Our kids are our most prized possession, naturally we want to make sure we keep them as safe as possible in their car seat while in transit. Not everyone is the prudent driver you are, so it’s important to know that your child is as protected against chance as possible.
In other words, don’t buy your car seat on impulse because it’s on sale at K-Mart.
Car seat research
The importance of research when it comes to purchasing the perfect child seat cannot be stressed enough. Every child is different, every car is different and every situation is different so there is no cut and dry formula.
Regardless of the cosmetic differences between them, the important detail is how safe the seat will keep your child. So do your homework, and really folks most of the work has been done for you, all you have to do is read the results.
Before you do anything you’ll want to take a look at the test results as presented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the NHTSA.
They offer an easy to follow rating system which evaluates 5 different elements of the seats.
1. Assembly Almost self explanatory, this section tests the ease of use and whether they require any work for assembly. Do you need to add harnesses or seat padding to make the seat complete.
2. Evaluation of labels This section addresses the placement, clarity and hardiness of the labels on the car seat. Are the diagrams and/or instructions clear and easy to follow. Are steps for attaching the car seat using seat belts and lower attachments well placed?
3. Instructions Here they evaluate the instructions in much the same manner as the labels. In addition to how well the instructions and labels compliment one another for ease of use.
4. Securing the child This tests how easy it is to use the car seat. How straightforward the harness is and how manageable it is when adjustment and/or conversion is necessary.
5. Installing features Here the overall ease of use is tested, ease of installation, and of attachment once in the car trying to use it.
Cover all of your bases
It is easy to find feedback from any number of credible sources, and be sure you read the entire list of pros and cons given by all of your information sources before you make an informed decision.
ConsumerSearch also offers a comprehensive list of car seats tested by some of the top organizations when it comes to both car safety and child safety.
More good advice
For more great child seat evaluations and beneficial information on child safety in general, the American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP’s website has this Guide for families. Which not only offers good information about safety ratings and popular brands, but the AAP has put together safety rules and diagrams to help consumers.
Bottom line, aesthetics are important, but function is what you pay for. Child seats are often confusing and hard to use, especially to the random babysitter or family member. Not only should you strive to purchase a safe car seat, but one that is easy to use so you can feel good about others being able to strap your priceless package in with little hassle.