Your child safety is of utmost importance; hence, in every country, there are government regulations that must be met before manufacturers release their infant car seats into the market. Aside from the seats meeting the legal requirements, some bodies conduct rigorous safety tests with ratings to assist parents and caregivers when they shop for an infant seat and help manufacturers improve their products. In this review, we will explore how safety tests are conducted and include the results of several infant car seats.

Infant car seat safety ratings NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates children’s car seats in the US. In 2005, it ran a pilot testing program, comprised of a simulated crash situation as well as the New Car Assessment Program test to determine how well infant car seats protect children. Based on the pilot program results, NHTSA concluded that a rating program based on simulated crashes would not give practical, easily understandable, or meaningful information to consumers. Hence, NHTSA does not rate the safety of infant car seats.

Instead, NHTSA provides ease-of-use ratings that enable parents and caregivers to evaluate how easy certain car seat features are to use before buying a seat. Also, all the car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards and strict crash performance standards.

While all rated seats are safe, they vary in their ease of use in four basic categories:

Evaluation of Instructions

NHTSA examines the content and clarity of the instructions manual for the infant car seat

Vehicle Installation Features

NHTSA considers the ease of using features specific to installing the infant car seat

Evaluation of Labels

NHTSA examines the content and clarity of the labeling attached to the infant car seat

Securing the Child

NHTSA considers the ease of using features that concern securing a child correctly in the infant car seat.

Interpretation of NHTSA’s Ratings

NHTSA uses 5-star ratings to help consumers evaluate each of the above categories as follows:

5 Stars = Excellent 

4 Stars = Above-average

3 Stars = Average

2 Stars = Below-average 

1 Star = Poor 

How Safety Ratings Are Conducted 

As we said earlier, there are several independent bodies that conduct Safety ratings with credible results. We will consider just two: Consumer Reports in the US and Which? in the UK.

 Consumer Report

Consumer Reports is a non-profit membership organization that works with consumers to establish truth, transparency, and fairness in the market. Product research & testing is one of their integral functions, and that includes infant car seat testing. They rate car seat safety based on:

  • The Crash Test

This test simulates real-world vehicle conditions and at increased the speed of the simulated frontal impact test from 30 mph (as outlined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, and NHTSA standard regarding child car seat crash performance testing) to 35 mph. The car seat is installed on a test bench that uses the cushions and hardware from an actual vehicle seat. It also includes a surface that simulates the back of front-row seats inspired by the fact that research has shown that when children are injured in frontal crashes, it’s often because they hit their heads on something in the vehicle, like the back of the front seat. Also, unlike the federal safety standards which do not include testing car seat with load legs, CR updated its crash test to include a carpeted surface to represent vehicle floor and to allow the results to reflect the contribution of the load leg.

Crash testing evaluation ratings are based on:

  • Injury criteria measured on standardized child-sized dummies generally used in this type of simulated crash testing
  • Direct contact of the dummy’s head with the simulated front seatback
  • A seat’s ability to remain intact during testing
  • Ease of Use

CR certified child passenger safety technicians evaluate how easy the seats are to use. This reflects how easy consumers are able to understand the installation instructions and apply them when they install the seat on their cars. CR technicians evaluate:

  • Product labels and instructions (including the availability of Spanish-language instructions)
  • Installation and assembly
  • Ease of adjustments
  • Care and cleaning of the seat
  • Fit to Vehicle

This car seat rating includes how well a seat fits in a variety of vehicles. The seat is installed in the rear configuration in five different vehicle types. The chosen vehicles also include features that may make child seat installation a challenge based on our vehicle assessments. The technicians carefully follow the manufacturers’ instructions and make judgments based on how securely each seat could be installed.

CR combines the results of those three tests to determine the overall rating of each car seat, giving more consideration to the combined scores of the fit-to-vehicle and ease-of-use testing than to the crash-test performance. This is because they feel that a seat can’t provide optimal crash protection if it isn’t properly installed or is being used incorrectly.

Which?

Which? is a UK independent body with exclusive membership. They promote informed consumer choice by testing products, highlighting inferior products and services, raising awareness of consumer rights, and offering independent advice. Just like CR, they perform car seat safety ratings. They evaluate safety based on:

How the seat withstands different crashes

Which? goes beyond the British standard safety test and follows Euro NCAP tests. Euro NCAP is a non-profit organization in Europe that conducts a voluntary car safety rating program. It was originally started by the Transport Research Laboratory for the UK Department for Transport but is now backed by the European Commission, seven European governments, and motoring and consumer organization in every EU country.

Which? crash test includes:

A front crash, equivalent to a head-on collision at around 40mph

A side crash, equivalent to two cars crashing into each other at 30mph

The tests are repeated over and over, with the seat installed in all possible positions. Which? claim that they can test as many as 15 samples of the same seat to get the final score for just one.

The crash test dummies are wired with sensors that record the crash force on the vulnerable parts of the body to accurately indicate the risk of injury in case of a real-life crash.

Also taken into account is the stability of the car seat- whether it seems loose or rickety, and the ease of threading the adult car seat belt around the infant car seat if it is an option.

The safety test makes 60% of the overall score.

Ease of installation

Their ease of use test involves real children, dummies, and parents.

Each seat is installed in three different makes and models of cars. The evaluation experts also scrutinize instructions and warning labels to see if anything is confusing, annoying, or misleading. Additionally, they evaluate care instruction of the seat. This test makes up 30% of the overall score.

How comfortable the seat is for your child

This is an ergonomic assessment of the seat to ensure children are in the best position when traveling which is especially important for small babies.

They check the available space for a child to grow, the amount of padding on the seat, and a child’s view from their seat. This makes sure a child is not tempted to lean forward out of their seat. This test makes up 10% of the overall score.

Infant car seat safety ratings in the US and Canada 

Transport Canada is the governmental authority that verifies that every child seat meets the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. They purchase the seats from retail stores and conduct four main categories of tests:

Dynamic testing

This testing measures the safety of the infant car seat at a full-frontal collision at 48 km/hr into a wall. It is done on an accelerated sled that is equipped with a standard bench seat. A dummy is buckled in the seat, which is then secured to the bench seat. High-speed cameras and sensing devices are installed on the dummy and the sled to allow the Transport Canada evaluation experts to check the structural integrity of the infant car seat. Additionally, they measure how far forward the dummy’s head moves, how fast the dummy’s chest moves, and how much a rear-facing child rotates.

Buckle release testing

It measures the force needed to release the buckle of the infant car seat before and after the dynamic test. This ensures that a child can be safely removed following a collision.

Energy-absorbing material testing

It measures the thickness and the resistance to compression of the padding material. They evaluate the thickness of the child seat’s cushions and how well they protect a child by absorbing the shock during a collision.

Inversion testing

This test measures the safety of a child’s car seat during a simulated 360-degree roll in an aircraft. The infant car seat is installed on a representative aircraft passenger seat equipped with an aircraft lap belt and rotating the seat to the inverted position (upside down) and through a full 360-degree rotation. The aircraft passenger seat belt must keep the child seat in place, and the dummy must not fall out of the child’s car seat. In Canada, for an infant car seat to be certified for use in an aircraft it must pass this test.

The infant car seat either passes or fails these tests.

NB: The test results are not meant to rate individual child car seats or for comparison. This is common for both American (U.S. NHTSA) and Canadian transport authorities (Transport Canada).

European infant car seat safety ratings

Infant car seats in European countries are regulated by the United Nations Economic Commission (UNECE) safety standards. They must have either the UN R44/04 approval or UN R 129 (i-Size) approval. 

Aside from the UN approval, they are also tested by independent testing bodies such as ADAC and Stiftung Warentest. The infant car seats go through various testing categories:

Frontal Impact- The infant car seat is subjected to simulated front impact at 64 km/hr

Side Impact- the infant car seat is met with a simulated side impact at 50 km/hr

Further tests are done with regard to misuse potential, ergonomic design, handling, cleaning, workmanship, and the presence of harmful substances.

Aside from using dummies of various sizes in the crash tests, real children and parents also participate in the other test categories.

The overall result depends on safety, handling, ergonomics, and harmful substances and rated as very good, good, satisfactory, bare minimum, and poor.

Infant car seat safety ratings from 2015 to 2020:

NHTSA is still using the same criteria for conducting infant car seat ease of use assessment as stipulated by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 213, with a five-star rating.

Infant car seat safety ratings Consumer Reports 

Overall ScoreBrand/ModelCrash protectionEase of useFit to vehicleFit to vehicle belt
90Clek LivingBestExcellent ExcellentExcellent
89Chicco KeyFitBest ExcellentExcellentExcellent
87Chicco keyFit 30BestExcellentExcellentExcellent
85Maxi-Cosi Mico Max PlusBestVery GoodExcellentVery Good
82Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35DLXBetter ExcellentExcellentExcellent
81Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 EliteBetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
81Chicco Fit2BetterVery GoodExcellentExcellent
77Combi ShuttleBetterVery GoodExcellentExcellent
77UPPAbaby MesaBetterExcellentExcellentVery Good
76Evenflo Gold Secure MaxBestVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
75Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 BetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
75Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30BetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
72Graco SnugRide SnugLock Extend2Fit 35 BetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
71Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 NidoBestVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
70Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35BetterVery GoodExcellentVery Good
69Evenflo Lite Max DLXBestVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
69Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35BetterVery GoodExcellentVery Good
69Cybex Aton QBetterVery GoodExcellentGood
68Nuna PipaBestExcellentExcellentFair
68Nuna Pipa LiteBestVery GoodExcellentFair
67Cybex Aton 2BetterVery GoodExcellentGood
66Doona Infant Car seat StrollerBetterVery GoodVery GoodGood
65Britax EndeavoursBetterExcellentVery GoodVery Good
64Britax B-safe 35BetterExcellentVery GoodVery Good
64Evenflo Embrace SelectBestVery GoodGoodGood
63Cybex Platinum Cloud QBestGoodExcellentFair
63Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30BasicExcellentVery GoodVery Good
62Phil&Teds AlphaBetterFairExcellentVery Good
61Evenflo Safe MaxBetterVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
60Safety 1st OnBoard 35BetterVery GoodExcellentGood
60Evenflo Lite Max 35BetterVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
58Graco SnugRide 30 Click Connect BetterVery GoodGoodGood
56Cybex Aton MBetterExcellentFairGood
56Cosco LightNComfy DXBetterVery GoodGoodGood
55Baby Trend Ally 35BetterGoodVery GoodGood
42Evenflo Nurture Infant Car SeatBetterGoodGoodGood

Infant car seat safety ratings 2020

In the US car seat manufacturers are expected to ensure that their products meet the safety standards outlined by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. These standards are developed and enforced by the NHTSA, which is an agency of the federal government and part of the Department of Transportation.

In Europe, child car seat safety used to follow the UN R 44/04 safety standards, but these laws have been improved into the new UN R129 as of 2019. Consumers are urged to buy only the seats that meet the new R129 regulations for better safety, and all the seats under UN regulations must have a sticker showing approval.

Infant car seat highest safety rating which infant car seat has the highest rating (a rating from different rating agencies)/best safety rated infant car seat

Safety ratings of infant car seat brands:

Baby Jogger City Go infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc infant car seat safety rating – 4 star by NHTSA

Baby jogger city go 2 infant car seat safety ratings-

Maxi Cosi infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Chicco infant car seat safety ratings-4 star by NHTSA

Chicco Keyfit 30 infant car seat safety rating- 4 stars by NHTSA

Clek infant car seat safety rating- Best overall by Consumer Reports

Cosco infant car seat safety rating-3 star by NHTSA

Chicco Keyfit infant car seat encore safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 elite infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Graco Snugride Snuglock 30 infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Evenflo Safemax infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Evenflo Litemax infant car seat safety rating: 4-star by NHTSA

Doona infant car seat safety ratings: 5-star by NHTSA

Nuna Pipa infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

UPPAbaby mesa infant car seat safety rating-5 star by NHTSA

Orbit infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Peg Perego infant car seat safety rating-3 star by NHTSA

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