Infant or Child Car Seat Buying Guide
The right car seat will keep your little one protected and comfortable, so you can focus on the road. This guide will help you choose a safe and functional car seat, regardless of the age of your child.
Types of Child Car Seats:
Car seats are specially designed for children at different stages of development and are manufactured in different formats according to size and weight requirements. Check that your child conforms to the range of dimensions displayed on the seat. Make sure that any seat you are thinking of purchasing is CMVSS certified.
- Rear-Facing Car Seat : For newborns and young babies with weak neck and back muscles, rear-facing car seats are the safest. Some are removable from a stationary base, so they can be placed in and out of the car easily. It is recommended that a rear-facing seat be used as long as the child has not yet reached the height and weight limits. Some infant seats are designed for more than one stage of development.
- Forward-Facing Car Seat, or Toddler : Once a child is no longer in an infant seat, it's time to place them in a forward-facing seat. Specifically forward-facing seats are best for children who are too young for a booster seat.
- Booster Car Seat : Once your child is too big for a car seat, you need a booster seat. They are usually affordable and help your child reach the height required to be able to use a seat belt. Children can use booster seats until around the age of eight.
- Convertible Car Seat : These seats are available in two models. 3-in-1 car seats convert from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat, then to a booster seat. 2-in-1 models range from rear-facing seat to forward-facing seat. Either type will save you the trouble of constantly buying new car seats, but they have more removable parts than car seats specially designed for toddlers or infants; it is therefore necessary to ensure that the mechanisms are properly locked in place before use.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Toddler Car Seat:
Safety is the foremost factor when purchasing a car seat.
- Anchor Point Type: See your vehicle owner's manual for specific anchor point instructions. Your car should have anchor points under the seats specifically designed for car seats. The seat will be secured in place with either hooks or push-in connectors. Hooks are sometimes more difficult to secure and release, but both choices are safe.
- Harness Type: More affordable seat models should have a five-point harness system, with two waist straps, two shoulder straps, and a strap between the legs. Other models are more complex and prevent children from extricating themselves from them or being uncomfortable. Look for straps that are secure, but easy to adjust.
- Anti-Rebound Bar: Not required, but highly recommended, anti-rebound bars reduce back-and-forth motion in a crash.
A proper car seat is the only acceptable way to travel with your infant or toddler. Tailor any seat you purchase to your child's stage of development to ensure their protection every time you get out in the vehicle.