NHTSA Child Safety Seat “Ease-of-Use” Ratings 2023

Child safety seats are more accessible to use, according to an annual National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) survey released today. NHTSA rated 92 child safety seats from 14 different manufacturers for 2023.

Clearer labels and instructions accounted for most of the improvements. Improved ratings were also scored for ease of installation, whether the seats had to be assembled after purchase or pre-assembled and ready for use.

“NHTSA’s ‘ease-of-use’ rating program provides parents and caregivers with valuable information they can use for comparison shopping when buying child safety and booster seats,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, MD. “The program also gives manufacturers a powerful incentive to produce safe and effective seats that are simple to use.”

NHTSA began rating child restraint systems, which include booster seats, in 2003 — using a grading system of “A,” “B,” or “C” to denote how easy it is to use the safety seats. A copy of the 2005 “ease-of-use” ratings can be found at:

Highlights from the 2005 ratings of selected safety seats are as follows:

  • One hundred forty-four ratings were awarded in 2005, covering all the multiple-use modes for convertible and combination seats available in the 92 safety seats selected. This increased from 2004, when only 67 seats were set with 106 individual ratings. As a result, the 2005 ratings represent approximately 90 percent of safety seats currently available to consumers.
  • For a seat to qualify for an overall “A,” it must receive an “A” rating in every possible mode. Out of the 92 seats rated, 74 received an “A” overall, 13 received a “B” overall, and 5 had composite scores of either an “A” or “B” for each of its modes.
  • In 2004, no safety seats received an overall “C” rating; however, several “C” scores were in some individual categories.
  • Three re-tested seats from 2004 improved their overall scores from a “B” to an “A.” These seats were the Britax Husky, Britax Roundabout, and Cosco Protek.

In addition to the overall rating, NHTSA also uses the letter grading system to denote how well the child safety seats perform in five individual categories:

  • Whether the seat is pre-assembled or requires assembly after purchase.
  • Clarity of the labeling attached to the seat.
  • Clarity of written instructions regarding the seat’s proper use.
  • Ease of securing a child in the seat.
  • Whether the seat has features that make it easier to install in a vehicle.

A new system that makes child safety seat installation easier, called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), is required for most vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002.  [DSA note: The equivalent European system is known as ‘ISOFIX’]

Source: NHTSA 13-05