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Car Seat Ease of Use Ratings

Which car seats are the easiest to use?


Updated March 27, 2011

For more information, see our guide to car seats.

In order to 'educate parents and caregivers about child safety seat features and which are easy to use as well as to assist you in narrowing your choices by selecting the appropriate child safety seat for your needs,' the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released ease of use ratings for child car seats.

In this program, the NHTSA now uses an overall five-star rating system to help consumers evaluate car seats in the four basic category ratings:

  • Evaluation of Instructions: Examines the content and clarity of the instruction manual for the restraint.
  • Vehicle Installation Features: Examines the ease of using features that pertain to installing the child restraint in a vehicle.
  • Evaluation of Labels: Examines the content and clarity of the labeling attached to the child restraint.
  • Securing the Child: Examines the ease of using features that pertain to securing a child correctly in the restraint.
Car seats also get an 'Overall Ease of Use Rating,' although there very few car seats got five-stars in the overall category.

Car seats with a five-star rating have 'Excellent features on this child restraint for this category,' while those car seats with a four-star rating are 'Above average features on this child restraint for this category.'

Having 'Poor features on this child restraint for this category' will get you a one-star rating. What do these ratings mean?

They don't mean that any of these car seats are safer than another. If used properly, they should all protect your child.

However, the main thing to keep in mind is that many car seats are used incorrectly, and a car seat that is hard to use may be more likely to be used improperly and not protect your child in a crash.

These ratings can be helpful to parents that:

  • are looking to buy a new car seat, since if you have a choice, you might as well buy a seat that is easy to use

  • have a car seat that did not get an four or five-star rating. If your seat is not easy to use, you may be using it incorrectly, so review the manufacturer's instructions again or consider going to a car seat safety inspection checkup.

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