What Kind of Car Seat Do I Need?

With several options on the market, it can be difficult to decide what kind of car seat to get for your little one. You will need to find the right type of seat for your child’s age and size, as well as evaluate what your long-term plans for the seat are. Let’s learn more about types of car seats and how to select the best one for your child. Below are examples of a few popular car seats as well as some specs so you can determine the which car seat you need.

Different Types of Car Seats
Name Image Car Seat Type Suitability My Rating
Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Rear facing up to 30 lbs 5
Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat Convertible Rear facing 14-50 lbs/Forward facing 22-65 lbs 5
Evenflo Chase LX Harnessed Booster Booster Forward facing 22-40 lbs/High back booster 40-110 lbs 4.8
Cosco Topside Booster Car Seat Backless Booster Backless Booster: 40-100 lbs 4.5
Diono Radian RXT All In One Convertible Car Seat All in One Rear facing 5-45 lbs/Forward facing 20-80lbs/Booster up to 120 lbs 5

Type of Car Seat

Your decision on which car seat to buy will mostly be based on what type of car seat you need. There are several types of car seats:

Infant Car Seats

Infant car seats are designed for babies under the age of one. These car seats can only sit rear-facing in your vehicle. They usually click or connect into a car seat base you install in the back seat. Most infant car seats will hold up to at least 30 pounds.

Many infant car seats are made to click into an accompanying stroller. This car seat/stroller combination, also known as a travel system, allows you to remove your baby from your vehicle and put them right into a stroller without taking them out of their car seat. Infant car seats are ideal for parents who want to use the car seat as a way to carry the baby around or give their baby a place to sit. Smaller babies are usually more comfortable in an infant car seat than any other kind of seat.

Convertible Car Seats

Convertible car seats are made for older babies and toddlers. These seats can be placed rear-facing or forward-facing, and hold children using a five-point harness. Convertible car seats usually hold rear-facing children up to at least 40 pounds and forward-facing children up to at least 65 pounds. Some of these seats include panels that give your child more leg room so they can comfortably sit rear-facing as long as possible. Research suggests children are safest when sitting in a rear-face position, so finding a seat that accommodates a longer period of time facing that direction is important.

Many young babies can use a convertible car seat with extra padding or a newborn insert. They can then grow with the seat and continue using it well into their toddler years. Many smaller babies, however, are more comfortable in infant car seats because they are snugger. Convertible car seats are heavier than infant car seats and must be installed directly into the vehicle. Therefore, they cannot be used to carry your child around.

Booster Seats

There are two kinds of booster seats: high-back and backless. Booster seats require the use of your vehicle’s seat belts as opposed to the internal five-point harness found in convertible or infant seats. Booster seats should not be used for very young children. Ideally, a child should be at least four years old before moving to a booster seat. This is because:

Read more about car seat safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

High-back booster seats help boost a child up in your vehicle’s seats so that the seat belt fits them properly. They also give head and neck support, making them ideal for seats without headrests.

Backless boosters also boost a child up so that the seat belt will fit them properly. However, they do not provide any head and neck support. Backless boosters are ideal for seats that already have head rests. They are created for older children who need to be a little bigger or more mature before transitioning out of a car seat.

You can read about how long booster seats last here.

Combination and All-In-One Seats

Some car seats come with multiple ways to seat your child. There are two types of these multimode seats: combination and all-in-one.

Combination car seats are forward-facing only. They provide a five-point harness like a convertible car seat, but just cannot rear-face. They can then be converted to a high-back booster. Sometimes combination seats can also be converted into a backless booster. Because they are only forward-facing, they are only created for older children. Buying a combination car seat allows a parent to buy a product for their child in preschool to last them throughout the rest of their car seat days.

All-in-one car seats provide at least three positions: rear-facing, forward-facing with a five-point harness, and a high-back booster. Sometimes, they can also convert into a backless booster. All-in-one car seats are designed to be the only car seat you’ll ever need for a child. They are sometimes not a good option for a small baby, though, because they don’t always come with infant head and neck support. They also sometimes expire before a child is ready to be out of their car seat. So, it is important to make sure the car seat is able to suit a child of all sizes for all of their car seat days if you plan to make this your only car seat purchase.

Other Considerations

While the majority of your car seat decisions will rest on the type of car seat you need, you should also think about who you will need the car seat for and how long you will need it. Factors to think about include:

All car seats come with an expiration date. Most do not last more than a decade, and the majority last at least six years. Your child will likely be in a car seat for at least seven or eight years. Therefore, if you buy a car seat with a shorter lifespan, you will have to buy more than one seat. You may want a car seat to last for your child’s siblings, so the expiration date is important for that as well. You cannot pass down a car seat that has expired.

The size of your vehicle may come into play if you have multiple children needing car seats. Some car seats are designed with a narrow frame and are made to fit three across in a back seat, even in compact cars. Other car seats are wider and do not fit well directly next to another car seat. If you have a smaller vehicle, you may not be able to fit as many car seats side-by-side as you would if you have a larger vehicle. So, looking at the height and width of each car seat is important when trying to fit multiple seats in your vehicle.

Conclusion

When looking for a car seat, you should first ensure you have the right seat to meet your child’s age and size. Then, you can look into how you want to use the seat in the future and how many car seats you need to fit into your vehicle. This will ensure you select the right car seats for your family and keep your children as safe as possible.


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