The best seat?
This is probably one of the questions I get asked the most often and the answer is an easy one! The safest seat is the seat that fits your child, your vehicle AND your budget. Simple right?
The answer is simple, but deciding on which child restraint is the best for for your family isn't always so cut and dry. Often times parents and caregivers are made to feel like the most expensive child restraint on the market is the safest and that just isn't the case. In Canada, we have pretty extensive testing standards and you can rest assured that each child restraint you see on the shelves in a store meets those standards, no matter how much it costs or what it says it does. While in some crashes, child restraints may react differently, it is impossible to tell what seat would react the "best". In some crashes you may want to have a child restraint with a steel frame, but in others, you may want a child restraint that has a more flexible shell.
Not every child restraint is the best fit for every vehicle and the only way to know for sure is to test out different child restraints in your vehicle(s). Things to take into consideration on your vehicle are the amount of seat slope, where are the buckle stalks and the seat belts, how much room do you have between the back seat and the front seat (is it the same on driver and passenger side?), are there any other car seats installed, where are your tether anchors, what are your vehicle's head rests like (can they be removed if they interfere with a proper install? CHECK YOUR VEHICLE MANUAL!) are there plastic pieces in the vehicle seat that may interfere with the child restraint and what is the seat bight like (that's where the bottom of the vehicle seat meats the back of the seat). Consulting a CRST (car seat technician) before you purchase a new child restraint can be very helpful and save your family a lot of time and possibly money. A CRST may already know which seat fits well in which vehicle and which seating position in that vehicle and they may also have demo seats available for you to try for fit. Not all stores that sell child restraints will allow you to try them before you purchase and I would never recommend purchasing blindly.
Things to consider when you are looking at purchasing a new child restraint are the size and shape of the base, how high up will the seat sit...in small cars a higher base on a child restraint can create a large blindspot, but at the same time, a higher base can sometimes also help the child restraint fit better in small spaces. What is the angle required on the child restraint? The more reclined the seat is, the larger front to back foot print it will have. The required angle can also be specific to the rider's weight so that is worth looking at. Also paying attention to the weight limit and height limits on the child restraint is important. If your goal is to rear face as long as possible, you want a seat with a high harness height for rear facing (keeping in mind that the harness must come from AT or BELOW the child's shoulders when rear facing). Some seats may say 49", but depending on the length of the child's torso, that is likely not actually achievable.
It's a lot to consider and is very overwhelming for most parents and caregivers. Additional struggles can arise when you get into 3 across situations or having a vehicle that doesn't have enough top tether anchors. Remember that in Canada, every forward facing harnessed child restraint MUST use the top tether and that top tester must be anchored to a real anchor point, not just a random bar or cargo hook ;). Top Tethers deserve a post on their own though, so stay tuned for that. Of course you can always get in touch with Safe Travels if you have any questions in the mean time though.
Long story short, the Cosco Scenera NEXT is the least expensive harnessed seat available in Canada right now and it's got the car seat world giddy! It's got some great limits for rear facing (40 lbs and 40"), plays well with most vehicles and installs easily too. It's not a $400 seat which makes it an achievable purchase for most families and is definitely a bonus in my books. That's not to say that you shouldn't spend $400 if you want to, that's cool too...as long as you make sure you try before you buy!
Looking for a new child restraint? Get in touch, maybe I can help! I've heard that not everyone loves car seat shopping and that some of you don't even just look for fun...what's with that? Happy Shopping!