All of the infant car seats that you can purchase anywhere in the US pass certain safety standards, but manufacturers are constantly trying to one-up each other with new technologies that help seats protect kids better, and make them easier to install. Manufacturers have often been hesitant to add these features because they add cost to sourcing, assembly, and production, and that adds to what you ultimately wind up paying for your car seat. But safety is priceless, right?
Orbit Baby was a trailblazer in terms of bringing cool new safety features to the US, but other manufacturers are catching up fast, with UPPAbaby, Nuna, and Cybex leading the pack. Some companies have added features that are better at absorbing crash energy; others have added features that make installation easier, which ultimately makes the seat safer – installation errors are dangerous, and depressingly common. Here’s our list of features to look for when you’re looking for the absolute best infant car seat for your new baby:
Load Leg: The load leg extends from the base of your infant car seat to the floor of the vehicle. It provides an additional connection between the seat and vehicle, absorbing crash forces more quickly and effectively. It also reduces forward rotation of the infant seat on impact, protecting your baby’s spine. You’ll find this feature on the Nuna Pipa and Cybex Aton 2 Infant Car Seats.
LSP System: The Linear Side Impact Protection (LSP) system may look unassuming, but it’s amazing how much protection it adds! The LSP is a plastic wing that you flip out on the side of the car seat nearest to a car door (you don’t need it if you install your seat in the middle). The plastic wing transfers more crash energy into the shell of the car seat, taking the brunt of the force – manufacturer testing demonstrated that the LSP system increases safety by as much as 40% in a side-impact collision! This feature is on the Cybex Aton 2.
Rigid LATCH: Rigid LATCH connectors are integrated right into the car seat, and click right into your car’s LATCH system for a tight, easy fit. They make installation so much easier and quicker, and you know you’ve done it right – and remember, your car seat only provides full protection if you install it correctly! Rigid LATCH is featured on the Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat.
Smart Secure Installation: The unique installation system on the UPPAbaby Mesa Infant Car Seat makes it incredibly easy to get a tight, accurate installation every time: just click in the LATCH connectors and push down hard until the tightness indicator turns green, and you’re done! The MESA also can fit on the extremely popular UPPAbaby Vista and Cruz strollers without any additional purchase, which is making the Mesa a top choice for lots of our customers.
SmartHub and StrongArm: As mentioned above, Orbit Baby pushed ahead of other American manufacturers with safety and ease-of-use features with their Orbit G2 Infant Car Seat. The StrongArm mechanism tightens seatbelts with the turn of a knob, so you can install your infant car seat base correctly in seconds without any tugging or any guesswork. Plus, the SmartHub lets you click your car seat into the base and then rotate it to the correct rear-facing position, which is so much kinder to your back!
Reclining System: Along with a nifty ratcheting installation system, the Kiddy Evolution Pro Infant Car Seat has a unique feature that’s actually meant to be used outside of your car: it can tilt into a recline that lets baby lie back comfortably when the seat is installed on your stroller or on another surface. Since it’s not recommended to let babies nap for long periods in their car seat outside of the car because of the way the seat positions them, this allows for longer uninterrupted naps.
Of course, each of the seats mentioned has some of these features but not all, so ultimately, your selection will depend on a few other factors: the size of your car, whether the infant car seat is compatible with your favorite stroller, and whether you like how it looks. Ultimately, they’re all great choices – and they’re all either available at Magic Beans right now, or on their way!
In the meantime, we want to know what you think. In the comments, tell us what you think – are these features worth the additional cost? Which seat do you have, or which seat are you thinking of getting, and why?