It’s easy to get overwhelmed when looking into car seat options online, or in stores. So many options exist and it’s hard to narrow down the list to see what’s best for you and your family. We have several TOP CAR SEAT blogs at the end of this article based on research that we’ve done for you! To get your started though, we’ve made a list of what to consider when buying a car seat.
Choosing a seat is hard and so many factors need to be considered. I recommend prioritizing which features are most important to you. For example, if budget is important, choose a seat that gives you the most bang for your buck. If you need to fit several car seats next to each other in your vehicle or if you drive a smaller vehicle, you’ll need a slimmer, more streamlined seat. Here’s a list of items that we always encourage parents to consider when buying a car seat.
- The size of the vehicle
- Safety features
- Type of car seat
- Convenience factors
- Weight and height limitations
- Ease of installation
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A CAR SEAT
1. Size of the Vehicle
Size does matter! If you need to fit 3 seats next to each other on a bench in your vehicle, your options are drastically reduced. Many Convertible and All-in-One seats are bulky and only a few vendors keep space saving (and a high level of safety) in mind when designing their child restraints. If you only need to accommodate for one or two safety seats, or you have a larger vehicle like a truck or SUV, then the car seat world is your oyster!
2. Safety Features
All seats need to pass rigorous safety testing in order to be approved for use in the US. That being said, some car seats just meet the basic safety requirements while other seats go above and beyond and exceed what is required of them with regards to safety and performance. Questions to ask yourself include: Does the seat offer additional side impact protection? How many layers of side impact protection? Is there a newborn insert/positioner to ensure your little one fits comfortably? Is the seat or the base reinforced with steel? Are there additional “crumple zones” designed to absorb the impact in the event of a collision? Is there an anti-rebound bar to further lessen the impact of a collision? The safety features of a seat were of utmost priority in my decision making process.
This is a BIG factor for many families, especially if you are having twins! Most car seat types range from $60 (intro infant seat) up to around $750 (high end all-in-one seat)- that’s a HUGE variety of price points! A general rule of thumb, is that the more expensive the seat, the more safety features and convenience factors it has. If you want to factor in price AND safety, prioritize some safety features like additional side impact protection and a steel base. This will give you many affordable options. One other factor though that can greatly affect your lifetime budget regarding your car seat, is the type of seat your purchase. See below!
4. Type of Car Seat
The type of seat you decide on can greatly affect your budget. The introduction of All-in-One car seats has eliminated the need of purchasing several stages of car seat. Wait, what? Historically, a family would start with a rear-facing infant seat, then transition to a convertible seat and then on to a booster. That’s 3 seats that need to be bought throughout the lifetime of your car seat days! Nowadays, you can get an all-in-one seat and be one and done. You get 1 all-in-one and that’s it! That $300 doesn’t sound so bad now when it’s the ONLY SEAT YOU’LL EVER NEED. Keep in mind though that if you get this type of seat for a newborn, versus an infant bucket style seat, you lose the portability and convenience of making a travel system with your stroller or carrying your car seat into a store.
5. Convenience Factors
This is where all the bells and whistles come in. Is your seat easy to install? Are there indicators that let you know that it’s installed correctly? Does it feature padding on the chest straps? Are the fabrics machine washable and/or easy to remove to clean? Is there a no-rethread harness? Can it transform INTO a stroller to eliminate the need of a compact stroller? Does it have cup holders?
6. Weight and Height Limitations
This is really important and ensures that your child is always in the safest seat regarding their weight and height. Age DOES NOT matter when it comes to car seat fit guides, although many booster seats will require a minimum age + weight! The biggest thing to look at is how long you can keep your child in their current seat. Don’t be so eager to bump them up to the next seat. Each stage of seat is uniquely designed to protect your child to the best of their ability for their current body mechanics. Try and max out the limitations of your current seat before upgrading or switching from rear-facing to forward-facing.
- The majority of infant seats are suited for babies 5-35lbs and up to 32″.
- Convertible seats are usually for kids from 5-65lbs and up to 49″.
- Harness to booster seats fit children from 25-120lbs since they transition to a high back booster with seat belt mode. They can typically stay in harness mode until 50-65lbs.
- All-in-One car seats are compatible with children from brith until 120lbs since they transition (like a convertible) from rear-facing to forward facing, and can have their harnesses removed for lap-positioning booster mode.
7. Ease of Installation
The more you install your car seat, the easier it gets. However, some seats come equipped with additional features that make that seat much easier to install – which means you get a tight and secure fit every time. These include level indicators, tightness indicators, self retracting LATCH connectors, built-in lockoffs, belt guides, etc.
There are many fabrics to choose from and they include jersey, polyester, wool or other synthetics. If you have a sensitivity, or want to love what your baby is sitting in, this may matter to you. Also, the construction of the seats and materials used can vary. Will your seat be made of thin plastic that just meets the safety standards, or do you want a seat make of high quality materials that exceeds all safety collision testing? This does play a factor in your decision making process. Some seats will also include fire retardant chemicals, while other will opt for a more natural approach.
Hopefully you now have some additional tools to help you choose the best seat for you. Make a list of priorities and let the highest one start to narrow down seat options for you. We also have some great blogs below with our top choices in many categories to inspire you and get you on your way. It’s always our goal to empower parents to make informed decisions regarding their baby products.
- BL’s TOP 5-point harness boosters of the year
- TOP 7 convertible car seats of the year
- Baby Logic’s TOP 7 crib mattresses
- BL’s BEST infant car seats of the year
- BEST baby monitors