Installing a child seat my be tougher than you think in many of today’s vehicles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released ease-of-use ratings for the LATCH systems found in new cars. Of the 102 vehicles tested, just three earned a “good” rating. Moving down the list, 44 vehicles managed a rating of “acceptable,” 45 of the vehicles tested managed a “marginal” rating, while 10 are at the bottom of the list with a “poor” rating.

LATCH, which stands for lower anchors and tethers for children, has been required in new vehicles since 2002 and is meant to make proper installation of a child seat easier than if just using the seatbelt. To score a “good” rating, the highest you can get in IIHS testing, the vehicles must have at least two sets of rear-seat LATCH components that pass a five-point inspection.

The five criteria are: having lower anchors no more than 3/4-inch deep in the seat bight (area where the seatback meets the seat cushion), having lower anchors with a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees making them easy to move around, requiring less than 40 pounds of force to attach the seat to the lower anchors, possessing tether anchors that are on the vehicle’s rear deck or on the top 85 percent of the seatback and making sure that the tether anchor is clearly marked and nothing is close to it that could mistaken for an anchor.

For an “acceptable” rating, two sets of LATCH equipment must meet at least two of the three lower anchor requirements and at least one of the two tether requirements. If only one anchor requirement and neither of the tether requirements are met, the vehicle gets a “marginal” rating. If even fewer of the criteria are met, the vehicle goes into the “poor” category.

The three vehicles that came out of the test with top honors are the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class and the Volkswagen Passat. On the other end of the spectrum, the Chevy Silverado, Hyundai Accent, Lexus ES, Mazda6 and more scored a rating of “poor.” One of the most troubling vehicles found in the “poor” section is the Toyota Sienna, a minivan which is commonly purchased with the intent to haul kids.

The IIHS plans on introducing a new “good+” rating soon that will be given to vehicles that are rated as “good” and offer additional LATCH options beyond the two that are required. Specifically, the new rating would go to vehicles with a LATCH system for the second-row center seating position, the safest place for children.

The entire list of 102 vehicles that were tested can be found below.

(2015 models unless otherwise noted)


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