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5 Most Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents

Trucking is a dangerous profession, but it does not get the same kind of recognition that other hazardous jobs do. At the end of the day, though, commercial drivers spend a lot of time on the road, and the more miles they travel, the more likely they are to get into a collision as some point.

It is common for truckers to spend less than two months per year at home. Because commercial drivers get such little time off, they are likely to be tired and stressed when they are home, and when they’re on the road, their families worry about them nonstop.

Transporting goods via truck is one of the deadliest occupations in the United States; however, commercial drivers are not the only ones who suffer severe injuries or death following a catastrophic collision. In fact, it is actually passenger vehicle occupants who incur the most damages in such accidents.

Because of their sheer size and weight, a crash between a truck and a car has a much greater force of impact than a wreck between two smaller vehicles. Commercial drivers typically have considerable protection because of their elevated perch, but passenger vehicle occupants are not as lucky. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most fatalities in big rig accidents are the occupants of smaller vehicles.

Fortunately, both commercial drivers and private motorists can reduce the risk of getting into a devastating crash by knowing the leading causes of serious wrecks and taking care to avoid or prevent them. The most common causes of large truck collisions include:

1. Bad Maneuvering Decisions

According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), which analyzed a nationally representative sample of tractor-trailer accidents that occurred between 2001 and 2003, the leading cause of big rig wrecks was ultimately driver error. Researchers categorized several different kinds of errors and determined the most common mistakes that led to the most collisions had to do with a trucker’s bad maneuvering decisions. For example, many crashes were the result of turning too sharply or traveling too fast for the road conditions.

 

5 Most Common Causes of Commercial Truck Accidents

Driver errors contribute to the vast majority of semi-truck accidents in the U.S.

2. Distracted Driving

The LTCCS revealed that distracted driving is the second leading cause of commercial truck accidents. When truckers fail to observe their surroundings, they become vulnerable to roadside hazards because they do not have enough time to perform an evasive maneuver if one arises.

3. Drowsy or Impaired Driving

Non-performance is the third leading cause of big rig crashes. This includes drowsy driving and physical impairments that disable the trucker while behind the wheel, like heart attacks and seizures.

4. Vehicle Malfunctions

Both commercial drivers and the motor carriers that employ them have an obligation to maintain their vehicles. When they fail to do so and a tragic accident results, they can be liable for the damages that occur. In the LTCCS, malfunctioning vehicles were responsible for 10 percent of the incidents that researchers reviewed.

5. Poor Driving Performance

Poor performance is the fifth leading cause of large truck crashes. While non-performance refers to passive hazards that are theoretically out of the motorist’s control, like fatigue and health emergencies, poor performance occurs when drivers actively make bad judgment calls while behind the wheel despite having the opportunity to make good ones. For example, overcorrecting or changing lanes too quickly are two examples of poor driving performance.

The above causes all refer to cases in which the commercial driver was at fault for the incident; however, passenger vehicle motorists can cause major truck accidents, too. As a noncommercial driver, you can reduce the risk of getting into a serious collision by exercising caution around tractor-trailers and staying out of their blind spots. Be especially cautious in poor road conditions and when driving in winter weather as large vehicles will require a significant stopping distance.

 

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How Long Will a DUI (OWI) in Iowa Affect Car Insurance Rates?

Every state imposes severe penalties for drinking and driving because operating while under the influence (OWI) does not only endanger those who do it but also everyone on the road around them. In Iowa, for example, there are criminal, administrative, and financial consequences of an OWI or DUI conviction.

Most people are familiar with the criminal penalties and at least some of the administrative repercussions because they learned about them in driver’s education. Depending on your circumstances, though, the financial penalties could actually cause the most stress.

In the state of Iowa, a first-time offender can expect to owe a fine of $1,250. A second-time offender will face a fine of between $1,875 and $6,250, while a third or subsequent offender will owe between $3,125 and $9,375.

 

How Long Will a DUI (OWI) in Iowa Affect Car Insurance Rates?

A DUI or OWI conviction in Iowa can cost you up to $9,000 in fines alone.

Of course, these fines are only the criminal penalties for operating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Individuals who are convicted of OWI or DUI must also cover hefty administrative fees, which might include the maintenance of an ignition interlock device, and higher car insurance rates for years to come.

Car Insurance Companies Consider Drivers with a DUI or OWI to Be High Risk

At the end of the day, insurance providers consider those who have a history of drinking and driving to be high-risk policyholders. As a result, they can expect to pay considerably more in coverage.

As long as you must file an SR-22 form, your car insurance rates will be higher than normal. People often refer to SR-22 as a kind of insurance, but it is actually a certificate that high-risk drivers must obtain from their provider to demonstrate their financial responsibility to the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles.

An SR-22 certificate confirms that the policyholder has purchased at least the minimum required liability coverage. Under Iowa Code 321, that includes:

  • $20,000 in bodily injury per person;
  • $40,000 in bodily injury per incident; and
  • $15,000 in property damage per incident.

Motorists in Iowa are also required to purchase $20,000/$40,000 in bodily injury coverage following a collision with an uninsured or underinsured motorist; however, they have the right to waive this coverage by signing a form provided by their auto insurance company.

An OWI conviction is not the only reason someone might need to obtain an SR-22 form after purchasing the mandatory minimum insurance. In general, anyone who wants to reinstate their license following a suspension will need to request proof of financial responsibility from their insurance provider.

For example, individuals who accumulated too many points on their driving record from multiple traffic tickets also need an SR-22 form, as do those whom authorities have caught driving without insurance. Typically, you must request an SR-22 form every time you renew your policy for as long as it is required by law.

The total duration will depend on the reason for the license suspension in the first place. In most cases, OWI offenders can expect to need an SR-22 certificate for two years following the date their license is reinstated.

After two years has passed and you no longer need this form, your rates may decrease slightly; however, since an OWI conviction will remain on your record for 12 years, you can expect to pay more for insurance than you did prior to the conviction.

As long as the insurance company considers you a high-risk driver, they are going to charge you more for coverage. If you shop around and opt for a high deductible, though, you may still be able to find fairly affordable car insurance in Iowa.

Unfortunately for many offenders, the lasting financial repercussions are not the worst of the penalties they face. First-time OWI offenders in Iowa also face up to one year in jail and a 12-month license suspension. Second offenders face up to two years in prison with a two-year license suspension, and third-time offenders could get five years in prison and a six-year suspension.

 

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Iowa’s Graduated Driver’s License Program: FAQ for Teens

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers in this country. Although this is partially due to the fact that teens are young and thus unlikely to die from other causes like chronic disease, it is also because new drivers have limited experience and are more likely to cause devastating wrecks as a result.

Parents can protect their children and possibly get their teens’ car insurance rates reduced by enrolling them in a comprehensive driver’s education course. If you have teenagers, you may also want to sign them up for a defensive driving class. At the end of the day, experienced motorists are safe motorists.

 

Iowa's Graduated Driver's License Program: FAQ for Teens

Numerous studies show that defensive driving courses reduce the risk of accidents.

In an effort to support parents’ efforts and protect their teens, the state of Iowa has a graduated driver’s license (GDL) system. The GDL system applies to individuals who start driving prior to turning 18 years old. Read on to learn the answers to just a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding this program:

What Are the Steps of the GDL?

The graduated driver’s license system has three main stages, which all candidates must complete in order. The three steps are:

  • Obtaining an instruction permit;
  • Obtaining an intermediate license; and
  • Obtaining a full license.

What Is an Instruction Permit?

Teens who ultimately want to achieve their independence can get an instruction permit when they have turned 14 years old. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, their parent or guardian must provide written authorization during the application process.

After passing a vision test and written exam, the candidate must provide proof of residency, as well as an acceptable form of identification and proof of a Social Security number. Once a teen obtains the instruction permit, he or she can drive at any time with adult supervision.

What Is an Intermediate License?

Upon turning 16, teenagers who have had an instruction permit for at least 12 months can apply for an intermediate license. This application process is a little more intensive than the one for the first stage of the GDL system and requires candidates to complete a state-approved driver education course, as well as 20 hours of supervised driving.

Individuals with an intermediate license may drive without adult supervision between the hours of 5 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. They may also drive at any time of day with adult supervision. In addition to having a valid driver’s license, the supervisor must be:

  • A parent, guardian, or custodian;
  • An immediate family member who is at least 21 years old;
  • A driver education instructor; or
  • An individual who is at least 25 years old and has written permission from the parent, guardian, or custodian to supervise.

 What Is a Full License?

 Teen drivers can apply for a full license upon turning 17. In order to obtain a license that provides full driving privileges with no restrictions, candidates must meet all the requirements for obtaining an intermediate license. They must also have written approval from their parent or guardian.

Helping teens navigate Iowa’s graduated driver’s license system can be challenging, and there is a lot to remember regarding the specific requirements of each stage. Regardless of how much your teen may want to drive, though, there is one task that all parents must complete before their son or daughter gets behind the wheel for the first time: purchasing additional car insurance.

Because teens have a higher accident rate than motorists in other demographics, they are more expensive to insure; however, parents or guardians who are willing to do a little research and shop around can usually find coverage for an affordable rate in Iowa.

Even if you end up paying more than you’d like for your teen to drive, you can take comfort in the fact that the rates are only temporary. As long as your son or daughter maintains a clean driving record, he or she will become more affordable to insure with every passing year.

 

 

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Best Infant Car Seats from Trusted Brands (2018)

Infant car seat technology has advanced tremendously over recent years, but you shouldn’t trust just any company with your baby’s safety. Our Geeks set out to help parents find the best infant car seats from trusted brands based on comfort, advanced safety technology, and price. We’ve also put together some helpful tips, FAQs, and car seat installation guidelines.

Best Infant Car SeatsInfant Car Seat FAQs
Infant Car Seat TipsHow to Install an Infant Car Seat

Best Infant Car Seats

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $250 – $350

Since 1949, this Italian company has been making some of the best car seats on the market. Their ethos is simple: blend comfort with smart, safe engineering. And the Primo Viaggio doesn’t stray from the script. Instead, it builds on previous models, incorporating and innovating tried-and-tested tech which has served families for decades.

Straight out of the box, it’s clear this seat is special. Weighing just over 9 pounds, it’s light enough to double up as a convenient carrier. However, you don’t have to sacrifice durability for mobility. The unit’s upscale shell design is solid and can outlive the clumsiest parent (or most hyperactive infant).

The base of the Primo Viaggio boasts the company’s “Right Tight System” which keeps the seat secure whether you’re using the LATCH strap or just your car’s seat belt. During tests, our Geeks concluded that the tightness of either locking method was dependent on the car. They suggest experimenting with both methods and testing to see which feels most secure.

With this seat, Perego aims to protect your infant during all stages of his or her early life. The dual stage cushion system provides extra support for your newborn’s bottom and neck while the second stage provides comfort and room for your growing baby, while still keeping your child safe and secure.

This seat also has a secret weapon: adjustable side impact protection. Most “adjustable” seats are a chore to orientate, requiring rethreading and rerouting. However, the Primo Viaggio’s side impact protection can be slid up or down on the fly, making keeping up with your little one’s sporadic growth as easy as pushing a button.

Bonus: once you’ve reached your destination, not only does this seat double up as a handy, lightweight carrier, but it can also be slotted into any of Peg Perego’s luxury strollers. Our Geeks found that many other car seats required complicated adapters to achieve the same effect.

Bottom line: this seat doesn’t just bundle together smart, safe engineering and comfort for your little one, but packs a myriad of quality of life additions that add up to making this the best infant car seat under $375.

 

UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat

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Estimated Price: $275 – $325

This car seat is a star player. Not only did it pass every one of our Geeks’ tests with flying colors, but it is one of very few infant car seats to be given five-star ratings in every category of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Easy-of-Use ratings.

UPPAbaby MESA has a strong tradition of building safe, easy-to-operate, and, more importantly, easy-to-stash strollers. When they approached building a car seat for the first time their aim was to create a rear-facing unit that would be almost impossible to install incorrectly.

That’s important, because while studies have shown a rear-facing car seat is one of the most effective ways to keep your child safe in a crash, the seat itself won’t do anything if you’ve botched setting it up. Enter SMART.

SMART is UPPAbaby MESA’s secure attachment system which the company boasts “installs in seconds”. During our tests, every one of Geeks (even our newest recruit) was able to get the seat set up and secure in record time, well within in the 10 seconds budgeted by the manufacturer.

But this seat isn’t just a one-trick pony. Weighing in at 11 pounds, it transitions quickly from safe seating to lightweight carrier (complete with SPF canopy), and under the hood it packs all the safety features you would expect, from adjustable side impact protection to a rigid shell designed to envelope your child.

The seat’s covers are quick and easy to remove and can be machine washed. The company recommends cold water on a gentle cycle with a mild detergent. To dry, just lay the cover flat and away from direct sunlight for a few hours. At just $350 this car seat is a steal.

 

CYBEX Aton 2 Infant Car Seat

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Estimated Price: $225 – $275

Founded in Germany, CYBEX is the brainchild of a passionate dad who believed that car seats can be safe, comfortable, practical, and cool. Back in 2005, that was just a vision. Now, CYBEX has won hundreds of safety and design awards for its range of infant car seats.

The Aton 2 represents the pinnacle of the company’s decade-long pursuit of car seat perfection. Engineered to strict German safety standards, it aced every single one of our Geeks’ rigorous tests, managing to be versatile and light enough for use as both a seat and carrier. It’s comfortable and adapts for both newborns and infants alike and packs all the best of Europe’s cutting-edge safety features.

Weighing in at under 10 pounds, this seat was a breeze for our Geeks to carry around. But this lightweight seat doesn’t skimp on heavy-duty protection.

Exhibit A: the seat’s flexible shell. Leveraging the power of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam protection, this seat is a juggernaut. EPS isn’t just another acronym, it’s the secret behind your child’s safety.

Used predominantly in bicycle and motorcycle helmets, the lightweight material has displayed a superior ability to absorb impact energy. The foam takes the sting out of any shock, whether it’s a fender bender or a tumble in our lab.

The height-adjustable load leg is another European export our Geeks were happy to see. This virtual standard on the continent helps absorb and distribute energy to the vehicle floor, taking some of the punch out of an impact. It also prevents the seat from tipping forward.

Linear Side-Impact Protection rounds up this seat’s safety features, resulting in an extra 40% increased safety for your child. Bonus: thanks to its European Belt Routing system, this seat is equally safe with or without the base in crash tests.

The Aton 2 was also one of the most versatile seats in our tests. The Newborn Inlay, an insert which helps position your newborn during their first months, gives this seat legs, seeing your child through its first year with comfort and ease.

The bottom line: this is the best newborn car seat under $300.

 

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $125 – $225

Founded in the 1950s by an inventor after the birth of his son, Chicco has spent the last sixty years developing, manufacturing and shipping baby products in 120 different countries. That’s an impressive resume, one that only gets better when you spend some time with the KeyFit 30.

Designed with the compact car in mind, this lightweight car seat will work whether you’re rolling in an SUV or chugging along in hatchback, which makes this seat somewhat of a unicorn. Why? If you’ve spent much time scouring the net, you may have realized that smaller car seats are few and far between, with most seats ranging between big and behemoth.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. The stay-in-car base features Chicco’s ReclineSure spring-load leveling foot and two “RideRight” bubble level-indicators which will help you adjust the seat with pinpoint precision. LATCH connectors coupled with a one-pull tightener take the sweat out of settling on a tight and secure fit.

On the safety side, the KeyFit 30 meets federal crash-test safety requirements, in part thanks to its rigid, shell-like design and additional side-impact protection. However, what puts this seat ahead of many others is the inclusion of a high-quality infant cushion insert.

These inserts help position your child, especially if they are smaller or were born premature, while providing the same protection as the default setup. As your baby grows larger, you can remove the inserts to accommodate their size.

Once you’ve reached your destination, this seat is still a workhorse. The KeyFit 30 carrier is quick to detach and slots into many of Chicco’s signature strollers. It can also be installed without the base, making it easy to transfer your child to another car.

Take note: the seat’s cushions are difficult to remove but are machine washable. Bottom line: this seat is the pinnacle of almost 70 years of rock-solid engineering.

 

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $100 – $125

Studies have found that rear-facing car seats offer the best protection for your child. The SnugRide Click Connect 35 does much more than just point in the right direction. The product of stringent crash testing, this infant car seat smashes US safety standards, going far beyond the call of duty to buy you peace of mind when you and your child are on the road.

Weighing in at just seven pounds, our Geeks said this was the lightest car seat in their tests, transitioning comfortably and quickly from on the road to at the park. Graco’s “Click It” tech provides one-step attachment between the seat to any of its Click Connect Strollers, which lets you build your own custom travel system to meet you and your infant’s unique needs.

An adjustable base, with six different recline positions, gives you unparalleled control over the SnugRide Click Connect’s positioning. The seat is also fixed with a level indicator, foregoing the trial-and-error guesswork which plagues most other models. Our Geeks were able to install the seat within seconds and with minimal adjustment.

And while the seat’s quick, easy installation will keep you in good spirits, it’s the unit’s overall comfort which will keep your kid right up there with you. Complete with removeable newborn head support, a rotating canopy to fight the sun’s glare from any angle, and a cozy leg cover, your little one will be travelling in first class wherever you go.

Bonus: the seat’s pads are machine washable and our Geeks were able to remove even the most stubborn stains from the base with just a spot of mild detergent and a damp cloth.

 

Safety 1st Onboard 35 Air 360 Infant Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $150 – $175

You’ve probably seen the yellow “BABY ON BOARD” signs swinging in the rear windows of family cars. Safety 1st is the company behind this universal emblem of joy. While signage may be the company’s claim to fame, building cutting edge car seats is its bread and butter.

The Onboard 35 Air 360 is a space-aged car seat packed with the latest in safety tech and exceeds federal and European rollover standards. Promising to protect your child from every angle, this seat leverages the power of Air Protect, a revolutionary new cushioning system designed to shield your child from side impact collision and reduce crash forces around your infant’s head.

In a crash, these forces are instead instantaneously diverted into the headrest. Coupled with the seat’s GCell HX patented race car foam – the same material used to protect Indy car racers on the track – this unit is an impenetrable cocoon.

However, this level of safety doesn’t come at the cost of comfort. Soft foam throughout the seat offers added protection and forms a cushy but supportive layer between your infant and the safety tech under the hood. Plus, a deep seat structure simultaneously shields and embraces your child.

Bottom line: an adjustable, sturdy handle and ray-busting rotating canopy round out a formidable package and our best car infant car seat under $200.

 

Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $175 – $250

Very rarely does a product surprise our squad of seasoned Geeks. But the Maxi-Cosi, which costs just under $275, defies its price point managing not only to be one of the most affordable seats on our list, but one of the most comfortable and convenient too.

Maxi-Cosi was founded with simple aim: arming parents with the safest car seat and stroller money can buy.

The seat weighs just eight pounds and transitions from car seat to carrier in seconds. An ergonomic handle – molded to fit any grip, whether its mom or dad’s – is still comfortable, even over extended periods of time. Plus, the car seat is compatible with many popular strollers, from Maxi-Cosi’s own to luxury offerings to other well-known trusted brands.

But the seat really starts to excel on the road, where a series of safety innovations and refinements come together to create a safe space for your vulnerable infant. Featuring Air Protect – a new industry standard in car seats which instantly diverts crash forces away from your baby’s head to the headrest, and an enveloping and cushioned shell design – you can now breathe easy knowing you’ve hedged the bets in your little one’s favor.

Our Geeks are big fans of breathable fabrics. But too often, this small luxury comes with a big price tag. Defiant as always, the Mico 30 has managed to do one better, incorporating self-wicking fabric into the design. The fabric draws liquids away from the skin keeping your baby comfortable and dry from start to stop.

Cleaning time? No problem. The seat’s pads are removed in a matter of seconds (Yes! There’s no frustrating rethreading required) and the seat’s fabrics are both machine washable and dryer safe. All that for less than $275, need we say more?

 

Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc Infant Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $90 – $125

Installing a car seat can quickly turn into an hour-long chore. While many car seat manufacturers are happy to leave their customers flailing with belt, buckle, and everything in between, Baby Trend wants to spare you the hassle.

Fixed with a no-thread adjustable harness, flexible LATCH connectors and reclining base, the Trend EZ Flec Loc eliminates the guesswork of installing a new car seat. Our Geeks were able to have this seat up and running in a few seconds flat, putting it miles ahead of its nearest competition.

But how does the seat fair when it’s ready and raring to go? Designed for infants between 5 and 30 pounds, the seat utilizes EPS energy-absorbing foam technology to reduce crash forces. Soft head support helps shield your child while providing an extra layer of comfort.

The seat’s height, unlike others, can be adjusted with the push of a button, and quick adjustments can be made on the fly to accommodate your baby’s growth. Our Geeks were impressed by the unique carrying handle which features a rubberized grip to keep the seat from slipping out of your grasp. The seat’s canopy is also larger than most other seats, protecting your child from the elements.

Plus, the seat is compatible with most of Baby Trend’s world-class strollers. Bottom line: your child’s safety simplified at an unbeatable price.

Infant Car Seat FAQs

Why do safety seats have an expiration date?

Federal safety standards don’t require manufacturers to cap the lifespan of a car seat, but the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has warned that heeding expiration dates set by companies is one of the most important precautions you can take.

This is due to a variety of factors, including the following:

  • Wear and tear. The car seats in our reviews were built using the highest quality materials. However, even the best parts will start to deteriorate over time. This is because car seats are exposed to fluctuating high and low temperatures that can warp the seat’s structure causing it develop near-invisible hairline fractures. In turn, these fractures will lead to catastrophic failure in a crash.
  • Tech improvements. Companies are constantly innovating, and as a result modern car seats are often leaps and bounds ahead of those engineered in the past decade. A newer seat is most likely safer than one built in the early 2000s.
  • Shifting safety standards. A seat that may have met the minimum safety standards a decade ago may nosedive in modern crash testing.

Take note: most seats’ lifespans are capped at six or eight years, and some may last as long as ten years. Regardless, you should rather buy a new car seat than invest in a second-hand unit with an unknown history.

How can I keep child warm in his or her infant car seat?

Before you pull out the puffer or any other heavy layers, remember this: thick jackets can flatten in a crash leaving the harness slack and your infant vulnerable to crash forces. In some cases, infants bundled in heavy layers have even been flung from their seats after a collision.

When travelling in a car seat your child should not wear anything thicker than a lightweight fleece. For extra warmth, place a blanket over your child and the harness. However, our Geeks recommend investing in a special seat cover designed to keep your child both warm and safe, such as this one.

How do I know if a car seat will fit my car?

Not every car is the same, and despite manufacturers engineering and designing car seats which can adapt to most vehicle setups, a perfect fit is not always a guarantee. However, with sites such as Amazon offering free and almost immediate refunds on returns, our Geeks suggest ordering a seat from one of the many trusted companies above and rigorously testing to see how it fits.

Is my seat installed correctly?

Remember to always follow the included instructions manual closely. Once the seat is correctly positioned and connected, test to see that it doesn’t pivot, seesaw, tip over, or wobble.

If there is movement, check again to see if the seat is correctly connected. If yes, try connect the seat using the belt as opposed to LATCH or vice versa. No dice? Contact the dealer to troubleshoot the problem and find out if there are any extra parts that may help accommodate the seat in your car.

Finally, if none of the solutions above work, return the seat and opt for another one reviewed above.

Is it a problem if my infant car seat is loose?

Definitely. Under no circumstances should your infant car seat be able to pivot, seesaw, wobble, or tip forward. This could lead to serious injury or even death in a collision.

What are the different safety seat choices?

There are three types of safety seats to choose from:

  • Infant (or baby) car seats are rear-facing car seats designed to keep your child protected in a cocoon of crash force-reducing materials. Typically, these seats can accommodate children up to two-years-old or carry up to a maximum weight of 35 pounds. When your child reaches either limit, it’s time to transition to a rear-facing convertible safety seat.

 

  • Convertible car seats can be set up in either a rear-facing or front-facing position. This allows you to adjust the seat to accommodate the growth of your child. Typically, these seats can carry children up to 40 pounds in a rear-facing position and up to 70 pounds when set up as a forward-facing safety seat. Remember, it’s safer for your child to keep them seated in a rear-facing position as long as possible.

 

  • Booster seats are designed for children who are at least four-years-old and weigh more than 40 pounds. Instead of using a LATCH attachment system, theses seats make use of the car’s regular lap and shoulder belts to help restrain your child. You may use a backless booster seat only if your car’s stock seats are equipped with head support.

What is LATCH?

LATCH, or “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”, is an innovative new attachment system for securely installing your car seat in your vehicle. Using hooks and built-in straps fixed to the car seat, it allows you to connect the seat to anchor hardware in your car.

This modern technology often results in a tighter fit than the conventional seat belt method. However, we suggest testing your new car seat with both setups to settle on the most secure attachment system.

What is a tether?

This European invention is a strap fixed to the top of a car seat. It is equipped with a fastener and used to prevent front-facing car seats from tipping forward.

In a crash, a tether can cut down on the forward motion of your child’s head by up to eight inches. Our Geeks suggest always using a tether with front-facing car seats but never with rear-facing seats, unless otherwise specified by a trusted manufacturer for their product.

Is it safe for my infant to travel in the front seat?

Absolutely not. The front seat is close to one of the most common points of impact: the front of the car. These crashes are lethal and have led to the deaths of countless children.

Many states have laws requiring children to sit in the rear seat until a certain age and even then, organizations, such as SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., recommend seating your child in the safety of the back seat whenever possible.

Restraining your child in the backseat, as opposed to the front, reduces your infant’s risk of being killed in a collision by over a third. In a head-on crash, your child can be flung through the windshield or headfirst into your car’s dashboard. And even the airbags pose a risk to your little one, inflating with enough force to inflict severe spinal, neck and head injuries.

Where is the safest spot in my vehicle for my infant to sit?

The short answer: in the rear seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stressed the importance of restraining your child (under the age 12) in the back seat. According to research, seating your child in the back seat instead of the front can reduce the risk of injury or death by over 30%.

When possible, you should position your infant car seat in the center back seat as this will shield your child from potential side impact.

How do I secure my newborn in his or her car seat?

Newborns will always need to ride facing the back of the car in a safety seat. You want to set the seat to recline around halfway back. This will best protect your newborn’s neck and head while keeping their airways open.

The seat should be positioned in the center rear seat, situating your newborn as far away from all the points of potential impact. While a convertible safety seat can often accommodate newborns, an infant car seat – such as the ones reviewed above – is best suited for younger children as it will often come equipped with a newborn inlay and specialized side impact protection.

When placing your newborn in the safety seat, make sure you put them down butt first. You want your child’s back resting against the car seat’s back. Buckle your child in by laying the straps over your infant and ensuring that there is one leg on each side of the crotch strap and that the arms are over, not under, the shoulder strap.

Use a newborn inlay provided with your car seat or receiving blankets on each side of your newborn’s body to fill in any space on the sides of the seat.

How tight should my child’s harness be?

Too tight and the harness could restrict your child’s breathing. Too loose and your child could be flung from the car seat in a crash. Achieving a snug fit can be challenging. Use this handy guide to ensure your child is safe and comfortable on every trip:

  • Buckle up your infant and secure the harness.
  • Pinch the top and the bottom of the harness strap near the shoulders.
  • Can you still pinch it? The harness isn’t tight enough.

When do I switch to a front-facing car seat?

The short answer: usually when your child is at least two-years-old. However, you should let your child use a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. This is because an infant’s spinal cord can easily stretch in a crash, leading to death or being paralyzed for life. According to studies, a rear-facing seat is typically five times safer than front-facing units.

However, do not use a rear-facing seat if your child outweighs the maximum weight designated by the manufacturer.

Why is facing backwards so important?

Your newborn or infant is a fragile creature. Their muscles and bones are still forming and vulnerable to even the most minor crash forces. Now, if your kid is facing forwards in a frontal crash – both the most common and most devastating kind of collision – your child’s body is held in place but their head is not.

As a result, your infant’s head is thrust forward, stretching out the neck to a breaking point. Adults and older children will most commonly suffer minor injuries such as whiplash, but an infant’s neck bones may even separate in a crash leaving your kid permanently paralyzed or dead.

Facing rearwards, the head, neck and torso are restrained. This prevents any movement, protecting the child best in the any type of collision.

My infant’s feet touch the car’s seatback. Is this safe?

Researchers have found zero evidence that longer legs are at a higher risk of being hurt in a crash. This is because children will typically fold their legs into a comfortable position while travelling in a car seat.

While legroom isn’t an issue, the positioning of your child’s head should always be noted. When your child’s head extends beyond or near the top of their infant car seat you should consider upgrading from an infant car seat to a convertible.

What is a locking clip?

A locking clip keeps the lap section of the lap-shoulder restraint secure on an infant car seat by attaching to the shoulder portion next to the latch plate. Locking clips have largely been phased out since most newer vehicles are equipped with safety belts that lock up to accommodate the installation of infant car seats.

However, sometimes you may still require a locking clip to achieve a safe and secure fit. Remember: always place the locking clip around half an inch from the latch plate.

Are any infant car seats escape-proof?

Kids are inventive little creatures who will brainstorm their way out of anything, especially the “naughty corner”. Our Geeks have found that little Geeks who figure out how to escape from infant car seat will quickly engineer their escape from another. The only solution: conditioning.

Try this method: bring the car seat into your home and let your child roleplay as the parent by buckling their favorite action figure, doll or plushie into the car seat. This play communicates the best way for your miniature Houdini to behave next time they’re travelling in the car.

Or, you could schedule your trip with enough time to accommodate a few stops along the way. Every time your child manages to unbuckle and scramble from safety, come to a stop and explain that you won’t be budging another inch until he or she returns to the car seat.

Alternatively, you could create a reward structure (offering up extra TV time or a special treat) which entices your little one to stay still, safe and buckled up. Another escape? Your child forfeits the reward.

Are car seat-stroller combinations safe?

Infant car seats are often designed to attach to specialized strollers to create a simple carrier and pram travel solution. These combinations are rigorously tested and adhere to both company and federal safety standards to ensure the wellbeing of your child.

All the infant car seats listed here can be combined with strollers for your convenience.

Can I use my car seat on a plane?

This depends on the seat. Check to see if your seat, or the one you are purchasing, has been certified for use on an aircraft (FAA-approved). If not, most airlines will allow you to check in your car seat as free-standing baggage

What’s the difference between EPP and EPS foam?

Expanded Polystyrene foam (EPS) is a lightweight material often used to line the inside of bicycle and motorcycle helmets or even coolers and wine shippers. The foam is able to effectively absorb crash forces, buffering the blow of a fall or a crash.

In infant car seats, the foam is typically used to protect the child’s upper torso and head from side-impact forces by absorbing the impact of a crash. However, it is considered a one-impact foam, hence why experts recommend replacing car seats after a collision.

Expanded Polypropylene foam (EPP) has an identical function but has the ability to rebound after a crash. Many companies are switching over to using EPP foam in their car seats as it is more durable and helps increase the lifespan and extend the expiry date of an infant car seat.

How do I clean an infant car seat?

Lost snacks, spilt juice boxes and melting ice cream cones are all part of the ride. A quick bath will take care of your kid, but how do you clean your car seat?

  • Remove the cover. It’s time to hit the books. The instruction manual that came with your seat will include a step-by-step guide on how to remove your cover from your seat.
  • Hand-wash. While most of the seats on this list come equipped with machine washable covers, we still recommend hand-washing car seat covers using mild soap and cold water.
  • Skip the dryer and line dry your cover. Alternatively, you may lie the cover flat in a warm well-ventilated space.
  • Scrub the buckle. Your cover will bear the brunt of your child’s clumsy catering. However, parts, such as the buckle, harness and tether, may also fall victim to stains. Use mild soap and cold water to scrub the buckle and other components clean before drying with a rag.

Infant Car Seat Tips

1. Replace Your Car Seat After an Accident

It may have just been a little fender bender and your child may not have even been in the car, but experts still suggest that you consider replacing your car seat after a collision. Why? Your seat is the designated epicenter for absorbing crash forces. Those forces put immense strain on the components of your car seat potentially degrading their ability to absorb crash forces again in the future.

However, don’t replace your car seat after every little bump and bash. A light bumper check in the parking lot isn’t going to cause any damage to your infant car seat.

2. Everyone Buckles Up!

Your child follows your lead. If you travel without a seatbelt it’s going to be tough to convince your little one to stop escaping from the safety of their harness.

Everyone buckles up! That goes for you, your other children, your friends, and even your stubborn uncle.

3. Rope in an Expert

There’s no harm in getting a second opinion. Head to seatcheck.org, enter your zip code and find a technician nearby who can come assess your vehicle and car seat installation to triple check your child’s safety so you don’t have to keep second guessing.

4. Ride the Rear-Facing Limit

Your child will eventually outgrow their infant car seat. But when it’s time to switch to a convertible seat, don’t ditch rear-facing.

Crash testing has shown that your child will always be safer facing the back of the car because it keeps your infant’s head, neck and torso restrained, preventing crash forces from damaging your child’s vulnerable spine.

Experts recommend keeping your child rear-facing until at least the age of two. However, if your child is two-years-old but has not yet reached the maximum height and weight limits of the unit, don’t flip them around.

As stated previously, your child’s legs are not in danger in a rear-facing seat as infants naturally adjust the positioning of their legs to a comfortable position.

5. Use a Tether Strap

If your child is using a front-facing car seat, use a tether strap to prevent the seat from tipping forward or over in a collision.

6. Keep it Centered

The center rear seat is the safest spot in the car for your kid. Why? Your child is most isolated from potential rear, side and frontal impact in this position, shielding them from harm of a direct hit in an accident.

However, if you have more than one child using a car seat, remember that the oldest child is typically the most vulnerable as they will be using a front-facing seat and should be given positional priority.

7. Heed the Expiration Date

Car seats slowly degrade over time, developing invisible hairline fractures which can lead to catastrophic injuries in a crash. While experts state that car seats should be disposed of after a decade, most companies recommend replacing car seats after six to eight years.

Our Geeks suggest steering clear of used units with an unknown history.

8. Don’t Use Your Seat Outside of the Car

Your new car seat is designed to protect your infant on the road. But it’s not meant to double up as a seat for your home. Unless otherwise stated in the manual, experts warn that sitting in a car seat for extended durations could pose serious health risks to your little one.

For example, it may cause your child to develop a flat spot on the back of their head where the skull is softest, cause breathing issues, or, in some cases, exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease. Plus, your infant can easily fall from the seat when it is not attached to the supplied base.

However, you may use the seat as a carrier or, when possible, in conjunction with your travel pram.

9. Master the Buckle

Learning how to tighten or loosen the harness on your infant car seat on the fly is a useful skill. It allows you to achieve a custom fit, maximizing comfort for your little one and avoiding the frustration of trying to fit your child’s arms through the seat’s tight straps.

Keep in mind that the chest straps should not restrict your child’s breathing. Aim for a snug fit wherein it’s still possible to squeeze your finger between the strap and your child’s chest.

10. No Bulky Clothing

Shielding your child against the cold may put them in danger during a crash. Why? Snowsuits, puffy or thick jackets, and seat liners can compress during a collision, creating wiggle room for unintended movement and injury.

Dress your child in thin layers, buckle them in, and then place a blanket over the harness and buckle, for a fool-proof method of keeping your child safe and snug in the colder months.

11. Keep Your Trips Quick

Studies have shown that newborns have far lower oxygen levels than normal when restrained in an infant car seats. The result: major breathing issues down the line. Whenever possible, you should avoid subjecting your child to extended hours strapped sitting in your infant car seat.

This will also help prevent to flat spots forming on your baby’s head.

12. Ditch the Padding

When positioning your baby, you do not want his or her head to flop forward. Padding can create distance between your child’s head and the seat back leaving room for potentially lethal movement in a crash.

13. Cut the Clutter

It might just be an empty soda can, but in a crash even small pieces of trash can turn into dangerous projectiles. Scour your car for potential hazards – from books to toys – and ensure that your vehicle is a clutter-free zone.

Remember this: extra items – from groceries to the beach toys – belong in the trunk.

14. Clip It Right

The chest clip of your harness should be positioned at the same level as your child’s armpit. This helps restrain your baby’s body, keeping your child in the safe cocoon of your car seat even if your car rolls over or spins.

Position the chest clip too low and your child could be thrown from the car seat.

How to Install an Infant Car Seat

Your new car seat has arrived, but what next? There’s a tear, a snap and an avalanche of plastic parts, manuals in thirteen different languages, and you, standing there with no clue where to start. Don’t fret, we’re here to help.

  • Read the instruction manual. Playing the guessing game won’t save you any time. And even if you’ve mastered the ins-and-outs of your last car seat, each unit has its own quirks that can quickly trip you up.
  • Position your car seat in the rear center seat if possible. Not only is the safest spot for your kid – he or she will be safe distance from any points of impact – it’s also a comfortable location for you to install the seat.
  • Study your vehicle. Modern cars often come equipped with lower anchors to help attach your car seat. However, older vehicles – particularly those that weren’t manufactured in the last decade – may not be designed to accommodate your new car seat. In some cases, you may need specialized adapters. We recommend consulting your car’s manual before purchasing a seat to ensure that the unit is compatible with your family vehicle.
  • Secure the seat. When your car seat has been positioned and attached, ensure that your seat is tightly installed. For reference: if your seat pivots, seesaws, tips over, or wobbles, you should adjust your setup to ensure a tighter fit.
  • If your infant car seat’s base is not level, your child’s head is at risk of flopping forward. Recline the seat until the base is level. Many of the seats listed here include a handy indicator to help find the right recline setting. However, a spirit level – when correctly used – can also aid in this process. (Remember that you will need to adjust the angle of the car seat as your child grows.)

 

 

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Safest and Best Convertible Car Seats (2018)

A top-class car seat shouldn’t just be a one-click pony. Our Geeks set out to find the best rated all-in-one car seats that can adapt and adjust to your growing child. On this page, you’ll find our picks for the safest and best convertible car seats based on comfort, safety technology, and consumer feedback. We’ve also provided some helpful car seat tips to maximize comfort and safety.

Best Convertible Car Seats OverallBest Convertible Car Seats for 1 Year Olds
Best Convertible Car Seats for 2 Year OldsBest Convertible Car Seats for 3 Year Olds
Best Convertible Car Seats for 4 Year OldsFun Themed Convertible Car Seats
Convertible Car Seat TipsHow to Install a Convertible Car Seat

Best Convertible Car Seats Overall

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible


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Estimated Price: $340 – $400

The words “Italian-made” carry the promise of masterful engineering, sleek design and elegant final touches. But don’t be fooled into thinking those rules only apply to sports cars, fashion lines and food. Italy’s own Peg Perego has created a convertible car seat which will not only keep your child safer than most others, but look better than the rest while doing it.

This car seat can be used in both forward-facing and rear-facing modes. This allows you to adjust the seat to accommodate your child as they grow. For example, up until around two years (or older, if your child still falls under the 45-pound weight limit) your little one should be restrained in a rear-facing position.

Studies have shown that it is safer for young children to travel facing the back of the car ­in an infant car seat as this distributes the force of a collision throughout their entire body. In a forward-facing position, your child’s head is thrust forward during a collision, subjecting his or her spine to powerful crash forces.

Newborns and infants’ bones are still developing. As a result, their spines are more vulnerable than those of adults or older children, with even the most minor crash forces leading to damage that could leave them paralyzed or dead.

When your child is ready to switch to a front-facing position, the Primo Viaggio can be turned around and can carry infants up to 65 pounds. This adds years to the unit’s lifespan making it a worthwhile investment when compared to its cheaper but more limited competitors.

Installing the Primo Viaggio, whether setting up the seat in a rear or forward-facing position, took just a few minutes. Our Geeks were able to achieve a tight fit in all three of our test vehicles (although it was harder to attach the straps to the car’s LATCH system in our less spacious hatchback). The straps are quick to tighten and the built-in level helps adjust the seat to the right position.

Have more than one vehicle? At just 21 pounds, the Primo Viaggio is light enough to carry and transfer between cars when necessary, which saves you the cost of forking out for extra seats.

The Primo Viaggio, like all of Peg Perego’s Italian-made units, has been rigorously crash tested to meet federal standards. The seat’s side impact protection is adjustable, allowing you to pick one of ten different positions to ensure your child’s head, neck and spine are properly shielded from potential crash forces.

The seat is lined with energy-absorbing foam throughout the shell and head panel, providing another layer of protection and comfort. Plus, a shock-absorbing foam element device (built into the seat just under the shell) is designed to crumple in a crash, siphoning off even more stress from your child’s shoulders and neck.

A contoured steel back plate helps minimize potential flexing and puts the brakes on even the slightest sign of forward movement. And finally, when the seat is switched to a front-facing position, a sturdy front tether hook helps provide extra stability when used in conjunction with the included strap.

Our Geeks were blown away by the sheer amount of safety tech Peg Perego have managed to cram into their convertible car seat. But it doesn’t come at the cost of the company’s trademark comfort.

The shell is covered in a high-quality fabric which stretches to hide the seat’s hardworking hardware. The result: a sleek seat with rounded corners which will comfortably restrain your infant.

The bottom line: feature-packed and brimming with comforting luxuries, the Primo Viaggio is one of the best convertible car seats under $425.

 

Clek Foonf Rigid Latch Convertible Baby and Toddler Car Seat

Best Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seats
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Estimated Price: $425 – $475

Marketed as the mother of all car seats, the Clek Foonf – one of very few infant car seats equipped to carry children up to 50lbs in a rear-facing position – makes big promises and still manages to overdeliver. This is thanks to Clek’s engineers pushing the capabilities of a car seat to new extremes, packing first class comfort and convenience into a seat which aces crash tests with ease.

However, this is a giant seat – much bulkier than any other on this list. And while that extra weight bolsters its safety rating and leaves a little room for added luxuries, our Geeks recommend against using the Foonf in anything smaller than a medium-sized sedan. That said, installing the seat in our larger test vehicles was quick and painless.

The seat can be connected to the LATCH anchors or via your car’s safety strap. Our Geeks were able to achieve an equally secure fit with either method in just a few minutes. However, thanks to the seats fantastic Rigid-LATCH connectors, you will save more time making use of this innovative new attachment system.

Once your seat is secure, you can adjust the structural headrest to accommodate your little one. It’s the most versatile headrest we’ve seen, providing the same level of comfort and security for newborns as it does for children who have almost outgrown the seat.

While the seat is large, Clek have managed to carve down the Foonf’s width to just 17 inches. Not only does this accommodate three-across seating (mandatory if you have a bigger family) but enables you to install the seat in the center rear position of your car.

Research shows that securing your little one in the rear seat of your vehicle reduces their chance of death or injury by 30%. When sitting in the center rear seat, your child is also shielded from potential side impact.

The seat is equipped with advanced side-impact collision in the form of the adjustable headrest. Our Geeks loved the headrest’s deep side wings and series of crash force-absorbing foam layers. As mentioned earlier, this is a heavy seat – it weighs 33 pounds – but that extra mass translates into extra safety for your child in the form of a solid metal substructure and endless inner and outer energy-absorbing foam-layers.

In rear-facing mode, the seat’s anti-rebound bar (you won’t find this on many other seats at this price point) prevents the seat from rotating and exposing your child’s head and neck to crash forces. The anti-rebound bar rests against your vehicle’s seat back, creating more precious legroom for your little one. Clek wasn’t lying when they said this seat is built like a tank.

This seat is founded on the principle of finding ways to merge safety and comfort. For example, the adjustable padded headrest is built to nestle your child’s head and our little Geeks had no problem stealing shuteye on our longer test drives. Our favorite feature: the generous smooth recline function which can be configured with the push of a button to achieve peak comfort for your infant.

Bottom line: it may be heavier than most, but innovative features and high-quality materials make this the safest convertible car seat under $500.

 

Graco Modes LX Click Connect Travel System


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Estimated Price: $420 – $550

Your child is most vulnerable in the first few months of their life. It’s a scary truth Graco set out to find a solution to, whether you’re on the road or out for a stroll. The Graco Modes Travel System doesn’t just solve safety problems – it’s a convenient, versatile and beautiful complete travel system at an unbeatable price point.

So, what’s in the box? The Graco Modes Travel System includes the SnugRide Click Connect 35 Infant Car Seat – already a fan favorite at our lab – and a three-in-one stroller with ten riding options from infant to toddler.

The SnugRide seat is the meat of this offering, accommodating newborns and infants up to 35 pounds. While other seats have higher maximums, and thus will give you better mileage in the long run, the Graco Modes Travel System is priced accordingly and is packaged with an award-winning stroller that you’ll be making frequent use of for years.

The seat’s base is LATCH-equipped and easy to attach to your car. Our Geeks were impressed by the seat’s large easy-to-read level indicator which helps position the seat once it has been secured. Unlike many other units, there is little guesswork involved with setting up the SnugRide, but as always, we recommended contacting a trained technician to come assess your vehicle and your car seat installation.

Graco’s seat has been rigorously crash-tested and exceeds federal safety standards. Lined with energy-absorbing foam, every part of the seat has been designed to siphon the stress of crash forces away from your child. Plus, the five-point adjustable harness helps you achieve a no-sweat snug fit for your child before every trip.

The seat is equipped with newborn head support, providing added cushioning and support for your child’s head during their first months. This inlay is removable, opening up room for your little one to grow.

Removing the car seat from the base is a simple as pressing a button. The SnugRide carrier weighs just seven pounds – making it the lightest on this list – and connects to Graco’s three-in-one stroller using the company’s ClickConnect technology.

Transitioning from car to stroller or vice versa is every bit as simple and fast as the company promises. Bottom line: for our Geeks, you won’t find a better complete travel system than this.

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $50 – $85

Safety and comfort for your little one for the same price as a night out at a fancy restaurant; Cosco’s $50 convertible car seat is a sleeper hit that’s a great option if you’re on a shoestring budget.

Built to carry children from 5 to 40 pounds and 19” to 40” in height in a rear-facing position and from 22 to 40 pounds and 19” to 43” in height in a forward-facing position, you will still be able to get a fair amount of use out of this cost-saving carrier.

This lightweight seat is certified for aircraft use, making it an ideal solution if you’re planning to travel with your little one. And where many cheaper units take a spartan approach to added features, the Scenera isn’t cutting corners. Not only does the buckle support three different positions, the harness can also be set to five different heights to accommodate your growing child.

Installing the car seat using the LATCH attachment system was simple enough. However, you may need to prop up the seat in a rear-facing mode with a pool noodle or two to ensure a safe recline position for your little one.

While this seat meets federal safety standards, it is not equipped with added side-impact protection or bolstered with EPS foam layers like some of the more expensive seats we have reviewed. If you do not want to compromise on extra safety and comfort features for your little one, our Geeks recommend increasing your budget.

Bottom line: this seat is a cheaper ticket to a safer ride that isn’t short on luxuries.

Best Convertible Car Seats for 1 Year Olds

Chicco NextFit iX Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $240 – $400

No two kids are the same. But too often, car seats are built with just one child in mind, shipping with restrictive harnesses and stubborn and unforgiving recline settings. The NextFit iX does not have that problem. Designed to switch between nine recline positions and fixed with an infinitely adjustable headrest, you can customize this seat to your heart’s content to ensure your child is safe and comfortable on every ride.

In its rear-facing mode, this seat can accommodate newborns and young toddlers up to a maximum of 40 pounds. Then, when your child is ready, switch the seat to its forward-facing position which can accommodate older kids up to 65 pounds.

According to our Geeks, this seat was one of the easiest to install during our comparative tests. Chicco’s SuperCinch tech makes light work of connecting the seat’s LATCH connectors to the anchors in your car, whether you’re setting up the seat in a rear or forward-facing position. Then, use the accurate large bubble-level fixed to the seat to ensure the NextFit is positioned correctly.

Chicco’s car seat has been rigorously crash tested to meet federal safety standards. The seat packs all the safety features you would expect, plus, a steel-reinforced frame and exterior to minimize flexing and prevent forward movement during a crash. The seat’s one-pull harness can be tightened and loosened with minimal effort.

Thick padding throughout the seat, and even along the harness provides added comfort and safety. However, our Geeks’ favorite feature is the seat’s nine-position recline, which smoothly transitions to comfortable sleeping position for your little one. Bonus: the newborn inlay packaged with the seat helps accommodate both newborn and prematurely-born babies.

The seat’s cover is easy to remove and is machine-washable, saving you time scrubbing away over a sink. Bottom line: for safety, comfort and convenience, this is one of the best child car seats under $425.

 

Diono Rainier All-In-One Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $250 – $415

Most convertible car seats can be rigged up in either a rear or forward-facing position. The Rainier, our designated overachiever, not only supports both modes, but can also be transformed into a standalone booster seat when your child is no longer an infant. This seat is designed to squeeze more out of every dollar you’ve spent, and – no surprises here – it’s our Geeks’ best car seat under $425.

The downlow: in rear-facing mode, this seat can carry children between 5 pounds and 50 pounds, in forward-facing mode it can accommodate older infants and toddlers between 20 pounds and 65 pounds, and when switched to the booster mode it supports older children up to 120 pounds. In theory, provided it isn’t damaged in a crash (fingers crossed), this seat should serve your child until they are ready to use your car’s own seats and seatbelts.

However, our Geeks warn that you should scrap the seat when it reaches its expiration date as wear and tear could hamper the Rainier’s ability to keep your child safe in a collision.

The seat has been subjected to rigorous crash testing and meets federal safety standards. Its full steel frame prevents the seat from buckling or flexing in a collision, while the 12-position adjustable head protection is designed to absorb high-velocity crash forces. Deep side walls help shield your child from potential side impact and provide a comfortable cavity to nestle your little one and encourage sleep.

Take note: this seat does not come equipped with recline functionality. However, our Geeks were content with the positioning of the seat once it had been installed in our test vehicles. The seat supports two-across seating and can be set up in the safest center rear seat.

The Rainier’s cover is made from a high-quality machine washable material which can be removed from the shell within seconds. We recommend drying the cover on the line, although it is safe to dry in a dryer.

Bottom line: this versatile all-in-one seat will give you years of use without breaking the bank.

Best Convertible Car Seats for 2 Year Olds

Britax Boulevard ClickTight Anti-Rebound Bar Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $230 – $410

Your child may be older and stronger, but their bones are still developing and therefore are still vulnerable to the potential damage caused by extreme forces in a crash. Britax’s car seat is designed to put as many layers of protection between your child and the dangers of the road, employing innovative tech and doubling-up on proven safety features to give you peace of mind whether you’re on the school run or trekking across the country.

Capable of carrying children up to 65 pounds, this high-mileage car seat is a breeze to install. Featuring the company’s ClickConnect technology, securing the Boulevard is as easy as opening the front of the unit, buckling your vehicle’s safety strap across and clicking the seat shut. Our Geeks’ quickest installation took just 11 seconds from start to finish.

Once the seat is in place, a handy spirit level built into the design helps adjust the seat to the safest position for your little one, whether you’re using the Boulevard in the rear or forward-facing mode. Another indicator on the harness lets you know exactly when your child is safely and snugly buckled in.

On the road, this seat’s two layers of side impact protection will divert potentially lethal forces away from your child’s head and neck. The seat’s adjustable headrest can be set to 1 of 14 different positions to accommodate your growing child. The seat also features an anti-rebound bar designed to prevent the seat from rotating in a crash and provides added leg room for your infant.

Bonus: a ten-year expiration date outstrips all the competition, giving this seat added mileage and use if you plan to have more children. Bottom line: you won’t find a seat that’s easier to install or boasts as many safety features as the Boulevard. A must-have for any parent at this price point.

 

Evenflo Symphony Elite All-In-One Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price $175 – $260

Evenflo promises that this is the “only car seat you’ll ever need”. After hours and hours of strenuous testing, our Geeks can’t help but agree.

The Symphony Elite is designed to carry your kid from infancy to the final hours of childhood. It transforms from a rear-facing infant car seat to forward-facing seat with booster capabilities. As a result, we’ve divided this review into three separate sections.

In its rear-facing mode, the Symphony Elite can carry infants from 5 to 40 pounds. It was a cinch to install, taking just under 60 seconds to secure and position using the LATCH anchors in our test vehicle.

But Evenflo haven’t just simplified the setup. The seat’s infinite slide harness, which can be adjusted on the fly without having rethread or reposition parts of the seat, could accommodate all three of our little Geeks with ease.

It’s a feature that will pay dividends as your child grows, saving you time on every single trip. Switch the seat into a forward-facing position and you now have a car seat that can carry your toddler up to a weight limit of 65 pounds.

In both rear and forward-facing positions, the seat is equipped with three layers of side impact protection which the company claims reduce crash forces by up to 50%. An energy-absorbing foam liner throughout the seat’s shell provides added protection and comfort. The seat feels well-padded and will both support and cushion your little one’s body.

Switching the Symphony Elite to its booster setting buys your child years of safety. Booster mode can carry children up to 110 pounds.

Bottom line: this versatile seat morphs with just a press of a button to keep your child safe and comfortable from day one making it the best all in one car seat under $275.

Best Convertible Car Seats for 3 Year Olds

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $125 – $170

Step into the ring, we have a real Contender. This seat has dominated the market for years, leaving its competitors in the dust with rock solid safety features, convenient installation innovations and luxury additions that both you and your little one can appreciate.

Graco’s safety seat can carry infants up to 40 pounds in a rear-facing position and toddlers up to 65 pounds in a forward-facing position. As usual, our Geeks would like to remind you that you should take advantage of this seat’s generous rear-facing limits for as long as possible as your child will always be safer restrained facing the back of your vehicle.

Installation, using either your car’s seat belts or the lower LATCH strap, is a first-round knockout for the Contender. Our fastest setup clocked in just under a minute, putting this seat neck-in-neck with the speediest seats on this list.

The Contender may be fighting fit, but it isn’t a heavyweight. The convertible weighs in at just 24 pounds, which is a small blessing if you’re lugging this aircraft-certified seat around the airport or moving the unit between vehicles.

Graco’s seat is no slouch when it comes to safety either. Not only does the seat meet, and often exceed, U.S. federal safety standards, the seat has also undergone additional side impact testing to ensure that there is not even the smallest chance your child can be flung from the Contender in a crash.

Bonus: the eight-position adjustable headrest slides to accommodate your growing toddler, ensuring that your child is snugly nestled safely in the seat’s shell at every age. Bottom line: there’s a reason this seat has held onto the title as one of the best – it’s affordable but punches way above its price point. This is one of our best rated car seats under $180.

 

Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $350 – $425

You and your child have survived the “terrible twos” and now it’s time to see why three is a magic number. Your child will start to speak in full sentences, tell you stories, answer simple questions and say their own name.

It’s a rewarding time as a parent. Reward your child with the best comfort and safety money can buy.

The Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 is an all-in-one car seat designed to carry your kid from infancy to late childhood. This seat can carry your child up to 40 pounds in a rear-facing position, up to 65 pounds in a forward-facing position, and then up to 100 pounds in booster mode.

Installing the seat, in whichever mode, takes just a few minutes. The seat’s setup requires more tinkering than some of the pricier models on this list, but our Geeks were able to achieve a secure fit in every one of our test vehicles.

In a rear-facing position, this seat features a removable infant lumbar cushion designed to support and envelope your newborn. The unit is equipped with thick and comfortable side impact protection and is lined with energy-absorbing foam throughout the shell.

Our Geeks were impressed by the seat’s high-quality five-point harness system which can be tightened and relaxed with just one-hand. However, the unit’s limited recline, which can only be set to one of three different positions, left a little to be desired.

Fortunately, the seat packs bonus comfort features such as armrests which can be rotated and stowed away, a removable cup holder which can washed in the dishwasher, and a pillow for longer rides or the trip back from the park.

Bottom line: at just under $450, this extended-use seat provides years of safety without breaking the bank.

Best Convertible Car Seats for 4 Year Olds

2015 Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $220 – $250

The Pria 70 entered the market almost three years ago and is still one of the world’s top-selling car seats today. It’s staying power is both parts substance and style.

This car seat supports both rear-facing (up to 40 pounds) and forward-facing (up to 70 pounds) modes. Equipped with one click LATCH installation and swift recline adjustment, installing and positioning the Pria 70 never took our Geeks longer than a few minutes. Both the harness and headrest can be repositioned to accommodate your growing child.

The seat features advanced side impact protection, employing Air Protect to create a safe buffer between your child and crash forces in a collision. And while this seat checks off every safety requirement you would expect, our Geeks were blown away by the seat’s smart and sensible comfort features.

The seat is covered in self-wicking fabric which deodorizes and repels moisture. As a result, your child won’t be trapped in a padded sauna if you live in warmer parts of the country.

Plus, the seat’s cover – which is removed and reattached with a simple snap-on snap-off clip system – is machine washable and can be either dried on the line or in a dryer. This high level of convenience will save your precious minutes which are far better spent with your little one at your destination.

The seat weighs just 19 pounds, making it lighter than most of the seats listed here. A lightweight seat is mandatory if you have more than one vehicle or often use taxis to get around the city. Bonus: it supports three-across seating, propelling this seat right to the top of the list for bigger families.

Bottom line: if you’re looking for a seat that is simple, sleek and safe, look no further than the Pria 70.

 

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Rachel Zoe Jet Set Special Edition


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Estimated Price: $390 – $425

Car seats and fashion lines don’t often share the same runway. But Maxi-Cosi’s Pria 85, the brainchild of one of the world’s best car seat companies and one of America’s top fashion designers, is proof that your child’s safety can be both glamorous and guaranteed.

Merging premium cognac leather and eye-catching, hand-stitched detailing – this car seat mirrors the luxury interior of a classic car. But this seat isn’t just a looker. Brimming under the surface you’ll find the full arsenal of Maxi-Cosi’s proven safety features.

Designed to support extended seating, this seat raises the bar on the competition, carrying infants up to 40 pounds in a rear-facing position and toddlers up to 65 pounds in a forward-facing position. In both modes, the Pria 85 is equipped with bolstered side impact protection which employs Air Protect tech to expand the buffer between your kid and crash forces in a collision.

Air Protect is a modern safety innovation which helps reduce the potential danger of a collision by diverting crash forces away from your child’s head and neck. The forces are absorbed by the headrest instead. This air-release system is a massive departure from the foam-lining designs employed by most of the Pria 85’s competitors, and has been shown to be far more effective at slowing down an impact.

The seat features one-hand harness height adjustment with multiple positions, enabling you to tailor the perfect fit for your little one. The result: improved safety and unparalleled comfort that accommodate your child at every age.

The Pria 85 packs a hefty price tag, but straight out of box it is clear that this seat is in a different class to the rest of the pack. Made from high-quality materials and equipped with convenient features you just won’t find anywhere else; this cover model car seat is worth every penny.

Themed Convertible Car Seats

Disney APT Convertible Car Seat


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Estimated Price: $50 – $65

Parents often forget that while safety and convenience are king, your child needs to love his or her car seat as much as you do. Disney’s APT Convertible Car Seat aims to please both parties, combining great safety features and comfort with a kid-friendly aesthetic that will have your little one excited to travel safely from day one.

Installing the car seat was pain-free for our Geeks who said it took just under a minute to clip the seat into place using LATCH anchors in the car. Buckling in your little one is simplified by the front adjustable five-point harness, a must-have if you want to skip the stress of achieving a snug fit.

The APT Convertible supports both rear-facing and front-facing modes (up to 40 pounds). And while that weight maximum is mediocre when compared to many others, it’s important to remember this seat weighs just 13 pounds and is designed be light and transportable during the most dependent stage of your child’s life.

However, this convertible hasn’t cut any corners. It features side impact protection to shield your child’s neck and head from crash forces, and is padded up with a thick foam lining which provides extra protection.

The seat is also equipped with two built-in cup holders. Bottom line: our Geeks loved this seat. And thanks to its color and design, your little one will love it even more.

Convertible Car Seat Tips

Always heed the expiration date.

In the US, federal safety standards do not require companies to limit the lifespan of a particular car seat. However, independent tests, and those conducted by manufacturers, have shown that expiration dates can save lives as they prevent the use of seats that may have degraded over time, are equipped with dated safety tech or may no longer meet new safety standards set by authorities.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has even endorsed usage limits set by manufacturers. Typically, seats should not be used for longer than ten years, but some companies suggest scrapping your seat as soon as six to eight years after the date you began using the convertible car seat.

Never buy a second-hand car seat.

You may be on a tight budget, but our Geeks suggest steering clear of the second-hand market. While a used seat may look like it’s in pristine condition, the naked eye cannot spot hairline fractures and structural faults that may have developed under the shell and will lead to catastrophic failure in a crash.

Your child should never wear bulky layers when restrained in a convertible car seat.

Temperatures are dipping and your little one needs warmth; but before you pull out the puffer, snowsuit or a padded jacket, remember this: thick layers will compress under stress causing the harness to slacken and leaving your child vulnerable to extreme forces in a crash. In many cases, infants bundled up in heavy layers have been flung from their convertible car seats on impact.

Instead, do this next time it’s cold: dress your little one in lightweight layers and buckle them in. To warm them up, spread a blanket over the seat and harness and tuck the edges in on the sides of the seat. Alternatively, our Geeks recommend investing in specialized seat covers tailored to keep your infant both snug and safe.

LATCH has a catch.

Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, or LATCH, is an attachment system for connecting your new car seat to your vehicle. It employs straps on the seat which connect to anchors in your vehicle. While, in most cases, a LATCH connection will be more secure than rigging up your car seat using the car’s seat belt, this may not always be the case.

Experts suggest testing both methods to check which yields the tighter fit. For reference: ensure that your seat does not pivot, seesaw, wobble, or tip over.

Buy online.

Car seats are built to fit most cars. But sometimes a seat just won’t suit your current setup. Brick and mortar stores will let you test to see if a seat will fit your car. However, you will save more money (and time) buying online through sites such as Amazon. Plus, most online retailers offer free and lightning fast refunds and returns. Our Geeks recommend ordering a seat from this list of those reviewed above and then taking time to test if it fits your vehicles.

Not a good fit? No stress. Just return the seat and pick another.

Your car seat should never wobble.

Not sure you’ve installed your seat correctly? Remember this: once your convertible car seat is attached to the LATCH system in your vehicle (or via your car’s safety belt) and correctly positioned, it should not tip over, wobble, seesaw, or pivot.

If there is any sign of movement, consult the instruction manual included with your convertible car seat to double-check that you have follow each step word-for-word. Still not luck? Try attaching the seat using the safety belt rather than the LATCH anchors or vice versa.

If the seat is still wobbling, contact the manufacturer and explain what is wrong. You may be required to purchase an adapter or additional parts to secure the seat to your car. You cannot afford to risk even the slightest movement as this could lead to the severe injury or death of your little one in a crash.

The front passenger seat is the most dangerous place in the car for your child.

It may be easier to tend to your little one’s demands when they’re sitting right by your side. But letting your child sit in the front passenger seat – whether they are using a car seat or not–- puts them at greater risk of being injured or killed in a crash.

In fact, many states have laws prohibiting children from using the front seat. Why? In a head-on collision – the most common and dangerous type of crash – your child could be flung against the dashboard or even straight through the car’s windshield. Even the airbags can potentially kill your child, inflating with enough force to snap your child’s spine or damage their skull.

Always seat your child in the center rear seat of your car when possible.

According to research, the center rear seat of your car is the safest spot to install your new convertible car seat. While seating your child in any of the back seats as opposed to the front seat, cuts their risk of injury or death in a crash by 30%, the left and right rear seats are still exposed to potential lethal side impact.

The center seat is situated as far as possible from every point of impact, whether it is from the front, back or side. Seating your child here will shield them from threat posed by a direct hit.

However, if you have more than one child remember that older children, who are either using a front-facing infant seat, a booster or the car’s seat itself, should be given priority as they are more vulnerable in a front-facing position than your infant in their rear-facing convertible car seat.

Keep your infant rear-facing for as long as possible.

Your infant, whose bones and connective tissue are still developing, is a vulnerable little creature. Even minor crash forces could lead to severe injuries or death. When your child is facing the front of the car in a head-on collision – both the most common and most dangerous type of crash – your child’s torso is restrained, but his or her head and neck are at the mercy of extreme momentum.

The result: your child’s head is thrust forward, stretching the neck and putting immense strain on the spine. In a rear-facing seat, your child’s entire body, including the neck and head, are restrained in the safety of a padded cocoon.

Your child can switch to a front-facing seat at two-years-old. However, you shouldn’t be in a rush. Experts recommend keeping your child rear-facing until he or she outgrows the height or weight limits of the convertible car seat.

You don’t always need a tether.

This European invention comes bundled with most front-facing and convertible car seats. It is a strap fixed with a durable fastener and is used to stop forward-facing, convertible and booster car seats from tipping over in a crash.

You should always use a tether with your forward-facing car seat. However, you should never use a tether with your rear-facing car seat unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer in the accompanying instructions.

Everyone buckles up! Every. Single. Time.

Even the world’s best safety seat is worthless if your child isn’t buckled up. And because no car seat is escape-proof, you will need to enforce strict safety belt rules for everyone in your car.

Your goal: lead by example. Don’t turn the key in the ignition until everyone, including yourself, in the car is buckled in. If your little Houdini manages to escape from their harness, bring the car to a safe stop and tell your kid, in a calm but firm voice, that you will sit here and wait until he or she is back in convertible car seat before setting off again.

If your kid refuses to stay buckled in, try this method from Carseat.org: bring your car seat into your house and let your child roleplay as either “dad” or “mom” by restraining their favorite doll in the convertible car seat.

This is a fun way to reinforce safe and responsible travel habits next time you’re on the road.

Switch seats to accommodate your growing child.

There are three types of car seats to choose from:

  • Infant (or baby) car seats are rear-facing safety seats built to shield your little one from crash forces during the earliest stages of his or her life. These seats can carry children up to two years old, up to a maximum weight of around 35 pounds to 40 pounds, or up to a height limit of around 32 inches. Once your child has outgrown any of these limits, it’s time to switch to a rear-facing convertible car seat.

 

  • Convertible car seats are can transition between multiple modes such as rear-facing, forward-facing and in some cases, high-back booster. The right convertible car seat can carry your child from infancy through to late childhood. Just remember: it’s safer to keep your little one rear-facing for as long as possible.

 

  • Booster seats are built to carry kids who are at least four years old and weigh over 40 pounds. These seats traditionally make use of the car’s regular seat belt to restrain your kid, packing safety tech and comfort luxuries into the structure of the seat. Remember: you should only use a booster seat in a backless seating if your car’s own seats are equipped with adequate head support for your child.

Worry about the head, not the legs.

Don’t believe the myths, a child with longer legs isn’t at higher risk of being hurt in an accident. Extensive studies and crash testing has revealed that children will naturally fold their legs into a more comfortable position when restrained in a rear-facing car seat.

However, there should always be at least an inch of space between the top of your little one’s head and the top of the headrest. Any room for movement, however slight, could have life-threatening consequences for your kid in a crash.

Our rule: double-check your child’s positioning every time you set off and adjust the headrest accordingly.

How to Install a Convertible Car Seat

Ah, that new car seat smell! However, the initial excitement is often short-lived, your hopes of having a stress-free afternoon dashed on the rocks of manuals and guides. No worries, we’re here to help you out:

  • Understand your car. Was your car manufactured in the last decade? Good. Chances are it’s equipped with handy LATCH anchors and you can clip your seat in without a hitch. However, some cars, especially older ones, often don’t support modern car seats. You may need a special adapter or part. Read your car’s manual before, not after, you purchase a car seat to ensure it is compatible.
  • Read the literature. Skip the guessing game and arm yourself with all the knowledge you need to install your new seat. Yep, you might think you’re a pro after setting up the last one, but each unit has its own snags that can quickly leaving you cursing.
  • Center it up. The center rear seat of your car is the safest spot in your vehicle. Bonus: it’s also the easiest spot to install your car seat.
  • Attach the seat. Whether you’re using the LATCH anchors in your vehicle or just your car’s safety belt, ensure that your car seat doesn’t tip over, pivot, wobble, or see saw once it’s been set in place. You may need to use a pool noodle to eradicate any movement.
  • Adjust the seat. Your convertible car seat needs to be level in order to reduce the chance of your child’s head moving forward in a crash. Fortunately, most car seats come equipped with an indicator to track the seat’s position.
  • Call in a technician. Once your seat has been set up, contact a trained technician to come assess your installation to ensure there are no safety hazards you have overlooked.

 

 

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