The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has devised the Child Safety Seat Ease-of-Use Ratings to help parents choose the best car seat from those that pass strict crash performance standards and have met the Federal Safety Standards. The ratings--ranging from one to five stars for evaluation of instructions, evaluation of labels, vehicle installation features and securing the child--place nine seats on the Top 10 list with overall ratings of four stars or more. The final infant seat to make the list holds an overall rating of three stars, but it is the top pick of "Parents Magazine" for the best car seats for babies and toddlers.
The First Years Via
With the highest overall rating of available car seats, not just infant seats, the Via car seat received five stars for every category that is rated. Protection is provided for infants weighing 1.81 to 9.98 Kilogram, who are up to 30 inches in height, with side wings for side-impact protection, a reinforced structure, two latch attachment points, side-impact testing and a five-point harness. The seat does not skimp on comfort, either, as it is lined with EPS foam and then covered with three layers of padding.
Angel Guard Angel Ride
Receiving the second highest ratings, with an overall rating of five stars, is the Angel Ride infant car seat, designed specifically for transporting babies with low birth weights and special medical needs. The seat can be used only until infants reach 4.08 Kilogram or 20 inches in length, though an optional harness increases the limit on height for infants with a longer torso. The seat is fully padded and allows for the transport of infants on their back, side or stomach and at a 5-degree incline for proper breathing.
Combi Centre DX
While the newest model Combi infant seat, the Shuttle 33, has not made the ratings list yet, the 2007 model, the Centre DX, has high marks getting an overall rating of four stars. The seat is suitable for infants who are 2.27 to 9.98 Kilogram, until they are 29 inches long. The seat features include a five-point harness, optional rebound bar, adjustable headrest and stroller latch.
With an overall rating of four stars, the Mico infant car seat is suitable for small and large infants alike. The weight and height requirements are in line with many of the other models, requiring infants to be between 2.27 and 9.98 Kilogram and 19 to 29 inches in length, but the Mico includes an insert, the Cozi-Dozi, to provide a better fit for infants at the lower end of the requirements. The seat provides safety, with a five-point harness and side impact protection, and functionality, with an attached canopy and compatibility with Maxi-Cosi strollers. The seat makes its way onto the "Parents Magazine" top list for its stylish looks and lightweight design.
Chicco Keyfit 30
Following the trend of other seats by accommodating a broader range of weights and heights in infants, the Keyfit 30 received an overall rating of four stars from the NHTSA for ease of use. Even though the seat, which accommodates infants from 1.81 to 13.6 Kilogram and up to 30 inches in length, has high ratings, models were recalled in June 2008. To check whether or not your model of the Keyfit 30 is a recal,l visit the NHTSA, Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) website (See Resources) and locate your model by manufacturer.
Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 30-30
The Italian-made Primo Viaggio SIP 30-30 not only makes it as one of the Top 10 NHTSA rated infant seats with an overall rating of four stars, it received the Top Choice Award in 2007 from "Creative Child Magazine." This infant seat accommodates children 2.27 to 13.6 Kilogram up to 30 inches in height with breathable fabric and a five-point restraint system. Other notable features include side impact protection, adjustable installation base and removable newborn insert.
The Companion is a retired model from Britax, produced in 2007, yet it holds at seventh place for top ratings with the NHTSA for those who own one, with an overall rating of four stars. The seat, designed for infants 1.81 to 9.98 Kilogram who are 30 inches and under, has a patented anti-rebound bar and an extra head pad for protection. These features and the seat's energy-absorbing foam helped it make it to the No. 6 slot on "Parents Magazine's" top list of car seats.
The replacement to the Companion from Britax for infant car seats, the Chaperone falls one spot behind its predecessor in ratings, though it still has an overall rating of four stars, due to the evaluations of labels and evaluations of instructions each losing a star. The seat provides the same features and weight and height guidelines as the Companion, along with a height adjustment knob for proper seat angle and an oversized canopy. Released in April 2009, the Chaperone is an iParenting Media award winner for what was listed as superior energy management, ease of use, and fit and comfort features.
Baby Trend Flex-Loc
Though the manufacturer's website claims the Flex-Loc is the No. 1 rated infant car seat, it lands near the bottom of this list with an overall rating of four stars, receiving only one star in the evaluations-of-labels category. Therefore, while the seat holds infants 2.27 to 9.98 Kilogram who are up to 28.5 inches in height safely, the NHTSA suggests you may have difficulty clearly understanding information on the labels. The seat's appeal is in features such as a four-position height adjustment button, so there is no rethreading required for the seat to fit properly when infants grow in height, and a one-hand seat release.
Graco Snugride 32
Rounding out the list, in the No. 10 spot, is the Snugride 32,. Though it only received an overall rating of three stars, it takes the No. 1 spot on "Parents Magazine's" best car seat list. Accommodating infants 2.27 to 14.5 Kilogram up to 32 inches in height, the Snugride has the highest weight and height limit of infant seats on the market. Features of the popular seat include one-hand adjustment, a removable infant headrest and side-impact testing.
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