With so many styles, features and “must-have’s” on the car seat landscape, it can be hard to figure out which one is the best car seat for your child. The car seat is one of the most important gears for your baby- you cannot even leave the hospital with your baby until you have one that is properly installed.
Can you just recommend the best car seat upfront? We cannot. The best car seat for your baby is something that matches your baby’s needs and your own lifestyle. We have made the process easier though by providing you with a comprehensive guide on how you can choose the best car seat for your child.
Car seats comes in all sizes and shape. Some are suitable for newborns while others are best used by toddlers. If you want to get the best car seat for your child, you’ll have to know each car seat type.
TYPES OF CAR SEATS
Infant Car Seats
For infants, it is important that you find a seat that can be secured in a “rear-facing” position. This means that the child will be facing the rear window of your vehicle. Infant seats are designed to be rear facing until the child reaches two-years of age or meets the maximum weight limit (usually 30 pounds) of the car seat. As you can probably deduce, this is the best car seat for infants.
A unique feature of infant seats is that it attaches to a base that is secured in your car with both the seat belt and often straps as part of the LATCH system of tethers. These seats also have a five point harness to secure the child properly. They also often come with additional pieces such as head rests to help secure the baby during travel. The actual car seat snaps into the base and then can be removed without having to take the child out of the seat. Often these seats are part of a travel system and have a stroller that your car seat can then be placed into. This is the best car seat if you have an infant that is sleeping and you need to remove them from the car. No one likes to wake a sleeping baby!
The downside to these seats would be that they traditionally are made for a child that weighs 30 pounds or less. This would mean that when your child reaches 30 pounds, you would need to buy a new seat. However if you are having another child, you could place your new baby in the infant seat and transition your older infant to another seat. These car seats are made durable too so you can store them for when another baby comes.
One last point to consider with an infant seat is that the base must remain in the car. If you have two parents transporting the child and two separate cars are used, you would need two bases. These bases can usually be bought individually for about $40.
Infant car seat:
- part of a travel system
- can be removed without taking the child out of the seat
- most feature five-point harness
- additional pieces for comfort (e.g headrest)
- base remains in your car
Convertible Car Seats
These seats can be used as rear-facing until your child reaches 30 pounds and then gives you the flexibility to change the seat to a front-facing seat as they become a toddler. They cannot be used as part of a travel system and if your infant falls asleep in the car you would have to take your child out of the seat to place them in the stroller or carry them into the house. Most convertible car seats in the market now have a five point harness to secure the child and the LATCH system to secure the seat in the vehicle. They are economical because you can get longer use out of them but they lack some of the conveniences that infant car seats can provide parents. Nevertheless, it can be the best car seat for parents looking to stretch their money.
- either rear or front facing
- remains in the car, not a part of a travel system
- accomodates the child longer
- most have five-point harness
- best car seat for value of money
As you can guess from their name, they have multiple features however they cannot be used rear-facing. These seats have a five point harness and can accommodate a child of up to 100 pounds. The key to these seats is finding out what the maximum weight limit for the five point harness is. Sometimes the seat will say it can accomodate a child of let’s say 60 pounds but the harness should not be used for a child that is over 40 pounds. That can be very confusing! Other features of these seats often include cup holders or snack holders but those should not be very big factors in the larger picture. Knowing the weight and height requirements as well as the harness maximum weight should be the most important things to consider.
- either rear or front facing
- most have adjustable harness for both height and girth of child
- higher weight limit than convertible car seats.
A booster seat does just as it says. It boosts the child up so that the seat belt crosses the child’s body at the correct position in case of a car accident. It is very important that a booster seat is not used too soon for a child because of this reason. Although many children as they get older don’t want to sit in a “baby car seat”, the booster seat should be the last step or transition for your child.
A booster seat is the best car seat for a child who have outgrown his/her convertible car seat. Some older children who may be of shorter stature or of a lighter build than children of their age are also recommended to use booster seats. A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) has shown “kids in booster seats in the back seat of a car are 45 percent less likely to get injured than a child who is just in a seat belt.” This being said, despite cries from your child, it is important that they remain in the seat until the appropriate age and weight are met. The Institute for Highway Safety Website says that that children should be at least 8 years old but more importantly 4 feet 9 inches tall before parents should consider having a child withdrawn from the booster seat.
- Positioned so that the seat belt reduces the risk of injury in a crash
- Easy to remove and secure
- Safer as compared when your child goes straight to seat belts
Once you’ve determined the best car seat type for your child, What next?
The best car seat for your baby can be one of those car seat types we have mentioned above. Once you have made your choice, you can take the safety of your child one step further by paying a visit to your local Child Car Seat Inspection Station.
They check the installation of your seat, help you make adjustments and even show you how to get the most out of the seat you bought. They are a big help in making sure that your child is as safe as possible when you are on the road. You can even take the car seat to the station and they will teach you how to install it. Remember that the best car seat is one that is installed correctly.