The right car seat will keep your child protected and comfy while you’re on the road. Use this guide to help pick a car seat that’s safe and functional for their age.
Types of children’s car seats
Car seats are specifically designed for children at different development stages and sized by height and weight requirements. Make sure that your child falls within the range listed on the seat. Ensure that any seat you’re considering is certified by the CMVSS.
- Rear-facing car seat: For newborn and young babies who have weak neck and back muscles, rear-facing car seats are the safest. Some can be removed from a stationary base so you can move them in and out of the car easily. It’s recommended that you use a rear-facing seat as long as the child is under the height and weight limits. Some infant seats are designed for more than one stage of development.
- Front-facing or toddler car seat: Once a child has outgrown an infant seat, it’s time for a front-facing seat. Dedicated front-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’ll need a booster seat. They are usually inexpensive and raise your child to the proper height for seat belt use. Kids can use booster seats until they’re about eight years old.
- Convertible car seat: These seats come in two types: three-in-one car seats change from a rear-facing seat, to a front-facing seat to a booster seat. Two-in-one models switch from a rear-facing to front-facing car seat. Both types save you from constantly buying new car seats, but they have more moving parts than dedicated toddler car seats or infant car seats, so ensure the mechanisms lock firmly in place.
Factors to consider when buying an infant car seat
Safety is the number one consideration when buying a car seat.
- Anchor type: Consult your vehicle’s owner manual for specific instructions on anchors. Your car should feature anchors under the seats that are specially designed for car seats. The seat will attach by either hooks or push-on connectors. Hooks are sometimes more difficult to attach and detach but each are safe choices.
- Harness type: More affordable seat models should have a five-point harness system with two waist straps, two shoulder straps and one strap between the legs. Others will be more elaborate to keep kids from sliding out or getting uncomfortable. Look for secure but easy-to-adjust straps.
- Anti-rebound bar: Not mandatory but highly recommended, anti-rebound bars minimize back-and-forth movement during a crash.
An appropriate car seat is the only acceptable way to travel with your infant and toddler. Match your child’s development stage to any seat you purchase, to ensure his or her protection every time you go out in a vehicle.