Your baby’s car seat is the most critical piece of equipment that you’ll buy for your child. All car seats have to meet specific safety requirements to go on the market, but some car seat manufacturers have included additional safety and comfort features that make each car ride a little more enjoyable.
Types of Car Seats
As you begin your research, you’ll run into a few different car seat styles, and it can get a little confusing. Here is a quick breakdown:
- Rear-facing Infant Car Seat: This car seat typically has a handle that you can use to carry the car seat from one location to another. It has a five-point harness, and it usually holds kids up to about 30 pounds or until there is one inch of space between the top of their head and the top of the car seat.
- Convertible Car Seat: Convertible car seats start rear-facing and transition into a forward-facing car seat once the baby has reached specific height/weight requirements.
- Combination Car Seat: Combination car seats begin forward-facing but can be converted to a booster seat when the time comes.
- All-in-One Car Seat: It starts as a rear-facing car seat but can transition to a forward-facing car seat and eventually become a booster seat.
- Booster Seat: A booster seat doesn’t have the five-point harness. Sometimes booster seats have their own belt or harness system, but other times they use the car’s seat belt. Additionally, some booster seats come with headrests and side-impact cushioning, while others just have a seat with armrests.
We’ve put together a list of four additional things to think about when selecting your car seat.
Ease of Transportation
You will be getting kids in and out of their car seats for years, so choosing a car seat that is easy to move and manipulate is a must.
Rear-facing infant car seats (sometimes called “bucket seats”) make it easy to transport your baby from the car to the house/store/etc. Not all handles are created equal, so if you’re planning on carrying the baby in the infant seat a lot, make sure to get one that is ergonomically designed and comfortable to carry. Rear-facing infant car seats have the option of a car seat base that makes it fast and easy to clip the baby securely into your car, or someone else’s who has a compatible base.
Convertible/Combination/All-in-One car seats are great for many reasons, but they are comparatively difficult to move from one place to another. They don’t have a base, so you need to use the LATCH or seat belt system whenever you have to move the car seat. Additionally, you can’t transport the baby in one of these car seats the way you can in a rear-facing infant car seat.
Size is another important factor when choosing a car seat – both for the car seat and the child.
- The Car Seat: Not all car seats are created equal in regards to size and weight. Rear-facing infant car seats, in particular, can range from 10 pounds to 30 pounds (without the baby’s weight added in). You need to be comfortable lifting and securing the car seat you choose, so keep in mind its weight measurements. Additionally, car seats range drastically in width and height. That might not be a problem if you only have one or two kids in car seats or have a big vehicle, but if you have a small car or multiple kids, height and width play a significant role. Be sure to measure your car and keep an eye on those measurements before you make any purchase.
- Your Baby: Different car seats have varying height and weight requirements, so that’s something to keep in mind. Some convertible car seats (like this Nuna car seat) can accommodate kids up to 50 pounds in the rear-facing position. Height is also something to keep in mind. Our best advice is to look carefully at the height and weight requirements for each potential car seat and make a choice based on what will fit your child best.
Accessories can make your life as a parent easier! When you’re scouring the market, look for car seats that come with extra base attachments, infant car seat inserts, cup holders, cold weather covers, sunshades, or rain shades. Additionally, car seat stroller adaptors can give your arm a break from lugging your baby around and make outings a breeze. Or check out this rear-facing car seat from Doona that has a stroller built into the car seat itself!
Your child’s safety is your top priority, and the car seat you choose is a major indicator for safety on the road. Though price is an important number to consider, other factors such as portability, size, and weight can also make a difference in how much you and your baby enjoy the ride.