Which type of car seat is right for your family?
When shopping for a car seat, safety is always top of mind. You’ll need a car seat from the moment you take baby home from the hospital until he or she grows up enough to fit into adult seat belts, typically around the age of 8 or later.
Your baby's age, weight and height will determine which seat you need. You'll likely need at least two different car seats to accommodate your child's growth. Choosing the right model doesn’t have to be difficult
To help make this stressful decision a little easier follow these three simple steps to choose the safest possible car seat for your child.
- Choose the right model
- Know the Three C’s – Connection, Convenience, Comfort
- Install the seat properly
To help you choose the right model your little one and lifestyle we’ve broken down the types of car seats you’ll see when shopping.
Car Seats for Babies
There's only one way to take baby home from the hospital, and that is in an approved infant-safe car seat. There are two basic options for a newborn:
Infant Car Seats
The first, which most parents opt for, is an infant car seat. This seat is designed specifically for use with infants generally from 5 pounds to 22 pounds and is always used rear-facing in the car. An infant seat provides features that offer convenience for you and comfort for your baby. For example, this type of baby car seat is lightweight and has a carrying handle so you'll find you can transport your baby from one place to another without disturbing her sleep. Many offer a separate base which allows the parent to snap the seat easily in and out of the car, and you can get more bases for additional vehicles.
Convertible Car Seat
If an infant seat doesn't meet your needs, the alternative is a convertible seat, which accommodates both infants and toddlers through a single purchase. That's because a convertible seat, which is required for children over 22 pounds, can accommodate infants from 5 to sometimes as high as 35 pounds when used in the rear-facing position. When your child outgrows her infant seat, the right car seat for your child is a convertible car seat. Convertible seats are so called because they can generally be used rear-facing for infants from 5 to 35 pounds, then converted to a forward-facing position for use with toddlers 20 to 65 pounds.
Unlike infant seats, convertibles cannot be used as carriers or rockers, and are not compatible with stroller systems.
Note: Pediatricians and child care advocates recommend that you keep your child rear-facing from their first ride home from the hospital up to at least one year of age and at least 20 pounds. Learn more »
Toddler Car Seats
If you choose an Infant Car Seat for your baby, the next step after outgrowing an infant seat may be a Convertible Car Seat. It can be installed rear- or forward-facing. Evenflo encourages waiting to turn your car seat until your child is at least age 2. When your child is ready, the seat can be turned around and used forward-facing until time for a booster seat.
All-in-One Car Seat
All-In-One car seats are similar to Convertible Car Seats, designed for young infants and older children. The difference is that All-in-One car seats have three modes of use instead of the two offered in Convertible options. All-in-One’s allow for rear-facing, forward-facing and belt-positioning booster use.
In rear-facing mode, all-in-one car seats often provide a higher weight and height rating than infant car seats, which means you can keep your child rear-facing longer. Forward-facing mode keeps your child secured in a five-point harness until they are ready to use a belt-positioning booster seat. Booster seats are designed to correctly position the vehicle lap and shoulder belts on a child until they are tall enough to fit securely in the vehicle seat belt system without a booster seat.
Weight and height ratings vary by style, so always consult your instruction manual.
Booster Car Seat
Harnessed and Belt-Positioning Booster seats are for older children, four years and up, and are used forward-facing only. Harnessed Booster seats use a five-point harness to keep the child secure until they are old enough and ready to use a belt-positioning booster.
Belt-Positioning Booster seats make your child taller so he or she can use the vehicle lap/shoulder seat belts, until he/she is tall enough to fit correctly fit in the vehicle seat belt system without a booster seat. There are two styles of booster seats – with a back and without a back.
Although some parents choose not to purchase a booster seat, as they feel the auto's seat belts alone are adequate protection, an automobile's seat-belt system is designed for adults, not small children, and most likely will not fit your child properly. A booster car seat is designed to use your car's seat belts, but makes important adjustments to provide better fit and comfort, which encourages your child to wear the seat belt properly (If the shoulder strap crossed his neck or face, your child might be tempted to move it out of position, which could be dangerous in the event of a collision.) Learn more »
A Word About Safety
Protection should be your primary concern as you look for a car seat. You surely wouldn't want to jeopardize your child's safety by attempting to save a few dollars on a car seat, so resist the temptation to pick one up at a flea market or garage sale. Using a secondhand seat is risky, as you don't know how old the seat is, whether it has been in an accident, whether it has all its original parts, or whether it was designed in light of current automobile environments. In addition, federal motor vehicle safety standards change regularly, and old seats may not comply with current standards. You may use a relatively new secondhand seat from a family member or friend, but only if you know the seat's history, have the instructions, and are sure that the seat has all its parts.
Many states have laws that require children older than 4 and/or weighing more than 40 pounds to be in a child car seat. Click here to see your state's child car seat laws.