How do I Choose the Best Baby Car Seat?

Amanda R. Bell

When choosing a baby car seat, make sure that the product meets current safety standards. The seat should also fit your car and your child, even if it means purchasing another seat in a few months. For your ease of use and your child's comfort, you may also want to make sure that the seat you choose is easily adjustable, includes a washable cover and is comfortably padded.

A car seat.
A car seat.

In most countries, car seats are not allowed to be sold by manufacturers unless the seat meets a set of strict safety requirements. In most cases, you can be assured that any baby car seat you buy from a store is up to code; the seat should have a sticker on the side of the seat indicating that it meets, or exceeds, all current safety requirements. If you are purchasing a used car seat, this may not be the case.

Rear-facing car seats can protect children from sustaining serious injuries in frontal car crashes.
Rear-facing car seats can protect children from sustaining serious injuries in frontal car crashes.

Before choosing to purchase a baby car seat from an individual, make sure you know what year the seat was manufactured. Car seat safety standards change quite often, and the seat itself, even if it meets current safety regulations, can expire; most car seats are good for up to seven years. You will also want to make sure that the used baby car seat was not in an accident, as this can reduce its integrity. Make sure to inspect the shell of the seat, the plastic underneath the cover, for any cracks or signs of warping. In general, a baby car seat is best purchased brand new.

If you drive a small car, or your vehicle has a small backseat, you may want to try installing the car seat in your vehicle before purchasing it to ensure that it fits. Baby car seats face the back of the car; if the back of the car seat is pressed up on the front seats of the car, or wedged between the two front seats, this can reduce the safety of the item. With a little research, you should be able to find a seat that will safely fit in the back of your car.

Baby car seats typically come in two types: infant and convertible. While children tend to grow out of infant seats relatively quickly, it may be best to purchase one for your child instead of simply getting the convertible seat. Infant seats are designed to help support the head of an infant who has yet to develop his or her neck muscles. While you can purchase inserts for a convertible seat to help with this, most experts recommend using an infant seat for children under 20 pounds (9 kilograms).

If possible, choose a baby car seat that has straps that are adjustable while the car seat is installed. Some seats require taking the car seat out of your vehicle to move the straps up and down. As babies grow rather rapidly, you will probably have to adjust the straps of the harness suddenly. Making adjustments as easy as possible can save you a lot of time.

You will also want to make sure that the baby car seat you choose has a washable cover and is comfortable for your baby. A washable cover will make it easier for you to keep your child's baby car seat clean and sanitary. A comfortable seat, often with extra padding, can help to protect your child in the event of a crash and make car rides more enjoyable for him or her on a day-to-day basis.

Infant car seats are designed to face the rear end of the car for maximum safety.
Infant car seats are designed to face the rear end of the car for maximum safety.

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Discussion Comments


The law requires that you ride babies in the safety car seats, but unfortunately many people are getting by with using the cheap baby car seats that are more for show than safety. A policeman isn't going to stop you and check the quality of the car seat your child is in, so as long as the baby is in some kind of seat you will avoid getting a ticket. I think there needs to be a better way of making sure the seats are up to standard.


@Feryll - You are right about many people not getting the baby car seats installed correctly. However, in most cases the problem isn't that the car seats are overly complicated. The problem is that the adults putting them in the cars never learned the right way to put them in, in the first place.

One quick lesson will usually be enough for the average adult to get the hang of how the seats work and how they fit onto car seats. Where I live, the local fire department gives demonstrations on how to install child car seats periodically, and anyone who has a question can simply go to the fire department anytime and get help putting the seats in the right way.


I have read so many articles and heard so many people talk about how most people don't actually strap the child car seats and the baby car seats in properly that I am always worried that I am not securing the seats the way I am supposed to secure them. Whenever I ride my niece around in my car I spend about as much time putting in her car seat as I do actually driving to the places where we are going.

One of my primary concerns when buying a car seat is going to be how easily can I get the seat properly installed in my car so that the baby is safe and the seat isn't going to fly out if we get in an accident. Hopefully, I can find one that I can get in the car and fastened down in fewer than 30 minutes.

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