Baby Trend's Flex-Loc infant car seat is a mixed bag. It has a 30-pound weight limit -- higher than many other budget-friendly car seats -- and other positives including a generous canopy, good crash-test results and easy LATCH installation. But reviewers are divided over the handle's triangular grip, and some parents complain of short straps, stiff buttons and an annoying buckle. Experts also blast Baby Trend for its poor customer-service reputation.
Good crash-test ratings. The Baby Trend Flex-Loc has energy-absorbing foam for greater side-impact protection, a five-point harness with a chest clip and push-button LATCH connectors. The seat gets good marks in independent crash testing. The handle cannot be left in the upright "carry" position while the seat is in the car, which increases chances for misuse, experts note.
Seat-belt installation can be tricky. Most reviewers say the Baby Trend Flex-Loc is fairly easy to install using push-button LATCH connectors, though experts note they can be tricky to tighten. However, seat-belt installation can be difficult, and the seat does not have built-in lock-offs that help keep belts in place. Experts also caution that the seat cannot be installed using belts anchored more than two inches from the back of the seat. On the plus side, the Flex-Loc features a level indicator and an adjustable base that help parents obtain the proper recline without resorting to bolsters such as towels or pool noodles. The no-rethread harness adjustment also receives high marks, but parents are less enthusiastic about the fussy two-tongue buckle, which they say is hard to operate and poses a pinching risk. Many reviewers also complain that the straps are too short to accommodate growing babies who are still well within the seat's height and weight limits. The Flex-Loc has a rubber-covered triangular handle to make the seat easier to carry; many parents love this, but some find it awkward. Several also complain that the buttons that release the handle from each locked position are very stiff. The seat fabric is hand-wash only. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the seat 4 out of 5 stars for ease of use, noting that the buckle can be tricky to operate.
Double-check seat's features before buying. The Baby Trend Flex-Loc accommodates children from 5 to 30 pounds and up to 30 inches tall. Experts say the seat should fit newborns well. There is a wide array of patterns and colors, and the large canopy offers full sun protection. Confusingly, Baby Trend also sells a seat called the EZ Flex-Loc with its travel systems that only goes up to 22 pounds, so be sure to double-check the weight capacity. Also note that some Flex-Locs come with a cold-weather boot and more-traditional looking head-support pillows, while others omit the boot and have a head support that looks like a rolled towel. The former seats are heavier at nearly 9.5 pounds, while the latter are lighter at 7.7 pounds. Parents report no major complaints about the fabric quality. Though the seat doesn't have a particularly long shell, its handle must be down while the vehicle is in motion, which hogs additional space and may make for a tough fit in smaller cars.
1. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains" covers all major infant car seats in depth. Authors Denise and Alan Fields consider performance, ease of use and the brand's track record to come up with their overall rating for each seat. Reviews are comparative, thorough and unbiased.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, 2013, 10th edition
Editors of ConsumerReports.org test 29 infant car seats on safety, ease of use and fit to vehicle. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include editors' "highs" and "lows" for each seat -- helpful for parents who want a quick summary of each seat.
Review: Infant Car Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Baby Trend Flex-Loc earns an overall ease-of-use score of 4 stars out of 5. The seat scores well in every category, with testers noting no major problems with installation or securing the child.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, Editors of NHTSA, Not dated
Editors call the Baby Trend Flex-Loc "nice, basic and narrow" but say it can be tricky to install. The handle must be down while driving, posing a space issue in small cars, they say.
Review: Baby Trend Flex-Loc, Editors of CarSeatMoms.com, May 5, 2012
The Baby Trend Flex-Loc receives 3.4 out of 5 stars in more than 50 reviews. Parents say it's easy to install and adjust the harness height. Some say the straps are too short and the handle release is stiff. Others complain the harness is hard to secure. The triangular handle gets mixed reviews.
Review: Baby Trend Flex-Loc Infant Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014
Heather Corley says the Baby Trend Flex-Loc is easy to install with LATCH, level indicators and an adjustable base. She also praises the easily adjustable harness height and tightness. The short review does not note any cons.
Review: Top 6 Infant Car Seats, Heather Corley, Not dated