If you’re a mom-to-be, one of the most important baby purchases you can make is a car seat. Car seats have been shown to reduce the risk of death by over 70% when children age one and younger are involved in a car accident.
However, finding the right car seat isn’t so easy. There are so many models to choose from that it can be overwhelming, especially for first-time parents.
But we have a few tips to help make car seat shopping a little less stressful. Here are seven things to keep in mind for buying car seats that can help you narrow down your choices.
1. Match the Seat to Your Vehicle
That’s right; before you actually match the car seat to your child, you’ll want to make sure it will fit your vehicle. Just as it’s important to choose the right car for your family, you need to choose the right car seat for your vehicle.
Consult with your owner’s manual to learn how the car seat is tethered (either the LATCH system or a seat belt) and how much back seat space you have to work with.
Measure the base of the back seat and the distance to the back of the front seat to make sure the car seat you have in mind will fit.
The back seat is the safest place for your child in a collision and the location also keeps them protected from airbag injuries. You’ll want to make sure the car seat you want will fit there and that your vehicle enables LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) in the back.
Also, if you regularly transport other children you’ll need to consider if they have enough room back there riding with a car seat.
2. Buy a New Seat
It’s tempting to want to buy a used car seat or one that was never used and a few years old. But manufacturers are improving car seats constantly, so to ensure you have the most up-to-date safety features, go for a brand new seat.
You also don’t always know the history of a used car seat. It may have been involved in a crash, which means parts are missing or the overall safety may be compromised.
A car seat is a baby accessory that is worth spending the extra money on. Your seat should display the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) stamp on the box. This confirms that the seat meets the latest safety standards.
3. Check For Ease of Use
Nothing is more frustrating than buying a new car seat and finding out it’s complicated to install.
Choose a car seat that’s been rated by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) for ease of use. Car seats with four or five stars have the clearest instructions on how to install it in your vehicle.
4. Consider a Convertible or All-In-One Car Seat
Technically there are four types of car seats depending upon the age and weight of your child. They are infant car seats, convertible car seats, 3-in-1 car seats, and booster seats.
Typically, most parents buy a rear-facing infant car seat and use it until their child turns two. Then they switch to a seat made for toddlers that faces front. Children later progress to an all-in-one car seat and eventually a booster seat until they’re old enough to wear a seat belt.
A convertible car seat offers the best of both worlds as your child grows. Once your child becomes a toddler, a convertible car seat can be turned around so it faces forward. This can save you time and money later on instead of having to buy a second car seat made for toddlers.
An all-in-one seat will extend the need for a car seat until your child no longer requires a booster seat. However, these seats can be cumbersome and don’t replace the convenience that lightweight infant car seats offer.
Infant car seats are smaller and easier to install and remove from your vehicle.
5. Choose a Seat With the Right Features
A top-of-the-line car seat isn’t worth all that much if it won’t protect your child in an accident.
At a minimum, your car seat’s should come equipped with a five-point harness and padding to help insulate your child’s head and neck in a collision. It should also be compatible with your vehicle’s LATCH system is that is how you prefer to secure it in your car.
An anti-rebound bar is another common feature being added to the latest car seats to help minimize movement during an accident. Look for these basic safety features when choosing the right car seat.
Convenience is also an important factor. Many manufacturers are offering car seats that rotate and swivel to make it easier to place your child in your vehicle and get them out.
Check out this guide for more information on 360 rotating and swivel car seats.
6. Consider Easy Care Fabric
Another car seat feature to consider is easy care fabric. Babies, toddlers, and kids can be messy, and certain materials clean up quicker than others.
If the ability to clean the seat is important, look for seats made of smooth fabric like nylon versus textured ones like corduroy which can trap food and beverages.
7. Consider Portability
Some parents are OK with leaving a car seat permanently installed in their vehicle until their child outgrows it. But sometimes it’s nice to have a car seat that can be easily removed and placed in another vehicle.
There are also car seats designed to be placed in strollers.
If this quality is important to you, you’ll want to look for a seat that is on the lighter and smaller side and built for versatility. Some car seats can weigh up to 20 or 30 pounds by themselves which certainly doesn’t make them convenient for toting around.
Buying Car Seats Doesn’t Have to be Confusing
Buying car seats doesn’t have to be confusing and stressful for parents.
By focusing on what’s most important to you, you can weed out the models that don’t fit your criteria and find the right car seat. Above all, the one you choose should be designed to protect your child in case of an accident.
Here at Kids Ain’t Cheap we love helping parents make the best purchasing decisions for them and their kids.
For more posts on choosing baby products, check out our baby stuff section.