LATCH vs ISOFIX for Car Seats – Do Differences Matter?

baby on gray stroller

Baby and infant safety is always every parent’s number one concern when choosing baby gear. Choosing the ideal car seat is no different! Naturally, with the advancement of car seat laws, it’s important to keep up with current regulations. Two of the most common types are LATCH vs ISOFIX car seats. What are the differences between the two? Which is better? Let’s take a closer look to find out. 

The key difference between the two is that a LATCH is mainly used in the U.S. while ISOFIX is primarily used in Europe. LATCH refers to Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and refers to car seats installed without using seat belts. ISOFIX on the other hand is “plugged” into corresponding slots in the car. With an ISOFIX, there’s no need to use the car seat belts as the chair has its own seat belt. 

What is the LATCH system for car seats?

LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) has been a U.S. regulation since 2002. This system refers to lower seat anchors located in the space between the car seats. Regulation dictates that the anchors must be in at least two of the seating positions as well as tether anchors in three positions. 

What is the ISOFIX system for car seats?

ISOFIX refers to International Standards Organisation Fix. In short, ISOFIX is the European equivalent of the American LATCH system. Essentially, it involves attaching the car seat to a series of metal anchor points that are usually built into the vehicle. These anchors are situated in the spaces between the seats. Once the connectors are secured, the third step involves extending the support leg from the actual car seat base and attached to the floor. 

All about the LATCH system for car seats

Generally, rear-facing-only seats are made up of two separate pieces – a carrier and a base. The base features a flexible or rigid LATCH connector. The carrier won’t have any LATCH connectors and relies on a seat belt to install the seat. 

Other types of infant seats such as convertibles and harness-to-booster seats have only pieces and as a result, LATCH connectors are used across the entire seat. If you’ve shortlisted booster seats, it’s a good idea to read about Graco Tranzitions or Nautilus for a comparison of two top booster seat options. 

Types of LATCH

Essentially, there are two types of LATCH systems – Flexible and Rigid. The difference between the two is listed below:

  • Flexible: A flexible connection in the form of a lower anchor strap that latches onto the connector to keep the chair in place.
  • Rigid: A rigid connection has no strap involved and is essentially just a direct metal-to-metal connection. In the U.S. there are true rigid and semi-rigid types. True rigid feature connectors with no rotation. This means the connectors come out from the car seat. The Clek Liing Infant Car Seat Base is a classic example of this type of system. Semi-rigid connectors rotate up and down. The Bugaboo Turtle One by Nuna Car Seat is a common example of a seat with this type of connector. In general, the true rigid system is the safest option since it has the tightest installation. 

What is the weight limit for the LATCH system?

For the lower anchors to function correctly and safely, the weight limit should always be adhered to. The combined weight for your child and seat should never exceed 65lbs. 

Installation

Here’s a short clip to show you just how simple it is to install a LATCH car-seat type. 

Inright LATCH vs hook LATCH

An Inright LATCH refers to the type of mechanism most commonly found on the Graco Affix Highback Booster Seat with Latch System. This type of system easily snaps onto the car’s existing anchors and can easily be removed by simply pushing a button. 

If you’re considering any of the Graco models, you should read my detailed articleEvenflo compared to Graco where you can see the features!

The hook LATCH system refers to built-in straps and hooks that are installed in the vehicle. The straps from the car seat are hooked into the anchor components on the car. Both types require you to connect the seat to the vehicle’s lower anchors and tighten the strap until the seat is stable and secure. Hook style connectors can be difficult to unhook as a result of the tension in the strap. 

Do all cars have a LATCH system?

The majority of passenger vehicles produced after 2002 have the required LATCH components. Since the law requires lower anchors in at least 2 seating positions, there won’t be anchors in the center seat. It’s generally safer to install a car seat behind the driver or passenger seat. 

All about the ISOFIX system for car seats

ISOFIX systems commonly use bases and connectors to keep the car seat in place. ISOFIX bases connect to the vehicle’s metal anchors. Most ISOFIX car seats feature a top tether that attaches behind the rear seat. These types of seats can be used for children aged up to 12 years old. 

Types of ISOFIX

There are 3 common types of ISOFIX systems, which I’ve listed below:

  • Universal: Universal ISOFIX car seats feature 3 anchor points. Additionally, the two standard ISOFIX latches have a top tether anchorage strap that easily clips behind the seat. This prevents the seat from moving forwards or twisting in the event of a sudden stop or crash. 
  • Semi-Universal: A semi-universal system uses a top tether, door prop, and connectors. It’s important to note that this type of system isn’t compatible with all cars. These types of seats are ideally used with forward and rearward-facing car seats. A common semi-universal option is the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat. 
  • Vehicle-specific: As the same suggests, vehicle-specific systems are designed to work with particular models of cars. Vehicle-specific systems only use anchor points to secure the car seat. 

What is the weight limit for the ISOFIX system?

As with a LATCH system, you should never exceed the weight limit of a car seat to keep your little one safe. For an ISOFIX, the combined total weight of the child and the seat is 72.5lbs (33kg). 

Installation

Here’s a short clip to show you that it’s quite easy to install your ISOFIX car seat. You can do it in as little as 60 seconds! 

Do all cars have an ISOFIX system?

ISOFIX has become a standard regulation on all new vehicles since the mid-2000s. Older vehicles may not have the necessary components installed and you will have to use additional safety belts to ensure safety.

Can you use your ISOFIX car seat in a car without an ISOFIX fitting?

The good news is, most ISOFIX car seats can be installed in cars that don’t have the required fittings. You will however need to use the seat belt method to ensure maximum safety. 

Which one is safer: ISOFIX or LATCH?

Both systems are geared toward ensuring maximum safety for your child. One isn’t really better than the other. It mostly comes down to using the item and all its connectors and belts 100% correctly. Installation on both is straightforward enough to make proper use quite simple. It simply comes down to where you live and what the regulations are in your particular country. 

Conclusion

It’s important to choose the right type of seat that complies with the regulations within your particular country. Additionally, check the types of straps, connectors, and anchors in your car versus the components on the chair you’re considering. 

To help you make the right decision, you might consider reading my article, Diono compared to Britax or Clek. This will give you an idea of some of the more popular brands to consider. Another interesting article worth reading is checking if car seats expire. Choosing the right car seat for your infant will ensure your little one is always safe and snug when you’re traveling!

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