Buying guide to car seats
Our kids’ safety is of prime importance to us and we as parents will go to any extent to ensure that our child is well protected and safe at any given time whether inside the home or outside. One such prime safety measure that parents are often concerned about is the safety of their child while driving. The right kind of car seat for children and the proper restraint system starting from birth to 11 years will go a long way in making your drives enjoyable and keeping your child safe even during mishaps.
This buying guide to car seats will help you understand the different types of baby car seats available in the market, their features and help you select the right one for your baby.
Parents are really spoilt for choices when it comes to buying kids car seats. A wide range of child car seats are available depending upon the age and weight of the child right from the stage of infancy to 11 years of age.
The four different types of car seats include -
- Infant car seats or rear facing car seats
- Convertible car seats
- Toddler car seats or Booster car seats
- Built-in car seats
Infant car seats are essentially rear-facing car seats that can accommodate a child from birth up to 20-22 lbs or approximately 10 kg and can last up to 9 or maximum 12 months.
Few types of car seats come with a large handle that lets you use it as a baby carrier or attach it to a travel system stroller when out of the car. A travel system is a combination of a baby stroller and a detachable car seat that snap fits onto a detachable base that stays in the car. There are special infant seats available for preterm and low birth-weight infants too. Choose seats that provide sufficient head, spine and neck support. Some seats provide angle indicators and angle adjusters along with an adjustable harness. While a 3-point harness goes around the crotch and down the shoulders, a 5-point harness restrains the shoulders, hips and crotch providing total protection. A twist-free belt is ideal for the baby as it prevents chaffing.
Fitting the seat properly is of utmost importance as it can affect the safety of your child. Once your baby has exceeded the specified weight limit for the car seat or its head is higher than the top of the seat then it is time to switch to a toddler car seat or a convertible car seat.
Convertible car seats give the most value for money as it lasts from birth till your child outgrows the car seat, which means you don’t have to make recurrent investments in car seats as your baby grows up. Depending upon the weight of your baby, this convertible car seat can be used either in a rear facing or forward facing position. These types come with a 3 or 5 point harness and a shield and can accommodate babies weighing anywhere between 20 to 40 points and sometimes up to 65 pounds as well depending upon the model. Unlike infant car seats, these are fixed in the car and cannot be carried around.
Booster car seats are used in the forward facing position for toddlers weighing between 30 to 40 lbs, while a few can accommodate a weight of up to 80-100 lbs based on the model you choose. The restraint system used may vary model-wise from a regular seat belt, a lap shield or a 3 or 5 point harness.
Belt-positioning boosters have cushion type seats that are used to lift the child so that he can be restrained using the car’s safety belt. Such boosters are referred to as belt-positioning boosters. When restraining the child with the car’s seat belt, ensure that the belt is worn as tight as possible within comfort, the lap belt is placed over the pelvis near the upper thigh and not the stomach and the diagonal strap should go over the shoulder and chest and away from the neck. A child needs to be over 57 inches to be able to use this car seat system.
In some cases, if the booster back is detached, then the seat functions as a booster cushion, however, one should follow the manufacturer’s instructions in this matter. Some models feature adjustable side wings that protect the child’s head to prevent any impact-related injury
High-back booster seats are recommended for kids who fall asleep during the drive or for installing in cars without a high seat back or a headrest. Make your child try various models and see whether the seat accommodates its height comfortably, before buying.
Built-in booster or integrated car seats are factory fitted in some cars by some car manufacturers like Chrysler and Volvo. These forward facing booster seats accommodate toddlers weighing over 20 lbs. Once the kids grow older, these seats can be converted to a regular seat for older children and adults.
Special seats or beds are designed for preterm infants or babies with low birth weight who need to lie flat for breathing properly. Specially designed seats are available for children with physical disabilities and breathing problems. Consult your pediatrician regarding this.
Tips for buying car seats:
- Determine your child’s correct age, height and weight and buy a car seat accordingly.
- Different brands offer different models of each type. Try out various models with your baby in it before purchasing. Check whether the restraint system and the clasps work well.
- If in doubt, consult experienced parents about the brands they have used.
- Buy a car seat that neatly installs into your car. Ensure that there is enough space between the driver and passenger seats and the baby car seat. Check whether there is enough space for rear facing car seats. Try installing the seat into your car before buying it.
- The car seat should be easy to install and quick to fix when needed. Check whether the seat snap fits and the belts clasp properly.
- If buying seats for preterm babies, go for ones with a weight limit of 4 to 5 lbs and the harness strap position at 8 inches or below.
- A car seat with EPS foam and head impact protection gives extra security against accidents.
- Babies are known to be messy and often soil the seats. Check whether your car seat covers are easy to remove and wash.
- If you are planning to use a second hand car seat, then ensure that it is less than six years old and has not been involved in any accidents.
- Go for seats that feature Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children feature or LATCH attachments. If the vehicle seat and the baby car seat both have latch, then you need not use the vehicle’s safety belt. Check whether your baby’s car seat is compatible and can be readily installed in the car. Otherwise, you will have to resort to the regular seat belts for restraining.
- Before investing in a car seat, consider for how long you will be able to use that car seat. If your baby weighs on the higher side then go for a seat that allows more weight.
- If you are planning to buy a new car shortly, check whether the car seat you buy will fit readily into that new car as well.
- Check whether the belt system in your car allows the car seat to fit in properly. Try installing the car seat in various positions and see how it fits. Also check whether the car seat bottom is flat enough for the baby seat to sit snugly.
- Check whether the harness is easy to open and close. They should fit tight but not tight enough to choke or hurt your baby. Check for the quality of seats. A well cushioned seat provides comfort while acting as a shock absorber for the baby when the car goes over tough bumps. Check for the car shield and canopy, especially in travel systems.
Graco Car Seats
A leading name in baby products, Graco offers a wide range of strollers and baby car seats for newborns to children who weigh 100 lbs or are 40 inches tall. Graco Car Seats sport many models such as CarGo, SnugRide, TurboBooster, Comfortsport Convertible, Nautilus 3-in-1 and many more.
All Graco car seats are outfitted with reinforced steel that provides years of durability. These seats are extensively crash tested along with side impact testing. They feature a 5 point harness plus plush and comfortable seats made of EPS energy absorbing foam that provides protection against sudden impact. The open loop belt guides allows proper adjustment of your vehicles seat belts in case of belt-positioning boosters.
Graco’s Nautilus 3-in-1 functions as a regular seat with a 5 point harness, a belt-positioning booster once you remove the harness and finally as a booster cushion after the back is detached. Some models of Graco Car seats offer a two and three position recline for easy comfort on long journeys. The contoured armrests feature a cup holder and large easy to access pockets for storage. This car seat takes weight from 20 to 65 lbs.
Graco’s TurboBooster SafeSeat accommodates kids weighing from 30 to up to 100 lbs. These car seats have a fully adjustable headrest and armrests and hideaway cup holders. Also these are rigorously crash tested to ensure that feature high safety standards,
All Graco Car seats are well engineered for providing complete safety and total functionality for your little one. In terms of design, patterns and colors Graco has a lot to offer the customer.
Recaro Car Seats
Another popular name, Recaro the German manufacturers of aircraft seats also manufacture a vast range of Recaro Car Seats for babies. It’s Convertible Car Seat which accommodates kids weighing up to 70 lbs or grown up to 8 years of age. Its young sport model is apt for kids weighing 80 lbs or grown up to 12 years. The High Booster model accommodates body weight from 30 to 100 lbs and is meant for children between the ages of 3 to 12 years. These car seat covers are made of stain resistant and durable microfiber or breathable fiber with soft mesh inserts and are completely washable.
Available in a variety of patterns and colors, Recaro seats feature 3-point to 5-point harness, adjustable headrests and integrated armrests. The seats are ergonomically shaped for total comfort. Some of the models offer deep side wings for protection against sudden impact, while the seat is well padded while the shoulder and headrest sections are constructed of energy absorbing EPS foam. Most of the Recaro Car seats feature the latch system design for security and reinforcement.
Summing it up
As is evident, with car seats, there are plenty of options in terms of design, style, model/brand, and pricing. This does make it slightly difficult to pick up the right kind of car seat that meets all your requirements. This guide will help you narrow down the choices so as to make an informed decision.
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