New Parents – How to Pick a Car Seat

Know you need a car seat, but are overwhelmed by our giant selection of seats for every age?  No problem!  This guide will help explain which seats should be used for what.

First let’s go over a couple of quick safety guidelines: The American Academy of Pediatrics and many other Child Passenger Safety organizations recommend that infants use a rear-facing car seat at least until they reach both the age of 1 and 20 pounds. With that said, it is safest to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible so finding a rear-facing car seat that accommodates a child heavier than 20 pounds is a great idea.

Now that you know you’re in the market for a rear-facing car seat, you have two options; either choose an Infant Car Seat/Infant Carrier or a Convertible Car Seat. We’ll break down both options for you below.

Infant Car Seats/Infant Carriers:
Can be used rear-facing only
Maximum weight limits usually around 20 – 22 pounds
Removable base for easy movement of baby without waking him or her
Extra bases available for purchase to make it possible to use the same car seat or carrier in multiple vehicles. Keep a base in each car and use just the one carry for transfer between cars
Smaller seat cradles newborns better; some experts consider it a safer option than a Convertible seat for infants
Compatible with strollers to create a convenient baby travel system
Will only be able to be used for about a year, even less in most cases depending on how fast your child grows

Convertible Car Seats:
Can be used rear-facing or forward facing
Rear facing weight limit usually around 20 – 30 pounds, forward facing weight limit usually around 40 pounds, but can go as high as 80 pounds on select models.
Semi-permanent install, no removable base, once installed properly and securely it should be uninstalled rarely for changing rear-facing to forward facing position or shoulder harness strap adjustment as baby grows
Larger seat and harness, so make sure that there is good padding in the Convertible seat for a snug fit with newborns
Not compatible with strollers
Depending on the weight limits of the seat, your child may be able to use this seat for up to at least the age of 4. Many children can go straight from a Convertible seat to a Booster seat.

Youth/Toddler Car Seats:
Can be used forward-facing, only.
Minimum weight requirement of 20 lbs.
Maximum weight limits of 40 – 100 lbs.*
Semi-permanent install, no removable base, once installed properly and securely it should be uninstalled rarely to adjust shoulder harness heights or to remove the 5-point harness for use as a Belt Positioning Booster on some models.
Not compatible with strollers
Depending on the seat, your child may be able to use this seat for up to at least the age of 8. For many children, a Youth/Toddler seat will be the last car seat they will be in. Or you could choose to skip the use of a Youth/Toddler seat and go straight from a Convertible seat to a Booster seat.

*The great thing about some Youth/Toddler seats we carry is the extended 5-point harness weight capacities – some up to 80 lbs! Keeping your child in a 5-point harness as long as possible is always the safest option. Be careful when researching Youth/Toddler Seat options. Some Youth/Toddler seats we carry are also known as Combination Car Seats. These seats have a 5-point harness for use normally only up to 40 lbs. and then can be used as a Belt-Positioning-Booster seat with the 5-point harness removed. These seats will show a higher weight capacity than can be used with the 5-point harness because they are taking into account the Booster seat weight capacity, which is normally around 80 lbs. For your convenience, we have listed separately the Maximum Weight Capacity and Maximum Harness Weight Capacity in the “Specs” area so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Booster Seats:
Also called ‘Belt Positioning Booster’ seats.
Can be used forward-facing, only.
Minimum weight requirement of 30 – 40 lbs.*
No true installation is necessary, unlike other types of car seats you may be used to. The Booster Seat is not held in the vehicle seat with LATCH or vehicle Lap/Shoulder belts. The child is secured in front using the car’s shoulder and lap belts, taking the place of a 5-point harness. Some Booster Seats may require or suggest the use of a Tether for safety.
Not compatible with strollers.
No 5-point harness. Child sits in the Booster Seat and uses the vehicles lap and shoulder belt** to secure them.

*All children are safest in a 5-point harness, which Booster seats lack. Younger children should stay in a harnessed seat even if they hit the 30 or 40 lb. mark. We recommend that Booster seats be used for children ages 4 and up.

**Booster seats MUST be used with a car’s lap AND shoulder belt – you cannot use a Booster seat in a vehicle’s seat that only has a lap belt. Some alternatives (such as Vests) can be used with just a lap belt in conjunction with a Tether Strap.

2 Responses to “New Parents – How to Pick a Car Seat”

  1. Tamera October 2, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    best car seat for a single cab pickup 2006 Chevy Pickup single cab…….thanks

  2. Eddie October 11, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    I believe the AAP now recommends rear-facing car seats until 2 years of age…

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