What is LATCH?

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren.

LATCH vehicle back seat drawing.001

LATCH is known as ISOFIX in Europe and LUAS (Lower Universal Anchorage System) in Canada. LATCH is a way to secure a car seat to the vehicle using straps or connectors from the child’s car seat that connect to special metal anchors in the vehicle.

LATCH consists of lower anchors and tether anchors, which are built-in to the vehicle, and connecting hooks and straps that are built-in to the child’s car seat.

Vehicle LATCH Anchors:

Lower Anchors:

These are a pair of metal “u-shaped” bars hidden in the vehicle’s seat crack.

Tether Anchors:

These are metal rings or bars found behind the vehicle seat. In sedans, the tether anchors are always on the shelf under the rear windshield. In SUVs, wagons, and minivans the location can vary tremendously.

In the U.S., vehicles model year 2003 and newer must have lower anchors in at least TWO positions and tether anchors in at least THREE positions. This means that in most vehicles, the side seats have lower anchors AND top tether anchors, while the center seat has a tether anchor but NO lower anchors. See here for which vehicles have lower anchors for the center seat.

LATCH on the Car Seat 

Lower Anchor Connectors:

All car seats with a 5-point harness have a way to connect to the lower anchors in the vehicle. Most car seats use a lower anchor strap – the strap has a hook on each end that hooks onto the vehicle’s lower anchors. Some car seats have two separate lower anchor straps, each with a hook on one end. Lower anchors are used INSTEAD of the vehicle’s seat belt to secure the child seat to the vehicle. Lower anchors are found on both rear-facing and forward-facing car seats, as well as some boosters.

In the US, there are a few child safety seats that have rigid LATCH – where the lower anchor connectors are not on a strap, but rather rigidly attached to the steel frame of the child’s car seat. Currently, the Nuna Pipa & Muv Kussen are the 2 rear-facing-only seats with rigid LATCH, and the Clek Foonf is the only seat to offer rigid LATCH for forward-facing.

Are the Lower Anchors safer than using the seat belt?

Do I use the lower anchors and the seat belt at the same time?

Tether Strap:

The tether is the most important part of EVERY forward facing car seat. Every single forward-facing car seat in the US has a tether strap. The tether strap comes from the top of the car seat and has a hook on the end that will connect to the tether anchor in the vehicle. EVERY forward-facing car seat is safer when used with the tether – as this will decrease how far the child’s head will move in a crash by at least 4-6 inches typically – which can mean the difference between the child’s head hitting the back of the front seat in a crash, or not.

Identical seats with identical dummies except farther seat is NOT using the tether, closer seat is. Tether decreases forward head movement by 6 inches!!!

Tethers are never used by themselves; they are always used in addition to the lower anchors or the vehicle’s seat belt.

If you have a forward-facing car seat and installed it with the vehicle’s seat belt, you should also use the tether strap.

If you have a forward-facing car seat and installed it with the lower anchor strap/rigid LATCH, you should also use the tether strap.

Note: Tethers are for forward-facing car seats – where the child uses a 5 point harness as their restraint. Tethers aren’t required (or often found) on boosters – where the child uses the vehicle’s seat belt across them as their restraint. While all convertible seats have tether straps (because convertibles can be used forward facing), only a few allow the tether to be used when the seat is rear-facing.

Which car seats have tethers?