Child safety seat ratings
All child safety seats rated by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) have to meet strict federal guidelines ( Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child Restraint Systems) when it comes to crash testing and safety. There is, however, another test that the NHTSA conduct to help guide parents on child safety seats. It’s called the Child Safety Ease Of Use Rating.
Not all seats and vehicles are a good match
As a parent, I can tell you first hand that moving car seats is not my favorite past time. If I remember one time having to use a rental vehicle and it took me probably a good 30 minutes to get the car seat in. I was almost to the point of tears in frustration that I couldn’t get the latches to click in or the car seat to sit in the right position in the mini van seat. This is where the NHTSA ‘s rating might have come in handy. Although I will point out that not all seats in vehicles are created equally and whilst one child safety seat might fit well in one car, doesn’t mean it’ll fit well in another.
How is the ease of use rating calculated?
Factors taken into consideration when rating the child safety seats are;
- Instructions – content and clarity of the instruction manual with the seat
- Vehicle installation features – how easy is the car seat to install into a vehicle
- Labels – content and clarity of the labels on the car seat
- Securing the child in the seat – How easy is it to buckle up/secure the child in the seat
The NHTSA then uses a star-based rating system depending on how good the seat scores in each of the above categories.
- 5 Stars = Excellent features on this child restraint for this category.
- 4 Stars = Above-average features on this child restraint for this category.
- 3 Stars = Average features on this child restraint for this category.
- 2 Stars = Below-average features on this child restraint for this category.
- 1 Star = Poor features on this child restraint for this category.
- N/A = Does not contain any features that require a rating ¹
So, given this information, I have compiled a list for you, of the top-rated child safety seats that scored 5 stars for ease of use on the NHTSA chart. This does not mean that these seats are any safer, it merely states that they are easier to use.
The first column is the brand and name of the seat. The second column is the model number and manufacture date. The third column is harness type and the fourth is the weight/height of the child that the safety seat is designed for. RF means rear facing, FF is front facing, B is for booster.
Infant seats that scored 5 stars overall for ease of use
Surpised by this list as much as I was? Yeh, if you are a parent and are familiar with car seat brands, you’ll likely have noticed there are some big names not in that list. Want to see how they did, check out the full list here.
Convertible seats that scored 5 stars for overall ease of use
There are over 100 child safety seats in this section of the list and only the above 7 seats had over 5 star ease of use rating. Worryingly, quite a few seats that were evaluated on the list had only 1 star for installation features.
Combination seats that scored 5 stars for overall ease of use
3 in 1 child safety seats that scored an overall 5 stars for ease of use
Booster seats that score an overall 5 stars for ease of use
Find out if your car seat has been tested for ease of use, here.
Before purchasing a new vehicle, I highly recommend that you try your child safety seats in there first. It is not always the case that a ‘family friendly’ vehicle is easy to put car seats in.
¹“Car Seat Ease-of-Use Ratings.” Www.safercar.gov, NHTSA, www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/Car-Seat-Ratings-Ease-Of-Use.htm?view=full
Lauren has been working in the automotive industry both in the U.K and in the U.S. for over 10 years. A car geek, photographer, big game chaser and bagpipe player, powered by coffee. Send your questions to: