Which Car Seat Is Right For Your Growing Family?
- What: Understanding the types of car seats
- Why: Choose the best fit for you, your baby, and your vehicle
- Where: Amazon
With the tons of car seats out there, figuring out the best choice can quickly get overwhelming. Understanding the different kinds of seats available helps narrow down your options. Car seats come in three main categories.
The first category includes infant seats, which recline and have a handle that rotates into different positions. The seat itself comes out of the car and can be carried by hand or snapped into a stroller to wheel around. In a pinch, you can strap one into a car directly without any other parts required, though that’s not typical use. Most people have a base installed in their car, and the seat snaps into the base. You can buy extra bases and move the car seat easily from one vehicle to another without having to install the base when you move the seat from one car to another. Most bases come with the LATCH system now, which makes them easier to install correctly and therefore safer.
The second kind of car seat is a convertible car seat. It can be installed either rear facing for an infant, or forward facing for an older child, hence the convertible moniker. Once installed, it stays in the car until you feel like another marathon session of car seat installation.
Finally, there’s a booster seat category aimed at preschool to elementary-aged kids. Within this category, there are both backless and ones with a back. They may or may not offer a five point harness, and lots of the options have multiple configurations, so a younger child can ride in a car seat with a high back and five point harness. As they grow, they can switch to the high back seat using a seatbelt, and some even offer a backless booster with seatbelt option. But booster seats and convertible car seats differ in the ages and types of protection they provide, though the convertible moniker can get confusing. A booster seat of any kind can never be installed rear-facing.
Exact requirements for all types of seats vary by state, but expect your child to be in some sort of child seat until around eight years of age. According to the latest recommendations, kids should ride rear facing for at least the first two years, but for the bests protection, leave your child rear-facing until they exceed the height or weight limits on their rear-facing seat. Rear-facing offer fives times the protection in the same seat as forward-facing.
What can make car seats even trickier is that not all car seats, regardless of type, fit properly in all types of cars. The angle of your backseat, as well as whether or not your headrest can be removed, can seriously impact the correct installation of any seat. For rear-facing seats in particular, whether they are infant or convertible seats, the amount of space behind the front seats can be an issue. I’ve driven cars where the front passenger seat has become basically unusable for any adult because it has to be scooted so far forward to accommodate a rear-facing seat behind it.
For even more fun, think about using more than one car seat in a vehicle. Most vehicles have at least one set of LATCH anchors and lots have a tether point, but depending on the make and model, there are no guarantees. Not sure what a LATCH anchor or tether point is? Your vehicle’s manual will help you locate them, but for more safety information and a truckload of car seat safety tips, check out The Car Seat Lady.