Choosing the best car seat for you and your baby.
Choosing the best car seat is difficult work! There are so many options. One look at all the options available is enough to make your head swim, what with weight limits, expiration dates and all the different features available.
Did you know that until 1962, car seats were only meant to keep the child at a certain height so that parents could see them while driving?
Child car safety was not a top priority then. Fortunately today, the market offers a large variety of baby car seats that provide the safety measures that your child needs as you travel.
These measures are now imposed through child safety laws, and guidance is provided to those who need to know about how to install a baby car seat in their cars, and buckling their children so that the baby car seat can serve its purpose.
Additionally, manufacturers have set out to ensure that their car seats are the best and safest car seats in the market. All car seats go through rigorous crash tests and numerous other safety tests. This is all to ensure that your little one is safe and comfortable in your car.
Legally, you must use a car seat. Without it, your baby is vulnerable in the event of an accident.
Types of Car Seats
Before you go about finding the best car seat for your baby, we should familiarize ourselves with all the different types of car seats out in the market today.
Maybe you’ve heard about terms such as infant car seats, convertible car seats, booster car seats or all in one car seats. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, we are here for you. We’ll briefly break down what they are.
Infant Car Seats
These car seats are required for your new born. These car seats are rear facing only car seats, that are used until your baby has reached the seat’s weight or height limit (Usually 35 pounds or less depending on the car seat you buy) Read our detailed infant car seat reviews here.
Pros: Easy to take it in and out of the car, so it also doubles up as a baby carrier. You do not have to worry about waking your baby up to take them out of the car seat. Simply pop your infant car seat from its base and take your baby with you. Infant car seats can also be used with a wide range of strollers on the market today.
Cons: Your baby may outgrow the car seat sooner than you may have anticipated (around 9 to 12 months)
Convertible Car Seats
When your precious one outgrows their infant car seat, it’s time to transition them to a convertible car seat. Convertible car seats start off as rear facing car seats, and when your baby reaches the seat’s maximum height and weight limit rear facing, the seat can now be used as a forward facing car seat.
We highly recommend rear facing your child until 3-4 years old so when you select a convertible car seat, take into account the height and weight of your child. We can help you narrow down your choices and select a seat that will rear face your child as long as possible! Read our detailed convertible car seat reviews here.
Pros: Have higher height and weight limits which means your baby can ride rear facing for longer which keeps them safer, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Cons: Convertible car seats can get pretty bulky and taking them out of the car is a hassle.
Booster Car Seat
Booster car seats are used in the period before your child can use a regular adult sized safety belt. They help your young one sit higher up so that the car’s safety belt can fit at the proper places in their body. Read our detailed booster car seat reviews here.
In our car seat reviews, we have set out to find the best car seat of 2017. That which is best for you and your baby to help you make an informed decision. With that being said, how do you determine the best car seat for your baby?
All-in-One car seat
This car seat transitions from a rear facing car seat, then to a forward facing car seat and finally a booster car seat.
Pros: Good value. May be the only car seat you will ever need.
Cons: Car seats that last this long are bound to expire before you’ve made full use of your car seat (Expiry is typically around 6 years). The length of use means that most parents tend to misplace their owner’s manual. With the added functionality, you may get confused on how to use it so keep the owner’s manual handy.
Things to look out for when choosing the best car seat
There are other factors that need to be taken into account before buying a car seat for your baby.
It is also important to pay attention at the compatibility of the baby car seat to your car (there are car seats that are too bulky for small cars).
Generally, baby car seats come in different sizes and colors, depending on the brand that you choose. Prices vary from about $60 to $250.
Safety is by far the foremost consideration you should make when picking out a car seat. All the car seats that we have reviewed have all had extensive crash tests carried out on them.
A 5-point harness
These can be found on all new car seats. These is one for every shoulder, every hip, and one that goes between your baby’s legs. They’re crucial for safety. The harness protects your baby from falling off the car seat and holds them securely in place in the event of a car crash.
Ease of use
The National highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) has a 5-star rating system; If a car seat has more stars, it means that the car seat is less complicated it is to use. This system also considers how easy it is to put the car seat in your vehicle and secure your child in place. Car seats should be hassle free and should make installation quick and painless.
Some car seats have a special foam that is used to absorb energy, and alternative features designed to better protect your baby’s head and chest during a side-impact accident. Some brands also offer air cushioning. and steel frames on the side of the car seat.
Tethers and anti-rebound bars
These can be found on many infant and convertible car seats. These features keep your baby safe during car crashes, cut back the rebound of the rear facing car seat into the vehicle seat and increase the stability of the car seat.
As your child grows, you will need to adjust the harness accordingly. The better car seats permit you to adjust the straps and harness height easily from the front. A number of models have quick-release buckles that can easily be operated with one hand.
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. This has been a standard for all cars since 2002. LATCH enables car seats to attach to the car’s seat directly instead of having to use the car safety belts to secure the car seat in place.
Look out for a car seat that is well padded and that has lots of head support. This ensures your baby has a better ride.
Spills on the car seat are inevitable and some car seats come with covers that aren’t removable. Choose car seats that have car seat covers that are easy to remove and that are machine washable.
FAA certified car seats ensure that your car seat is the best car seat for use in an aircraft. Look for FAA certified seals on your car seat for proof of this. If you travel often, an FAA certified car seat is a must have.
Some baby car seats are bulky and massive. They may take up too much space in the back of the seat and more so when used as rear facing car seats. This is is for the most part advantageous during high impact collisions. But if you are looking for a narrow car seat, choose a narrower model from our list of narrowest car seats on the market today.
In newer baby car seats, one click, one pull, one touch locks are common. They help in quick installation and removal of the car seat, and also save time and effort. Newer car seats also have several nifty features such as cup holders, levelers, handle bars, canopies, special locks etc. Some car seats offer a wide range of features such as the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat which has a bubble indicator to show you when the seat is level during installation. These go a long way in ensuring that your baby is comfortable.
Weight and Height Limits
Rear facing car seats are the safest way for your baby to travel Accidents that occur when your baby is forward facing may be fatal or result in permanent and severe disability. Read about the benefits of rear facing car seats.
There are many other things you need to consider when shopping for the best car seat. The cloth material for instance. Pick a cloth that is comfortable to the touch, easy to clean and does not make your baby sweat or feel uncomfortable.
Car seat safety 101
1. Get your car seat registered to get recall alerts. Some car seat models have been recently recalled owing to various defects. Although most car seats are perfectly safe, ensure you register your car seat with your manufacturer to get any recall alerts. Read about what you need to register your car seat
2. Buying a used car seat. This question has been asked often and our advice still remains: Always buy a new car seat. For used car seats, it is impossible to determine the seat’s history as it may previously have been in an accident. Read about buying/selling/borrowing used car seats
3. To ensure you have the right install, get your seat inspected. To find a reliable car seat installation inspection service, visit safercar.gov/parents. These services are often free, and offer additional car seat installation tips.
4. Dress your baby appropriately. Heavy coats and bulky clothing will get compressed in the event of an accident. This compression can be deadly, allowing your child to be thrown around in the seat or even ejected. Instead, dress your baby in lightweight clothes (Fleece for instance, then lay a blanket or jacket over them once they’re safely buckled in.
Why Should You Trust our Reviews?
Who else would you trust besides us? We have vast experience regarding everything car seats. We have had lengthy conversations with parents about the pros and cons of many car seats.
Having tested hundreds of car seats over the years, these are by far the most accurate, trustworthy car seat reviews you will find today. We have used this experience to curate useful content that is meant to help you find the best car seat, and make the right choices.
Make the right decision. Pick the best car seat for you
We hope that this brief introduction to the world of car seats has been an informative one. Be sure to pick out the best car seat according to your needs and ultimately your baby’s needs.
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