For new parents, a car seat is one of the biggest and most important purchases to be made. Since my oldest daughter was born almost nine years ago, we’ve bought several car seats, from infant to booster. Here’s my tips for choosing the best car seat for your baby.
Before Buying Your Car Seat
Get the right car seat for your baby’s age and size.
There are specific safety recommendations for car seats. It’s also a good idea to check the manufacturer’s requirements to make sure that the car seat is right for your baby.
Try the car seat in your vehicle before buying it.
Ask a store employee for help in taking the car seat out to your vehicle to make sure that it fits. (If the employee won’t help you, go to another store.)
When Sunshine was two, we had two vehicles—a Dodge Dakota and a Volkswagen Jetta—and discovered that car seats fit different vehicles differently. One of our car seats wouldn’t fit very well in the narrow back seat of the truck. A friend of mine had a similar problem; she actually ended up upgrading from a small car to a minivan because her car seat was too big for the car.
How washable is the car seat is?
One of our car seats does not have a removable cover. I learned the hard way, after an incident of motion sickness, how hard it was to clean. We’re still using that car seat, but I cannot wait for its expiry date because it is so hard to clean up.
Check safety ratings and reviews for the car seat.
It’s always worth finding out what other parents think of the car seat and how easy it is to install, use, and clean. Safety ratings are more important than price. Some budget-friendly car seats have better safety ratings than very expensive models.
Check out my reviews of some popular car seats:
- Britax Emblem Convertible Car Seat
- Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat
- Graco Snugride Click Connect Infant Car Seat
- Mifold Booster Seat
Install the car seat properly.
After choosing the best car seat, read both your vehicle owner’s manual for the proper placement of the car seat in your vehicle, and the car seat instruction manual for proper installation. If in doubt, look up car seat safety clinics in your town. They are often offered by your fire hall or local baby store.
Choosing the Best Car Seat for Your Baby
Infant Bucket Seats
Most babies start their car rides in an infant bucket seat. We’ve used an infant bucket seat for all of our girls. While these seats come in a variety of sizes and styles, most now have a base which can be left in the vehicle. This makes it easy to get the bucket seat in and out of the vehicle, especially if the baby is sleeping.
The advantage of the infant bucket seat is its portability. You can buckle baby into the car seat in the house. If you live in cold climates, you can ensure baby is bundled against the weather before taking her out to the vehicle. If baby falls asleep in the vehicle, you can take baby and bucket into the house to let baby finish his nap.
Many bucket seats are available as part of a travel system. This allows you to take the seat out of the vehicle and snap it onto the stroller. If you are frequently out for errands or kids’ activities while the baby naps, this is handy.
If the family has more than one vehicle, or if you are carpooling with another mom, it’s easy to transfer the bucket seat between vehicles. If the bucket comes with a snap-in base, you can usually buy a second base for your second vehicle. Many of my friends have the same car seat that I do, so it’s easy to take them and their baby along with me.
The disadvantage of infant bucket seats is their short lifespan. Most babies outgrow their bucket seat around 1 year. I was able to use our first bucket seat for my first three girls. It then expired and we had to get a new bucket seat for Pearl. Because car seats cannot be sold secondhand, you’ll likely only use the bucket seat for your child(ren) and it will spend a lot of time in storage.
Convertible or All-in-One Car Seats
Convertible car seats can be used for most a baby’s life, from newborn to toddler. These car seats are designed to be installed rear-facing when a baby is young and then turned around when baby is big enough. Convertible car seats offer parents a good deal, as this one car seat will likely serve their child until he or she is big enough for a booster seat.
The con to all-in-one car seats is their lack of portability. If baby falls asleep in the car, you might disturb her when getting her out of her car seat. The car seat is harder to uninstall and place in another vehicle.
I’m currently using a convertible car seat for Pearl. She had outgrown her bucket seat, but I wasn’t ready to turn her forward-facing yet. When she’s rear-facing, she can see her three sisters (sitting beside and in front of her), and they help keep her entertained in the car. It’s also safer to keep babies rear-facing for as long as possible, and the convertible car seat like the Britax Emblem makes that more possible.
Forward-Facing Car Seats
This is the car seat your child will spend most of their time in. Most come with a five-point harness and can convert to a booster seat when the child outgrows the harness. Car seats now come in a variety of styles and colours.
If you have two or more children in one car, look for narrower car seats. We had three children in car seats and booster seats sitting in one row in a vehicle, and know friends who have done the same. Even in a car, it’s possible to get three children into car seats if you buy car seats with an eye to size. We picked the Diono Radian RXT for the back our minivan because it’s the narrowest car seat on the market.
Booster seats are your child’s final transition from car seat to, well, car seat. Booster seats come with or without a high back and help position children properly for the car’s seat belt to hold them. They can mean a lot of freedom for parents, as they are usually smaller than car seats, easier to get children into, and easier to transfer between vehicles again.
Some booster seats are just a booster. Others come with cup holders or other features. Although booster seats don’t require installation, it’s important to teach children to buckle properly and to tighten their seat belts after buckling up.
If you travel frequently, or have kids who carpool with other parents, check out the Mifold booster seat. It’s a revolutionary booster seat that is about the size of a paperback book. It fits in the glove box of your car or your child’s backpack, making it easy for them to have a booster seat with them wherever they need it.
What helped you in choosing the best car seat for your baby? What did you look for in a car seat?
I received compensation for this post; all opinions expressed are my own.
I would say find a car seat that works for you to easily install. Some are harder than others for you or for your car.
My tip would be to try it on the car or find a way to make sure it fits well on the car and also I make sure it is easy to carry. Thanks for the chance to win such an amazing giveaway. Happy and prosperous New Year.
Do a lot of research and imo, it’s best to find one that has all adjustable buckles.
Read reviews as much as possible. If buying used ALWAYS check expiration date
When it comes to an infant car seat, definitely find one that is easy and comfortable to carry. We have learned our lesson on this one.
If buying used, always check the expiration date.
My tip would be to try the car seat in your vehicle before buying it. Some cars are smaller than others. It may fit differently in your car than in your friend’s.
My tip is don’t go the cheapest route. Get something that your child can grow with. These are often much safer and save you in the long run.
My advice is to do your research on car seats. Make sure that it will fit in your vehicle properly.
Ask friends and family with kids what car seats they’ve grown to love. This tip has saved me from getting a infant car seat that would be too heavy for me.
Find one that changes with the age and growth of your child.
When changing carseats due to age, weight growths it can be tough. I definitely would look up your local laws before purchase.
If your a family with more than one car make sure it’s easilly moved from one to the other without to much hassle.
My best tip would be to think about the vehicle you are going to have the car seat in the most and even bring it with you while shopping for the car seat this way you can see how it fits into the vehicle. Also, listen and read up on reviews on any car seat you buy.
I like the car seat that fits the stroller apparatus
Look for a convertible car seat with a high rear facing height and weight limit.
You definitely need to read reviews. People like to help others and honest experiences really do help.
I would read online reviews and also ask around to your friends and family members about what they use and why.
I would recommend thinking about the size of your car when you choose a car seat. We probably would have looked for a more narrow car seat.
My advice would be to read reviews for car seats that are within your budget. The $500 car seat might be the best review you read, but if you have a $150 budget, it’s just a waste of time (and will make you feel guilty). You can get a safe car seat within most any price range, as long as it is installed correctly!
I always check the ratings when buying a car seat.
I would recommend going to the store and checking them out. A local store by us allows you to take the display models and try them out in your car in the parking lot. It is nice to see first hand how easy they are to use and how well they fit in your car.
Ask friends and family for recommendations, what they like and don’t like!
Check the expiry date for the latest possible date
I would read reviews and make sure to focus on safety.
To save the time and trouble, Always check to see if the straps on the car seat you are wanting to purchase will be easy to adjust as your baby grows. Ideally, Many brands these days will have adjustment handles in the back of the carseat, or a pull cord between baby’s legs, that make rethreading a thing of the past. Woo hoo!
I would recommend looking at comments from others on places like Amazon and also read articles in places like Consumer Reviews.
My two biggest tips are find ones that will be able to accommodate your child for the longest time possible (ie convert to booster seats) and to find ones that are easily washable – kids are so messy and cleaning up puke is a pain!
Investing in a good car seat that will meet the needs of your child as they grow is worth it! Don’t just buy the cheapest infant seat- think long term!
Make sure it is compatible with your your carriage. And consider buying one that will last over the years.
My tip would be to use your resources such as online blogs, reviews, other moms in finding out more information.
My tip is to find one that has great head protection!
Get some input from friends and family! I know I loved giving advice and talking all about baby!
I’d suggest getting one with a high weight limit so you won’t have to buy another one so soon.
That depends on your child! The weight limit hasn’t been a problem for us as our girls are small for their ages. I do have friends for whom this would definitely be a consideration, though. Thanks for pointing it out! 🙂
definitely do a lot of research. see what other parents say about the seat and how it fits in your type of vehicle.
Obviously for my family and I we look at safety first. Then we want something that’s gonna grow with Lilly. That way we only purchase one time.
I’d suggest checking out the weight of the infant car seats. We had 2 and one of them was significantly heavier than the other one – I was only able to carry my little one in the lighter of the two seats. Also, if you’d like to use the car seat in the stroller, make sure they’re compatible.
Yes, good point! Infant car seats are heavy, especially once you add a baby to them. 🙂
These are all great tips, if this is a car seat you will be using in multiple cars, maybe look into styles with a east latch system. Thanks for the chance!!
Features are great, but the best car seat is the seat is one that you can install and use properly every time. They also don’t have to be expensive, they all meet the same requirements for crash testing.
Ask other parents to find which ones are easiest to install safely and easiest to clean!
My tip would be to see it in person and compare, compare, compare. Most importantly though it would be to get it professionally checked when you put it in the car.
Look for the one that it the safest!
My advice is to read reviews before making a purchase on a car seat. Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂
read the manuals ahead of time and ask questions~
I would tell them to look for a seat with a lot of safety features, like good side impact protection.
My tips: do your research, go check out the seats in stores. Many stores now have car bench seats so you can try them out in the store.
I look for side-impact cushioning and protection.
My advice is the try out the seat in your car before you buy it so you can make sure it fits. This is especially important if you need to start out with the seat rear facing. A lot of seats take up a lot of space in that orientation.
Yes, I agree! We learned this by buying a car seat without trying it and then finding out it didn’t fit. 🙂 Cars and car seats come in very different shapes and sizes… figure out what works in your vehicle. 🙂
My tip is to get a seat that will grow with your baby and is easy to keep clean
I would read many reviews, ask other parent, and look at the safety features of each car seat.
My tip would be to find one that grows with your child through various stages.
I would read online reviews before shopping.
My tip is to get the car seat professionally installed or checked after you install it, to ensure it is correctly done. They can be tricky, so it’s a worthwhile investment to get it checked.
Hmmm, good point. We’ve never done this but I have seen car seat clinics around us and been tempted to stop in. Next time! Where do you find professionals who do this?
My tips i would share with other parents looking for a new car seat is do your research before you buy