How to Choose a Car Seat - Car Seat Buying Guide

Last updated: October 2020

In this guide:

Now that you have an understanding of the types of car seats available, here's Betty's tactical advice on how to choose the right one for you.


1. Set your car seat strategy.

When buying a car seat, it’s helpful to think long term. Thinking about the type of car seat(s) you’ll use until your child is big enough to use a seatbelt might help you save money in the long-run. Here are some strategies to consider and when it makes sense:

  • Buy an infant car seat and an all-in-one car seat: If you want the convenience of an infant seat and the versatility of the all-in-one.

  • Buy a convertible seat and a booster seat: If you want to use one car seat through the early years and then use a booster seat when they are older.
  • Buy an infant, convertible, and booster seat: If you want to keep up with all the latest features and want the mobility benefits of an infant seat.
  • All-in-one: If you want to buy one car seat and never think about shopping for car seats ever again.


2. If buying an infant car seat, think about:

  • The base- Infant car seats typically click into to a base that is securely strapped into your car. This makes it super easy to get in and out of the car quick, easy and safe. However, if you’re planning to use your infant car seat in taxis or multiple cars, it’s important to confirm that the infant car seat can also be used safely without the base.

  • Stroller compatibility- The other nice benefit of infant car seats is that they can attach to a stroller and become a travel system. Before finalizing your purchase, check to confirm your infant car seat and stroller are compatible and if they require adapters. If they don’t already come with the stroller, adapters can cost an additional $10-80


3. Decide if you want non-toxic materials.

US standards require car seats to meet the same flammability standards as car interiors. However, recent studies have found that some manufacturers are using toxic chemicals to meet these standards. Parents are wary of these chemicals because they have been linked to cancer and other developmental issues. If this is something you’re concerned about, luckily there are a few non-toxic options available on the market that will narrow down your options.


4. Ensure it fits in your car.

The size of your car is an essential consideration. Some car seats might be too large to fit, or spill into the space next to it. This is especially important if you’d like to fit more than one car seat in your backseat. Some options are so slim that you could potentially fit three car seats in the back row.


5. Verify the car seat is installed properly.

One of the biggest car seat challenges parents face is installation. According to the NHTSA, 49% of infant car seats are installed or used incorrectly, an error that could endanger your child in case of an accident. Choose a model with clear user instructions and if you have any doubts, get a professional to double-check. Local fire departments and highway patrol stations may offer free car seat installation checks.

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