The goal behind our website is to help Parents, and every other person who has the huge responsibility of keeping children safe. We have a passion for the products we feature, and the true reward is in helping you find what’s best for your needs. We mean that. The answers below were written by Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, giving honest feedback and advice is what you deserve when doing your research on an important investment like your child’s car seat.
How Long Can I Use My Car Seat?
Like milk, car seats have an expiration date, which is generally 6 years from your car seat’s date of manufacture. Each car seat has a sticker with the manufacture date. Use this date and not the day you received or installed the car seat.
Why 6 years? First of all, car seat safety standards change, and you want a car seat that meets the most recent standards. Second, car seat components degrade over time. The plastic shells become brittle when exposed to the extreme heat and cold of cars and the harnesses begin to show wear.
Many car seats feature a weight capacity that allows you to use the car seat past 6 years. In some of these cases, the manufacturer will vouch for the safety of the seat past 6 years. For instance, the Graco Nautilus and Britax Frontier have notations in their instruction manuals about longer term use.
Uncertain about when your car seat expires? Check the expiration date in your car seat’s instruction manual to make sure you know when it’s time to get a new seat.
The only car seat that EliteCarSeats features that does not have an expiration date is the Safe Traffic Systems Ride Safer Vest. The Ride Safer Vest works like a car booster seat and is suitable for kids from booster car seat age up until 80 lbs. The Ride Safer Travel vest does not have load-bearing plastic components, and so can be used for years to come.
What is Side Impact Protection?
So here’s a little background… in order to meet US Federal Safety standards, every car seat on the market must pass specific crash test standards. The most common types of car crashes are front-end collisions. This is what dictates the Federal crash test standards as being a simulated front-end collision. Because car seats had to pass these tests, they’ve performed very well in these types of collisions, which then lead to the fact that most child injuries were being caused by side-collisions. Car seat manufacturers have since become focused on providing ultimate safety by incorporating side-impact-protection (also known as SIP) in their car seats, making your children less susceptible to injury in the event of most any kind of collision. Britax was one of the first manufacturers to incorporate Side Impact Protection in the form of head ‘wings’ that protect a child’s head from trauma in a side impact collision. Since then, Britax and other car seat manufacturers have incorporated not only Side Impact Protection for a child’s head but also torso protection by adding more padding and impact foam on the sides of car seats. There are currently no Federally sponsored Side Impact crash tests done on car seats in the US, so manufacturers are able to dictate their own definition of what Side Impact Protection actually is. Because of this, there are also no benchmarks set in order to know how well side wings or torso protection actually work during a side collision.
What type of car seat do I need?
This really depends on what type of car seat your child is currently using. See below for a short description of what ‘type’ of car seat your child will need based on the type of seat your child is now using.
Newborns will start out in either an Infant car seat or a Convertible car seat. Both types of seats normally have a minimum weight requirement of 5 lbs. in the rear-facing position and maximum weight limit will be around the 20 – 30 lb. mark.
(Low Birth Weight Babies may need to start out in an Infant car bed if they weigh less than 5 lbs.)
From an Infant car seat, your child will either move into a Convertible or a Youth/Toddler seat.
Convertible seats normally have a minimum rear-facing weight requirement of 5 lbs. and a minimum forward-facing weight requirement of 20 lbs. Maximum weight limits range from 40 – 65 lbs.
Youth/Toddler seats cannot be used rear-facing and normally have a minimum forward-facing weight requirement of 20 lbs. Forward-facing, these car seats can generally be used up to 40 lbs. with the 5-point harness or without the 5- point harness as a belt-positioning booster up to about 80 – 100 lbs.
From a Convertible seat, your child will either move into a Youth/Toddler seat or a Booster seat.
Youth/Toddler seats are forward-facing only seats with a minimum weight requirement of about 20 lbs. Forward-facing, these car seat can generally be used up to 40 lbs. with the 5-point harness or without the 5-point harness as a belt-positioning booster up to about 80 – 100 lbs.
Booster seats have minimum forward-facing weight requirements starting around 30 or 40 lbs and can be used with a child up to 80 – 100 lbs.
From a Youth/Toddler seat, your child will move into a Booster seat.
Booster seats have minimum forward-facing weight requirementss starting around 30 or 40 lbs and can be used with a child up to 80 – 100 lbs.
Is my child ready for a Booster seat?
This is usually a dificult transition for both parent and child. Kids want to move out of their ‘baby seat’ but parents have a hard time saying goodbye to the 5-point harness and ‘installed’ car seat. It is always safest to keep your child in a 5-point harness as long as possible but when the time comes, please make sure that your child meets the following criteria:
Your child exceeds the maximum weight or height limits of his or her current harnessed seat OR your child’s ears reach the top of the back of the harnessed seat even though he or she doesn’t meet or exceed the maximum weight and height requirements.
Your child’s shoulders are above the topmost shoulder harness slot.
Make sure that you are following your State Laws governing Booster seat use where you live.
Normally, we recommend that your child be at least 4 years old and weigh at least 40 pounds before moving him or her into a Booster. With this said, there are Booster seats on the market with minimum weight requirements lower than 40 pounds because as we all know, each child grows differently. This however should not be a reason to put a child younger than 4 in a Booster seat.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to use a Booster seat. Many parents skip this step if their antiquated state’s laws don’t require children to stay in a child restraint past the age of 4 or 40 pounds. The NHTSA (National Highway Tranportation Safety Administration) recommends all children use a child restraint of some kind until they reach at least 4’9″
Can a Booster seat be used with just a vehicle’s lap belt?
The short answer is No. Belt-positioning Booster seats are meant to boost children up so that your vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts can be positioned properly across your growing child’s body. All will require a lap AND shoulder belt for proper use. However, there are alternatives on the market in case you only have a seat with a lap belt available. Take a look at a Forward-Facing or Youth/Toddler seat with a higher maximum weight limit like the Britax RegentRide Safer Travel Vest. This vest can be used with a lap belt and a tether strap to properly secure a Booster age child. This vest is also a great option for those familiies whose cars are getting full – you don’t have to worry about this vest ‘taking up room’, it’s only gong to be as big as the child who wears it.
How long does my child need to stay Rear-Facing?
It is recommended that all children remain in the rear-facing position until they reach 20 pounds and 1 year. This is even incorporated into most state car seat use laws. However, it is safest for your child to stay rear-facing as long as a car seat will allow. Look for seats with higher rear-facing maximum weight limits.
What is the safest car seat for my child?
There are a lot of car seats out there. Many tout having extra features to increase safety. Ultimately, however, the safest car seat for your child is the one that best:
Fits your child
Fits your vehicle
And is a seat that you will be able to use consistently and correctly
How do I know if the car seat I’m interested in will fit in my vehicle?
We admit that there’s a slight disadvantage in purchasing your car seat online since you’re not able to ‘try before you buy’. However, we’ve done everything possible to ease that concern.
We’ve measured each car seat we carry and have the detailed specifications for each seat on our website.
We make it known if a particular car seat has been known to be returned or difficult to install in certain vehicles.
There’s a great resource website called www.CarSeatData.org that has an online database of car seat and vehicle compatibility. The information is compiled by Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians.
Where is the safest place to install a car seat in my vehicle?
The middle of the back seat is considered the safest position for a child in a car. This position is furthest from any possible point of impact.
What is FMVSS?
FMVSS stands for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. These are the standards put into place by the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration). The NHTSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. All car seat manufacturers must test their car seats to ensure they meet FMVSS for safety.
What is EPS foam?
EPS foam, or Expanded Polystyrene foam is a material that is used in bicycle helmets and car seats, among other things. This material ‘cushions’ the blow upon impact.
What is ASTM Certification?
When you see an ASTM Certified* product like a Baby Jogger jogging stroller, you know that it meets the most rigorous standards set by the jogging stroller industry. Undergoing ASTM testing and meeting the set standards is voluntary, done so at the expense of the company, and not required by any government or commercial body. Because ASTM standards are the highest anywhere, any product (such as a Baby Jogger stroller) that meets or exceeds them is certifiable as an item of the highest possible quality.
*ASTM (the American Society for Testing and Materials) is an international not-for-profit organization, founded in 1898, that develops and produces standards for products, materials, systems, and services. ASTM standards, which are completely voluntary in their implementation, have a world wide reputation as the most complete, meticulous, and respected of their kind. An ASTM standard is a document produced within a given industry that thoroughly outlines best practices and determines what the boundaries of quality are for that good or service.