Consumer Reports Testing – A Canadian Perspective


Consumer Reports just released their newest test results on a long list of convertible (infant/child) seats. There is a lot of chatter about it and we want to help you to wade through the information and make sense of it. A great US read on this issue is here by our friends at Carseatblog. Also very thorough is the Car Seat Lady’s take on it.

In case this is as far as you read here are our Take Home Messages:

  1. The BEST seat for you is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, fits your budget, and that you can use properly EVERY TIME. That “use properly” bit is key as misuse piled on top of misuse is going to increase the risk of injury to your child.
  2. Take extra care to ensure the car seat is installed tightly with 1″ or less of movement at the belt path, and that your child is buckled in without bulky clothing so that the harness passes the pinch test.
  3. Rear face as long as possible — in fact don’t rush ANY of the transitions. Remain in a harness until 5-6+, booster until 11ish, and then always wear your seat belt properly.

Please remember that Consumer Reports is testing American car seats. Up here in the Great White North our seats are often a little different as our testing requirements are different. Even seats that appear to be identical often aren’t. Canadian seats tend to have more padding in the head area, have some form of anti-rebound control when rear-facing (most commonly anti-rebound bars, or a modified shape to the front edge of the car seat compared to US seats), and always require the use of the tether when forward-facing. Our weight limits are lower, and sometimes height limits too. We also have much less selection…but really, tons more than we used to! US seats are cheaper but Canadian seats are made for Canadian requirements and it’s illegal for Canadians to use foreign seats here.

It is really important to understand that ALL of the seats tested are SAFE. Let us repeat that – if they’re for sale on the shelf they are safe.

Furthermore the final ratings given to the seats are an amalgamated score combining CR’s idea of “ease of use” and “fit to vehicle” with the crash testing.

Why did Consumer Reports (CR) change the testing method for crashworthiness evaluation? According to them it was because they wanted to provide comparative information to consumers to aid in the buying process, and to develop a test protocol that was more representative of modern vehicles. Great ideas, but no need to panic at the results if your child’s seat isn’t on the top five list.

Good news! 2 of the top 5 seats are excellent budget options. What if you have a seat that isn’t on that list? Don’t freak out. Between the four of us we own…um…a lot of car seats and have absolutely no intention of swapping them out for seats on the Top 5. None. Because first and foremost we know we are using them correctly and THAT is far and away the most important element when it comes to our children’s safety.

Want to double check that you are using your seats properly? Meet with a CPSAC-certified CPST near you. Some charge a fee for their time and others volunteer but either way it’s time well spent.