For decades, Consumer Reports has been working to make car seats and the marketplace safer for transporting children in order to help reduce child fatalities on the roads. We first crash-tested child seats in August 1972. Since then, we have continued to provide a unique evaluation of child seats. As an independent, non-profit consumer group that accepts neither advertising nor corporate donations, Consumer Reports uses internal research to provide you with real-world experience and expert advice, free of outside influences. We also purchase the seats we test from retail markets, just as you would, rather than accepting free samples from manufacturers.
Our rigorous test methods evaluate ease-of-use, fit-to-vehicle, and crash performance. We combine the results of these three tests to determine the overall rating for each child seat, giving more weight to the combined scores of the ease-of-use and fit-to-vehicle testing than to the crash performance testing because optimal crash protection cannot be expected without proper use and secure installation.
At Consumer Reports certified child passenger safety technicians evaluate how easy the child seats are to use. This is an important part of our testing, as ease of use and understanding the directions helps you properly install the seat in your own vehicle. Our evaluation includes the clarity of instructions, installing the seat, adjusting harness positions, placing a child in the seat, securing the harness, and removing a child.
Child passenger safety technicians rate how easy it is to securely and correctly install each seat using the LATCH system and vehicle seat belts in a variety of vehicles and how well the seats fit each vehicle. These vehicles are selected because aspects of their geometry or restraint systems make child seat installations challenging. Every child seat is installed in each of its configurations, in multiple vehicle seat locations, and with vehicle belts or LATCH as applicable.
All child seats are required to meet minimum federal safety standards. We evaluate a child seat’s potential for providing an additional margin of safety in simulated 35 mph frontal crashes when compared to the performance of similar models. The evaluation is based on injury criteria measured on standardized child-sized dummies, head contact with the back of a simulated front seat, and the child seat’s ability to remain intact during the course of testing.