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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!

Rear-Facing Carseats With European Beltpath Routing

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European Beltpath Routing

Phil7teds Alpha - Euro baseless installIf you’re not already familiar with the term – let me explain. It references a particular way to install a rear-facing convertible or infant carseat without using the base. European belt routing is only for installations using the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt. It does not apply to installations using the lower LATCH anchors or to installation of the infant seat base. Only some seats sold here in the U.S. allow European belt routing but it has become a popular feature so we decided to make a list of which seats currently available allow it.

Benefits of European Belt Routing:

When the shoulder belt is routed behind the shell of a rear-facing child restraint it helps to maintain a semi-upright position during a frontal crash. Limiting the downward rotation that a rear-facing seat makes during a frontal crash has several potential benefits. Maintaining a more upright angle during a crash means the impact loads are distributed more to the back of the child, which is ideal. The more a rear-facing seat rotates downward in a crash the more the impact loads are applied to the child’s shoulders and neck – as it stretches, pulling away from the body. The other potential benefit of maintaining a more upright orientation during a crash is that it may reduce the likelihood of the carseat striking the back of the front seat or console directly in front of it. If you are familiar with load legs on rear-facing only infant seat bases, then you’re already familiar with these safety concepts. Euro belt routing gives you the flexibility of having the safety benefits of a load leg without having to carry a base with you as you travel.

Installation Issues & Incompatibilities:

The biggest potential issue with Euro belt routing is that some seatbelts aren’t long enough to accommodate this routing. If that winds up being the case in your vehicle – you can install the seat without the base using the traditional seatbelt installation method instead. None of the carseats that allow Euro belt routing actually require it. They may recommend it, but they don’t mandate it. That’s because the carseat manufacturers understand that it’s not possible in all vehicles due to seatbelt length which varies from vehicle to vehicle.

 

Rear-Facing Carseats that Allow Euro Beltpath Routing:

Infant (Rear-Facing Only) Seats

Model Rear-Facing Wt Limits Rear-Facing Ht Limits
Baby Jogger cityGO 4-35 lbs. up to 32"
Britax Endeavours 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Britax B-Safe Ultra 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Chicco Fit2 4-35 lbs. up to 35"
Clek Liing 4-35 lbs. up to 32"
Cybex Aton 4-32 lbs. up to 30"
Cybex Aton 2 4-35 lbs. up to 30"
Cybex Aton M 4-35 lbs. up to 30"
Cybex Aton Cloud Q 4-35 lbs. up to 30"
Cybex Aton Q 4-35 lbs. up to 30"
Doona Car Seat 4-35 lbs. up to 32"
Graco Classic Connect SnugRide 35* 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Graco Click Connect SnugRide ALL MODELS Check Label Check Label
Graco SnugRide SnugLock ALL MODELS Check Label Check Label
Mountain Buggy Protect 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Nuna Pipa 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 4-35 lbs 32" or less
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Nido 4-35 lbs. up to 32"
Phil&teds Alpha 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
Urbini Petal 4-35 lbs. 32" or less
www.CarseatBlog.com  © 2019 All Rights Reserved

*Graco now officially allows European belt routing ONLY with the Classic Connect Graco SnugRide 35. This update is retroactive and applies to all Classic Connect SnugRide 32/35 models. The last of the Classic Connect SnugRide 35 models will be expiring in the next year, so check your date of manufacture if you have one. All Classic Connect SnugRide 32 models are expired.

 

Convertible Seats

Model Rear-Facing Wt Limits Rear-Facing Ht Limits
Combi Coccoro 3-33 lbs up to 36"
www.CarseatBlog.com  © 2019 All Rights Reserved

coccoro euro beltpath routing

 

Updated July 2019

The Safest Combination Carseats? New Crash Protection Ratings from Consumer Reports

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Topping the Combo Seat Ratings from Consumer Reports are Graco Nautilus SnugLock, Evenflo Maestro Sport, Chicco MyFit LE and Cosco Highback Booster

Five years ago, Consumer Reports implemented a new, more rigorous crash test for carseats and started releasing their ratings to subscribers. CR’s goal in creating the new test wasn’t to recreate the wheel. We know every carseat on the market here in the U.S. must be able to pass a basic frontal crash test (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213), therefore we consider all carseats on the market to be “safe” because they can all pass this baseline test. However, we also know that all carseats are NOT created equal and it would be naive to assume that they all provide exactly the same levels of protection.

Consumer Reports set out to find which seats provide additional margins of safety, above and beyond FMVSS 213, and so they developed their crash test to be more rigorous than the federal standards. Their crash test ratings scale will indicate a “BASIC,” “BETTER,” or “BEST” rating to indicate how well the child restraint performed as compared with the rest of the seats in that “peer group” category. One main focus of this new crash test is head protection, since head injuries are very common in crashes, even among properly restrained children.

Source: Consumer Reports Video

The seats tested in this round are considered “combination” seats (a.k.a, harness booster, harness-2-booster or toddler/booster seats). Combination seats are forward-facing only seats that have a 5-point harness but can also be used as a booster once your child outgrows the harness. Combination seats are “Stage 3” seats, most appropriate for preschool and school-age children who have outgrown their rear-facing convertible seats.

 

We were already aware that there were issues with certain combination seats that they tested in this round. The Britax Frontier ClickTight Harness-2-Booster, Britax Pioneer Harness-2-Booster, Cosco Finale DX, and Harmony Defender 360 all experienced some sort of structural damage during this very challenging crash test. Please see our previous article on the subject for more detailed information on what went wrong during testing of these seats. Now that we have the full ratings, we know that the Graco Atlas was also downgraded to a BASIC Rating after experiencing some structural damage during this test.

All of Consumer Reports’ crash testing is performed at an independent, outside testing facility. The test utilizes a contemporary vehicle seat (2010 Ford Flex 2nd row seat) with a floor below it, unlike the government test which has a 70’s era back seat bench with no floor. There’s a “blocker plate” (pictured right) installed in front of the test seat to simulate the front seat in a vehicle. The blocker plate is intended to recreate the interaction that happens in real life crashes when the child (or a rear-facing carseat) interacts with the back of the front seat. In addition, the speed of this test is set at 35 mph (instead of 30 mph which is standard in FMVSS testing). Those who follow vehicle ratings will recognize the 35 mph speed as the same speed used to crash new vehicles in the NCAP program. CR’s new crash test applies 36% more energy to carseats than their old test protocol and a more severe test results in a greater distinction among carseat performance.

In this round, Consumer Reports crash tested 23 combination seat models with various dummy sizes, using LATCH or a 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelt as required depending on the weight of the dummy being used. Several combination models that received a “BEST” rating for crash protection are also some of our favorite budget-friendly seats, the Evenflo Maestro Sport and Evenflo Evolve/Transitions/SafeMax.

 

In addition to the Crash Protection Rating, Consumer Reports gives each model an overall numeric score. This score is based on the Crash Protection Rating plus other factors, such as ease-of-use and fit-to-vehicle in various modes.

The new Graco Nautilus SnugLock LX was the top overall performer in terms of their overall score. Here at CarseatBlog, we agree with this assessment. The new Nautilus SnugLock LX is an awesome combination seat with excellent features and it deserves its place at the top of the ratings even though it received a BETTER crash protection score (not a BEST rating as we would have preferred to see). Still, a BETTER rating for crash protection in this very demanding test is perfectly acceptable in our opinion.  The SnugLock LX has also been one of CarseatBlog’s Recommended Carseats and an Editors’ Pick.

On a separate note, we feel the need to caution our readers that the combination seat with the second-highest overall rating is a seat that we would never recommend under normal circumstances. Although we’re happy to see any seat perform well, the Cosco Highback Booster Car Seat is not a bargain for most families despite the low price tag. The Cosco Highback Booster seat is only rated up to 40 pounds with the 5-point harness and most toddlers outgrow it even before they reach that weight because the top harness slot height is so low. If you need to replace it after a year because your preschooler outgrew it, then it wasn’t really a bargain – know what I mean? If you’re on a limited budget and looking at combination seats for kids who are at least 2 years old, you’d be much better served by the similarly rated Evenflo Maestro Sport which is a lot taller and rated to 50 lbs. with the harness.

Subscribers to Consumer Reports can see the complete ratings for all car seats HERE.

Valentines for Nerds with a Passion for Safety

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Are you searching for the perfect Valentines but not finding anything that really captures your passion for vehicle safety? Do you believe the best way to say “I love you” is with an abundance of tire tread and some new brake pads? Then we have the perfect Valentines for you!

Browse through them, then print out your favorites to give to the people you love and want to keep safe.

From all of us at CarseatBlog, have a Happy & Safe Valentine’s Day!