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Car Seat Reviews

Car seat reviews focus primarily on two topics: installation and comfort. Parents are busy people who often juggle work and multiple kids with crazy schedules, leaving little time to sift through complicated installation instructions.

They also go to great lengths to make their children comfortable, even if it means paying more.

Car Seat Installation.

A budget car seat should be easy to install and transfer from one vehicle to another. Unfortunately even high-priced models elicit gripes about installation, and some stand out as being near impossible to install. The LATCH system built into almost all vehicles today facilitates car seat installation, although the LATCH anchors on some back seats may be difficult to locate and some cars do not have anchors for the middle seat. In general, most purchasers report that installation is fairly quick and straightforward for the front-facing position, but rear-facing installation may be more of a trial, depending on the car and car seat.

For the most part, car seat reviews declare the models we recommend simple to install. One parent posting on Amazon says securing and adjusting our top choice, the Evenflo SureRide DLX (starting at $85), is effortless in both the forward-facing and rear-facing positions. She bought two of the same car seat and uses it both ways: facing backward for her 11-month-old and facing front for her 4-and-a-half-year-old (who looks small in the seat, she says, and will be able to use it for some time to come).

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration emphasizes the importance of proper installation and has evaluated many car seats for ease of use (the Evenflo SureRide DLX is one exception). In the case of the Safety 1st Guide 65 (starting at $78), we found that the NHTSA ratings conflicted with what we saw in reviews. Regulators rate this car seat below average for ease of use and installation in the rear-facing position and average when facing forward. Among more than 100 car seat reviews on the Walmart website, however, relatively few mention any problems installing the Safety 1st Guide 65. One parent reports that it took her less than five minutes to get a snug, secure fit in the car.

The Safety 1st OnSide Air (starting at $72) gets mostly positive feedback from consumers on Amazon and from government regulators. While most parents assert that installation is a snap -- one mother even goes so far as to say it's idiot-proof -- a handful beg to differ and report needing some creative maneuvering to get the car seat to fit properly. The NHTSA has awarded the OnSide Air an above-average rating for ease of use in the forward-facing position and an average rating when rear-facing.

Although the Graco ComfortSport car seat (starting at $80) gets decent reviews overall on Amazon, several caregivers gripe about how hard it is to install the seat. Among the complaints: The car seat doesn't fit snugly, it's reluctant to click into place, and it's hard to tighten. The Graco ComfortSport earns average ratings for ease of use from the NHTSA.

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Car Seat Comfort.

The consequences of an uncomfortable car seat are well-known to parents and caregivers: a crying baby, a squirming toddler, or a whining child who keeps asking when you're going to get there. The good news is you don't have to sacrifice car seat comfort for a low price tag. The recommended models on our list all win praise for comfort and cushioning -- at least from adults posting car seat reviews. Parents and caregivers comment that children easily fall asleep, sit peacefully through long car trips, and generally seem secure, comfortable, and happy. One mother writing a car seat review on the Walmart website says the Safety 1st Guide 65 reclines enough in the rear-facing position that her daughter's head stays back instead of falling forward, as it does in another seat. Other parents report that the cushioning is plentiful and comfortable and the car seat garners no complaints from their tiny passengers.

A mom who posted a review of the Evenflo SureRide DLX on the Target website surmises that her daughter is more comfortable in this seat than in her previous car seat, noting that the child reaches for the seat and seems eager to get in it because has much better padding. Others posting on the site agree that the padding in this model seems superior to others in the price range and even some more expensive car seats. Likewise, a reviewer of the Graco ComfortSport posting on Amazon says a child cried every time he got in a previous seat and has been a comfortable, pleasant passenger ever since they made the switch. Others on the site also indicate that the Graco ComfortSport seems to live up to its name.

Among consumers posting car seat reviews on the Toys R Us website, only one gives the Safety 1st OnSide Air convertible car seat less than a five-star review and several specifically mention comfort. One parent comments that her daughter's head hangs when she falls asleep in a very expensive car seat, but in this cheap model the child naps with her head back in a much more comfortable position and never minds being put in the car.

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