Canstar Blue’s 2019 baby car seats review has seen Safety 1st, Britax Safe ‘n’ Sound, Baby Love, InfaSecure, Mother’s Choice and Maxi-Cosi compared on comfort and support, value for money, durability, design and style, flexibility and customer satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Keeping your kids safe is always priority No.1 for parents, especially when it comes to travelling in the car. That means you’ll want the ‘best’ car seat you can buy. It’s a major purchase decision, whether you are buying one for the first time, or replacing an old one after a couple of years. So it pays to know what your options are, and what other parents think of the car seats they use. And that’s where Canstar Blue comes in.
To find out what car seat brands keep families happy, we survey hundreds of parents across Australia who have bought a new car seat in the last three years. Mums and dads are asked to rate the car seat they own on a range of important factors, including comfort and support, value for money, durability, design and style and flexibility. The idea is to give you as much information about the compared brands as possible, to help you make an informed purchase decision when the time (or date) comes. So, which brand came out on top this year?
In our 2019 review, both Safety 1st and Britax Safe ‘n’ Sound secured top spot. Safety 1st earned five stars for overall satisfaction, value for money, durability and flexibility, with four stars for comfort and design. Britax Safe ‘n’ Sound achieved five stars for overall satisfaction as well as comfort, durability and design, with four stars on value for money and flexibility. While we don’t claim our customer ratings are scientific by any stretch, we do believe in the importance and value of user reviews, and when it comes to a crucial purchase like car seats, it’s a wise move to consider the opinions of other parents like you.
Canstar Blue’s 2019 baby car seat review saw six major brands compared and rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:
Baby Love, InfaSecure and Mother’s Choice all got four stars for overall satisfaction, while Maxi-Cosi was left with three stars. InfaSecure was the only other brand, apart from the overall winners, to achieve five stars on comfort, value for money and design. InfaSecure was the best-rated brand from 2018, replacing Britax Safe ‘n’ Sound as our 2017 winner. So Britax Safe ‘n’ Sound has made it two years out of three at the top of the ratings.
It’s important to note that our review includes feedback from parents with all types of new car seats. With the average spend of those surveyed being $285, baby car seats from leading brands evidently aren’t cheap – so it’s worth doing your research.
Read on for a guide to what the six brands in our review have to offer parents in market for a baby car seat, plus tips on what to look for.
Safety 1st produces a wide range of products including car seats, travel system strollers, baby gear and safeguarding solutions. Expect features like multiple headrest positions for comfort, machine washable covers for easy cleaning and the ISOGO ISOFIX compatible soft latch seat system that’s claimed to offer simple and secure car installation.
Safety 1st’s booster seats can be had from $99, while its top of the range Sentry Harnessed Booster Seat retails for $179. In its convertible car seat range, Safety 1st offers three models with prices from $189 to $429 for the Summit 30, which is its most expensive in the full line-up.
Britax is a well-known producer of baby car seats, encapsulating car seats for a range of different life stages, including baby capsules, convertible seats, and booster seats for the older kids. Britax Safe ‘n’ Sound has a huge range and boasts several leading technologies to help your baby or infant get from point A to B safely.
Britax lays claim to providing the only capsule in Australia suitable for low birth weights or premature babies without restrictive medical conditions. Its booster car seats can be found for less than $100 but seats for younger kids can easily fetch $500+ prices. This cost is said to go towards rigorous testing and innovation.
A brand owned by Britax, BabyLove car seats have historically been a popular choice in Australia, with a relatively modest range of child seats currently available. Its car seat range is designed to accommodate a newborn baby through to approximately 4 years by allowing you to have it rear-facing at first and then convert to a forward-facing position later on when your child is older. Baby Love’s boosters also feature detachable cup holders.
You can expect padded inserts alongside shoulder pads and deep side wings stated to provide additional protection. BabyLove’s booster seats can be found for under $80, while combo seats are usually around the $200 mark, and capsules and infant seats are nearer $300.
InfaSecure makes a wide range of infant, toddler and child car seats. It boasts a range of infant carriers with detachable bases, front and rear-facing convertible seats, as well as booster seats. There is also a wide variety of colours on offer, away from your standard grey and black that make InfaSecure seats at least interesting to look at.
Many convertible car seats also come with the ‘Twist & Lift’ system, which makes it easier to adjust headrests and harnesses without fiddling too much. The infant carriers can be found for around the $400 mark, while its convertible and booster car seats are unsurprisingly cheaper. For older kids, car boosters can be had for around $700.
Mother’s Choice is a company owned by Dorel Juvenile Products. It produces a large range of child car seats, with convertibles and boosters on offer. There’s even a line of AFL-themed booster seats so you can convert your child into a footy superfan before they can even understand the game!
Convertible car seats can be forward or rear-facing, and have multi-position adjustable headrests and forward-facing recline positions for maximum comfort. The boosters can be found for under $100, going up to $249 for the Journey Harnessed Car Seat, while convertibles start from around the $170 mark and max out at around $440 for the Accord Convertible Car Seat.
Maxi-Cosi is another brand owned by Dorel Juvenile Products. It provides a modest range of capsules, convertible car seats and booster seats suited for children across most age brackets, from newborns to kids approaching their preteens. With a number of colours also on offer, there’s likely to be something out there for every parent.
Arguably the most exciting in the range is its convertible car seats, boasting ‘G-CELL’ crash absorbing technology with crumple zones and ‘Air Protect’ for superior side impact protection. Maxi-Cosi’s infant car seats are priced around the $300-$400 mark, while the convertible car seats often cost nearer $500 in a lot of cases with some models priced at $799.
Besides the top six brands that made it into our ratings this year, there are several others you might like to consider:
First and foremost, when it comes to kids and cars, safety is always the priority. All car seats in Australia are required to meet safety standard AS/NZS (2004, 2010 or 2013). Apart from safety, below are the key drivers of satisfaction for parents identified from our research:
Along with the above key drivers of satisfaction, you might like to consider the car seat’s weight – for easy manoeuvrability – and also features, for ease of cleaning. Compatibility with your stroller and car is also important if you’re purchasing a capsule or an ISOFIX car seat. Other key findings from our 2019 survey include:
The type of baby car seat you should get largely depends on the age and size of your child, with personal preference also coming into play. There are generally three different types of baby car seats – infant car seats, convertible car seats, and booster seats.
As the name suggests, infant car seats are designed for infants and are suitable for children’s use up to 12 months of age. Infant car seats are most cocoon-like of all, and are rear-facing. Depending on the growth rate of your baby, infant car seats are good for about six months to 12 months, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and the general rule of thumb is to keep them rear-facing as long as possible. Quite often, infant car seats double as a carrier, with easily detachable bases for easy transportation. This makes it easy for transporting baby between two cars, between car and home, and for clicking onto strollers.
Convertible car seats are generally the most varied type of child car seat and suit a wide range of ages, up to 30 months. Often, they come as one whole unit, rather than with a detachable base. They often come with removable covers, making them much easier to wash and clean. Based on the child’s size, these car seats will generally be suitable from birth to 4 years. Some can be rear-facing for up to 30 months. The main downside with convertible seats is that they are not exactly portable and cannot be used as child carriers. However, given their longevity, they arguably provide the best value for money.
The last in the lifecycle of baby car seats, booster seats are the final step before your child is capable of sitting in a regular seat. Booster seats are often the most basic in design, and make use of the full-sized seatbelt. Booster seats are forward-facing and are suitable for toddlers and older. Booster seats can also generally take the most weight, with kids up to around 35kg able to sit in them. Child height is critical in this segment, and if your child is tall enough, they may even be able to do away with a secondary seat entirely. Generally, the recommendation is that a booster seat should be used until children are 8 years of age, with the legal requirement for sitting in a front seat being at least 12 years. The general rule is if the child is less than 145cm tall, they stay in their booster seat.
ISOFIX is the name for the international standard of attachment points for children’s car seats. Dubbed ‘LATCH’ in the US and ‘CANFIX’ in Canada, ISOFIX is a standard set of attachment points that will feature in all new cars in Australia.
The first compatible products were released in 1997, and by 2013 the UN stipulated that all new vehicles must have ISOFIX points attached. This development makes it much easier for parents to properly fasten their child seats in different cars. With universal attachment points, the aim is for much confusion to be removed and for car seats to be easily fitted in mum and dad’s car, as well as the grandparents’ and so on.
When deciding which car seat is best for your child, give some thought to the factors mentioned above. While ‘baby stuff’ typically has high price tags, car seats are required by Australian law and shouldn’t be considered lightly. Buying one may result in a significant hit to your baby budget but you really can’t put a price on safety!
All of the brands featured in this report are reputable and must comply with Australian safety standards, so you should have confidence that your little one is in safe hands. As a result, factors like flexibility and convenience really come into play. While your car seat is for your child, it’s mum and dad who will be carrying it in and out of the car every five minutes, so find one that works for everyone!
Picture credits: Sokolova Maryna/shutterstock.com, Sergey Ryzhov/shutterstock.com, Karolis Kavolelis/shutterstock.com
Canstar Blue surveyed 1,200 Australian parents of children aged 6 years and under across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased a new car seat in the last 3 years – in this case, 863 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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