The people at Consumer Reports know your children are the most precious cargo that goes into your car. To keep your littlest passengers safe, they've devised a new series of rigorous tests for car seats for children of all ages.
For infant car seats, the Consumer Reports test team looks for car safety seats that keep the baby's head and neck as secure and motion-free as possible during simulated crash tests. They know that car seats are installed improperly more often than not so ease of installation is important to them, too. Other test criteria include how securely the seat attaches to the vehicle and how securely the child can be positioned in the seat.
All infant car seats must face the rear of the vehicle. Each model consists of two parts: a base that remains attached to the car and a removable seat that attaches to the base but can be removed easily to get the baby in and out of the vehicle.
These are Consumer Reports' top 5 infant car seats because they outperformed all others during performance tests. The prices are the manufacturer's recommended retail prices at the time of this writing.
- Chicco KeyFit ($170) and KeyFit 30 ($180)
These seats remained at the top of the list before and after the new tests were implemented. Their ease of installation assures parents a better fit than most car seats. The KeyFit 30 is for larger babies but come with the advisory that a big baby may outgrow its height requirement before reaching its 30-pound weight limit.
- Combi Shuttle ($180)
The Combi Shuttle provides good crash protection and ease of use. It has a higher body size limit — 35 pounds, 33-inch height — than many others so upgrading to the next size may not be needed so soon.
- Cybex Aton 2 ($300)
This European-made infant car seat, new to the American market, performed better than all others in crash tests. That could be due to its Load Leg feature that prevents the safety seat from turning during a crash because it's attached to the floor as well as the seat. While the Load Leg may improve performance, it makes installation a little trickier than other models.
- Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air ($160)
Like the Chicco KeyFit seats, this one scored high before and after test standards were strengthened. Secure installation is relatively simple and its weight limit is 35 pounds. One unique but not tested feature are pillow-like structures on either side of the head area to minimize the shock of impacts.
- UPPAbaby Mesa ($280)
This infant car seat is also new to the American market and performs admirably during crash tests. Simple instructions and an indicator signal makes installation easy, especially when using the LATCH method.
Consumer Reports also compiles a "Best Buys" list that features high-performance infant car seats at lower prices.
Source: Stockburger, Jennifer. "5 best car seats for your baby." ConsumerReports.org. Consumer Reports. Apr 3, 2014. Web. Apr 11, 2014.