A Parent’s Primer on Purchasing Car Seats
The fact that cars are built for adults is nowhere more clearly illustrated than the fact that special equipment is required to transport children around. Because of their smaller frames, child car seats that help provide a level of security that oversized adult seat belts cannot and are usually legally required for every trip. If you are a parent confused about the variety of baby car seats you see, or if you are buying for parents and don’t know what kind of child car seat to get, here is a simple breakdown of the major types.
Infant Car Seats and Carriers
Baby’s first ride in a car will probably be in one of these models. These car seats for infants are designed to be rear facing, and only reader facing. These typically have a five point harness system that securely straps down the little tyke at an angle. The best models have a base that attaches the seat itself. This allows you to simply unlock the baby car seat and carry it around with you (along with the still secured child) when you arrive at your destination.
Convertible Car Seats
These models are great because they can grow with the child. When the child is an infant, they can be set up to face the rear (which is the safest way for infants to ride as well as legally required in many states), and when the child gets a little older, they can be turned around to be front facing. This means that it can grow with the kid. The only real downside to this type is that it doesn’t have a detachable seat like the toddler seats do, so transporting your little bundle of joy might be slightly more challenging when you get to where you are going.
Toddler Booster Seat
When your child is no longer old enough to be rear facing, but you still want the security that a car seat harness system can provide, a toddler booster (or “combination”) seat is probably going to be your best option. Most of these car seats for toddlers have a removable harness. When the child is old enough to no longer need it, it can simply be used as a booster seat.
When kids get a little older and a little taller (40 pounds or heavier), they stop needing a child car seat that comes with its own restraints, and instead simply need a booster seat that lifts them up so that the seat belt rests comfortable across their lap and chest. The good news about these models is that they are typically the cheapest to buy and simplest to operate. These are usually used until the child is 8 years old or 4’ 9” tall, when they are ready to ride in a car without a car seat at all.
As always, refer to your local child car seat laws and car seat manufacturer guidelines for the proper weight and age limits.