Tests reveal Australia’s safest car seats for 2019

Moving Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 01 May 2019

When it comes to safety, not all child car seats are created equal.

Australia’s safest car seats have been revealed. In its latest round of assessments, the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) analysed a range of child car seats, with the results highlighting the importance of seat selection when it comes to ensuring the safety of children while driving.

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.

Crash test dummy strapped into a forward facing car seat in safety assessment simulation


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 accident.

“Parents often ask me about the best or safest car seats on the market,” says RACV’s manager for safety and education, Elvira Lazar. “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.


All seats tested by CREP comply with Australian Standards and therefore provide good protection. The CREP ratings assess how a seat performs over and above those minimum safety requirements. Even a one-star seat performs over and above the minimum requirements.

Elvira says the assessments show some seats clearly offer superior protection and safety capabilities, however parents can rest assured knowing all car seats available for purchase in Australia must comply with strict minimum safety standards in order to be eligible for sale.

“The Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) test results are a useful guide in helping make the decision about which seat to buy,” she says. “The CREP independent testing is tougher than Australian Standard requirements so as 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.”

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 once again demonstrate that not all car seats are created equal 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, with some of the highest-rating seats by category listed below. 

Close up of car seat installation instructions

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.


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 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.

Highest rated: Of the seats tested, the Safe-N-Sound Brava with ISOFIX and Safe-N-sound Graphene tested with seatbelt performed highest, with overall protection scores of 3.9 stars and 4.1 stars respectively.

Full results: 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.

Highest rated: Of the seats tested, the Infa-Secure (Odyssey II, Rally II, Rover) CS7113 was the highest rated with a forward-facing protection score of 4.7 and a 3.8 in booster mode.

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

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.


Single-purpose seats

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



Rearward-facing car seats

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 (tested with ISOFix) was the highest rated, with 5-star protection rating.

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

 

Booster seats

Parents are spoilt for choice in this category, with five seats rating above a four-star 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, Mother's Choice (Dawn, Trinity), which received a 4.8-star protection rating, was the highest rated. Joie Trillo and Safe-n-Sound Kid Guard Pro both received a 4.7-star safety rating.

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

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 seats

These seats can be used from birth until kids outgrow the restraint and are ready to travel with a 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 that CREP has its highest protection rating in booster mode with 4.1 stars. Rearward mode received 2.9-star and forward received a 1.8-star rating.

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

Close up of young girl in forward facing seat with seatbelt on

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


Close up of young girl in forward facing seat with seatbelt on

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


Tips for choosing the right seat for your 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.