Child Car Seat: Reviews and Tips

The best way of keeping your child safe when he or she is inside the car is by using a child car seat. A car seat can help prevent injury and also save the lives of children during car crashes. The use of a car seat is a law in every state of the U.S due to its importance. 

However, even if you don't leave in a country where the use of such a seat is obligatory, it is still super convenient to have it. So without further due, let's dive in and see which things you should know when purchasing a child car seat.

Child Car Seat: Reviews and Tips

Guidelines for Choosing a Child Car Seat

Guidelines for Choosing a Child Car Seat

To keep your child safe in the car, you need to use the right safety seat and use it properly. That a car seat is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best. So, avoid deciding on a seat for your child by price alone. The best car seat to use is the one that fits your child’s age, weight, and size, as well as your vehicle. To choose a car seat for your child, consider the following guidelines.

  1. Choose a seat that meets safety standards – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. You can know if the seat meets this standard from its label.
  2. Learn how to install the child seat and make use of the harness before you take your child on his or her first ride. Don't depend on displays from the store on how to install the child seat.
  3. If you need help with installing the child seat or if you want to confirm that you have installed the seat correctly, you can visit a child car seat inspection station. These inspection stations have been set up by the federal government across the country. Parents can also get help from the many public safety group, local health departments, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and hospitals. Ask for a certified child passenger safety technician from these places to assist you.
  4. Avoid seats that have been used if you don't know their history or if you have any doubts about their history. To find out specific questions about the seat, contact the manufacturer.

When you should buy a new car seat?

If you are still in doubt about whether to purchase a new car seat regardless of whether it is for your child or yourself, here are some hypothetical situations when you definitely should buy a new car seat:

  • Is too old. Always look at the labels to know the date the seat was produced. Also, find out from the manufacturer how long the seat can be used (its expiration date).
  • Has any visible cracks or other signs of wear and tear.
  • Has missing parts. Most used car seats may come without some important parts. Check with the manufacturer to find out if you can get the right parts.
  • Does not come with an instructions manual. The instructions manual helps you to know how to use the seat.
  • Was recalled. The manufacturer may provide a replacement part or a new model if the seat was recalled. If you filled out the product registration card, you may get to hear about recalls right away.
  • Lacks a manufacturer date and model number. The manufacture date and model number are what will help you know if the seat has been recalled. Without them, you cannot check if the seat has been recalled.
  • Have been in a severe or moderate crash. Seats that have been in a crash may be damaged in ways you cannot see. If the crash was a minor one, the seat may still be safe to use. However, most manufacturers recommend that a seat be replaced after any crash, even a minor one.

Speaking of car seats, check out our other blog post that deals with the best lumbar support here.

Types of Child Car Seat

There are lots of options available in the market when it comes to children's car seats. The options below are good car seat choices to meet the needs of your child.

Rear-Facing Car Seats (Birth to Age 2)

The rear-facing child car seat is the best for infants. It has a harness that moves and cradles the child. In a crash, it helps to reduce the stress on the child’s spinal cord and the neck which are still fragile.

There are three different kinds of rear-facing car seats for infants – the infant-only seats, the convertible seats, and the all-in-one seats. The choice of which of these rear-facing seats to use depends on personal preference.

Infant-only car seat

Infant-only car seat

This is a rear-facing car seat specially designed for newborns and small babies. It is a small, lightweight, and portable car seat that can only be used rear-facing. When rear-facing, a small child is less likely to be seriously injured. Most newborns outgrow this infant-only seat before their first birthdays.

When this is the case, it is recommended that the parent buys and install an all-in-one car seat or a convertible car seat and use it rear-facing. Concerning the child's weight, the infant-only seat can be used until the baby weighs up to 35 pounds, depending on the model.

Highlights

  • Some infants-only car seats can be clicked into strollers to be rolled around
  • They can be removed from the car without unstrapping.
  • They are easy to use

Convertible Seat

Convertible Seat

Though an infant-only seat is better for newborns and small babies, a convertible car seat may also be used from birth. A convertible car seat can be changed from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat when the child outgrows either the length limit or weight limit for rear-facing.

This makes them a good option since they can be used longer by your child. Convertible seats are a good option for larger babies who still need to be rear-facing but have outgrown their infant-only seats.

Highlights

  • Convertible seats are heavy and not very portable
  • They can be economical since you don’t necessarily have to buy a separate infant-only seat
  • They should be used for a child’s travel only (not feeding, sleeping, or any other use outside the car)

All-in-One Car Seat

All-in-One Car Seat

These seats are similar to convertible car seats but work as booster seats too. They can be used as a belt-positioning booster, in addition, to use as rear-facing or forward-facing. So, these seats can still be used as your child grows. The all-in-one seat can be used by your child until he or she is old enough to use a seatbelt.

Highlights

  • Can work as a rear-facing, forward-facing, and as a belt-positioning booster.
  • Very big
  • Don’t come with a separate base or carrying handle
  • Ideal for bigger toddlers and babies.

Forward-Facing Car Seats (Ages 2-4)

The forward-facing car seat is a seat designed for toddlers. It is recommended for kids that have outgrown the weight limit or rear-facing height for their car seat. These kids should use this seat with a full harness for as long as possible.

Except a child has outgrown the weight limit and height for their forward-facing car seat, he or she should not switch to a booster seat. Forward-facing car seats can offer protection to children who weigh from 20 to 80 pounds (i.e., about 10-36 kilograms), depending on the model.

A type of forward-facing car seat you can buy for a toddler that has outgrown a rear-facing seat is this kind of combination car seat. A combination car seat functions with a harness as a forward-facing car seat and is converted to a belt-positioning booster when the harness is removed. The height and weight limit for a combination car seat vary depending on the design or model.

Booster Car Seats (Ages 4-8)

Booster seats are for children who have outgrown their forward-facing seats. It is recommended for children that have outgrown the weight limit or forward-facing height for their car seat. For as long as these children are small to be properly restrained by the car seatbelts, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat.

Booster seats come in many styles – high-back and backless models. High-back booster seats like this one on Amazon are best for cars that have low seat backs while these backless booster seats are recommended if the car’s back seat or head support is supporting the child’s head up to the top of his or her ears.

As already mentioned, combination car seats such as this one on Amazon can be used as belt-positioning booster seats when the harness is removed. Also, make sure to always keep your car seats clean. Here you will find our reviews of the best car vacuum cleaners.

Seat Belts (Ages 8 – 12)

Seat Belts  For Kids (Age 8 – 12)

The car seat belt without a booster is recommended for children between the ages of 8 to 12. Keep in mind that until adult seat belts fit a child properly, he or she should continue to use a booster seat. Most children don’t fit in a seat belt alone until between the ages of 10 to 12. Children that are not up to 13 years old should still ride in the back seat. You can learn more about car seat safety here.

To Sum Up

Age-group Type of Seat General Guidelines Birth to age 2Rear-facing seat The rear-facing child car seat is best for infants and toddlers. They should ride in it until they reach the height or highest weight allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. Ages 2 to 4 and no more than 80 pounds Forward-facing seat.

The forward-facing car seat is recommended for kids that have outgrown the weight limit or rear-facing height for their car seat. These kids should use this seat with a full harness for as long as possible. The seat can be used up to the height or highest weight allowed by the car safety seat manufacturer. 

Ages 4 to 8 or up to 4 feet 9 inches tall Belt-positioning booster seat Booster seats are for children who have outgrown their forward-facing seats. It is recommended for children that have outgrown the weight limit or forward-facing height for their car seat. For as long as these children are small to be properly restrained by the car seatbelts, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat. 

After age 8 and/or 4 feet 9 inches tall Seat belts The car seat belt without a booster is recommended for children between ages 8 to 12. Children that are not up to 13 years old should still ride in the back seat. Check out some of the best seat belts here.

Final Thoughts

As a parent, one of the most important things you’ll need to do before your baby arrives is to choose a car seat for him or her. The law demands that you have a properly installed car seat before you can go home with your baby after birth. 

There are various brands and types of car seats in the market, so, it can be challenging to decide the one that is best for your child. You should only choose a car seat that suits your child’s height, weight, age, and vehicle.

As your child's age, height, and weight change, you may need to change his or her seat, as well as the direction the seat faces. For infants, you should keep the car seat installed to face the rear of the car. 

Once the child outgrows the weight limit or rear-facing height for their car seat, you can place the seat in the forward-facing position. Don't be too quick to place your child's seat in the forward-facing position; only do so when the child has reached the height or highest weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Also, avoid the mistake of moving your child's car seat to a booster seat or seat belt too soon.

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