Graco infant car seats safety check

Let the car seat experts at Graco® show you how to check to make sure that your child's Baby in Graco® SnugRide® SnugLock® Rear-Facing Car Seat Due to frequent changes in vehicles, regulations, safety technology and general wear .
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The Safety 1st onBoard Air 35 is even cheaper, making it a car seat that fits almost every budget.

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The Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 also performed well with a far below average list price giving you a few options to choose from depending on your goals and needs. While several award winners cost more, their features and performance still offer a good value depending on what is important to you, as you often get what you pay for and over the years we've seen more expensive options with lower test results.

A key part of our testing is the analysis of the crash test results we commissioned for the infant car seats in our review. We also established a working relationship with NHTSA to utilize their crash test data for further analysis. In our analysis, we focus on seats that offer an additional margin of safety , relative to competing seats based on our analysis of the crash test data. For example, if a seat measures significantly lower impact forces better in the head sensors located in the crash test dummy, resulting in a lower Head Injury Criteria HIC score, our view is the seat offers a higher margin of protection for the baby than competitors with higher more forces HIC scores.

Additional details on our crash test scoring methodology are included below. It is no surprise that crash tests are a major part of our review, but few parents understand that improper installation and misuse of infant car seats are a significant cause of injury in car accidents. In our conversations with safety engineers at NHTSA, they emphasized that misuse is a bigger safety issue than the difference between crash test performance. We analyze the data from the crash sled tests of each car seat to determine how well they performed compared to the competition as well as the Federal safety standard for acceptable performance.

To help you understand more about crash tests, we include graphs comparing the actual crash test results in each product review and summarize them below. Analysis of child auto crash injuries shows that head and chest injuries present the two highest risks for serious or fatal injury. In each crash test, there are sensors placed in the chest and head of a month-old CRABI test dummy a crash test dummy designed to simulate a 22 lbs baby who is about 12 months old. Each seat must achieve a HIC score of or lower to pass. The further below the Federal HIC maximum of , the better lower numbers rule here.

This image shows the actual resultant G-forces on the head of the crash test dummy for the Doona black line and the Chicco KeyFit 30 green line. However, the Chicco is the seat in our review that offers the highest margin of protection with a HIC score of We focused on examining how large of a margin of protection each product offers below the Federal maximum HIC score of Products that are further left, with higher bars, can be considered as providing an additional margin of protection.

The crash dummy also includes sensors to measure chest impact forces. The data from the chest sensors is used to calculate a second score, called the Chest G Clip score, which is an attempt to create a measure of the likelihood of injury to the heart, lungs, and other organs.

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All seats must achieve a Chest G Clip score of 60 or less to pass the Federal safety standards. The Nuna's score barely passes the Federal requirement must be 60 or less to pass , while the Cybex's result of 44 means significantly lower chest forces on the crash test dummy, and thus the Cybex offers a significantly better margin of safety for this test.

As with the HIC score, we focused on how large a margin of protection each option provides below the Federal maximum Chest G Clip score of 60 in their crash test. Seats that are further left, with higher bars, are farther below the Federal maximum Chest score and can be considered as providing an additional margin of protection. Some seats have additional features that could potentially improve their overall safety in the event of an actual crash.

Why You Should Trust Us

For the most part, we did not include these features or other claims in our analysis because there is no real world or test data available to confirm or dispute the claims or even to analyze them. So, while you might be curious about a seat that boasts side impact protection SIP or an anti-rebound bar, we caution making a final decision based solely on SIP claims because information about their efficacy is significantly lacking.

Also, there isn't an agreed-upon safety test procedure in the industry as a whole to test these claims and features. We think parents should stick to the crash test data analysis when comparing the potential safety of each seat. We did, however, compare crash test data from the Cybex Aton2 and the Peg Perego Nido using the load leg feature and without the load leg. Results indicate that using the load leg improved crash test performance and could potentially impact real-world crash scenarios for the Aton 2, but not the Nido. The Aton 2 has a HIC score of using the load leg and without using the leg where a lower score is better ; these scores indicate a higher margin of protection when using the leg.

Alternatively, the Nido has a HIC score of with the load leg and without it. So, while there may be some validity to features like the load leg or anti-rebound bar, we don't think parents should be swayed by every safety claim manufacturers throw out there, and we can't account for the difference in efficacy from seat to seat and leg to leg.

Based on crash test result analysis, we rated each product in comparison to one another on a scale to identify the products that, in our opinion, offer an extra margin of protection , over and beyond the necessary level of protection found in all the seats. The Cybex Aton 2 with the load leg earned our highest crash test rating of 9 of The Aton 2 has impressive crash test results, with the lowest G score in this review and the second lowest HIC score.

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Given its performance in other test metrics and overall rank, we think the Cybex Aton 2 is an excellent choice for parents who value crash test sensor data and analysis over all else as it offers a significant margin of safety over other seats. Also notable for offering significant extra protection are three products that earned 8 of 10 ratings. This information is why we consider ease-of-installation and ease-of-use critical factors and encourage parents to include these metrics results in their decision-making process. The good news here is that both your infant seat and your car are likely set up for the LATCH system on the left or right side of the rear seat.

Most choose the passenger side so the driver can easily see the child, though the middle rear seat is also popular. The LATCH system was created to make correctly installing a car seat easier for parents by reducing the opportunity for mistakes. In our tests, we find that some seats are significantly easier to install using the LATCH method than other methods. Part of what makes a seat easier to install with LATCH is the type of connectors they have to attach to the lower anchors.

Lower cost seats use clips to connect to anchors, but the easiest-to-use products provide click-in push button connectors both are safe. The Chicco Fit2 earned the high with a 10 of 10 for this form of installation. All of the top scoring seats offer a unique LATCH anchor or tightening system that make installation significantly easier than the more basic counterparts. You click the connectors to the LATCH anchor bars, and push downward on the base; the straps automatically self-retract to tighten.

Once adequately tightened, the indicator shows green. In our experience, it is swift and straightforward. The anchors are only the first part of the equation. Whether or not the straps are easy to tighten and loosen is also a factor in ease of install.

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As we noted, we love the UPPAbaby Mesa's self-retracting straps, and we find the Chicco Keyfit 30 has an easy to tighten and loosen mechanism. In contrast, most of the Graco products are very difficult to tighten or get loose again. We gave higher points to products that don't require body weight to tighten or significant struggling for a secure fit, including the Nuna Pipa and Chicco Fit2. Being easy to install could theoretically translate to a safer seat in the event of an accident as many injuries from accidents are related to installation errors or harness adjustment mistakes.

If you want to place your child in the center of the rear seat, which is considered the safest location for seat placement , then for most vehicles you'll likely need to master anchoring the seat with the seatbelt. But do not fret. We can tell you which seats make this process a no-brainer. We find that some seats are much easier to install using the seat belt than others, and they have a trick that helps this process. About half of the seats in this review offer a base with a belt lock-off.

When the lock off is in use, it helps prevent the base from sliding back and forth across the strap. So if you lack LATCH anchors or you want to install the car seat in the middle , then you can still easily install the seat using the seat belt. The lock-off on the Chicco Keyfit 30 is harder to use and makes installation frustrating.

Graco Car Seat Review

We struggled to get the vehicle belt in the lock without the strap curling or bunching. However, all other things being equal, we'd prefer a problematic lock-off over none at all. We feel a lock-off is a critical component to achieve a secure fit when installing a base with the vehicle belt. Most bases without a lock-off did not perform well. We feel these options do not feel genuinely secure because they tend to travel up the shoulder portion of the vehicle belt causing the seat to tilt. The first question that may come to mind is, why should I care about installing the seat without the base?

The answer is simple: taxis , Uber , buses , and airplanes as some parents frequent these forms of public transportation more often than a personal vehicle. In our opinion, if you don't expect to take your infant on public transportation very often, then you can happily ignore the following advice and skip down to Ease of Use. However, if you think you may travel with your little one or need to install the carrier in a car other than your own, then this information could be relevant to your final purchasing decision.

For those living in urban environments , who frequent taxis or services like Uber, learning how to master installation without the base is an essential skill. Also, for airplane travel, the FAA recommends using an approved car seat on the plane as the safest way for babies to fly. Many parents carry their baby on their lap, saving the cost of another plane ticket, and wearable baby carriers are also common for air travel.

But, if you do use an infant seat on the airplane, you'll probably install it sans base. There are two belt path options for carrier installation without the base, European and American. Each seat in this review uses one or the other, and some offer both.

If you only have a lap belt, but your carrier is a European style, then you can install it using the American path. The American method is straightforward with the belt going directly across the leg portion of the carrier through the designated pathway. This belt path is simple and creates a secure attachment that passes all safety regulations in the US.

This style does not utilize the shoulder strap on the vehicle belt even if it is part of the vehicle. The European belt path starts the same, routing the vehicle belt across the lower part of the carrier but it adds the shoulder belt across the back of the seat threading the strap through a clip to keep it in place. We found that the additional use of the shoulder belt in the European style provides a more secure feeling with less carrier shifting, though we can't say if it is more secure or only feels this way. We feel that seats with the European belt path score higher and offer a more secure feeling attachment with little movement after installation.

However, the American method is a more straightforward process with fewer steps. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio and Peg Perego Nido use the European method and have color-coded belt paths with easy lock-offs that helps them each earn a This result means the Pegs have the highest ratings in our tests for two installation methods!

The Phil and Teds Alpha is close on their heels with a 9. If you live in a big city and use taxis more than your car, this metric is critical for you, and we encourage you to consider the top performers in this test seriously. The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio and the UPPAbaby Mesa earned impressive scores for ease of installation without the base, and both are great options for city-dwelling parents.

The Doona , on the other hand, earned an 8 for installation without the base, but it has stroller components that virtually eliminate the need for carrying anything, making it an excellent choice for urbanites who frequent public transportation. In fact, we think the Doona is one of the best options for city living.

Our picks for best car seats

At first blush, all the infant car seats seem similar, and it looks like they would all function relatively the same when it comes to ease of use. Not so. The products in our tests are all over the board when it comes to ease of use. As it turns out, all buckles aren't the same, and adjusting a harness can be ridiculously easy or a lesson in patience and a huge time suckage. This metric includes all the features and functions you regularly use. Features like buckles and chest clips, as well as harness adjustments and handles, are part of this metric.