child safety

Child Car Safety Seat Ratings / Choosing a Child Car Seat

Child car safety seat ratings give you useful information when choosing a child car seat. Before considering these ratings, however, you must first select the type of car seat you should be evaluating. This will be based on your child's age and size. Younger children should always be placed in the safety of a back seat, thus:

Child Car Safety Seat Ratings

Birth - 12 Months

Any children under a year old should be secured in a car safety seat that faces the rear. You have a choice of such seats for that age range only, or convertible or 3-in-1 models that offer greater weight and height options that enable you to use the rear-facing seat for a longer period.

1 - 2 Years +

Rear facing is safest, and you should use such a child car seat for as long as you can. Make sure you do not exceed the limits quoted by the manufacturer. A 2 or 3-year old can outgrow rear-facing seats, when you will have to use a forward-facing seat.

4 - 7 Years

Continue with a standard forward-facing child safety car seat along with a harness until this is outgrown. Then upgrade to a booster seat that enables the seat belt to be positioned correctly (see below).

8 Years +

Once your child outgrows the booster seat, he or she can use a regular seat belt, with the shoulder belt lying across the shoulder, away from the neck and face, and the lower belt over the upper thighs - definitely not the stomach.

2011 APP Safety Recommendations

New safety recommendations, introduced in 2011, bring the recommended age for rear-facing seats to 2 years rather than one year, with a recommendation that they remain in that type of seat for as long as possible. This is for your child's safety.

Also, booster seats are recommended for kids at least up to 10 years old or 4ft 9in high and not 8 years. Naturally, if the child exceeds the height and/or weight recommended for a particular seat, they should go on to the next stage. Also, children under the age of 13 should sit in the back seat, not in the front.

These are recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) backed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and do not over-rule your state law. However, keep in mind that your child will be safer if you observe them. Here are some of the top seats based on high child car seat safety ratings you can use when choosing a child car seat.

Keep in mind that all of these meet or exceed current safety standards. The summary below is based on NHTSA and Amazon ratings and reviews.

Infant Car Seats:

Evenflow Secure Ride 35: This is a very easy-to-use infant car seat, intended for children of 5lb - 35lb in weight and 19 - 32 inches in height. It operates using a very secure 5-point harness. This gets a top 5-star rating for ease of use, installation and infant comfort.

The First Years Via: This is also very easy to use, and gets a similar 5-star rating. Again with a 5-point harness, and recommended for children of 4lb - 22lb and up to 30" in height. The 3.5-star rating on Amazon appears to be low mainly because of the small canopy and heavy weight. Would you want a lightweight child car seat for your infant?

Convertible Child Car Seats

Britax Marathon 70: This is designed to be installed rear-facing for children from 5 - 40 lbs. in weight. It can then be reversed to front-facing for children from 1-2 years old and from 20 - 70 lbs. 5-Stars all round for ease of use and comfort, and 4-stars on Amazon, though the lower ratings were confusing the newer and older versions. This is an excellent high-quality 5-point child safety car seat.

The First Years True Fit Recline: Another excellent convertible with 5-point attachment. Suitable in rear-facing mode for kids of 5 - 35 pounds, and whose heads come to at least 1 inch below the top of the head restraint. In forward-facing mode, the seat can accommodate children of 23 - 65 pounds and up to 50 inches in height. Again full marks for ease of use and comfort, and 4.5 stars on Amazon. One person found the head restraint limiting, and another found it difficult to access the strap adjustment.

Booster Seats

Compass B505: This booster seat is suitable for children of 30lb - 100lb and 38 - 57 inches. It is very easy to use and very comfortable and secure for the child, giving it 5-stars. Amazon gives it 4-stars, and while many reviewers gave it 5 almost as many were unhappy with the looks and some with the support. However, it meets the required levels of safety.

Evenflo Big Kid Amp: This is a very inexpensive no-back booster seat that is light enough for your child to install and belt up himself. 5-stars all round for ease of installation, use and comfort, and 4.5-stars on Amazon where 102/126 reviewers gave it 5-stars. This is an excellent and safe alternative to the more expensive child car booster seats.

You can also choose from combination and 3-in-1 seats that can be used as child safety seats or boosters, but the problem some find with these models is that they prefer a change by the time it comes to use the final conversion. Kids tend to prefer new things to using the same seat their entire childhood lives.

However, they are available if you want them, and while the initial cost might be higher, you will save eventually. One thing to keep in mind, as stated earlier, is that all child car seats on legal sale will meet all the safety standards. Your choice will then come down to looks, convenience and comfort. The above child car safety seat ratings should help you make your choice, since choosing a car seat can be very difficult with such a large choice available.

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