LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren
Lower anchors are a way of securing the car seat to the vehicle – and are used instead of the vehicle’s seat belt.
Tether anchors are a way of securing the head of a car seat to the back of the vehicle – and are used in addition to the lower anchors or seat belt. Tether straps are used on all forward-facing car seats, and a few rear-facing ones too.
Car seats can connect to the vehicle’s lower anchors in one of two ways – using a flexible connection (a lower anchor strap) OR a rigid connection (no strap involved – just direct metal-to-metal connection).
Infant seats (rear-facing-only seats), have two separate pieces – a carrier and a base. The base will have flexible or rigid LATCH connectors. The carrier will not have any LATCH connectors and will always use the seat belt to install. All other car seats – convertibles, harness-to-booster seats, etc – are just one piece and therefore the LATCH connectors will be on the entire seat.
The lower anchor connectors, found at the ends of the flexible LATCH strap, come in one of two styles: hook-on and push-on (look like a stapler).
Both the hook-on and push-on connectors require you to
1. attach the connectors to the vehicle’s lower anchors and then
2. tighten the LATCH strap until the car seat is secure.
Typically you will pull on the flexible LATCH strap to tighten it. However, there are some seats where you don’t need to pull–for example, the Evenflo EveryStage DLX features a fabulous ratcheting mechanism in the lower anchor strap which makes tightening the strap incredibly easy.
Push on Connectors: Generally easier to attach and remove than hook-on. Allow for easier removal of the car seat than hook-on: just push hard on the red button (like unbuckling a seat belt) to release. Car seats with push on connectors are often the premium ones in a manufacturer’s model line.
Hook Style Connectors: Often hard to attach and VERY hard to unhook. To remove the car seat, you need to first loosen the LATCH strap, which can be very difficult due to the tension in the strap. Many of the less expensive seats feature hook style connectors. This video shows tips for connecting & unhooking these.
There are two types of rigid LATCH here in the US: true rigid and semi-rigid. Both types do not use any strap to connect the car seat to the vehicle’s lower anchors. True rigid LATCH connectors have no rotation, so the connectors come out from the car seat in a straight horizontal path. Clek Liing and Clek Foonf (only when Foonf is forward-facing) are the only car seats to offer true rigid LATCH in the US. Semi rigid LATCH connectors rotate up and down and are found on the Nuna Pipa and Bugaboo Turtle.
True rigid LATCH gives the absolute tightest installation – meaning your child’s car seat will move as little as possible during a crash. The less the car seat moves, the better able it is to absorb more of the crash forces and transfer less of the crash energy into the child’s body.
True rigid LATCH is also the easiest installation you’ll ever have – simply click the connectors onto the vehicle’s lower anchors, then slide the connectors back into the shell of the child’s car seat. Semi rigid LATCH is the next easiest installation as you don’t have any strap to tighten like with flexible LATCH – but the rotation of the connectors can make it tricky to get them connected to the vehicle’s lower anchors.
Yes, rigid LATCH is safer than flexible LATCH (or the seat belt… which is also a flexible attachment) for several reasons.
True rigid LATCH is safer than both flexible LATCH and semi-rigid LATCH because true rigid LATCH offers the most secure installation possible.
Please note that flexible LATCH and seat belt installations are still VERY safe means of securing your child’s car seat to the vehicle.
Rear-Facing Only (infant) car seats:
True rigid LATCH: There is only ONE rear-facing-only car seat with true rigid LATCH here in the US:
Semi-rigid LATCH: There are a few rear-facing-only car seats with semi-rigid LATCH here in the US:
Note: We do not recommend the LITE & LITE LX models as they can never be installed without their base.
Rear-Facing Convertible car seats:
There are ZERO convertible seats that offer rigid LATCH for rear-facing kids.
Forward-facing Convertible car seats:
True rigid LATCH: There is only ONE forward-facing car seat with true rigid LATCH here in the US:
FTC Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this page. No monetary compensation was provided, however, a few of the reviewed products were supplied by the manufacturer or distributor to help facilitate the review. All opinions are those of The Car Seat Lady, LLC.