How we score car seats

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Written by: Fatima O. Millers, CPST

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We’ve dedicated numerous hours to developing, refining, and enhancing our car seat scoring system.

Our system will provide you a clear and fair quantitative assessment for car seats.

By using our scores as a guideline, you can easily identify the car seats that are most suitable for your child.

Below, we’re going to break down the process factor-by-factor, so you can see precisely how we provide a score for a car seat.

Scoring factors

car seat parent scoring factors for car seats

Safety Features (Weight: 25%)

How we score:

We evaluate the presence of advanced safety features such as side-impact protection, 5-point harness systems, and compliance with current safety standards.

We assign higher scores to seats with additional safety certifications or features beyond the basic requirements.

Ease of Installation (Weight: 20%)

How we Score:

We consider the clarity of the installation instructions, the presence of installation aids (like bubble levels or LATCH systems), and feedback from our parent and CPST community reviews regarding the installation process for seatbelt and LATCH.

We rate easier installation processes higher.

Comfort (Weight: 15%)

How we Score:

We assess the seat’s padding, fabric quality, and ergonomic design for child comfort. We also adjustable features like recline angles and headrest heights.

We use specifications and also parents reviews to understand comfort levels, and assign higher scores for more adjustable and plush seats.

Weight and Portability (Weight: 10%)

How we Score:

We consider the car seat’s weight and any features that enhance portability like carry handles for infant seats.

Lighter seats and those designed for easy transfer between vehicles score higher.

Adjustability (Weight: 10%)

How we Score:

We focus on how well the car seat can adjust to fit a growing child, including adjustable harness slots, seat width, and height adjustments.

Higher scores go for seats with a several adjustments options.

Durability (Weight: 10%)

How to Score:

We focus on the materials used, construction quality, and parents’ feedback regarding durability. Additionally, we examine the manufacturer’s specified weight and height limits and their real-world results.

Car seats made from high-quality materials that receive positive long-term reviews are awarded higher scores. But, seats of lower quality or those that children outgrow more quickly than expected, due to restrictive weight and height limits, receive lower scores.

Ease of Cleaning (Weight: 5%)

How we Score

We look for seats with machine-washable covers and minimal nooks and crannies where crumbs and spills can accumulate.

We assign higher scores to seats that are easier to clean according to specs and parents feedback.

Aesthetics and Design (Weight: 5%)

How to Score:

We rate the seat based on its appearance and the variety of color options available.

While less critical than safety or comfort, aesthetics can be important for parents looking for a seat that matches their car interior or personal style.

Understanding Our Scores

Certainly! Here’s an expanded explanation of the simplified scoring system:

9-10: Excellent

Car seats in this range are top-tier in terms of safety, comfort, durability, and ease of use. They exceed standard expectations with advanced features, superior materials, and exceptional performance in real-world conditions. These seats often offer the best adaptability for growing children, innovative safety technologies, and outstanding user feedback. Choosing a car seat in this score range means you’re getting one of the best products available on the market.

8-8.9: Very Good

Car seats scoring within this range are high performers that meet or surpass the majority of safety and usability standards. They are made from quality materials and have design features that provide significant ease of use, comfort, and durability. While there may be minor areas for improvement, these seats offer reliable safety and good value, making them suitable for most families.

7-7.9: Good

These car seats meet the essential safety standards and provide a satisfactory level of comfort and usability. They are generally reliable and safe options that cater to basic needs without offering extensive additional features. Some may have limitations in terms of materials or adjustability, but they still represent a sound choice for parents prioritizing fundamental performance and safety.

6-6.9: Fair

Car seats in this score range fulfill the minimum safety requirements but may lack in areas such as comfort, ease of installation, or long-term durability. They might offer fewer features and adjustments compared to higher-rated products. These seats could be suitable for temporary or short-term use, or for families on a tight budget who still want to meet basic safety standards.

Below 6: Poor

Car seats scoring below 6 may have significant drawbacks in safety, durability, comfort, or usability. They might not meet all recommended safety standards or could have critical flaws reported by users. These products are generally not recommended until improvements are made or unless no other options are available. It’s crucial for parents to carefully consider the specific issues identified in this range before making a decision.

Scoring Data Sources

We collect data from manufacturer specifications, YouTube reviews, and user reviews.

For our scoring system we created a simple scoring guide to help us translate qualitative feedback into quantitative scores.

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Scoring Approach

As we continue to refine our evaluation process, we might discover opportunities to improve our testing methods, modify scoring guidelines, introduce new factors, eliminate outdated ones, or make additional adjustments.

These changes aim to improve the accuracy and usefulness of our car seat recommendations.

The latest version of our scoring system is 1.0.

Each car seat will prominently display the version of the scoring approach used for its evaluation, ensuring transparency and clarity about the criteria applied.

About Fatima O. Millers, CPST

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Fatima delivers insightful car seat reviews and recommendations. Combining her CPST expertise with an engineering background, her advice is both safe and practical.