After testing car seats for crash performance, ease of use and vehicle fit, Consumer Reports named the five best-rated car seats for 2013. These top-rated convertible car seats cost as little as $45 and as much as $300, proving that a higher price for car seats doesn't necessarily mean a higher level of safety and crash protection.
Related: More Car Seat Checks
Convertible car seats are used in a rear-facing or forward-facing position. These car seats can be used with children of various sizes. This car seat has a five-point harness and a tether strap. It's used mainly in the forward-facing position.
The Consumer Reports team rates car seats primarily using three factors: crash-test results, ease of use and vehicle fit. Consumer Reports gave these five convertible seats the best overall ratings for 2013:
- Chicco Nextfit ($300)
- Britax Marathon ClickTight ($265)
- Evenflo SureRide/Titan 65 ($100)
- Cosco Scenera Next ($45)
- Graco Contender ($140)
Click here for the full test results (subscription required).
Consumer Reports also recommends that parents should move their child to a rear-facing convertible car seat no later than 1 year old. Federal guidelines state that parents should move their little one into a rear-facing convertible seat after their child exceeds the height or weight limit of the rear-facing infant car seat. For many children, that's well before age 1, but smaller babies may be within the height and weight limits of the infant seat even after they turn 1 year old.
Consumer Reports also crash-tested infant car seats in 2014 and found that the child-sized, impact-absorbing crash-test dummy's head struck the simulated front passenger seat's seatback. The impact from this collision could harm the child. In Consumer Reports' rear-facing convertible car seat crash tests, however, the same-sized test dummy's head didn't touch the seatback at all. This difference in crash-test results led Consumer Reports to make its new age recommendation for rear-facing convertible seat use.
After a child has outgrown their forward-facing convertible car seat, he or she should be moved into a belt-positioning booster seat. Booster seats come in high-back and backless versions. A booster correctly positions the seat belt across a child's hips and chest.
For parents who are unsure if they've installed any of their car seats correctly, they should seek out a local car seat check, where child passenger safety technicians will inspect the seat installation.
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