Car seats are a mandatory baby item, but with so many personal factors influencing your purchasing decision, it can feel overwhelming to choose one.
Let’s walk through what to look for when purchasing a car seat.
What Car Seat Do I Need for My Child?
- 1 What Car Seat Do I Need for My Child?
- 2 The Different Types of Car Seats
- 3 Things To Consider When Purchasing a Car Seat
- 4 Best Car Seat Reviews
- 5 Which Car Seat Is Best For You?
Car seats provide a safe way to transport your children in a vehicle by creating a seat that is attached to the car and using a mechanism to attach the child to the car seat itself. There are laws and standards which will help you decide which car seat is needed for your child’s age. Here are some of the best car seats out there:
|Name||Image||Weight Capacity||Height Capacity||Orientation|
|Evenflo Lite-Max 35 Infant Car Seat||4 – 35 lbs.||17 – 32 in. (43–81 cm.)||Rear Facing Only|
|Graco Contender™ 65 Convertible Car Seat||4-40 lb rear facing / 20-65 lb foward facing||up to 49 inches||Forward / Rear Facing|
|Graco 4Ever™ 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat||4–40 lbs rear facing / 22–65 lbs forward facing harness / high back belt booster 30–100 lbs / 40–120 lbs backless booster||up to 57 inches||Forward / Rear Facing|
|Graco Nautilus™ 65 3-in-1 Harness Booster Car Seat||22 – 65 lb harnessed booster / High Back Booster 30 – 100 lb / Backless Booster 40-100 lbs||up to 57 inches||Forward Facing Only|
|Graco AFFIX™ Youth Booster Seat with Latch System||30-100 lbs||38-57 inches||Forward Facing Only|
|Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat||3-33 lbs. rear facing / 20-40 lbs. forward facing||19-40 inches||Forward / Rear Facing|
|Baby Trend EZ Ride 5 Travel System||5 – 30 lbs (car seat) / 50 lbs (stroller)||up to 30 inches (car seat)||Rear Facing Only|
|Graco Milestone™ All-in-One Car Seat featuring Safety Surround™ Side Impact Protection||5-40 lb rear facing / 20-65 lb forward facing / 30-100 High Back Booster||27-49 inches foward facing / 38-57 inches high back booster||Forward / Rear Facing|
If sold in the United States, all car seats will meet or exceed the US safety standards, regardless of price. It’s important to know that when purchasing a car seat that has been used, you will need to note the expiration date, as they will need to be discarded on this printed date.
What are some reasons you’ll need a car seat:
- Perhaps you’re a new parent just starting out
- Your child has outgrown their current seat
- You were involved in a car accident (Even if the child was not in the car during the accident, the car seats in the vehicle need to be replaced immediately.)
The Different Types of Car Seats
Infant Car Seats
These are seats that fit infant children. They are installed in a rear facing position and are best suited from birth through the first year of life. Infant car seats will have a five point harness system, which means the straps are attached to the seat in at least five places and include a chest and lap clip to secure the child onto the seat.
They come with two detachable parts – the seat and the base. The base is installed in your car and is a semi-permanent fixture. The seat can be removed after each trip to carry the infant without taking them out of the car seat. The base of these car seats is meant to attach to the back seat of your car with either a two latch system or using the seat belt to hold the base down. Then you will be able to click the seat portion onto the base to have the child securely attached to the car. Most infant seats will have a strap and release button located in the front of the seat to easily adjust the straps for a perfect fit your child each trip.
Convertible Car Seat/3-in-1 Car Seats
These seats can be used from birth until your child reaches the top weight/height limit or transitions to a booster seat – whichever comes first. These seats have the option of being installed as a rear facing car seat or a forward facing car seat. You would install according to your child’s weight and height needs. A convertible car seat can typically be used from 5 pounds all the way up to 65 pounds, depending on the model you purchase. Using the seat belt or a two latch system, you will anchor the convertible car seat onto the seat of your car. These seats will have a five point harness system, which means the straps are attached to the base of the seat in at least five places. There will be a chest and lap clip for you to secure the child into the seat before each trip and tighten to hold the child in the correct position. Normally the straps adjust with a strap and button release located in the front of the seat. While these seats will fit infants as small as five pounds, an infant this small will have a little head and body control may not properly fit in these car seats until they are at least four months old.
It is important to note that even if your child hits the weight requirement for the seat, they may not have the stability to be able to use the seat. On the other hand, as your child grows, they may outgrow the height of the car seat far before they reach the weight limit. As a general rule, your child’s head should be at least one inch below the top of the car seat. This acts as a headrest for them and will protect their head in case of a crash.
Buying a convertible car seat saves you from having to upgrade from an infant car seat to a combination seat, but also can be harder during the infant stage because the baby will need to be removed from the seat after every trip. They also might not be as easy to travel with depending on their size.
All-In-One Car Seats
All in one are meant to be able to support infants properly and have a higher height and weight limit for older children. You could use this seat as an infant car seat (rear facing), toddler car seat (rear or forward facing), and as a harnessed booster. Created to accommodate all needs your child will ever have in a car seat, they could be a great option to only ever buying one seat. Keep in mind while they try to cover such a broad spectrum of needs, they still might not be the best fit for the entire time your child is in a car seat. These seats will have all the benefits of a convertible car seat and booster, but still might not be able to properly accommodate for infants, and your child might outgrow the seat in their later years.
Combination Car Seats
When your child has outgrown the top height and weight limits of their rear-facing car seats, it may be time to consider a booster seat. Boosters come in a few different styles, ones with harnesses, ones with backs, and ones with just a seat that elevates the child. A booster seat that has a harness is called a combination car seat. This combines the benefits of having your child in a harness, without the bulk of having it be a convertible car seat. These seats (as with any booster seat) will only be able to be positioned as a forward facing car seat, and when you’re traveling or moving the seat to multiple cars, they will be much lighter than their convertible or all-in-one comparables.
Choosing a booster seat without a harness will come with two options – having a back support attached or with no back support. If you choose a booster seat with the back support attached, there will be a slot at shoulder height to feed the seatbelt through, which will help with the placement on the child. The belt needs to be across the chest and over their thighs. Improper seat belt placement can result in the injury or death of the child. Most booster seats with back panels can be removed as the child grows. These seats are used when your child can properly sit with their legs in front of them, with their back against the backrest, to elevate them so the seat belt properly crosses their chest, and are only to be used when your child has fully outgrown the other forward facing car seats.
Things To Consider When Purchasing a Car Seat
Is your child under two years old?
You will need an infant, convertible, or all-in-one car seat.
Is your child over two years old?
You can choose a convertible, all-in-one, combination, or booster seat.
Would you like to purchase one car seat to grow with your child?
An all-in-one option will grow with your child from infancy until they graduate to using a seat belt.
Will you need your car seat to be airline compliant?
Choose a car seat that states “FAA Approved.”
Best Car Seat Reviews
Below are a few car seats which I recommend, depending on what your needs are.
Best Infant Car Seat
This car seat provides all the safety features needed for an infant car seat, without being too bulky. The seat itself is lightweight. At 16 pounds, you will be able to easily carry the baby around in this seat. The ergonomic handle makes carrying the baby around easier and comes at a medium price point for infant car seats. The retractable sunshade will help keep the sun from shining in their eyes. This would be a great option to purchase for your infant to use every day or as an extra seat for grandparents or other caretakers.
Best Convertible/3-in-1 Car Seat
This is a great convertible car seat, as it can be used as a rear facing car seat, then turned around as a forward facing seat. Your child will be comfortable with all the padding included, and as your child grows they have access to a cup holder that is built into the seat.
Best All-In-One Car Seat
This all-in-one car seat would be a great choice if you’re looking to find one car seat ‘4ever’. It provides great head support for infants, and the ability to recline so you can easily achieve correct positioning while rear facing. Once your child can safely ride forward facing, you have the option of a harnessed or seat belt strap booster seat. With a top weight limit of 120 pounds, your child will be able to use this car seat for a long time.
Best Combination Car Seat
This is a great combination car seat for transitioning when your child to a forward facing seat. This combination booster seat gives you the option for a harness feature, with the ability to remove the harness and use the seat belt. Along with removing the back and using it only as a booster seat. This seat can be used from 22 pounds all the way to 100 pounds!
Best Booster Seat
This is a great lightweight alternative if you are not needing a harness combination forward facing seat. This model has a removable back, that helps with belt positioning.
Best Car Seat for Airline Travel
If you need a convertible car seat for travel, I suggest purchasing the Combi Coccoro Convertible car seat. This seat would be able to be used from birth until the child reaches 40 pounds. It is able to fit in a standard airplane seat, although can only be secured forward facing, and has a good amount of padding for a comfortable ride.
Best Car Seat Stroller Combo
If you’re looking to purchase an infant car seat and stroller combo, this Baby Trend Travel System is a great choice. With a high weight limit for infants, your baby will get more use out of this seat than most other infant car seats. Purchasing a car seat stroller combo can be very helpful when carrying your infant around without having to remove them from their car seats. You would simply unhook their car seat from the base, and clip them onto the base of the stroller. They are also rear facing in the stroller, making it easy for you to keep an eye on your baby. It easily clicks from the base installed in your car, into the stroller. When you’re done using the stroller, it folds for easy storage.
Best Car Seat for a Compact Car
This All-In-One seat is very slim at only 17 inches wide. This will allow your car seat to be slim enough for people to sit in the row, or add more car seats into that row. The width and depth of car seats are both very important to take into account if you drive a compact car.
Which Car Seat Is Best For You?
Purchasing a car seat can be a daunting task, but taking into account your specific needs and following this guide will help you navigate the sea of information on how to keep your child safe while traveling. Each car seat you purchase should come with an owner’s guide, follow that to ensure proper installation of your seat. Local hospitals and fire departments offer free car seat checks to make sure they are installed correctly; look up if your area offers these services. Using this guide you will be able to have a clearer understanding of what you need to look for when you purchase a car seat.
If you’re interested in learning about your specific state’s laws, check out this website.
As you can see, there is no right choice for everyone when purchasing a car seat. This guide will help you decide if you need an infant car seat, convertible car seat, all in one, combination or booster car seat. It also walked you through some things to think about when purchasing each seat, and some extra ideas for airline travel and stroller capabilities.