If you're looking for car seat ratings, we don't blame you. With the sheer number of options on the market, and the confusing array of features they offer, it can be tough to compare one model to the next.
Car seat ratings can be a big help. But keep in mind that their value is in the eye of the beholder. No one rating system can tell you what's the overall best car seat for your needs. Rather, each source will simply provide information to move you closer to a decision.
Here are some car seat ratings you should check out:
Consumer Reports. There's quite a bit of free information on the Consumer Reports website for parents who want to learn about their car seat options. But if you want to access CR's famous ratings, you'll need to buy a subscription.
Oh, and elephant in the room: in January 2007, Consumer Reports withdrew its car seat ratings due to possible flaws in its testing methodology. This caused a big flap in the car seat community (yes, there is a car seat community). Yet CR is one of the most respected names in ratings of all kinds.
We believe this story only reinforces our point that you shouldn't base your decision solely on any single set of ratings.
ConsumerSearch. Looking for an alternative to Consumer Reports - one where you don't have to sign up and pay? ConsumerSearch offers reviews of infant car seats, convertible car seats, booster seats, and car seat strollers.
You'll see ratings of the top three choices in each category, and you'll also have the chance to read detailed reviews by the ConsumerSearch staff.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the usability of a wide variety of car seats. You'll notice they break out their ratings into eight categories of seats, so you won't have to sift through lots of irrelevant data to get to what you need. Most categories provide ratings on 20-30 car seats.
Viewpoints. If you're more interested in how car seat brands rate overall, stop by the Viewpoints website. There, you'll find ratings of both brands and individual seats based on reviews from more than 6,000 contributors.
You'll also be able to read comments from individual users. It's a great way to get the unvarnished truth about each model.
These car seat ratings sites should give you a good start. You'll also want to look into car seat safety ratings. But would you do us a favor? Don't buy any car seat until you've run it past a mom with at least three children.
Veteran moms are the ones who really know what's easy to use, which features are practical, and which seats will give you the overall best bang for your buck.