Infant Car Seats Safety Ratings: The More Expensive, the Less Safe

Consumer Reports yesterday issued safety alert on infant car seats and released its latest rating on them (part of the rating can be found at their website for free). When I looked at the rating, my first reaction is that contrary to what we usually believe that we get higher quality (in this case, safety) by paying more, the safest infant car seats cost much less than the expensive ones.

Only 2 of the 12 infant seats performed well in high speed crash tests (above 35 mph frontal crash and 38-mph side crash): the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and the Graco SnugRide with EPS, though all passed in standard 30 mph crash tests:

  • Seven car seats failed in 35-mph front-impact test
  • Eight models failed in 38 mph side-impact tests
  • The Evenflo Discovery, the Graco SafeSeat, and the Britax Companion failed in all tough tests

In addition, the tests also discovered problems with the LATCH system, which is mandated by federal law to attach child car seats. Problems include that the system is not very easy to use, does not fit with cars, and most cars don’t have LATCH anchors in the center rear, the safest seat in the car. What’s more troublesome is that most car seats performed worse with LATCH than with vehicle safety belts!

For now, the Consumer Reports have the following recommendations for parents who want to keep their babies safe during traveling:

  • If you’re shopping for an infant car seat, buy one of the two we recommend: Baby Trend Flex-Loc and Graco SnugRide with EPS.
  • If you already own a Chicco KeyFit, Compass I410, Evenflo Embrace, or Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP, use it with vehicle safety belts, which passed our tests, not with LATCH, which didn’t. If you can’t get a tight fit with the safety belt, buy one of the two seats we recommend.
  • If you own a different infant seat, consider replacing it with the Baby Trend Flex-Loc or the Graco SnugRide with EPS.
  • Secure your child in the center-rear seat if the car seat can be tightly fastened there. Go to www.nhtsa.gov to find a free car-seat inspection station near you.
  • Send in the registration card that comes with new car seats, so that the manufacturer can contact you if the seat is recalled.
  • Remember that any child car seat is better than no seat at all.

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3 Responses to “Infant Car Seats Safety Ratings: The More Expensive, the Less Safe”

  1. moneymonk |  Jan 05, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Good info.

    I have Graco SnugRide with EPS for my 7 month old, actually is was a gift.

    I am shock to find Eddie Bauer is not safe. I guess they concentrate on the style and look more than security.

  2. Online shopping junkie |  Oct 04, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for the info. This just goes to show that paying more money for something doesn’t necessarily guarantee your getting the best quality. As a mom, I’m more concerned with the actual safety of the product than how much it costs.