The Safety 1st OnSide Air (*Est. $80) gets very good crash safety ratings and most parents find easy to use. Like other seats in the under $100 category, the OnSide Air only allows you to carry a child of up to 40 pounds in the forward-facing position. But distinct from other budget seats, the seat is rated for an impressive 40 pounds in the rear-facing position.
The OnSide Air provides the same protective air technology as more expensive seats in this line. The air technology functions somewhat like a car's airbag system. When the car is impacted in a crash, the seat deploys protective air around the child to prevent him or her from moving and from intrusion impacts. The OnSide Air's safety performance was rated very good by one independent testing organization, but some parents who own the seat say the air protection may be a gimmick.
Parents like the OnSide Air's generously sized tunnels for seatbelt straps and tethering belts, making it easier to install. While reviewers say that it is easy to secure the child, you'll have to re-thread the harness to adjust the harness heights, and the harness straps tend to be difficult to loosen once they have been tensioned. The seat cover removes easily, but it must be hand washed.
The OnSide Air is a fairly lightweight seat. According to one independent testing organization, it offers an excellent fit in the forward facing position and a good fit in the rear facing position. Like most seats in its price class, the seat is light on padding.
We haven't found any complaints about the OnSide Air in our research, and Safety 1st isn't named in any current recalls. However, if you misplace your car seat's instructions, be forewarned that 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 product support FAQ section may be a better bet if you have questions about the seat's operation; except it often refers you to the manual.
The OnSide Air appears to be a good option for parents who want a budget seat that will carry their child rear facing longer, and who are comforted by the idea of additional crash protection through the air technology. For the most part, parents and reviewers agree that this seat is easy to use and comfortable for children.
ConsumerReports.org included the Safety 1st OnSide Air in its round of convertible car seat evaluations. To read this report, you must be a ConsumerReports.org subscriber.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Overview, Ratings, and Recommended, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, May 2012
2. Baby Bargains
The Safety 1st OnSide Air is reviewed in the section on car seats, along with the Safety 1st brand in general. Ratings are based on features, parent feedback and manufacturer reputation.
Review: Convertible and Forward Facing-Only Car Seats, Denise and Alan Fields, Ninth Edition, 2012
3. Good Housekeeping
The Safety 1st OnSide Air is one of eight car seats included in Good Housekeeping's Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews. Reviewers note that it's easy to remove the cover and get seatbelts through the LATCH system.
Review: Best Convertible Car Seat Reviews, Editors of Good Housekeeping, 2012
The Safety 1st Onside Air receives an overall average rating of 4 out of 5 stars based on more than 30 user reviews. Users like the spaciousness of the Onside Air while still commenting that it fits the car well. Some reviewers find installation a challenge.
Review: Convertible Car Seats, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Aug. 2012
This website recommends the Safety 1st OnSide Air as a good budget car seat that is maneuverable, comfortable and easy to install.
Review: Safety 1st OnSide Air Convertible Car Seat Review, Editors of Cheapism.com, Aug. 4, 2011