Best Child Car Seats for Extended LATCH Use

Plus, how to know when to safely switch to seat-belt installation

Usage: CRO Buying Guides 2015/2016Product: Car SeatsBrand: N/AModel: Maya MrowiecCU: N/APhotographer: John Walsh Consumer Reports

Many parents are familiar with the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, a convenient way to secure child car seats.

But some might not know there’s a weight limit for these anchors, and it includes both the weight of the seat and the child.

It's important for parents to be aware of the limitations and to figure out the right time to move from using a lower LATCH anchor to installing their child seat using a seat belt.

Harness Weight Limits vs. Lower Anchor Usage Limit

Car-seat labels and instructions outline each seat’s height and weight limits. If the seat can be used more than one way (forward- and backward-facing), the limits can be different for each. That’s because the way a car seat is secured to the vehicle and distributes crash energy differs when it's rear- or forward-facing.

More on Car Seats

Children can use a car seat safely until they reach its weight or height limit. But a vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors, located in the crease between the seatback and cushion, have a 65-pound limit. This means the heavier the car seat, the sooner that combined weight limit will be reached. At that point, parents will have to secure the car seat using the seat belt.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) amended the federal safety standard for car seats to require manufacturers to provide language on a car seat’s labels and installation diagrams stating the weight limit for lower LATCH anchor installation. Car-seat manufacturers have been required to comply with this rule since February 2015. CR says this additional language makes it easier for consumers to know the proper installation method for their car seat and the correct time to move from LATCH anchors to a seat-belt installation.

Best Car Seats for Extended LATCH Use

Experts at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center have identified the car seats that performed well in our ratings and allow for lower-anchor installation for a longer period of time.

When shopping for one of these seats, keep in mind these three things:

• The overall weight of the seat
• The height and weight limits listed on the seat itself (rear- and front-facing have different limits)
• The child’s height and weight

Parents will need to keep a close eye on their child’s height and weight as he or she grows. Some children may grow too tall for their seat before they grow too heavy for it.

Convertible and All-in-One Seats to Consider

All of these seats can be used in rear- and forward-facing configurations. Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping a child rear-facing until he or she is at least 2 years old or meets the height or weight limit of their car seat. Children should be kept in their forward-facing harness until they reach the height or limit of the seat to maximize their protection, and the top tether should be attached for all forward-facing installations.

Once the child reaches the weights listed below, parents will need to switch to using a seat belt to secure the seat if the child hasn't exceeded the seat’s forward-facing height or weight limit. All of the seats we have included allow for LATCH installation as long as the child remains below the seat's rear-facing weight limit of 40 pounds. (The exception is the Graco Extend2Fit convertible, which has a 45-pound limit when using LATCH.) We have grouped the seats by their forward-facing weight limit for LATCH use.

Evenflo Sure Ride
Evenflo Sure Ride

Consumer Reports Consumer Reports

Here we feature CR's choices for cars seats in three weight categories. Click on each model name to get more details and shopping information.

Seats With a 55-Pound Maximum Child Weight Using LATCH
Evenflo Sure Ride
Evenflo Titan 65

Seats With a 50-Pound Maximum Child Weight Using LATCH
Essentials by Britax Emblem and Allegiance
Britax Boulevard G4.1 and Marathon G4.1

Seats With a 45-Pound Maximum Child Weight Using LATCH
Graco Contender 65
Graco Extend2Fit (45-lb. rear-facing limit)
Graco Size4Me 65
Graco Head Wise 65
Graco My Ride 65
Graco Milestone
Graco 4Ever
Evenflo Symphony

Infant Seats

All infant seats that CR rates can be used with the lower LATCH anchors for as long as the child fits within the seat’s height or weight limits. Children will usually outgrow their infant car seat by height before they reach the weight limit. Check out our infant seat ratings to see CR’s recommended models.

As always, parents should be sure to follow the car-seat instructions and their vehicle's owner’s manual when installing a car seat. Go to the car-seat resource center on our car-seat buying guide for more safety tips.