The 5 Main Types Of Car Seats For Different Needs & Ages
What To Look For In A Quality Car Seat?
Nowadays, there are tons of car seats that are designed to give you the best blend of features. From safety to comfort and convenience when traveling with your loved ones, it is important to consider all of the valuable features.
What’s more important is your needs when looking for a baby car seat. This includes your baby’s age, weight, height, longevity and the main things you expect from a quality car seat. So, the only way to make sure that you are getting the best car seat for your baby (and your vehicle) is to check out the main categories of baby car seats.
Also, you should know how to install and use your car seat correctly – but that is something that is detailed in most of the car seat manuals and instruction guides.
Below, we are listing the main categories of car seats to help you choose the model you need.
If you are new to infant car seats, the name pretty much says it. These are car seats designed for infants which means babies from their birth until their 2 years of age – or the height/weight when they need a bigger seat.
Basically, infant car seats are designed to ride in your car in the rear-facing position only. This is because of the possible dangers and road collisions – where the rear-facing position protects them best.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children should be kept in a rear-facing position until they are 3 years old. However, this varies from state to state and country to country.
What’s also important to note is that infant car seats can also double as carriers. There are many models of them that can either be strapped into the car directly or into a base that stays in the car seat. However, you can also use them as baby carriers and carry your loved one around from the car to your home, the supermarket and other places.
Since they can be carried in hand, the best infant car seats are usually lightweight. For more information on choosing the best lightweight car seat, visit this page.
The lifespan of an infant car seat, on the other hand, is somewhere around 6-12 months depending on the growth rate of your baby as well as the size of the car seat. The truth is, some kids outgrow these seats faster than others which is why many parents choose (convertible) infant car seats that can be converted to forward-facing car seats – which is the category below.
As we already mentioned, convertible car seats are a great option because they offer the largest lifespan from any other category of seats. There are great convertible car seats you can find at different price points.
What’s most important is that these seats can be used in both forward-facing and rear-facing positions depending on the weight of your child. While the rear-facing mode is usually used for infants up to 3 years (and 40 pounds), the forward facing mode can be used for children up to 65 pounds – and the booster mode can be used for kids of up to 120 pounds (6-7 years old).
From all this, it is safe to say that a convertible car seat can be used for 6-7 years without a problem – offering premium safety and protection for your child. With all the padding options, inserts and different harness/recline positions, it converts from one seat to another and promotes a feeling of safety in all positions.
Also known as all-in-one seats, these seats are quite similar to convertible car seats. The only difference is that they work as booster seats too. Their main advantage is the fact that you will need only one seat and it will grow with your child from the rear-facing to the forward-facing position and the booster seat position too.
These seats will adapt to the needs of your child until they are old enough to use the seatbelt only. The only difference between 3-in-1 car seats and convertible seats is the fact that sometimes, convertible car seats can be converted to only two positions (instead of the three found in the 3-in-1 car seats).
Basically, the main aim of a toddler car seat is to be used from 2-3 years old until your child is 4-5 years old. Toddler seats are positioned in the forward-facing mode which generally supports kids from 30 to 65 pounds and up to 20-22 inches in height.
This is the standard car seat position and there are many different toddler car seats to choose from. They can be used in the front and the rear of the car but it is always safer to put them in the rear (especially if there is a passenger airbag system in the front).
Thanks to the straps, these seats spread the force of a crash over a wide area of their chest and pelvis and keep the shoulder straps on their shoulders. However, there are a lot of extra features, different technologies and things to consider when choosing a toddler car seat – which is why we suggest you to read our toddler car seat review.
Basically, booster car seats are designed to be used only for kids in the forward-facing position (just like toddler car seats). The minimum weight requirement here varies from 30-40 pounds depending on the specific model that you will select.
What’s great about these car seats is the fact that they are in the ‘final position’ and used until your child is old enough to not need a car seat anymore. As the infant car seat laws change (and vary from one state to another) there are many states and countries that are going with greater weight requirements for these car seats and children put in them.
What you should need to know about these models is that they usually have their own set of buckles or harness – or they can use the seatbelt that is already found in your car. The height and weight of your child are the factors that dictate which is most comfortable about the car seat. If possible, you can try the car seat out with your child before purchasing it.
Currently, booster seats are recommended until your child is 4’9” which is between 8-12 years old. However, as we said before, the laws vary from state to state and in general, your child should only ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old.
The Main Things To Look For When Choosing A Baby Car Seat
According to many buyers, the most important things to look for when buying a convertible car seat are:
- The ease of use – Generally speaking, the more stars a car seat has according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 5-star rating system – the better and simpler it is to use.
- A 5-point harness system – The straps on this system are designed for each shoulder, each hip and one that goes between your baby’s legs offering maximum protection.
- Side-impact protection – You should also consider this when buying a convertible car seat as the one of the most crucial things for safety and a technology that keeps your baby’s head and chest safely protected in a side-impact accident.
- Easy adjustments – Adjusting the harness as your child grows is important. Better car seats allow you to adjust the straps and harness height easily from the front and some seats have single-handed belt adjustments with quick-release buckles.
- LATCH technology (lower anchors and tethers for children) – This is the technology that is used in all car seats and vehicles since 2002 – allowing car seats to be directly attached to the vehicle’s frame instead of using the seat belts to secure them.
- Comfort – Look at the padding and head/shoulder support when browsing between different car seat models.
- Easy cleaning – Most of the revolutionary car seat models have removable covers which makes cleaning the mess easy. Some covers can be taken off and thrown in the machine for a hassle-free experience.
We hope that this guide helped you figure out what type of car seat you need for your child – and what to look for in a car seat.