Child Car Seat Buying Guide

Child car seats are a mandatory item if you have a child under the age of nine years. The best child car seat is a safe one, but the additional features are what often get people confused about which car seat to buy. Features to ponder include how the seat belt secures the car seat, how the harness secures the child, and what attachments are available, such as a tray or toys. Learn more about child car seats below.

Types of Child Car Seats

Baby

Facing the rear of the car, these car seats are for infants only and usually have a weight limit between twenty-two and thirty-five pounds. Once the baby meets the age or weight limit for the rear-facing car seat, it is time to transfer them to a front-facing one.

Convertible

Intended for rear-facing until the age of two or a maximum weight of forty pounds, convertible or baby/toddler child car seats can then be converted into a front-facing car seat for children up to age four or up to seventy pounds. It's best to leave the convertible car seat rear-facing as long as possible for extra safety.

Booster

For children ages four to nine years old, booster seats use a regular car safety belt to secure the child, but give them a boost up so they are at the right height. Backless booster seats are fine when placed on a seat with a headrest.

Pay Attention to

Seat belt

How the seat belt fits through the car seat is very important. For baby and convertible car seats, the car's safety belt should fit snugly through the base of the car seat so there is no movement when tested. Make sure to read the instructions for how to secure the seat belt through the child car seat's base for optimum security. For booster seats, ensure that the booster seat is at the right height for your child by strapping them in and checking that the safety belt falls across their chest, not their neck.

Harness

Most harnesses for rear-facing and convertible child car seats nowadays are four- to five-point, meaning they have four or five belts to hold the child in. The better harness is a five-point harness, which has the two straps down from the shoulder, two straps coming from the sides, and one strap coming between the legs. Whatever the harness, ensure that it is positioned properly. The straps should fit snugly against the child's body without squeezing them, and the buckle point should be below the level of their shoulders.

Padding

The safe car seat has adjustable padding, which can be adjusted from newborn to two-year-old. Removable padding is the best kind of adjustable padding, as it is simple to adjust to the right amount for your baby. Most baby and convertible car seats have padding; however, there are a few that do not, and it is best to avoid these. Booster seats, of course, do not have this adjustable padding. They do, on the other hand, have padding for the child to sit on. This padding needs to be thick enough to be comfortable, but not so thick that it raises the child too high in the seat.

Ease of use

You are not likely to use a child car seat that is difficult to use. It needs to be simple to place on and take off the base for baby and convertible car seats. For babies' car seats, it also needs to have a handle for carrying and not weight an extremely large amount to make it easy to carry your infant around even when they are sleeping. Booster seats should be lightweight, as well. These are usually very easy to use, and the children can carry their own booster seats if need be. Whatever the seat, it needs to be simple to strap in or it will not get used properly.

Attachments

Some child car seats have attachments. For the baby or toddler, toys are often attached to the side of the seat to keep them busy while you drive. For booster seats, the most common attachment is a drink holder. These added features make the car seat just a little nicer, but are not necessary to the safety and function of the car seat.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Graco Children's Products, Inc.

Now based in Atlanta, Georgia, Graco Children's Products is owned by Newell Rubbermaid. Founded in 1942 in Pennsylvania, its first product was a mechanical swing. It has been manufacturing car seats since 1988. While the company manufactures other car seats, the SnugRide child car seat is their most popular product to date.

Evenflo'

Founded in 1920, Evenflo is a baby product company that makes car seats, portable play yards, and activity centers. One of their car seats is the Tribute XL, which is a convertible car seat with adjustable padding and easy-to-adjust harness. Their product line also includes booster seats.

Chicco

The largest baby product brand in Europe, Chicco has been in business over fifty years. Beyond baby products, they also produce medical equipment like hypodermic needles and syringes. Their best-selling booster seat is the KidFit Zip 2-in-1 belt-positioning booster car seat, which is adjustable on the sides and back to fit your child and has seat padding to make the car seat safe and comfortable for your child.