After just featuring a post regarding car seat trade-in’s, I though it might be beneficial to talk about what type of car seat you should get or trade-in for. As new parents, we were shocked regarding all the information and requirements regarding finding the right car seat. Let alone that we might have to get more than one car seat for our child as they grew up. I don’t remember riding in a car seat as a child but I’m sure I did at some point, and it most likely wasn’t for very long. The memories I have as a child were riding in the back seat with a seat belt fastened, for the most part. So it was somewhat of a shock when I learned that now our children have to be fastened in a seat of some sort up until, most likely, the age of 12-13. Then, upon walking into the store in the baby section, seeing SO many options available for car seats, and learning that there was not only one, not only two, but possibly three different car seat types that our child had to grow into… it was overwhelming, to say the least. So here is the nitty gritty breakout of what to look for courtesy of NHTSA.
Infancy to One Year:
It is recommended that you keep your child rear facing during this time. The best option for your tiny child is to put them in an infant car seat until this point. There are several options that have infant car seats attach to a base in your vehicle and also to a stroller. They’re called a car seat and stroller combo. Graco, Chicco, and Evenflo are some of big ones out there with these options but there are a lot of others. Another option is an all-in-one that I’ll talk about in the next section. Some children grow out of this type of car seat at around 8 to 9 months so the best option might be to move them to another type of car seat.
One to Three Years:
At around 8 to 9 months you might want to start looking for an all-in-one or a convertible seat. The all-in-one’s stay with your child from newborn all the way to 12-13 years old. This is a rear-facing, forward-facing, and eventual booster seat. Easily interchanges parts and detaches pieces to grow with your child. However, this does not usually come with a base so it is not easily transportable from car to stroller. If you are comfortable taking your infant out of the seat and placing them in a stroller then this will work for you. If you are a little jumpy at the thought of putting your infant in a car seat to begin with then I HIGHLY recommend the infant car seat that clicks into a base and a stroller. The convertible seat is a rear and forward facing seat as well but the drawback is that they only go up to around 65 pounds. Which usually means that this will not grow all the way with your child to 12-13 years of age. It is a cheaper option but in the end you will have to buy another seat. Once your child reaches around the 35 pound mark, which is usually between 2-3 years of age, then they can go forward facing.
Three to Seven years:
Again here, you can use your all-in-one or convertible car seat to go forward facing but you need to keep them in the high back position with their harness until they reach around 40-65 pounds or reach the car seat’s height recommendation. Either during or after this point they can either stay in the high back position with the seat belt option or they can go into a booster.
Seven to Twelve or Thirteen years:
Here kids usually are either into a high back booster with a seat belt or just a booster with a seat belt. If your child runs on the small side then it’s probably best to keep them in the high back until they seem to be outgrowing this. Then move them to the booster. The purpose of the booster is to really bring the child up to the proper seat belt position so that the belt is not cutting into their neck and the waist strap is fitting along the legs correctly. Other booster options have come out recently where the booster seat brings the belts down to the child instead of raising the child up. The other great thing about this alternative is that they are thinner, easier to install, and more portable. This especially helps if you are having to travel or change vehicles a lot. However, the booster of choice is still the raised ones and they are fairly cheap. Just depends on you or your child’s taste and preference.
Twelve or Thirteen years and up:
It is still recommended that children stay in the back seat with a seat belt at this juncture. However, just use your better judgement to gauge what’s best for you and your family. Especially if you have a growing family, or become the coach of a team.
Here’s a quick pic on the possible different stages:
Here’s an all-in-one example:
If you are looking at utilizing a used car seat, here are a couple of things to note:
– Check the date on the car seat, the manufacturing date. If it is beyond six to seven years from that date, you shouldn’t use it.
– If no date on the car seat, check the manual. If no manual, call the manufacturer. If no answer, don’t chance it. Get another one with a date.
– Know the history of a car seat. If you are getting it from the original owner then they should be able to tell you if it has been in a crash or not. Even if the child was not in it, if it’s been in an accident use every precaution before strapping your little one in.
– Make sure you have all the parts, especially for infant car seats. Infant car seats usually fit into a base and require more moving parts. The others, make sure they have the harnesses, attachments, and locks and that they are in good working order.
If you would like more information please see this posting here regarding used car seats.
I hope this helps to shine some light into the proverbial car seat tunnel of information and acquisition. If you have any further questions or concerns please send me an email or drop a comment below.
Happy car seat hunting!