Car Seat Selection Tips

11/24/2011 09:51

It's important to choose a car seat designed for your child's age and weight to give him or her the best chance of escaping injury in a crash. There are three main types of car seats -- infant car seats, infant/toddler convertible car seats, and booster seats. Below are the facts about car seat options and some tips for making educated purchasing decisions for each car-seat type:

If your baby is less than a year old, he or she must ride in a rear-facing car seat.

One choice is to buy a rear-facing infant car seat (suitable for babies up to 20lbs), that will fit your baby snugly during the first few months and often comes with a handle for easy carrying. And, if you're looking for the utmost in convenience, select a travel system. Infant travel systems include a ready made car seat and stroller combination.

The downside to the infant car seat is that you'll spend $60 to $150 on the seat and your child will outgrow it in 6 months to a year. You'll have to upgrade to a convertible car seat once your baby reaches 20 lbs. If this is a concern for you, you can buy a convertible car seat that will face the rear for your newborn and can turn around to face the front for your baby once he or she reaches 20 lbs.

However, some parents feel that their newborn is "swimming" in a convertible car seat and prefer to use an infant car seat until their baby gets big enough to sit in a front-facing car seat.

No matter what you decide to use for your infant, you'll eventually need a convertible car seat.

Regardless of the choice you make as to whether to use a convertible car seat from day one or use an infant car seat until your baby weighs 20 lbs, you'll need to buy a convertible car seat at some point. Convertible car seats are larger than infant-only car seats and are designed to grow with your child through the toddler years. Most convertible car seats fit babies up to 40 lbs (usually around age 4) and some convert to a booster car seat and are safe for children up to 80 lbs.

Convertible car seats range in price from $80 to $300.

For toddlers weighing more than 40 lbs and big kids, you'll need a booster car seat.

Booster car seats are designed for children age 3 or older who weigh at least 40 lbs. They are designed to use your car's lap and shoulder seat belts. They literally boost your child into a position that makes it safe to use the car's seat belt system.

Booster car seats are essential to your child's safety because using your car's seat belts on a child without a booster seat can actually cause injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that children who've outgrown their convertible car seats use a booster car seat until they are 8 years old and 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Some booster seats provide back support and you should choose one of these options if your vehicle seat is low or has no head restraint. A backless option is fine for vehicle seats that offer plenty of support behind the head.

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Booster car seats range in price from $60 to $200.