Limits: 35 lbs., 32”
NHTSA ease of use rating: Three stars out of five.
Pros: Among the least expensive seats with side impact protection.
Cons: Canopy only offers minimal coverage. No harness pads. Stroller compatibility an issue.
Comments: The flagship infant car seat for Dorel’s Safety 1st is the onBoard. Like many Dorel offerings, however, the onBoard comes in multiple versions that can be confusing. So let’s break it down.
The basic OnBoard 35: features a newborn insert that works well with preemies as small as four pounds. It features a carrier lined with EPP foam, four harness height positions and an adjustable base.
Target carries an even more affordable version of the basic OnBoard called the OnBoard 35 LT for $100—it is very similar to the basic OnBoard 35 but with less fancy fabric and padding.
Step up to the OnBoard 35 Air and you get additional side impact protection in the form of Safety 1st’s Air Protect cushions. The OnBoard Air Plus adds additional crash protection in what Safety 1st calls its “GCell HX” padding. The more expensive onBoard Air features a premium base with belt-lock offs, premium LATCH “push on” connectors and more adjustable positions.
In a recent refresh, Safety 1st refreshed the OnBoard with a new base that has more adjustable positions (five versus three previously). Also new: an easier-to-carry handle.
FYI: Safety 1st’s sister brand, Eddie Bauer, sells the onBoard Air as the Eddie Bauer SureFit infant car seat ($140 at Target). It is the same basic seat, different name.
One good thing about this seat: the Safety 1st OnBoard is widely sold in chain stores and online, so it’s easy to see in person.
Reader feedback on the Air version of this car seat has been positive. As for crash tests, Consumer Reports gave the onBoard Air a “best” rating, ranking it 9th overall out of 30+ seats tested. And for ease of use, all versions of the onBoard scored three out of five stars by the NHTSA. Another plus: the onBoard is a relatively lightweight carrier at 8-8.3 lbs., depending on the version.
What’s missing? Well, the seat lacks harness pads, which you find on seats in the $150 to $200 price range. The canopy also lacks the coverage, a common gripe for car seats in this price range.
But those are small quibbles compared to the big negative here: stroller compatibility. While this seat works with Safety 1st strollers and other models in the Dorel universe (Quinny, etc.), most other brands do NOT sell adapters for the onBoard Air. Most Safety 1st strollers are designed for light duty, suburban use (shopping mall, etc), although there is one “jogger” model with a turnable front wheel. Most Safety 1st strollers are bundled with the OnBoard infant car seat as travel systems.
Another complaint area: the base for this seat is huge, say many readers. As a result, it may require the passenger seat to be pushed forward, depending on your vehicle. (The Safety 1st base is about 1″ longer and 1.5″ wider than the Graco Snugride. That may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between fitting and not fitting in a smaller vehicle).
Bottom line: this is a good seat, as long as you plan to pair it with a Safety 1st or other Dorel brand stroller. Between the versions, we’d suggest the onBoard Air or onBoard Air Plus. It’s worth the upgrade in features.