

Thank you to Toyota and DriveShop for the Highlander loan used in this review.  All opinions are my own and as always, no other compensation was provided.