The Safety 1st OnSide Air gets good safety ratings, and most parents find the seat relatively easy to use and a good fit in smaller vehicles. Like other seats in the under-$100 category, the OnSide Air only allows a child up to 40 pounds in the forward-facing position, but its 40-pound rear-facing limit is higher than that of comparable seats. Some reviewers say rear-facing installation and harness adjustments can be a pain.
Air technology for side-impact protection. The Safety 1st OnSide Air provides the same protective air technology as more expensive seats in its line. The air technology functions somewhat like a car's airbag system. When the car crashes, the seat deploys protective air around the child to prevent him or her from moving and protect from intrusion impacts. The seat performs well in experts' independent safety tests, but some parents who own the seat say the air protection seems like a gimmick. The seat has a five-point harness with chest clip and clip-on LATCH connectors as well as a forward-facing tether.
Minor qualms about installation, harness adjustments. Parents like the Safety 1st OnSide Air's generously sized tunnels for seat-belt straps and tethering belts, making it easier to install. While reviewers say that it is easy to secure the child, you'll have to rethread the harness to adjust the harness height, and the harness straps can be difficult to loosen once they have been tensioned. The seat cover removes easily but must be hand washed. Experts note that the seat can be tricky to install properly rear-facing and may need additional bolstering with a towel or pool noodle.
Good pick for smaller vehicles, but life span may be short. The Safety 1st OnSide Air is a fairly lightweight seat that won't hog space in smaller cars, reviewers say. Many recommend it for traveling or occasional use in a secondary car. Experts say it offers an excellent fit in the forward-facing position and a good fit in the rear-facing position. But like most seats in its price class, the seat is light on padding. Though the shell is not the shortest available, reviewers note that low top-harness slots and a 40-pound weight limit mean it won't last as long as parents would like for some children. On the upside, it does allow children to stay rear-facing up to 40 inches -- rare for comparably priced seats. The seat's forward-facing height limit is 43 inches.
Don't lose the manual. Reviewers have few complaints about customer service. However, if you misplace the Safety 1st OnSide Air's instructions, you will need both the manufacture date and the product number to download the instructions from the website. That's inconvenient if your seat's already installed. The website's Frequently Asked Questions section may be a better bet if you have questions about the seat's operation, except it often refers you to the manual. There is a limited one-year warranty, and the seat expires after six years.
1. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains" covers the Safety 1st line in general and the Safety 1st OnSide Air specifically. Authors Denise and Alan Fields consider performance, ease of use and the brand's track record to come up with their overall rating.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, Tenth Edition, 2013
ConsumerReports.org tests 27 convertible car seats. 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. However, there are a couple of discontinued models listed, and it's unclear when the tests were performed.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
3. Good Housekeeping
The Safety 1st OnSide Air is one of nine car seats included in Good Housekeeping's Convertible Car Seat Reviews. Reviewers note that it's easy to remove the seat cover and to get the seat belts or LATCH system through the belt paths.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Reviews, Editors of Good Housekeeping, 2012
The Safety 1st OnSide Air receives an overall average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars based on more than 145 user reviews. Users like the spaciousness of the seat, while still commenting that it fits the car well. Some reviewers find installation a challenge and say straps are tricky to adjust.
Review: Safety 1st OnSide Air Protect Convertible Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2014
5. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Safety 1st OnSide Air earns 4 stars out of 5 for overall ease of use forward-facing and 3 stars for rear-facing in the NHTSA's tests. Tricky harness use and installation are the main criticisms, but instructions are well reviewed.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, As of February 2014
Wynne picks the Safety 1st OnSide Air as one of six seats that offer bang for your buck. She details the seat's basic specs and links to a more in-depth review that compares the seat with the Cosco Scenera, but does not review it herself.
Review: Top Convertible Car Seats Under $150: 6 Picks, Angie Wynne, Feb. 8, 2013
The Safety 1st OnSide Air is one of MommiesLike.com's five recommended convertibles under $100. The site lists basic specs and links to customer reviews on Amazon.com, but does not provide an independent review.
Review: Top 5 Convertible Car Seats Under $100, Editors of MommiesLike.com, Not Dated