Consumer Reports: sample report
  Ratings

Shop Smart.
Watch for recalls. You'll find recalls listed at SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.'s site, www.carseat.org, or at the NHTSA site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/childps/recall/canister.htm. At press time, 3.4 million Evenflo Joyride infant seats (sold between 1988 and 1998) were being recalled because the handle locks could fail when the seat is used as a carrier.

Start fresh. Don't buy a used car seat at a yard sale or accept a hand-me-down. Older models probably don't meet current safety standards and may have been recalled. And never use a seat that has been in an accident.

The tests behind the Ratings

Overall score is based mainly on a seat's performance in crash tests plus our judgment of the ease of use and fit to car. If a product is high in overall quality and relatively low in price, we deem it A CR Best Buy. To judge crash protection, we had an outside laboratory perform crash tests similar to those used by NHTSA. Dummies of various sizes and weights were strapped into seats mounted on sleds and run through a course simulating a head-on collision at 30 mph. Electronic sensors measured forces to the head and chest, and video cameras showed how far forward the head moved (head excursion). Convertible seats were tested in the rear-facing infant installation and forward-facing toddler installation, with and without tether. For toddler/booster seats, scores are given for use with harness (with and without tether), and as a booster seat using vehicle safety belts. Ease of use reflects the installation of seat and tether, and harness and tether adjustments. Fit to car scores are based on the stability of a seat in vehicles with different seat configurations and safety-belt designs. Price is approximate retail.

Unless otherwise noted: Infant seats have a five-point harness and hold babies up to 22 pounds. Convertible seats have a five-point harness and hold infants up to 30 pounds rear-facing, toddlers roughly 20 to 40 pounds front-facing. Toddler/booster seats have a five-point harness for toddlers weighing roughly 20 to 40 pounds; as booster seats, they hold children roughly 30 to 80 pounds. Booster seats have no harness and typically hold children between 30 and 80 pounds.



Overall Ratings.
Infant seats
In performance order
Brand & model Price Overall score Crash protection Ease of use Fit to car Recommendations & notes
With base No base
   
Graco SnugRide DX5 8458
This model has a recall associated with it.
$80 A safe and easy-to-use seat. Convenient harness and leveling adjustments. Available in travel system Sterling 7429, $200.
Cosco Designer 35 70 The best infant seat for keeping bigger babies--up to 35 lb.--facing rear. 3-position leveling adjustment. Harness does not require rethreading belts to adjust height, a convenience. But 3-point harness is not best design. Available in travel system with 5-point harness, Pathfinder, $175.
Century Avanta SE V 41580 80 A very good choice. 2-position leveling adjustment. Available in travel system Lifestyle Avanta, $180.
Fisher-Price Stay In View 79052 80 Adequate protection but not the easiest to use. Convenient harness adjustment. Base with mirror lets driver see child's face in rearview mirror. But 3-point harness is not best design. Difficult handle adjustment. Requires assembly.
Century SmartFit Plus 22 41310 65 Decent and economical. But 3-point harness not best design. 4-position leveling adjustment.
Evenflo On My Way Position Right V 282 70 A good seat, but unstable without base. Convenient harness and leveling adjustment. Available in travel system Comfort Dimensions 4621236, $270.
Evenflo Discovery AdjustRight V 214 60 A good seat with 2-position level adjustment. Convenient harness adjustment.
Britax Handle With Care 191 155 Too expensive for what you get. Lacks base, but carrier has stabilizer stand. Locking device did not hold vehicle safety belt securely. Convenient harness adjustment. Has front tether.
Cosco Arriva 02-727 50 Inexpensive, but too many compromises. Lacks base. Difficult carrier handle adjustment.



Overall Ratings.
Convertible seats
In performance order
Brand & model Price Overall score Crash protection Ease of use Fit to car Recommendations & notes
Infant Toddler with tether Toddler no tether
   
Fisher Price Safe Embrace II 79704 (with LATCH) $160 Excellent but expensive. Padded for extra protection in side-impact accidents. Requires assembly. Color-coded for belt-routing. Has locking device for vehicle belts.
Fisher-Price Safe Embrace 79705 100 Outstanding crash protection. Padded for extra protection in side-impact accidents. Requires assembly. Color-coded for belt-routing. Has locking device for vehicle belts.
Cosco Triad 02-935 (with LATCH) 95 One of the best convertible seats for keeping bigger babies--up to 35 lb.--facing rear. Cumbersome tether installation and adjustment.
Britax Roundabout 200 Priciest seat tested. Padded for extra protection in side-impact accidents. Has locking device for vehicle belts.
Century 1000 STE Classic 44161 70 A very good seat for infants and toddlers at a competitive price. Holds babies up to 22 lb.
Century 2000 STE 44261 72 Very good protection for infants and toddlers. Holds babies up to 22 lb. rear-facing.
Cosco Touriva 02-519 50 One of the best convertible seats for keeping bigger babies--up to 35 lb.--facing rear. Low priced. Cumbersome tether installation and adjustment.
Century Bravo SE 44620 145 A very good seat. Convenient front-facing installation. 3-position recliner. DISCONTINUED, but may still be available.
Evenflo Horizon V 4251101 85 Very good protection for infants and toddlers. Convenient front-facing installation.
Evenflo Odyssey 5 point Comfort Touch 100 A fine choice. Convenient front-facing installation. 3-position recliner.
Century Accel DX 45200 70 A very good seat. Convenient front-facing installation.
Safeline Sit n' Stroll 170 Expensive but versatile. Converts to stroller. Excellent fit to car in infant mode.
Not recommended as booster when child's size requires use of shoulder-belt guide.
Cosco Alpha Omega 02-531 140 Cumbersome tether installation and adjustment. Also serves as booster but not recommended for that use. Had same performance problem as Cosco Adventurer toddler/booster seat.



Overall Ratings.
Toddler/booster seats
In performance order
Brand & model Price Overall score Crash protection Ease of use Fit to car Recommendations & notes
Toddler with tether Toddler no tether Booster
   
Fisher-Price Grow With Me 79711 $100 The only seat we recommend without reservation. Convenient belt positioners for use as booster. But assembly required.
Use these models with care when child's size requires use of shoulder-belt guide in booster mode.
Century NextStep SE 44905 110 Locking guide can easily allow a parent to lock safety belt with slack. Child can also introduce slack if shoulder belt is threaded through only one side of guide and jams when pushed. Be sure to follow manufacturer directions for proper use of guide.
Century Breverra Classic 44865 50 Same comments as NextStep SE.
Century Breverra Metro 44850 66 Same comments as NextStep SE.
These models are not recommended as boosters when child's size requires use of shoulder-belt guide. (In alphabetical order)
Cosco Adventurer II 02-448 50 Not scored Seatbelt guide can cause belt to derail or jam, allowing slack, if a child pushes and releases the belt. A safety belt with an automatic locking retractor may minimize problem if used correctly. With this seat and Cosco High Back Booster, a child can slide under lap belt in a crash.
Cosco High Back Booster 02-442 55 Not scored Same comments as Adventurer.
Evenflo Express Comfort Touch 2481183 70 Not scored Same comments as Adventurer.
Graco Cherished CarGo 8480 60 Not scored Same comments as NextStep SE. In addition, cover is easily pulled off seat shell, which can cause slack. A safety belt with an automatic locking retractor may minimize problem if used correctly.



Overall Ratings.
Booster seats
In performance order
Brand & model Price Overall score Crash protection Ease of use Fit to car Recommendations & notes
   
Evenflo Right Fit A CR Best Buy $30 An excellent booster at an excellent price. Backless; recommended only if car's seat provides adequate support. Older models previously certified to 60 lb., now certified for 40 to 80 lb.
Fisher-Price Safe Embrace 79752 60 Excellent across the board. Convenient shoulder-belt positioners.
Britax Star Riser Comfy 115 Another excellent choice. Expensive, but removable back and width-adjustable seat add to versatility. Convenient shoulder-belt positioners.
Main report
Ratings
What to look for
Types
Booster seats
Installation


Copyright © 2001 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.