Australia’s safest child car seats for 2020 revealed

Moving Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 16 October 2020

Not all car seats are created equal. These are Australia’s safest baby, toddler and child car seats for 2020.

Australia’s safest baby and child car seats have been revealed, with tests uncovering disturbing – and potentially fatal – flaws.

In its latest round of assessments, the independent Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) found that a seat on sale in Australia catastrophically failed a safety test by ejecting a toddler-sized crash dummy.

The seat – a Joie I-Travvel Car Seat – was recalled by its manufacturer, but the distressing footage has left parents understandably worried about the safety and reliability of baby and child car seats.


CREP is a national consortium including Kidsafe and the Transport Accident Commission. RACV’s Elvira Lazar says the program exists to enable parents to compare and find the seats that have the best protection ratings, “but in the latest round of testing we discovered a seat that didn’t provide the safety expected by the testing program or parents”.

For the assessments, test dummies measuring the upper end of the height and weight limit for each type of seat are put into a crash simulation to measure the forces experienced by the dummy on impact. The car seats are scored based on several performance aspects, such as how well they maintain structural integrity and how well they protect the child’s torso in a car crash.

The CREP assessments aim to educate parents about which restraints offer the best protection, by assessing child car seats not only on how they perform in crash tests, but also how easy they are to install and use. 

“Parents often ask me about the best or safest car seats on the market,” says Elvira. “With so many seats on the market, it’s useful to be able to distinguish which seats provide better safety and protection than others.”

The results once again demonstrate that not all car seats are created equal.


Your child's safety is of paramount importance, which is why all seats tested by CREP comply with Australian Standards. While Australian Standards specify a range of design and performance requirements and involve some crash testing, the CREP ratings assess how a seat performs over and above those minimum safety requirements. This means even a one-star CREP safety rated seat performs over and above the minimum requirements.

“The CREP independent testing is tougher than Australian Standard requirements in order to help parents make an informed decision about which seat to buy based on actual performance, not what they are being told by a salesperson,” Elvira explains.

While overall protection ratings are paramount, Elvira says ease of use should also be taken into consideration as the simpler a car seat is to install and use, the more likely it is to be used correctly.

“The results demonstrate that not all car seats are created equal and price is not a good indicator of safety so parents need to remain vigilant when it comes to choosing the appropriate restraint for their child.”

CREP has tested many of Australia’s top-selling car seats. From baby and toddler seats to boosters and convertibles, these are the highest-rating child car seats by category. 

Father strapping baby into car seat

Ease of use is an important safety consideration.


Young child strapped into forward-facing car seat

Once a child outgrows a single-use seat, they will need a new one.


Single-purpose seats

These seats can only be used in one way. Once children outgrow their seat, they will need a new one.


 

Baby car seats (rearward-facing)

These seats are commonly called capsules and click into a base installed in the car. Some brands also offer an option that clicks into a pram. 

Age of use: Capsules are generally for use from birth to at least six months; however, some are available for use from birth to 12 months.

Highest rated: Of the seats tested, Nuna Pipa Klik (CF-06-001AU) tested with ISOFIX was the highest rated, with a 5-star protection rating. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.

Booster seats

Parents are spoilt for choice in this category, with nine seats receiving four-stars and above as a protection rating. Remember that kids should keep using a booster for as long as possible, at least until they can pass the five-step test for good seatbelt fit.

Age of use: Four years to at least seven years old. There are also booster seats that children can use until they are at least 10 years old. 

Highest rated: Of the seats tested, Nuna Aace (CS-41-001AU) was the highest rated, with a 5-star protection score. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.

Single-purpose car seats

Single-purpose car seats

Highest-rated car seat

Protection score

Ease of use score

Rearward only

Nuna Pipa Klik (tested with ISOFix) CF-06-001AU

5.0

2.6

Forward only

Safe-N-Sound Maxi Guard BS8300B-020133

1.9

3.3

Booster only

Nuna Aace CS-41-001AU

5.0

3.2

Close up of young child with dummy sleeping in a forward-facing car seat.

Convertible seats can be used for longer.


Close up of child strapped into car seat with car seat safety buckle.

Most convertible seats have higher protection ratings in rearward-facing mode.


Convertible seats

All convertible seats can be used for longer because once kids outgrow one mode, the seat can be reconfigured. Most of the seats tend to have higher protection ratings in either rearward-facing or forward-facing mode so it is important to check the safety rating across all modes.


 

Rearward-facing car seat convertible to forward-facing

Age of use: There are typically three types of rearward to forward convertible seats on the Australian market:

  •  Rearward-facing from birth to at least six months, forward-facing from six months to at least four years
  •  Rearward-facing from birth to at least 12 months, forward-facing from six months to at least four years
  •  Rearward-facing from birth to approximately two-to-three years, forward-facing from 12 months to at least four years.

Best performer overall: Of the seats tested, the Safe-N-Sound Platinum Pro SICT (BS7200A-i20133) tested with ISOFIX and with seatbelt performed the best in both modes, with overall protection scores of 4.3 stars and 4.2 stars respectively. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.

Forward-facing car seat convertible to booster seat

There are a number of choices for seats that perform consistently as a forward-facing seat and as a booster. 

Age of use: Six months to at least seven years.

Best performer overall: Of the seats tested, the Infa-Secure (CS7113 - Odyssey II, Rally II, Rover and Lantra) was the highest rated in forward-facing mode, with a protection score of 4.7 in forward and 3.8 in booster mode, while the Safety First Solo GMBE 2013 was the highest rated in booster mode, with a protection score of 4.8 and a 2.7 in forward-facing mode. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.

Convertible car seats

Convertible car seats

Highest-rated car seat

Mode

Protection score

Ease of use score

Rearward to forward

Safe-N-Sound Platimum Pro SICT (tested with seatbelt) BS7200A-i20133

Rear-facing

Forward-facing

4.3

4.2

3.5

3.3

Forward to booster

Infa-Secure CS7113 (Odyssey II, Rally II, Rover, Lantra)

 

Safety 1st Solo GMBE 2013

Forward-facing

Booster

 

 

 

 

Forward-facing

Booster

4.7

3.8

 

 

 

 

3.4

4.8

1.9

2.7

 

 

 

 

2.1

2.7

Wide view of a child strapped into a booster seat

Seats can wear out over time, so make sure parts stay in good working condition.


Side view of young child strapped into child car seat.

Remember to check safety ratings in all modes.


Multi-purpose child car seats

These seats can be used from birth until kids outgrow the restraint and are ready to travel with an adult seatbelt. However, seats can wear out over time, so make sure parts stay in good working condition.


 

Rearward, forward and booster mode

Age of use: Birth to at least seven years or 145 centimetres tall.

Highest rated: Of the seats tested, the Infa-Secure Luxi II Treo (CS4313) has its highest protection rating in booster mode with 4.1 stars. Rearward mode received 2.9 stars and forward received a 1.8-star rating.

Full results: To see all seats tested in this category, click here.

Multi-purpose car seats

Multi-purpose car seats

Highest-rated car seat

Mode

Protection score

Ease of use score

Convertible rearward to forward to booster

Infa-Secure Luxi II Treo CS4313

Rear-facing

Forward-facing

Booster

2.9

1.8

4.1

1.9

1.9

2.6

Close up of child car seat instructions

A seat that is easier to use is more likely to be used correctly.


Close up of young girl and boy in forward facing seats with seatbelts on

Children must be at least 145 centimetres tall before they move to an adult seatbelt.


Tips for choosing the right car seat for your baby or child

With such a big range of seats on the market, you can ask yourself a few questions to narrow your search.


 

  1. How old and how tall is your child? While age is a good place to start, it’s more important to know how big children are to work out when it will be time to change to another car seat.
  2. What type of car seat do you want? Would you prefer something that converts or one that’s used until another type is needed?
  3. Check the safety rating in all modes. Remember that convertible restraints might be safer in one position over another (for example, four stars in the forward position and three stars when facing rearward).
  4. Check the ease of use score. A seat that is easier to use is more likely to be used correctly.
  5. Does the seat fit well in your car? See how the restraint will fit into your car before you buy it, particularly if you have a smaller car. Having it fitted is also a good idea and the fitter can show you how to use the seat properly too.
  6. Check the price of the seat. Some of the seats that perform better in crash testing are also the cheapest! Aim to buy the safest seat you can afford.


*RACV is a partner in the independent testing program, which shows how well car seats and boosters protect children in a crash and how easy they are to use. Click here for the full results.

*By law, children need to travel in a suitable restraint and, for children aged seven to 16, that restraint can be a booster seat or seatbelt. It’s important to use the restraint that is suitable for the child’s height.