Do Inexpensive Carseats Sacrifice Safety?

Updated on October 11, 2012
T.R. asks from Saint Louis, MO
20 answers

I need to get my daughter a bigger carseat. I've been looking and looking, and while the Britax (and other pricey brands) carseats look great, sound super safe,etc, the price tag kills me.

Are they really that much safer than the $60 Evenflo/Graco ones at Walmart?

I don't want to be cheap when it comes to her safety, I just don't know if it really makes a difference.

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Featured Answers


answers from Washington DC on

parents are vitally concerned with keeping their babies safe, which make them easy marks for companies selling 'concern.' nothing wrong with car seats with bells and whistles and cool fabrics and colors, but they all have to meet minimum safety ratings. don't let them scare you into spending more than you want to.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

as the ladies have said all carseats have to be "safe". this is something that always blew me away. why would i pay THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for my child to have a little extra padding? or the designer print? silly imo. it's not being "cheap" it's being practical. like soooo many other "baby" and "kid" things - it's a racket.

3 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

All carseats need to meet government safety standards or they couldn't legally be sold in this country. There have been tests done that showed that the safest car seat is the one that fits best into your vehicle. If the most expensive seat doesn't fit correctly into your car's seat, then it isn't as safe. I would try the less expensive model in your vehicle to see if it fits snugly. If you drive a lot, then some seats may be more comfortable for your child, also. Something to look for before making a purchase.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on


All car seats must meet minimum required safety standards. When it comes to price a lot has to do with other features including amount of padding, fabric, etc.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I looked at Consumer Reports. They look at all the safety testing. The year we bought an infant seat, a $60 seat rated #1, ahead of the $300 seat. Yes, we bought the less expensive one. If you don't have a subscription, your local library will have one.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

They are all "safe". Like the posters said, check out the ratings. I got a Britax because it was safe and comfortable. My son is 4 1/2 43 lbs and still in it because he is happy and comfy in it. Most people who have the cheaper ones have their kids out of it by 4 and into a boaster. So I would think what your plans are long term.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

No! It's like saying generic baby formula is inferior to name brand. It all goes through the same testing & has to meet the same standards. I think parents overspend way too much because clever marketing feeds into our insecurities & buying the latest & greatest, most expensive contraption makes us feel better about ourselves.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Dont be fooled. All cr seats have to meet safety standards. Many people go by looks when buying a car seat.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

All carseats have to pass rigorous inspections and safety tests. They are all safe. Its more a sense of comfort in some of the cheaper carseats----I believe that you can get a comfortable and completely safe carseat for under 100 dollars. I don't think you have to go out and buy the 400 britax or similar carseats. But some people just have piece of mind knowing that they are buying a super reputable carseat if they go with a Britax. For me, I am completely comfortable with anything Graco, Evenflo,or Safety First brands. I have had each of these and haven't had any issues. My kids have been fine and comfortable.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

No they don't. I have a Britax marathon which is supposed to be one of the safest carseat in the market. It's very bulky. So we got another Evenflo carseat for our second car , it's very lightweight ideal for taking it with you for your travels when you don't drive your own car or if you fly frequently. The britax marathon is huge and heavy and no away I can take it where I go. I have used both carseats during the past year and frankly not much difference. I love the evenflo for it's ease of use and light weight. I think it was $90 or so when I bought it. No regrets. The britax marathon has extra padding(my son nevr complains in both carseats , he is comfortable in both) and extra safety harness which fixes the carseat very firmly. So I guess in case of an accident , it is safer. That doesn't mean evenflo is not safe enough, all these carseats meet the standard safety requirements. And yes the price difference is huge. It's up to you as to what you want to buy. If you need the extra safety features or not. Also I have heard britax doesn't fit well in all cars(remember I said it's huge) , so make sure it fits in yours in case you buy that one.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Everybody has their own personal limits on things. Sometimes it's price. Sometimes it's a feature. Sometimes it's a brand. It's kind of like buying a car. They all "go" but how will you get there? My car has econo seats so we like our van for longer trips. Nothing "wrong" per se with my car's seats but the van is more high-end and more comfy.

All that said, there were some features I liked in the Marathon that put it top of my list. The rear-facing tether, for example. The high weight limit for a 5pt harness. The ability to easily adjust the straps. The ability to easily wash the cover. The satisfaction of many of my friends. Other friends and family have their reasons for Radian or Graco or whomever.

Bottom line is you need to be happy with the seat you'll likely have for 6 years. Your kid needs to be comfortable in it. All are technically safe. So if you can't afford a more expensive seat, get the best fit for your budget, kid and car vs going to a thrift store and getting a seat you don't know the history of. NEVER buy or accept a mystery seat.

If you are a member of Consumer Reports (or someone you know is), they've rated seats.

I edited out the second site b/c they had some weird criteria and listed the Marathon as FF and min weight of 20 lbs. That might be the limit to BE FF but you can RF in a Marathon now to 40lbs. High rear facing weight was also one of the things I personally looked for. Ours only goes to 35, though.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

I got the Britax because of ease of use. I have seen my friends struggle with the straps of the less expensive as they seemed to twist and get all whacky. I don't have the patience to mess with that. The Britax has really easy to adjust and use straps. It's not any safer but the extra money went towards bells and whistles. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Flagstaff on

Some carseats have features that likely do increase safety, and they cost more. Deep walls reinforced with metal, for example. Deep headwings lined with EPS foam. Structure is important in a side-impact crash. While they all pass the same testing and I'm sure they all do the job for a frontal crash, there are no side-impact standards at all in the US! That's why I don't believe they are all just as safe as others. Britax isn't all that deep, anyway.

The Graco My-Ride tends to be nice and deep. A child is safe if in the proper seat, so ideally not forward-facing until age 3, and harnessed until age 6, then boostered in a high-back until the adult belt fits, usually about 10 or more (at some point low-back is Ok but I prefer the high-back as it positions the belt well and these seats often have superior side-impact protection).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Like the state troopers told me; federal standards are the same. The only difference is the bells and whistles. How old is your child. Will you have it for a long time or will she be out of it and into a high back booster soon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

All seats have to meet minimum safety standards to be sold. However, some seats may be (and probably) are safer than the minimums, however that data isn't published. So, the Britax could be grossly out performing the 60 dollar seats, but it's also possible that those cheap seats are out performing the Britax.

As far as ratings go, please avoid consumer reports. They are good for reviewing a lot of things, such as TV's, washing machines, etc - they were horrible for reviewing car seats. They didn't take a lot of things into account when doing it - such as harness height. There are some seats out there (and that are highly rated on consumer reports) that are touted as being the last seat you'll ever need, but they their top harness slot is 15" and will only get a kid to age 2.5.

If you want a good place to get excellent information on car seats as well as seat recommendations in your budget, I recommend checking out

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Even the cheapest car seats still have to follow minimum safety standards. That means they're safe.



answers from San Diego on

They all pass MINIMUM standards, but like someone already mentioned, some models have made their seats safer with features like easier to install latch or seat belf lock-offs, side protection, EPS foam...

I stongly recommend looking At the "True Fit" carseat. Comparable to Britax Boulevard in padding and side impact protection, but more middle of the line priced. It is the easiest seat I've ever installed (and I've tried a lot!). the harness fits to 65 lbs. (I can tell you more about it if you'd like.)

Of course it depends on your child's size (height and weight both matter) and your vehicle fit too.


answers from Lakeland on

There is nothing wrong with Graco seats and products some of them have the best safety ratings. I never bought Evenflo, I had a few of their products and they fell apart so fast or were recalled. All the manufactures have to meet safety standards so they should all be OK to purchase.


answers from Philadelphia on

I have a 2 sided answer
1. they all meet the safety requirements so do what you can afford and what you like.
i dont think my kid is anymore safe in her britax, and she rides with others in the cheapest carseats around and sometimes J. the bottom booster and is fine
2. BUT I tend to get hit by drunk drivers (2 times) and also knock down stop signs (one time=) ) myself. hoesntly i'm staying with britax because when i got hit by a drunk driver andmy and my daughters side was completely in no more door for either of us because it was in our seats and glass all over..she didnt have a single all likelyhood the same would have happened if she was in a cheap brand and I wouldve been loyal to that brand but since it didnt i'm sticking with what worked for M. so far...
BUT yet again shes getting bigger and i'm probably switching to a cheap booster in the next few months even though her britax goes up to 7- lbs and shes only 40lbs

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