Car Seats

Infant Car Seat Safety Rating

Ashley Davis

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Are you looking for infant car seat safety ratings in 2024? Great! You’ve come to the right page! As a parent myself, there is some pride in knowing that you’re getting a secure baby safety product.

Your child’s safety is of utmost importance; hence, in every country, there are government regulations that must be met before manufacturers release their infant car seats into the market. Aside from the seats meeting the legal requirements, some bodies conduct rigorous safety tests with ratings to assist parents and caregivers when they shop for an infant seat and help manufacturers improve their products. In this review, we will explore how safety tests are conducted and include the results of several infant car seats.

We also have detailed info on convertible car seats crash test results.

Infant car seat safety ratings NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates children’s car seats in the US. In 2005, it ran a pilot testing program, comprised of a simulated crash situation as well as the New Car Assessment Program test to determine how well infant car seats protect children. Based on the pilot program results, NHTSA concluded that a rating program based on simulated crashes would not give practical, easily understandable, or meaningful information to consumers. Hence, NHTSA does not rate the safety of infant car seats.

Instead, NHTSA provides ease-of-use ratings that enable parents and caregivers to evaluate how easy certain car seat features are to use before buying a seat. Also, all the car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards and strict crash performance standards.

NHTSA Ease of Use Rating Scale

While all rated seats are safe, they vary in their ease of use in four basic categories:

Evaluation of Instructions

NHTSA examines the content and clarity of the instructions manual for the infant car seat

Vehicle Installation Features

NHTSA considers the ease of using features specific to installing the infant car seat

Evaluation of Labels

NHTSA examines the content and clarity of the labeling attached to the infant car seat

Securing the Child

NHTSA considers the ease of using features that concern securing a child correctly in the infant car seat.

Interpretation of NHTSA’s Ratings

NHTSA uses 5-star ratings to help consumers evaluate each of the above categories as follows:

NHTSA Star Rating System
NHTSA Star Rating System(Source: NHTSA PDF)
  • 5 Stars = Excellent 
  • 4 Stars = Above-average
  • 3 Stars = Average
  • 2 Stars = Below-average 
  • 1 Star = Poor 

How Safety Ratings Are Conducted 

As we said earlier, several independent bodies conduct Safety ratings with credible results. We will consider just two: Consumer Reports in the US and Which? in the UK.

 Consumer Report

Consumer Reports is a non-profit membership organization that works with consumers to establish truth, transparency, and fairness in the market. Product research & testing is one of their integral functions, and that includes infant car seat testing. They rate car seat safety based on:

  • The Crash Test

This test simulates real-world vehicle conditions and increases the speed of the simulated frontal impact test from 30 mph (as outlined in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, and NHTSA standard regarding child car seat crash performance testing) to 35 mph. The car seat is installed on a test bench that uses the cushions and hardware from an actual vehicle seat.

It also includes a surface that simulates the back of front-row seats inspired by the fact that research has shown that when children are injured in frontal crashes, it’s often because they hit their heads on something in the vehicle, like the back of the front seat. Also, unlike the federal safety standards which do not include testing car seats with load legs, CR updated its crash test to include a carpeted surface to represent the vehicle floor and to allow the results to reflect the contribution of the load leg.

Crash testing evaluation ratings are based on:

  • Injury criteria measured on standardized child-sized dummies generally used in this type of simulated crash testing
  • Direct contact of the dummy’s head with the simulated front seatback
  • A seat’s ability to remain intact during testing
  • Ease of Use

CR-certified child passenger safety technicians evaluate how easy the seats are to use. This reflects how easily consumers can understand the installation instructions and apply them when they install the seat on their cars. CR technicians evaluate:

  • Product labels and instructions (including the availability of Spanish-language instructions)
  • Installation and assembly
  • Ease of adjustments
  • Care and cleaning of the seat
  • Fit to Vehicle

This car seat rating includes how well a seat fits in a variety of vehicles. The seat is installed in the rear configuration in five different vehicle types. The chosen vehicles also include features that may make child seat installation a challenge based on our vehicle assessments. The technicians carefully follow the manufacturers’ instructions and make judgments based on how securely each seat could be installed.

CR combines the results of those three tests to determine the overall rating of each car seat, giving more consideration to the combined scores of the fit-to-vehicle and ease-of-use testing than to the crash-test performance. This is because they feel that a seat can’t provide optimal crash protection if it isn’t properly installed or is being used incorrectly.

Which?

Which? is a UK-independent body with exclusive membership. They promote informed consumer choice by testing products, highlighting inferior products and services, raising awareness of consumer rights, and offering independent advice. Just like CR, they perform car seat safety ratings. They evaluate safety based on:

How the seat withstands different crashes

Which? goes beyond the British standard safety test and follows Euro NCAP tests. Euro NCAP is a non-profit organization in Europe that conducts a voluntary car safety rating program. It was originally started by the Transport Research Laboratory for the UK Department for Transport but is now backed by the European Commission, seven European governments, and motoring and consumer organization in every EU country.

Which? The crash test includes:

A front crash, equivalent to a head-on collision at around 40mph

A side crash, equivalent to two cars crashing into each other at 30mph

The tests are repeated over and over, with the seat installed in all possible positions. Which? claim that they can test as many as 15 samples of the same seat to get the final score for just one.

The crash test dummies are wired with sensors that record the crash force on the vulnerable parts of the body to accurately indicate the risk of injury in case of a real-life crash.

Also taken into account is the stability of the car seat- whether it seems loose or rickety, and the ease of threading the adult car seat belt around the infant car seat if it is an option.

The safety test makes 60% of the overall score.

Ease of installation

Their ease of use test involves real children, dummies, and parents.

Each seat is installed in three different makes and models of cars. The evaluation experts also scrutinize instructions and warning labels to see if anything is confusing, annoying, or misleading. Additionally, they evaluate care instruction of the seat. This test makes up 30% of the overall score.

How comfortable the seat is for your child

This is an ergonomic assessment of the seat to ensure children are in the best position when traveling which is especially important for small babies.

They check the available space for a child to grow, the amount of padding on the seat, and a child’s view from their seat. This makes sure a child is not tempted to lean forward out of their seat. This test makes up 10% of the overall score.

Infant car seat safety ratings in the US and Canada 

Transport Canada is the governmental authority that verifies that every child seat meets the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. They purchase the seats from retail stores and conduct four main categories of tests:

Dynamic testing

This testing measures the safety of the infant car seat at a full-frontal collision at 48 km/hr into a wall. It is done on an accelerated sled that is equipped with a standard bench seat. A dummy is buckled in the seat, which is then secured to the bench seat. High-speed cameras and sensing devices are installed on the dummy and the sled to allow the Transport Canada evaluation experts to check the structural integrity of the infant car seat. Additionally, they measure how far forward the dummy’s head moves, how fast the dummy’s chest moves, and how much a rear-facing child rotates.

Buckle release testing

It measures the force needed to release the buckle of the infant car seat before and after the dynamic test. This ensures that a child can be safely removed following a collision.

Energy-absorbing material testing

It measures the thickness and the resistance to compression of the padding material. They evaluate the thickness of the child seat’s cushions and how well they protect a child by absorbing the shock during a collision.

Inversion testing

This test measures the safety of a child’s car seat during a simulated 360-degree roll in an aircraft. The infant car seat is installed on a representative aircraft passenger seat equipped with an aircraft lap belt and rotating the seat to the inverted position (upside down) and through a full 360-degree rotation. The aircraft passenger seat belt must keep the child seat in place, and the dummy must not fall out of the child’s car seat. In Canada, for an infant car seat to be certified for use in an aircraft it must pass this test.

The infant car seat either passes or fails these tests.

NB: The test results are not meant to rate individual child car seats or for comparison. This is common for both American (U.S. NHTSA) and Canadian transport authorities (Transport Canada).

European infant car seat safety ratings

Infant car seats in European countries are regulated by the United Nations Economic Commission (UNECE) safety standards. They must have either the UN R44/04 approval or UN R 129 (i-Size) approval. 

Aside from the UN approval, they are also tested by independent testing bodies such as ADAC and Stiftung Warentest. The infant car seats go through various testing categories:

Frontal Impact- The infant car seat is subjected to simulated front impact at 64 km/hr

Side Impact- the infant car seat is met with a simulated side impact at 50 km/hr

Further tests are done with regard to misuse potential, ergonomic design, handling, cleaning, workmanship, and the presence of harmful substances.

Aside from using dummies of various sizes in the crash tests, real children and parents also participate in the other test categories.

The overall result depends on safety, handling, ergonomics, and harmful substances and is rated as very good, good, satisfactory, bare minimum, and poor.

Infant car seat safety ratings from 2015 to 2020:

NHTSA is still using the same criteria for conducting infant car seat ease of use assessment as stipulated by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 213, with a five-star rating.

Infant Car Seat Safety Ratings Consumer Reports 

Overall ScoreBrand/ModelCrash protectionEase of useFit to vehicleFit to vehicle belt
90Clek LiingBestExcellent ExcellentExcellent
89Chicco KeyFit 30Best ExcellentExcellentExcellent
85Maxi-Cosi Mico Max PlusBestVery GoodExcellentVery Good
82Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35DLXBetter ExcellentExcellentExcellent
81Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 EliteBetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
81Chicco Fit2BetterVery GoodExcellentExcellent
77Combi ShuttleBetterVery GoodExcellentExcellent
77UPPAbaby MesaBetterExcellentExcellentVery Good
76Evenflo Gold Secure MaxBestVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
75Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 BetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
75Graco SnugRide SnugLock 30BetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
72Graco SnugRide SnugLock Extend2Fit 35 BetterExcellentExcellentExcellent
71Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 NidoBestVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
70Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 UrbanBetterVery GoodExcellentVery Good
69Evenflo Lite Max DLXBestVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
69Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35BetterVery GoodExcellentVery Good
69Cybex Aton Q(recalled)BetterVery GoodExcellentGood
68Nuna PipaBestExcellentExcellentFair
68Nuna Pipa LiteBestVery GoodExcellentFair
67Cybex Aton 2(recalled)BetterVery GoodExcellentGood
66Doona Infant Car seatBetterVery GoodVery GoodGood
65Britax Endeavours(discontinued)BetterExcellentVery GoodVery Good
64Britax B-safe 35BetterExcellentVery GoodVery Good
64Evenflo Embrace SelectBestVery GoodGoodGood
63Cybex Platinum Cloud QBestGoodExcellentFair
63Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30BasicExcellentVery GoodVery Good
62Phil&Teds AlphaBetterFairExcellentVery Good
61Evenflo Safe MaxBetterVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
60Safety 1st OnBoard 35BetterVery GoodExcellentGood
60Evenflo Lite Max 35BetterVery GoodVery GoodVery Good
58Graco SnugRide 30 Click Connect BetterVery GoodGoodGood
56Cybex Aton MBetterExcellentFairGood
56Cosco LightNComfy DXBetterVery GoodGoodGood
55Baby Trend Ally 35BetterGoodVery GoodGood
42Evenflo Nurture Infant Car SeatBetterGoodGoodGood

2024 Consumer Reports Crash Testing:

In 2024, a few brands were introduced and some others were removed. Below is an updated list of all Consumer Reports’ safety ratings. The report is beyond a paywall here.

Overall scoreNameCrash protectionLoad Leg?
90Clek LiingBestYes
89Graco Premier SnugRide SnugFit 35 XT featuring Load LegBestYes
89Chicco KeyFitBestNo
84Cybex Cloud G LuxBetterYes
83Graco Premier SnugRide SnugFit 35 XTBetterNo
82Chicco KeyFit 30BetterNo
82Chicco Fit2BetterNo
81Chicco Keyfit 35BetterNo
80Nuna Pipa Lite RXBetterYes
79Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 DLXBetterNo
79Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 EliteBetterNo
79Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35 LXBetterNo
77Evenflo Shyft DualrideBetterNo
77UPPAbaby Mesa MaxBetterYes
75Graco Snugride Snuglock 35BetterNo
74Britax B-Safe Gen2BetterNo
72Graco SnugRide SnugLock Extend2Fit 35BetterNo
72Evenflo Gold SecureMaxBestYes
71Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35BetterNo
69Britax B-Safe Gen2 FlexfitBetterNo
69UPPAbaby Mesa V2BetterNo
69Evenflo LiteMax DLXBestYes
69Clek LiingoBestNo
68Century Carry-OnBetterNo
68Nuna PipaBestYes
68Baby Trend Secure Lift 35BetterNo
67Cybex Aton 2BetterYes
67Doona Infant Car SeatBetterNo
61Evenflo LiteMax 35BetterNo
61Baby Trend EZ-Lift 35 PlusBetterNo
61Britax Willow SBetterNo
60Graco SnugRide 35 Lite LXBetterNo
59Safety 1st onBoard35 LTBetterNo
59Cybex Platinum Cloud QBetterYes
58Graco SnugRide SnugFit 35BetterNo
58Evenflo NurtureMaxBetterNo
56Cybex Aton MBetterYes
55Baby Trend Ally 35BetterNo
Table showing crash test ratings and overall score assigned to different infant car seats

If it clear from the two rankings comparing the safety of different infant car seats based on crash test protection that load leg is an essential feature to improve the overall safety of your baby during crashes. Read more about load leg here.

Britax Infant Car Seats Safety Rating

The Britax B-Safe Gen2 Flexfit and Britax B-Safe Gen2 Infant car seats are renowned for their advanced safety features. Featuring a steel frame and energy-absorbing base, both models prioritize maximum protection in case of a collision. In the most recent NHTSA Ease of Use Ratings, the Britax B-Safe Gen 2 car seat received a 5-star rating. Similarly, the Britax Grow with You with Clicktight, also awarded 5 stars, stands out for its safety features.

They boast Britax’s patented SafeCell Impact Protection system, a deep foam-lined shell, and quick-adjust head protection for optimal safety and comfort for infants. Suitable for infants weighing 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall, these car seats ensure ease of installation with the SafeCenter LATCH system and compatibility with Britax strollers for added convenience. While excelling in safety, it’s worth noting that these car seats lean towards the heavier side, potentially affecting portability for some parents.

Consumer Reports rated the Britax Willow S as “Better” in its latest crash test protection report, giving it an overall infant car seat rating of 61%. In previous tests, the Britax B-Safe and Britax Endevours(discontinued) scored 64% and 65% respectively, also earning a “Better” rating for their crash protection effectiveness.

Infant Car Seat Safety Ratings 2020

In the US car seat manufacturers are expected to ensure that their products meet the safety standards outlined by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. These standards are developed and enforced by the NHTSA, which is an agency of the federal government and part of the Department of Transportation.

In Europe, child car seat safety used to follow the UN R 44/04 safety standards, but these laws have been improved into the new UN R129 as of 2019. Consumers are urged to buy only the seats that meet the new R129 regulations for better safety, and all the seats under UN regulations must have a sticker showing approval.

Also, note that most car seats with anti-rebound bars scored decently in crash test protection tests.

Infant car seat highest safety rating which infant car seat has the highest rating (a rating from different rating agencies)/best safety rated infant car seat

Safety ratings of infant car seat brands:

Baby Jogger City Go infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Baby Trend EZ Flex Loc infant car seat safety rating – 4 star by NHTSA

Baby Jogger City Go 2 infant car seat safety ratings- 4 Star

Maxi Cosi infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Chicco infant car seat safety ratings-4 star by NHTSA

Chicco Keyfit 30 infant car seat safety rating- 4 stars by NHTSA

Clek infant car seat safety rating- Best overall by Consumer Reports

Cosco infant car seat safety rating-3 star by NHTSA

Chicco Keyfit infant car seat encore safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 elite infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Graco Snugride Snuglock 30 infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Evenflo Safemax infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Evenflo Litemax infant car seat safety rating: 4-star by NHTSA

Doona infant car seat safety ratings: 5-star by NHTSA

Nuna Pipa infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

UPPAbaby mesa infant car seat safety rating-5 star by NHTSA

Orbit infant car seat safety rating-4 star by NHTSA

Peg Perego infant car seat safety rating-3 star by NHTSA

Crash testing process: