We recently got a new car seat, after way too many hours of frustrating research, and I’m pretty sure we found the easiest-to-use car seat ever made. My initial plan was to find a car seat that would let us use the LATCH lower anchors for our 5 year old, 40-lb girl, because I thought that would be the most convenient and safe method. For those who aren’t familiar, LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, and it’s a set of metal anchors in your vehicle seats. You can attach your car seat to these anchors instead of using the vehicle seat belt to strap in the car seat.
The LATCH anchors are nice and convenient, but unfortunately most have a child weight limit substantially lower than today’s car seats. To make matters worse, it’s not very easy to find out what that limit is. Different vehicle and car seat manufacturers have different limits (or no published limits), and it can be confusing to figure out which limit applies to your combination of vehicle and car seat.
Here are the main things that I learned while researching my car seat:
- It is always safe to install a car seat using the vehicle seat belt, provided you follow both car seat and vehicle manuals and can get a secure fit. LATCH lower anchors don’t make the installation safer, just easier to get a good fit.
- If your child weighs 40 pounds or more, you need to check if you can still use LATCH lower anchors to install the car seat. This post at Car Seats for the Littles explains it all and has handy tables summarizing the limits for different vehicle and car seat manufacturers.
- The Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 car seats have an innovative method of installation using the vehicle seat belt that I found to be even easier than LATCH. This 30-second video shows just how simple it is. (We did not receive any compensation for this post, I’m just excited about our new car seat and the innovation behind the product.)
- Don’t forget about the top tether when you’re installing a forward-facing car seat. There is some confusion about when to use it, so check your vehicle and car seat manuals.
- To ensure safety for your particular situation, you should have your car seat installation checked by a certified inspector (often free of charge). Here is a link to find one near you: http://www.nhtsa.gov/apps/cps/index.htm
I’m very happy with my Britax car seat purchase. I had no idea how easy they could make a vehicle seat belt installation. There is no kneeling on car seats or tugging at seat belts – it’s actually easier than installing a typical car seat with the LATCH lower anchors. They recognized all the confusion over these LATCH weight limits, and developed a seat that bypasses all of it by making it so simple and secure to install without LATCH. It’s a groundbreaking product with some great engineering.