A few years ago we brought you a “review” of an illegal foreign car seat to explain why people shouldn’t buy them. Seats like these would pop up now and then but were mostly off our radar for a long time…until recently. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen dozens of references to them, so we felt it was time for another post, this time debunking many of the claims and explaining the various ways these seats do not meet federal safety regulations.
What is it?
One problem in determining exactly what’s wrong with these seats is that there are so many different versions of them, each with slightly different descriptions. It’s also impossible to actually contact a manufacturer to ask questions because no manufacturer information is listed anywhere (which is, in itself, a violation of U.S. standards…but we’ll get to that in a minute).
First, we need to determine what category of child restraint these things are. They’re marketed as a harnessed car seat: Attach the restraint to your seat, buckle in your kid, and go! The thing is, harnessed child restraints are required to be installed with either a seatbelt or with LATCH. This “restraint” doesn’t include lower anchor straps or a tether strap, and it’s “installed” with some straps and rings, not with a seatbelt at all. So if it is, indeed, meant to act as a 5-point child restraint, it’s automatically out of compliance because it doesn’t install with LATCH or a seatbelt.
Sometimes the listings and/or paltry instructions that come with the seats also say that you also should/must buckle the seatbelt around the child. In that case, the seat is actually functioning like a booster seat or a wearable harness, both of which have their own requirements that these products do not meet.
Since inconsistencies keep us from actually determining what the heck these things even are, let’s explore some other issues.
Either Way, There are Problems
From a regulatory standpoint, it matters whether this thing is meant to be used with a seatbelt or not. From a practical standpoint, there are problems either way.
This crash test, which we shared in our other review, shows what happens when the seat is used without a seatbelt:
I don’t have a crash test of the seat used with the seatbelt, but I do have a video showing the likely issues this seat has in restraining a child, with or without one:
Placement in the car
What the ads won’t tell you—but the “instructions” might—