Buying a car seat is a necessity for every family with babies and young children. For First-Time-Parents though, purchasing one can be tricky considering the many factors that should be considered in buying one. And since a child will go through at least car seats in his life, parents will likely make purchase decisions for at least three times as well. And this is the reason why it is important to carefully choose the car seat for a child.
Apart from abiding by the law and investing on your child’s safety, a car seat is also considered an investment because as long as it has not yet expired, it can still be used by younger siblings. It is something that can be passed on, as long as it has not been in involved in an accident, nor has went past its expiration period.
Having said that, if a family was able to choose the best one for their child, then rest assure that the investment will not go to waste. It can even be resold if the parents no longer plan to have more children.
This article is meant to give parents, especially first-timers a guide on how to decide about the car seat that they will purchase. Such effort will be carried out by explaining different types of car seats, as well as the factors that have to be considered in buying one, and general tips in buying this gear.
Best top rated infant/convertible/booster car seat
Best Car Seat for Infants
Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat
If you are looking for an infant car seat that has went beyond the safety standards set forth by the government, plus convenience features that make it easy to use then the Evenflo Embrace LX Infant Car Seat is the Car Seat that you should get for your little one. Evenflo takes pride in the fact that the structural integrity of this particular model, withstood their crash tests that are double the speed used for government standard crash tests.
Moreover, if you have a preemie or lightweight infant, then this could be the best choice for your family too. It is recognized by children’s safety organizations for being able to protect low-birth weight babies as light as 4lbs.
Its weight capacity is from 4-35 lbs., and it comes with a three shoulder harness position. It can be used with or without an autobase. It comes with a canopy, and has fully adjustable handles for carrying outside the vehicle. Likewise, it comes with a removable head pillow, comfortable padding system, and a wide canopy that allows your baby to travel in comfort. It comes in three designs: Mariana, Penelope, and Raleigh.
Convenience-wise, it is 25% lighter compared to other infant car seats in the market. It comes with an upfront adjustment mechanism making it easy for parents to adjust the harnesses as their baby grows. The padding is fully removable, and machine washable.
Best Convertible Car Seat
Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat
Choosing a Convertible Car Seat could be hard with the many choices in the market today. The Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat however stands out with the many features that it has the child’s safety and comfort, and the parent’s convenience in mind.
The Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible Car Seat has passed all the standard safety and crash tests set forth by the government and children’s safety organizations. In fact, its manufacturer even takes pride that this convertible car seat has passed their in-house crash test where they double the energy levels of federal safety standards test. This car seat is also side impact tested, and is fully manufactured, engineered and designed in the United States.
Like all convertible car seats in the market, it can protect a baby as light as 5lbs. up to 30 lbs. on a rear-facing position, and a toddler weighing up to 40 lbs. on a forward-facing position. It envelopes the child in great seating comfort with plush padding and a removable pillow for younger babies. It can likewise be used much longer given the four harness positions and two crotch buckle positions.
It is very easy to adjust with its upfront adjustment mechanism, at the same time, it is easy to install correctly because it conforms to the vehicle’s LATCH System. It is also very convenient to clean as the car seats padding can be easily taken off, and is machine washable.
Best Booster Seat
Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat
For families with school-aged kids, the Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat may just be the best car seat for your child. Safety-wise, it has met all the federal safety standards for crash tests, and has in fact exceeded these US Safety tests.
This backless booster can accommodate children weighing 40 to 100 lbs. or those aged four years old up to nine years old.
Apart from its safety features, the Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat also guarantees the convenience of your “big kid” as it has comfortable padding in both the seat and arm rests. It also comes with two cup holders that can hold your child’s beverage for those long trips.
Best All-in-One Car Seat
Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat
When looking for the car seat that will last your future child through the years that he is required to be strapped on a car seat, then the Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat is the most practical choice for your child. As its name suggests, your child will use this safety contraption forever as it has three modes that can carry a baby weighing four lbs. up to a grade schooler weighing 120 lbs.
The Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat is side impact tested, and has met and even surpassed Federal safety standards when it comes to car seat safety. It conforms to the vehicle’s latch system making it super convenient to install. It also comes with a very easy to read car seat level indicator that helps the parent safely position and install the car seat when needed. It is engineered to be used all throughout your child’s car seat years as it can go from rear facing, to forward facing, and then to toddler booster mode with high belt positioning, and then to backless booster mode.
This 4-in-1 car seat is also very easy to adjust with a one-hand Simply-Safe Adjustment System that ensures your child will be optimally secured in the car seat, in whatever level it is currently in. no rethreading needed! It also comes with a 10-position head rest, and a six-position recline to adjust to their weight and comfort, and at the same time ensure their safety.
The Graco 4ever All-in-One Convertible Car Seat is also made with the most durable materials to withstand the ten years of use that it can provide. It is also very easy to clean as the plastic parts can just be easily washed with mild soap and water. The padding can easily be taken off without having to re-thread the harnesses! Moreover the paddings are machine washable. It also comes with an integrated harness storage system. And when the child is old enough, the seat comes with two beverage holders that are very ideal for those long car rides.
Best Toddler Booster
Britax Pioneer G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat
For those on the look-out for the Best Toddler Booster in the market, look no further than the Britax Pioneer G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat which combines unmatched safety, convenience and superior comfort.
The Britax Pioneer G1.1 Harness-2-Booster Car Seat comes in two-modes – both meant to ensure utmost protection for your child. It comes as a harnessed booster for children weighing 25 to 70 lbs., and then as a booster and vehicle seat belt positioner for children weighing 40 up to 110 lbs.
This car seat comes with superior safety features that has even surpassed federal safety standards for car seat crash tests. The Safe Cell Impact protection is like a bubble that protects your child from impact with its energy-absorbing base and steel frame that surrounds the whole car seat and envelops your child in safety. It also comes with a tether that minimizes and slows down the movement of the car seat in the event of the crash, to further protect the head and the neck of the child. It comes with a deep-foamed shell as well as quickly-adjusting car seat head protection that will shield the child during car crashes.
Apart from the safety features, this booster is also being recognized as one of the best buys in the market because of the convenience that it provides for the parents. Transitions and adjustments can be done easily as the harnesses do not require rethreading each time an adjustment has to be made. This US-made car seat also comes with push button adjustments for the head rests. More importantly, it conforms with the vehicle’s LATCH system making it easy to install, and even safer to use.
Best Car Seat for Smaller Cars
Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
If you are driving a sedan, and would have to fit two or even three car seats in the back then the Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat is the car seat for your children! It is the most compact convertible car seat in the market today, which provides utmost parental convenience without sacrificing the baby’s safety and comfort.
Rear-Facing, this car seat can accommodate babies weighing five up to 40 lbs., forward facing, it can accommodate children from 22 to 65 lbs. It also comes with five harness heights, and three buckle adjustments to ensure optimum safety and proper fit for your child.
It has passed safety standards and has a side impact protection system. It comes with adjustable head rests, and a detachable cup holder on the side for bigger children. Likewise, it made use of premium fabrics – texture and design wise.
Best Budget Car Seat
Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite Convertible Car Seat
If budget is a huge factor for your family when choosing a car seat then you may want to purchase the Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite Convertible Car Seat. It is an extended-use car seat that comes in three position modes that can accommodate babies as tiny as five lbs., up to grade-schoolers weighing 100 lbs.
Rear-facing, this car seat can accommodate newborns up to toddlers weighing 35lbs. When forward facing, it can harness a child from 22 to 50 lbs., and in booster mode, it can seat a child weighing 40-100 lbs. It may be a super practical choice, but it does not scrimp at safety as it is side-impact tested, and has passed federal crash standards for car seats. It has EPP or an energy-absorbing foam that further protects the child during accidents. Likewise, it has a three-position recline with a detachable head rest and pillow meant to snuggle your little one in comfort, and accommodate his growth.
It is also very easy to adjust as it employs a Quickfit Harness system that conveniently allows parents and caregivers to adjust the car seat’s five point harness system from the front using one convenient step.
This versatile car seat also comes with movable arm rests, as well as beverage holders meant to provide comfort and convenience for older kids during long trips.
Best Safest Car Seat
Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
If you want peace of mind as you travel with your children on board your vehicle, then the Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, is the convertible car seat for you.
It has numerous safety features that will certainly make you feel confident to drive along with your child in tow. It features a Safe Cell Impact Protection that absorbs impact, has n energy absorbing base, and is made with a steel frame that surrounds the whole seat. The Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat also comes with a V-Shaped Tether that makes the car seat even more stable during a crash by reducing forward movements and rotation.
Moreover, it comes with a well-tested Side Impact Protection system that absorbs impact and energy, protecting the child even from a severe collision. The deep foam-lined shell provides this safety comfort.
As for its harness system, the car seat comes with a 12-position harness and dual position crotch buckle that is very quick to adjust. Such feature is even complemented with a seven-position recline that comes with an automatic level indicator to ensure plush comfort and protection.
It can snugly carry a newborn weighing five lbs., up to a toddler weighing 40 lbs., on a rear-facing position. In a forward-facing position, this convertible car seat can carry a child up to 65 lbs.
And with all these superior safety features, it would be a surprise that the Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat is one of the easiest car seats to install. Its ClickTight Installation System is considered the safest car seat installation technology on the market – and the easiest to install at that. All the parent needs to do to have a rock solid car seat installation is to pry open the front of the car seat, put the vehicle’s seat belt across the car seat, buckle it up, and then click the front seat shut. So for superior car seat protection, go for the Britax USA Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat.
Best Car Seat Stroller Combo
Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System
If you are looking for a travel system that is worth your budget, then the Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System is the right stroller and infant car seat combination for your family. Families that are always on the go and are quite active will really benefit from a car seat-jogger travel system combo that ensures the baby’s safety and the parent’s lifestyle. This car seat comes with all the safety features of most car seats giving you the peace of mind as you travel with your infant. Apart from meeting all the safety standards set forth for car seats, the Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System comes with an energy absorbing foam and padding that helps specifically absorb side impact during car crashes.
The car seat can accommodate babies weighing five lbs., up to older infants weighing 22 lbs. with a height no taller than 28.5 inches. Moreover it comes with an Easy Flex Lock system making height adjustments a breeze.
Convenience wise, it can quickly be removed from the car seat base inside your vehicle for transferring to the stroller, with also just one click to the stroller attachment. The car seat handle is also ergonomic making it easy to lug around as needed. Moreover, it is very easy to clean as the seat pads and upholstery it can be quickly removed and are all machine washable.
Its stroller on the other hand is a jogging stroller that has swiveling front wheels making it move steadily during runs, and easy to maneuver when not in jogging mode. Note though that the stroller can only be used as a jogger when the infant is not in the car seat attachment, and is instead using already the stroller seat. So when looking for a combines use travel system, the Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System is definitely the way to go.
Types of Car Seat
An infant car seat is one that has to be bought even before the baby arrives. It is something that parents would want to be acquainted with, so that as soon as the baby is born, they will be more familiar on how to install, use and at the same time clean the car seat so as to avoid confusion when it’s time to bring home the baby from the hospital.
Infant car seats usually accommodate babies from Newborn stage up until almost two years or 40 lbs. depending on the brand and model, but that is the average weight range. It is only used rear-facing as it is deemed as the safest position for babies below two years old. Usually comes with a base and a carrier basket that allows parents to easily move the baby from car to stroller or any travelling system.
A convertible car seat could be the most practical car seat to buy once the baby has outgrown his or her infant car seat. It can be installed on a rear-facing manner, and can be forward facing once the child reaches the recommended age or weight for forward facing car seats.
The harness system for this type of car seat is almost the same as the infant car seat as it can also accommodate older infants. Generally, it can accommodate newborns up to babies or toddlers weighing up to 65 lbs. However it does not provide a snug or optimum fit that is recommended for newborns.
Also, unlike an infant car seat, the seat itself cannot be removed to convey the baby elsewhere from the vehicle to a travelling system or stroller.
A booster seat is the last type of car seat that parents would buy their children once they have outgrown their convertible car seat. It usually can accommodate children weighing up to 80 lbs. or those aged up to 9 years old. It makes use of the car’s own restraint system. And as the name suggest, the seat “boosts” the child so that the car’s seat belt can safely restrain the child by having the belt over the appropriate body parts such as the middle of the collar bone and upper thighs instead of where it would just land had they been using the car’s own seat.
It can either be a high-back booster car seat, or one that is back-less. Although both use the vehicle’s seat belt as its main form of restraint, car safety professionals recommend the high back as it can better ensure the safe positioning of vehicle seat belts on the child and his booster seat. The great thing about the backless though is that it is more portable, especially for families that travel a lot, or those with smaller cars.
All-in-One Car Seat
This car seat can be considered as the most versatile type of car seat as it can accommodate babies from 5 pounds up to a child weighing 120 lbs. It can be installed rear-facing, and then later on as the need arises, be installed forward facing. Once the child outgrows the usual 65 lb. weight limit and the car seat’s own harness, the All-In-One car seat can then be set on a booster mode and be used until the child hits 9 years old.
The concern about this type of seat though is that it cannot accommodate smaller babies and that it does not have the convenience of a carrying basket for newborns and infants. It can also be a space hog compared to the usual booster or car seat, so those with smaller vehicles may find it as too big.
Toddler boosters is a safer alternative to younger children who are in between convertible and booster car seats as it comes with a harness that can restrain a child up to 90 lbs. At the same time it can also be used by an older child once it is installed on booster mode using the vehicle’s own seat belts.
Factors to Consider in Buying Car Seats
There are many factors to consider in choosing a car seat, and it is important to keep a good balance of all these factors so that parents can get the best car seat that they can afford. Below are the major factors parents have to consider in their purchase decision:
Safety will always be the topmost consideration in buying a car seat for babies and children. It is always best to have peace of mind when driving your child. And while all the car seats available in stores are safety-tested, parents should bear in mind that car seats expire and at the same time safety technology keeps on improving over time.
Always check for the expiration date printed in the bottom or back of the car seat to check this. If you can avoid it, do not purchase second hand seats as the technology during the time the pre-loved car seat was purchased may have drastically changed already by the time you have purchased it – even if it has yet to expire. Also a second-hand car seat may already be expired by the time your succeeding children come along, making you spend again for the purchase of a new seat.
Parents may also want to check for the JPMA Sticker label on the car seat packaging. JPMA stands for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers’ Association which is an organization aimed at ensuring the safe use of products meant for children.
You may also want to check for the car seat model and the date it has been manufactured so you can find out if that particular seat has been a subject of a product recall.
As for safety features, it is best to get a car seat that comes with a five-point harness that come with a chest clip. The five point harness means that there will be two shoulder straps, two thigh straps and then a belt strap that goes in between the baby or the child’s legs. The chest clip can then be re-positioned on the armpit level for optimum safety. It is also best to choose a car seat that comes with Side Impact Safety of protective cushion layers that can absorb crash impact coming from the sides of the vehicle. Lastly, choose a seatbelt that works with the vehicle LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) system which allows a tight installation of the car seat base even without using the vehicle’s own safety restraint system or seatbelts.
As for comfort features, it is best to choose a car seat that has a comfortable padding system. It will also be best to have something soft to support the child’s neck and head during travels. In infant car seats, the canopy is also important as it protects the baby from the harsh rays of the sun. For toddler boosters, a cup holder will also provide added convenience for both the child and the parent, as there will be an easy to access beverage holder that the kid can get even while the vehicle is moving.
When it comes to convenience features, it will all boil down to the family’s preference as well as the type of vehicle where the car seat will be used.
For instance, an infant car seat provides the convenience of being able to transfer a sleeping baby from the car seat to the stroller without having to rouse him from his slumber. It can also double up as a baby carrier. The convertible on the other hand does not have this feature, but unlike the infant car seat which can only be used up until the baby is 40 lbs., the convertible can be used by babies and toddlers up until they weigh 60 to 65 lbs. depending on the car seat model.
As for toddler boosters, back less booster seats may provide the convenience of easy removal and installation, and it occupies lesser space compared to the high back booster. It is also practical and more convenient in a sense that families with multiple cars can just buy one backless booster for a child and transfer it to the vehicle he is going to ride on instead of carrying the bulky high back booster every now and then.
Another ease of use factor that is crucial for most parents is the convenience of adjusting the car seat harnesses. Every now and then, parents would have to adjust the harnesses to accommodate their child’s growth. Straps that would require re-threading are the most difficult to adjust, while more modern models have adjustment handles at the bottom and at the back of the car seat. Some even have a one-hand adjustment system near the base strap, so look out for those features too. You would also have to loosen safety straps whenever you are cleaning the car seat.
Speaking of cleaning, another convenience feature to consider is how easy it is to clean the car seat. Are the paddings and canopy fully -removable and machine-washable? Can one easily remove and vacuum through the upholstery? Are the upholstery padding easy to re-assemble after cleaning? Keep these questions in mind when evaluating the ease of use of a certain car seat brand and model. Kids eat on their seats and they can be very messy. Apart from that throw ups and diaper blow outs cannot necessarily be avoided.
The weight of the car seat is also another convenience factor to consider, especially when getting an infant car seat. For one, the parent would have to carry around the carrier upon getting home and during some short errands when taking out the stroller will no longer be practical. The lighter the car seat, the better especially during the newborn days when the mom has just given birth and would be better off not lifting anything heavy.
Warranty and Pricing
Another factor that helps parents determine which car seat to buy are the warranty provisions, and of course the pricing. It is great to note that regardless of the brand and price levels, all car seats offered in the market today passed the safety standards set forth by the state and the government. The difference most likely from pricey versus more affordable models usually boils down on further crash safety and protection like extra rebound bars; convenience or ease of use; materials and fabric used; comfort features such as boots, extra cup holders, and a wider canopy among others; and of course the design.
As for warranty, most brands offer warranty provisions. Choose as well a manufacturer that has a great customer care or after sales system that can entertain your inquiries or whatever complaints you may have against their brand.
General Tips on Buying Car Seats
- Consider your car seat purchase as an investment on your child’s safety. Always put premium on that in terms of feature and pricing.
- Make sure that you have safely installed the car seat that you bought, and that the positioning and installation has been professionally-checked. There are organizations that offer safety checks on how the car seat has been installed.
- Do not just buy with the current baby in mind, especially if the baby is your first child. Take into consideration your succeeding children if you plan to have one so buy a car seat that will not expire so soon (buy brand new), and buy one in a unisex color or design.
- If you are in the fence when it comes to buying an infant car seat or a convertible, but you are leaning towards wanting to be able to carry the baby out of the car without having to wake him from his sleep, then consider buying a travel system. A travel system is a stroller set that comes with an infant carrier or car seat that can go from stroller to the car in an instant. By buying this bundle, both the stroller and the car seat will be discounted.
- Always consider the type of vehicle that you are driving. If this is the second or third car seat that you will be buying, consider the space that the seats will occupy, and how it will affect the riding comfort of other passengers in your vehicle.
- If you are looking for a second car seat for instance for a caregiver or for the grandparents who may have to transport the child from time to time, but not too often, buying a sturdy second hand – as long as you know it has not been involved in a crash and it has not expired or has been subject to a product recall – can be a practical purchase decision. This is especially true if the child that you are buying for is the last child in your family.