Walk into any big box baby store you’ll find a dizzying array of stuff you never imagined that you’d need. Bassinets, footed pajamas, infant tubs - you name it, they have it.

They also have rows and rows of car seats, all of which look alike. But are they?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a database that rates car seats based on a five-star system that evaluates car seats based on:

  • Quality of instructions
  • Ease of installation
  • Clarity of labeling
  • Ease of securing your child

Car seats come in three categories:

  • RF - Rear facing seats
  • FF - Forward facing
  • B - Booster

The NHTSA breaks down the five-star rating system as follows:

  • 5 Stars = The car seat is excellent for its respective category.
  • 4 Stars = Above average features, instructions, and overall ease-of-use for its category.
  • 3 Stars = An average product for its category.
  • 2 Stars = Below-average features, instructions, labeling and ease-of-use for its category.
  • 1 Star = Poor overall features for this child safety seat.

Although car seats may look alike, they’re not. Parents can view a complete list of safety seat models and ratings by visiting the NHTSA website.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Car Seat Ratings Systems: What the Numbers Really Mean and was authored by Kevin Woo.


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