Features We Don't Need: Purse Hooks

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The purse hook: much debated, much discussed. For a while, it seemed automakers were really proud of their purse hooks. They've been highlighted with glee in brochures for family-haulers like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. My very own 2005 Sienna features a purse hook on the front passenger side.

The purse hook came of age during a time when auto manufacturers mistakenly thought we women had nothing better to think about than where our purse would go; never mind our children, jobs outside the home or managing a household — where in the heck was a girl supposed to hang her purse?

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Now, automakers are savvier about what women want. We want seats that massage us, integrated multimedia systems, cupholders that keep our drinks hot or cold, and rear entertainment systems that silence our noisy progeny.

By Courtney Messenbaugh | April 23, 2014 | Comments (7)

Will an Electric Vehicle Work for Your Family?

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Electric vehicles have been a little too pricey to show up in most neighborhood driveways, but with the 2015 Kia Soul EV arriving at dealerships this summer, EVs and plug-in hybrids like the new-for-2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid are becoming increasingly more affordable and appealing to families.

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Of course the benefits from an environmental standpoint are motivating, as is information on fuel efficiency and range, but what does a family need to know when considering buying or leasing an EV or plug-in hybrid? This primer addresses a few things you may be wondering about.

By Carrie Kim | April 21, 2014 | Comments (0)

First Baby? Don't Forget: Install Car Seat Before Little One Arrives

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When I was pregnant with my first child, I spent way too many hours online researching which stroller, child-safety seat, diaper bag and crib sheets we needed. As the big day approached, I washed and organized new clothes and cleaned out kitchen cabinets to make room for bottles. However, there was one key piece of gear that didn't make it to its rightful place: the car seat.

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When it was time to leave the hospital with our brand-new baby, I had to rely on my already exhausted husband to install our daughter's rear-facing infant seat. Naturally, he pulled up to the front of the hospital with it installed backward. After some choice words, we finally got it installed and went on our merry way.

Those early moments of parenting were needlessly stressful. If we had spent a couple of hours before the baby arrived having our car seat's installation inspected by a certified car-seat technician (who will do this free of charge), we could have avoided that fiasco in front of the hospital. Find a car-seat check in your area.

By BreAnn Ahara | April 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

Recall Alert: 16,655 Baby Trend Car Seats

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Car Seats Affected: Approximately 16,655 Baby Trend Trendz Fastback 3-in-1 child-safety seats, models FB60070 (Granite) and FB60408 (Jellybean), which were manufactured between October 2011 and July 2013

The Problem: When this combination car seat is used with its five-point harness, it can become difficult to unlatch the harness buckle. The buckle can become stuck, so it cannot be opened by depressing its release button. If this occurs, it could be difficult to remove the child from the car seat, increasing the risk of injury in an emergency.

The Fix: Baby Trend will provide registered owners with replacement buckles once they’re available.

What Owners Should Do: The car-seat manufacturer will contact registered car-seat owners, but it hasn't provided the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with notification or buckle availability schedules. For more info, owners may call NHTSA's safety hotline at 888-327-4236 or go to www.safercar.gov.

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By Jennifer Newman | April 15, 2014 | Comments (0)

2014 Buick Encore: Car Seat Check

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Space is at a premium in the 2014 Buick Encore, a compact crossover, but surprisingly, its smaller dimensions didn't negatively affect child-safety-seat installation. While we did have to move the front passenger seat forward to fit our rear-facing car seats behind it, our tester still had enough legroom to sit comfortably. That's in part due to the Encore's dash design, which is upright rather than jutting out into the cabin.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Newman | April 15, 2014 | Comments (0)

Common Car Seat Mistakes That Parents Make

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Installing a child-safety seat isn't rocket science. That's what I thought until I saw the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's campaign that said the majority of parents believe their car seat is installed correctly, but in reality it's only a small fraction of them.

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As the mother of three, I've been installing and buckling up car seats for more than five years. I thought I had car seats figured out, but certified car-seat technicians must take a 40-hour course before they begin volunteering at car-seat checks (find one near you). I recently had my three car seats checked by a friendly car-seat technician who confirmed that most people install their car seats incorrectly ... myself included. I thought I had my three car seats installed as tightly as possible, but the car-seat technician showed me how loose they were by tugging at the seats' belt paths, where they each moved more than the inch that's recommended.

By BreAnn Ahara | April 14, 2014 | Comments (0)

Are Built-In Booster Seats Worth the Extra Cost?

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After years of wrestling with child-safety seats, most booster seats seem like they'd be easy to install, but depending on the car, they may not work well with a particular seat belt or seat configuration. Sometimes the booster covers a recessed seat belt buckle, or the car's seat is too bolstered and the booster is pushed at an angle.

Car Seat Basics: Beyond the Booster

There's a solution for this: an integrated, or built-in, booster seat that's tailor-made for the vehicle it's in. In the 2014 Dodge Journey, all I had to do was tug on a strap at the front of the seat bench and the booster popped up. I pressed down on it to snap it securely into place, and it was ready to use: No fighting seat belt buckles or contending with seat bolsters. Built-in booster seats are only available on a handful of models. If you're considering a car that offers this feature, there are a few things to think about.

By Sara Lacey | April 11, 2014 | Comments (0)

2014 Chrysler 300: Car Seat Check

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Editor's note: This Car Seat Check is repurposed from our test of the 2013 Chrysler 300, but our results apply to the 2014 model.

Chrysler's largest car is classy and comfortable, and families looking for a sedan that easily accommodates three child-safety seats should add it to their shopping list. The 2013 Chrysler 300 has a roomy backseat and three sets of Latch anchors — one more set than most sedans offer — making it extra versatile when it comes to installing car seats.

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By Jennifer Geiger | April 10, 2014 | Comments (0)

Use Child-Safety Locks To Keep Kids Safer in Car

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Kids are clever: clever enough to train you to read umpteen books to them every night, in just the right order, after filling their favorite sippy cup with just the right amount of water — thus delaying bedtime indefinitely. Around age 2, kids also start getting very curious, wanting to manipulate anything in sight to test out their newly developed fine motor skills. This includes the potentially dangerous habit of playing with your car's inside door handle.

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You may think your child can't reach the door handle while straitjacketed into a child-safety seat, but before you're proven wrong by a toddler popping open the car door while you're driving, be smart and check that your car's child-safety door locks are engaged. Do it before you need it!

By Kristin Varela | April 9, 2014 | Comments (1)

$40,000 3-Row SUV Car Seat Challenge: the Highs and Lows

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Large families basically have two choices when it comes to what to drive: a three-row SUV or a minivan. Both have their merits and handle cargo and passenger room differently. During Cars.com's recent $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge, I spent a few days getting to know seven of the contenders in the midsize crossover class, driving them, climbing in and out of them, and installing car seats in their second and third rows.

Read the Full $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge

Although they all have to offer a large amount of room in order to fit that third row, it's obvious that not all SUVs are created equal. When it comes to car seats, there were some very clear winners and losers, with the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe leading the pack, and the Chevrolet Traverse and Mazda CX-9 bringing up the rear.

By Jennifer Geiger | April 9, 2014 | Comments (1)

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