Finding the right car seat can be stressful for any first-time parents. You want your toddler to be both comfortable and safe. The vast amount of brands and types out there can make this an extremely daunting task. However, knowing a few useful tips can help make this process easier.
An important step to take is to check your car or truck owner’s manual to find out if your vehicle has special warnings for transporting children. Some vehicles have locations that are not optimal due to side impacts, and others may show the child is safest when the car seat is affixed to the chassis. In most bench seat trucks and two-seaters, transporting children isn’t advised unless there are no front airbags and the child is rear facing.
Next parents need to consult the Department of Motor Vehicles in their state for any applicable laws. Police officer Suzie Kim explains that laws will specify when the child can go from rear-facing to forward-facing positions as well as the weight of the child during each progression from baby carrier (all-in-one) to a booster seat.
Toddlers come in all shapes and sizes, and picking the best car seat will come down to how well you know your child. Is their height increasing at a brisk pace? Did their weight jump into a different percentile during their last check-up? If so, take that into consideration. Make the investment and buy a car seat that will accommodate a larger weight and height so you can get maximum usage.
Also make sure to pay attention to whether the car seat is rear facing only, forward facing only, or can be both rear facing and forward facing. This is important when gauging the longevity of the car seat by the state’s laws. Car seat specification shown online and on the product can help you determine the differences.
Other factors to consider are whether the car seat will be in daily use or merely a back up. If this will be a “daily driver,” get one that is comfortably padded, especially for a lengthy commute. If you only need a car seat for the occasional pick-up, an expensive model may not be needed. Additional amenities like cup holders are nice, but safety should be your main concern.
Make sure to spend time researching your options. Car seats vary in price from $30 to almost $300. In most instances you can find safe car seats in all price ranges. But as with all things you get what you pay for. If you’re buying from the manufacturer’s website or a big box store, read the product info and reviews. The descriptions will help you comparison shop before you get to the store. The reviews will also pinpoint issues a large group of consumers may have had.
Car seat specialist Cynthia Crothers explains an important safety aspect to look for in a good car seat is a five-point harness, which is optimal for holding your child in place during a collision. Remember in an accident, you may need to get your child out quickly. While overlapping clips that click into the lap belt seem more secure, they’re also harder to get on and off. Don’t be afraid to try out the clips and buckles for ease of use. It’s better to find out in the store they’re not feasible than after you get the car seat home and installed. Side impact padding and head cradling cushions are also a plus. Most car seats have progressive cut outs in the back that allow the harness straps to be moved as the child grows without affecting the padding.
Toddlers can be messy with their snacks and drinks, so getting an easily cleanable surface is ideal. If the one you’re eyeing doesn’t have that option, a car seat cover is feasible for a car seat. Some car seats have amazing features that are not necessary but may be fun and more comfortable for your toddler. You can find some models that recline or ones that have temperature-regulating fabric. However, the most important things to remember are that the car seat should be comfortable, a good investment, and make both of you feel secure!