7 Useful Tips on Buying a Baby Car Seat
Buying a car seat is just one of the many things you as a parent have to do when preparing for the birth of your child. However, while there are many things to do, this can be one of the most stressful tasks due to how important it is! Keeping your child safe is of course your number one priority. One of the best ways to ensure your child’s safety is by selecting the right car seat (or seats) that will keep them protected whenever they’re in the car.
It can be overwhelming when thinking about which brand and model of car seat to select, and the fear of making the wrong choice is something that all parents have. Don’t worry, though! With just a little bit of research you can make a well informed decision. To help you out, we have put together our 7 best tips for selecting a car seat. With these ideas in mind, you will feel confident that the car seat you purchase will be perfect for you and your child.
1. Measure Your Car
First things first! Before you even begin shopping for a car seat, you need to know what options you will have in terms of space in your car. Some car seats have large bases that might not fit in smaller cars. Don’t risk doing hours of research only to pick a car seat that won’t fit in the car you have! There are high quality, safe seats available at all sizes, so don’t feel like you have to sacrifice safety just because you have a more compact car.
Something else to keep in mind is other passengers you will frequently have in the car with you. You might only have one child in a car seat, but do you have older kids that will also be riding along with you? Or, if you do have multiple little ones in car seats at the same time, make sure you take precise measurements so that you will be able to fit both car seats securely in your car.
2. Determine Your Budget
Another thing that you should determine before you even start looking at car seats is how much you are able to spend on one. Keep in mind that just because a car seat is more expensive, that does not mean that it is better. There are car seats available at a variety of price points that will keep your child completely safe, so don’t feel like you have to break the bank just to keep your child safe. Determine what your maximum budget is, and then only do research on models that are at that level. Typically car seats will range in price from around $50 on the low end, to expensive models costing as much as $400. With such a huge range, you are sure to find something great no matter what your budget is.
Also, keep in mind that all car seats sold today have to comply with federal safety regulations. Don’t feel guilty just because you can’t spend hundreds of dollars on a car seat. However, also keep in mind that you should not use car seats as an opportunity to save money by using someone else’s old seat. Go ahead and invest the money (even if you buy an inexpensive model) in order to have a seat that you know is in good condition and doesn’t have any broken or worn out elements (such as the installation pieces or harness).
3. Check Rear-Facing Weight Limits
Both The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree that the safest position for a newborn is rear facing. Additionally, both of these organizations recommend that children remain rear facing until they are at least two or three years of age. With this recommendation in mind, when researching car seats look at their weight limits for a rear facing seat. Plenty of car seats today are able to be used front and rear facing, but the weight limit can greatly vary.
Of course you should never use a seat that is only intended to be used as a front facing seat as a rear facing seat, but instead consider purchasing either a rear facing seat or a convertible seat that can initially be used rear facing. The average weight of a three year old is around 30 or 31 pounds, so this is a good guideline to keep in mind when selecting a seat. You should always abide by the given height and weight limits that a car seat gives.
4. Select Easy to Clean Covers
It is best to be honest with yourself and realize that it is only a matter of time before something is spilled on your child’s car seat. With that in mind, you can make your life so much easier by selecting an easy to clean model. Many models have covers that are easy to remove, with plenty also being machine washable. You might think this is a small detail, but as a busy parent you should always go for items that will make your life easier. Certain fabrics are easier to clean as well, such as microfiber than can be wiped clean in an instant.
5. Assess Adjustable/Installation Elements
Your baby grows fast, with significant changes happening each week. For this reason, you will need to monitor your car seat and adjust certain elements so that your child is always properly secured. Two main elements are the headrest and the harness. Look for car seats that allow you to easily adjust these elements, and in particular look for a harness that doesn’t require rethreading. Not only will this save you time, but also helps to ensure that the harness is always properly situated.
You should also research the installation process and see if other parents say that it is easy to install. Check in particular to see if you can install the seat using your car’s LATCH system. One of the most important things with a car seat is not even the seat itself, but if it is properly installed. If you are unsure how to do it, be sure to contact someone who can.
6. Look at Safety Features
Safety features are a huge consideration when selecting a car seat. While all seats have to meet federal safety regulations, there are plenty of additional features that car seats can have. You should absolutely check crash test ratings for the seat you are looking at. Also, as for features on the seat itself, look for things like side impact protection and the material the frame is made of. A strong steel frame, for example, will keep your child incredibly safe in the event of a car accident.
7. Decide Between a Seat/Stroller Combo or a Convertible Seat
Finally, there are a couple options you have when looking to save money. There are options for seats that can serve multiple purposes, but you will have to decide which type you are looking for. One option is a car seat that you can remove and use with your stroller. This is great for busy parents on the go that want to use the same seat in the car that they use with their stroller. The downside to this option is that you will likely have to get a new seat relatively quickly as your child grows.
The other option is to invest in a convertible car seat that can be adjusted to use with your child as they grow. These seats are more expensive, but are oftentimes they only car seat you will ever have to buy for your child. The downside is that these seats are meant to stay in the car and you would have to purchase a separate stroller and seat to use outside of the car. Depending on your lifestyle, you can decide which is more important and make a determination on which option will likely save you more money in the long run.