As parents, we want what is best for our children. Only the safest of cribs, strollers, high chairs and yes, car seats, are considered for our kids. Of all the things you’ll need to buy for your growing family, the car seat is perhaps the most important. From the moment you bring your baby home from the hospital to the time they finish up elementary school, you’ll want to ensure the safest possible ride. Shockingly, 46 percent of all car seats are installed incorrectly, leaving precious cargo vulnerable in a wreck. When used properly, though a car seat can reduce the impact of a collision on a child by up to 71 percent. Statistics like these make it obvious: selecting the perfect car seat for your child is crucial.
While all car seats on the market must pass federal safety standards, some models are indeed superior to others. Car seats that easy to install and fit into a variety of car interiors are more likely to protect your child the way they need in moments of danger. While it’s easy to assume that the pricier the car seat, the safer it is, that’s not necessarily true. Many mid-range car seats are just as safe, if not more so, than their expensive counterparts. The next time you’re shopping for a car seat, keep our guide in mind.
Know Before You Buy
Before you hit the store, it’s important to know your child’s height and weight. These statistics can help determine which seat size to buy. Don’t forget to factor in any health or behavioral factors into your purchase, too. It’s also important to know your car’s interior before making a purchase. While some stores will allow you to test-install a car seat before you buy, it’s best to know the logistics of your interior before even narrowing the field. This is especially true if you’re shopping online for a car seat.
If you are indeed shopping online, know which retailers offer free shipping on car seats. While it may make sense to window shop in person, online stores have greater inventory and easy return shipping for the seats you opt not to keep.
The Right Fit
The bittersweet thing about childhood is how quickly it passes. You might be in the market for an infant car seat now, but soon enough you’ll be shopping for a larger model. Understanding the different kinds of car seats can help you decide on the one that’s right for your child:
- An infant car seat is intended for the smallest of babies, but they can often accommodate children up to 40 pounds. You child will likely become too tall for their infant car seat before they meet the weight capacity, though. These models must be installed rear-facing. They come with a removable base, allowing you to easily transition from home to travel.
- Convertible seats should be transitioned into before your child turns one. These can accommodate kids up to 65 pounds and can face either the front or the rear upon installation.
- A booster seat is great for kids beyond 65 pounds. They introduce little ones to the concept of seat belts, since they help buckle across the collarbone. High-back and backless booster seats are available, but high-back versions are considered to be the safer option. Not only do they offer side impact cushion, they’re more comfortable for kids to rest their heads on during long drives.
Buying with Safety in Mind
Because car seats are federally tested, every model on the market will offer at least some protection for your child should you get into an accident. Still, you want the best for your little one, especially when it comes to safety. The easiest way to guarantee safety for infants and babies is to invest in a rear-facing seat. Designed to distribute the impact of a crash over the entirety of the car seat, kids riding in these models are said to be five times less likely to be killed or suffer serious injuries in a collision.
Also be on the lookout for a five-point harness strap arrangement when shopping. This kind of harness has proven most protective in crash scenarios. Be sure your child’s car seat has a strap that crosses over their hips, shoulders, and crotch. Look out for the LATCH system, too. Common in most models these days, the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system allows you to connect your vehicle to your car seat of choice.
The Journey Ahead
Buying the right car seat for your child is just the beginning of your safe journey. In order to best protect your little one, it’s important to have your car seat installation inspected by a professional. Many stores offer this service free of charge if you buy the car seat from them. Police stations will also have a certified car seat technician on staff, too. While it may seem like overkill to have your installation approved by a technician, you can’t be too careful with your child’s life.
While you’re going above and beyond, consider registering your car seat purchase with the manufacturer. They’ll let you know of any product recalls should they arise. This can be a real lifesaver because keeping up with news of product recalls isn’t something most parents have time for.
No matter which car seat you select for your child, choosing one that is both easy to install and highly-rated for safety is crucial. As you head to the store or click over to your favorite online retailer to shop, keep these helpful tips in mind.