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Are Cheap Car Seats Safe?

As a parent, it is your job to ensure your child’s safety while you drive, and child safety seats can make that job easier. Most modern cars have numerous safety features to keep you safe, but when it comes to your precious little one, you may need to go the extra mile to keep them safe.

baby in car seat

Regarding infant car seats, less expensive materials might often equal superior quality. So, you don’t have to blow the budget or feel bad because you couldn’t afford a $1000+ infant seat for your child. Your child will be comfortable and safe if you choose to go for a budget-friendly car seat. Are cheap car seats safe for your baby? Learn more in this article.

What Are the Types of Car Seats Available?

Before we dive into cheap car seats safety, let’s have a look at the different types of car seats by age and weight. Here are the four types of car seats you can get for your child

  1. Infant car seats – These car seats are always rear-facing and are designed for children aged 1-2 years. These are the first seats most families buy.
  2. Convertible car seats – Convertible car seats are designed for newborns and children weighing 50-65 pounds. They start as a rear-facing car seat and are later converted to forward-facing seats.
  3. All-in-one seats – An all-in-one car seat begins as a rear-facing seat, then switches to a forward-facing seat, and finally to a booster seat. They’re suitable for newborns and children weighing 65-120 pounds.
  4. Booster seats – Booster seats are available as either high-backed or backless seats. It also requires you to arrange the vehicle belt properly to fit your child.

Note that choosing the best infant car seat doesn’t depend on cost alone but also on other factors such as your child’s age, size, vehicle size, and whether you travel or switch cars often. You can also browse through the NHTSA website or check other similar websites for recommendations on how long a newborn can be in a car seat.

Are Affordable Car Seats Safe?

Are cheap car seats safe? This is a question that many worried parents ask online. As long as you install them correctly, an affordable seat will keep your child safe and comfortable. You should note that the seat’s price tag isn’t the biggest threat to your baby; it’s how you install it.

Various agencies have reported that more than 70% of parents do not properly install their baby’s car seats. There’s no evidence that costlier car seats offer better protection for your little one in the event of a crash. But, there is ample evidence that a properly installed child seat will keep your child safe.

Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

In fact, children placed in properly installed car seats are less likely to suffer severe injuries in the event of a car crash.  A properly installed and used car seat is going to be way safer than a not properly installed or used car seat no matter the cost of the seat.

So, as you can see, proper installation matters a lot! You can check out the CDC for more information about properly installing a car seat and other car seats do’s and don’ts.

Do Affordable Car Seats Have Safety Ratings?

A child restraint must pass strict safety standards before it can be sold in the US. Unlike those for vehicles, these safety tests are mostly pass/fail tests, and the results aren’t made public.

Although most brands perform their crash testing, the results are not as accurate because there is no way to compare or test other brands’ seats to the same safety standards. Unfortunately, these federal tests are outdated.

As of 2015, there are no standardized side-impact crash tests for child car seats in the United States. Although side-impact crash tests are expected to become compulsory within the next few years, there is presently no way for brands to determine whether additional side-impact protection improves overall performance.

As a tip, the IIHS booster fit evaluations provide a reliable safety rating. The IIHS assigns a rating to child restraints based on their likelihood of providing a suitable strap fit to most children. However, getting a top-rated booster does not require emptying your wallet.

There are several well-rated and poorly-rated child restraints you can get at different price ranges. Some of the cheaper seats have higher safety ratings than some more expensive seats. But this does not imply that cheaper seats are necessarily safer. Some of the higher-priced child restraints pass federal safety tests with flying colors.

What Is the Difference Between an Expensive Car Seat and a Cheap

If expensive seats don’t guarantee better safety, then why do people go for them? The answer is simple: expensive car seats offer better car seat foam, style, accessories, and ease of use. The extras you pay for can also include better height limits and weight limits.

Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat

It’s also possible that you’re paying more for the brand’s name. From there, it is left to you to consider these factors and decide whether or not to pay extra for a car seat. But don’t worry, the price tag doesn’t matter as long as you properly install the seat. 

Here are some of the most popular and affordable car seats with their certification that you can get on Amazon:

Car seat name and brandDimensions (LxWxH)Weight limit (lbs)Certifications
Evenflo Big Kid AMP High Back Booster Car Seat18 x 16 x 28 inches110Side-impact-tested to meet or exceed federal safety standards and Evenflo’s test standard Certified frustration-free
Graco TurboBooster Highback Booster Seat15 x 16.5 x 26.5100Meets or exceeds all applicable requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Certified frustration-free
Cosco Finale Dx 2-In-1 Booster Car Seat18.25 x 19 x 29.75100Exceeds Federal Safety Standards IIHS Best Bet rating for use in booster mode
Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat‎18.5 x 22 x 25.540Meets or Exceeds All Applicable Federal Safety Standards and Evenflo’s Side Impact Test Standard Certified frustration-free
Disney Baby Apt 50 Convertible Car Seat22.75 x 16.75 x 3140Meets or exceeds Federal and ASTM Safety Standards Certified for use on aircraft  
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat27.25 x 18.5 x 20.2565Meets or exceeds federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards Certified frustration-free
Evenflo Maestro Booster Car Seat19 x 19 x 29.5110Certified frustration-free Airline certified Meets both CMVSS and FMVSS safety standards
Baby Trend Hybrid Booster 3 in 1 Car Seat31 x 19.6 x 10.4100Certified for Aircraft Travel rated by the NHTSA to meet federal safety and crash performance standards
Britax Skyline 2-Stage Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seat16 x 19.5 x 27.5120Meets or exceeds Federal Safety Standards  

Tips on How to Keep Your Baby Safe on Every Ride

Regardless of a seat’s price or safety rating, there are a few factors and guidelines to keep in mind to ensure that your kid is safe on every ride. Let’s take a closer look at those car seat guidelines:

  • Check the seat label for the size limits. Babies grow fast, so always keep track of their height and weight to avoid outgrowing their seats.
  • Make sure the harness is a proper fit. Know that it may be time to change your child’s seat if her head crosses over the top of the seat. Another way of knowing that your child has outgrown her seat is if it becomes too tight, even at the highest adjustment levels. You can avoid this issue by getting an upgrade ahead of time so that your child never has to ride in a tight seat.
  • Never use any additional accessories that didn’t come with the seat. While extra padding and other accessories can make the seat more comfortable, they can also interfere with its ability to function properly. If you must get additional accessories, make sure they are approved for the seat.
  • Perform a test before you drive. Secure your child into the seat with a light coat and then take them out without tightening the straps. Remove the coat, reinstall it in the seat, and check the fit – The straps are most likely to be loose at this point.
  • Use light coats whenever you want to strap your child to the seat. Using a puffy coat will make the harness straps feel tighter. Instead, wrap your child in a blanket for extra warmth.

Conclusion

Again, please keep in mind that the quality of the installation, not the price, is the most important factor to consider. Regardless of the brand or model you choose, ensure you take your car to an expert to help you install the seat correctly. A properly installed car seat might save your child’s life in the event of a crash. 

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