How to judge whether car-seats are good value

As a parent, your focus changes from the need to consider the safety of your partner, to a more general need to consider the needs of the children. When young, they are unable to look after themselves. They depend on you as the responsible adult to ensure they are safe. This should be an easy task. After all, as adults, there’s a wealth of experience to draw on. Except nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems. America is a capitalist society and the general principle of law for most goods and services is caveat emptor, i .e. let the buyer beware. It’s up to the parents to research the car-seats on offer to discover which are actually safe. Fortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been testing child seats and offers a rating system to guide you.

Are all seats safe?

The answer, sadly, is that not all the seats offered for sale are safe and that even if the seat itself is safe, the installation may be unsafe and allow the child(ren) to be injured in a crash. So the first step in all this is to look at the ratings given by the NHTSA. If a seat gets a positive rating that means it has passed a strict set of tests. However. not all are easy to use. There may be problems with:

• the way the instruction manual describes how to instal safely;
• the vehicle you own — not all seats fit safely into all vehicles;
• the way the restraints hold the child in position in the seat.

What are the different types of seat?


This is an infant car bed called the Angel Guard. It’s designed for use with babies who weigh less than 9 lbs and measure less than 21 inches. The wrap-around harness offers the choice of positioning the baby on its stomach, side or back depending on need. The doctor will be able to advise on the best position. The padding ensures maximum safety.


This is the Baby Trend Flex-Loc and it’s one of many seats approved for infants, i.e. weighing between 5 and 30 lbs, and measuring up to 30 inches. This has an adjustable back and can be used as a seat or laid back for a position approaching a bed. It also features a hood to protect the infant while outdoors.


The Graco Toddler SafeSeat accepts children weighing between 20 and 40 lbs, and measuring up to 43 inches. This is a forward-facing seat and, by rethreading the harness, it’s possible to adjust the seat as the height of the child increases.


This is the Dorel Junior under testing. It’s a high-backed seat which allows safe travel for children weighing between 40 and 80 lbs, and between 43 and 52 inches.


Completing the range of seats, this is the Evenflo Big Kid DLX which is high-backed and seats children weighing between 30 and 100 lbs, and measuring up to 57 inches.


These chairs are only offered as examples of what’s available and has been approved by the NHTSA. None of these chairs are recommended by this website. You must use your own judgement or consult an expert. Finally remember the chair must fit right to work properly. There are inspection stations in most large cities where you can have your installation checked by a safety technician for free.

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