What is a LATCH system?

The LATCH system is a child restraint system in cars used to attach car seats to the frame of the vehicle. It is the safest way to attach a car seat to the vehicle (due to there being less chance for it to be used incorrectly).

car seat bars restraint truck

LATCH System in a RAM Truck shows the metal bars are protruding from between the seat making it easier to fit a child car seat

The Law

Federal regulations (FMVSS 213 and 225) made it the law for most (not all) cars to have the Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren system (LATCH) after September 1st 2002. This effectively means 2003 model years or newer. Carseat.org states the vehicle requirements as,”Lower anchors for child restraints, each consisting of two rigid bars 6 mm in diameter and 25-50 mm long, are present in the vehicle seat bight (the crack between the seat back and seat cushion) in specified seating positions in all cars, minivans, and pick-up trucks”.


Vehicles exempt from having a LATCH system

Vehicles weighing more than 8500lbs (or buses over 10,000lbs) are exempt. It would seem that some Ford SuperDuty pickup trucks (F-250, F-350, F-450) do not have the LATCH system assuming they are over the weight (GVWR).


Some LATCH systems are easier to use than others.

So whilst the guidelines are clear on the dimensions that the bars have to be, they are mostly all the same size. What IS different though, is how far down in (the seat back and seat bottom) the bars are sunk. The part is called the seat bight. In some vehicles, the bars are clearly visible and stick out. Others, you may find yourself putting your hand in between the seat into what seems like a dark hole in the center of the earth aka oblivion. Searching blindly for a tiny little metal bar, you eventually find it but now… you have to do it all over again, this time with strap and metal clip from the car seat. Again blindly trying to figure out which way it clips-in (to the metal bar housed in oblivion).

lower anchors and tethors

Wikimedia LATCH photo: Tetris L

Space is also limited because don’t forget, that strap is still attached to the car seat which also limits your visibility and movement to about the equivalent of being stuck in a packed closet. In the dark. Not to mention a young child is probably screaming for a sucker (for the 10 millionth time) so no pressure to get this seat in or swapped out before you’re late.

Thankfully, there ARE some vehicles where the LATCH system is visible and easy to use (even for bulky convertible car seats).

Vehicles with good LATCH systems

Cars.com do some comprehensive testing with certified child passenger safety technicians. These technicians test over 65 vehicles. For 2016 and 17 model years vehicles, only 10 made the car seat check honor roll. Children in are recommended to be in car seats until they are around 9 years of age (varies by State). That is a loooooong time to be dealing with car seats, so making sure they fit right in the right car is an important decision.

Vehicles that made the top 10 on Cars.com’s honor roll list:


There are lots of other vehicles with easy to use LATCH systems. Find out what they are or want to find out how well your vehicle does? Check here.

To find out which car seats are the easiest to use, check out this article.