Car Seat Buying Guide
The Basics: Car Seats
A car seat is an important purchase required by law. From the time a child is born until he or she reaches about age 7, a car seat will be an essential part of life.
Infants should be placed only in rear-facing car seats for the first year of life.
The majority of infant car seats are designed for infants weighing 5 pounds to 22 pounds, and a maximum of 27 inches to 29 inches tall. However, an increasing number of infant car seats accommodate babies up to 30 pounds and 33 inches. Keep in mind that the weight and height limit of each infant car seat will vary by manufacturer, so check restrictions before purchasing.
Many infant car seats come with a leave-in-car base, but only a few of these car seats can be used in a vehicle without the base.
As with any size of car seat, extra features don't necessarily mean extra safety. However, bells and whistles can mean a greater expense.
A convertible car seat can be used for both infants and toddlers. A convertible car seat should be used as a rear-facing car seat for infants younger than 1 year of age. Then, as the name suggests, it converts to a forward-facing car seat when a child weighs at least 20 pounds and is 1 year old - a feature that dramatically extends the practical life of this purchase. Some convertible car seats now hold children up to 65 pounds, further lengthening the usefulness of the convertible car seat.
Toddler-to-booster car seats, in general, accommodate children who weigh 22 pounds to 40 pounds and who are at least 1 year old. Toddler-to-booster car seats can only be used forward facing, and have three-point or five-point harnesses (many safety organizations strongly recommend a five-point harness). Some toddler-to-booster car seats convert to belt-positioning boosters for children weighing 40 to 80 pounds.
A booster car seat, sometimes known as a youth car seat, can be used once a child weighs at least 40 pounds. It's a safe move to option for a booster car seat even if it's not mandatory.
Please read consumer Guides, they will help ou to select a car seat for nearly any stage of a child's life because of a helpful rating system and in-depth reviews that require hands-on testing.
How To Shop
When you are shopping for a car seat, pay attention to safety features. Many reasonably priced car seats now have energy-absorbing foam linings similar to those found in bicycle helmets. These linings are comprised of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam or Expanded PolyPropylene (EPP) foam. Be sure the foam lines the entire car seat. Some manufacturers try to get by with only lining the head area.
Look for infant car seats with up-front harness adjustment and the ability to clip into the stroller of one's choice. Most infant car seats come with a detachable base that can be separately installed on the rear seat of a vehicle, allowing the infant seat to be transferred with ease. Infant car seat prices range from £40 to more than £130.
If you need to buy a convertible car seat, look for one that uses a five-point safety harness rather than a molded plastic T-bar. Most convertible car seats cost about £70, although they can be purchased for £180 and up.
When it's time to buy a toddler-to-booster car seat, car seats that come equipped with built-in locking clips are a safe bet; a locking clip ensures a car's safety belts remain in a tight position. Look for safety features such as EPP- or EPS-lined head-support "wings." Toddler-to-booster car seats range in price from about £65 to about £180.
As you shop for youth/booster seats, beware of shield boosters. These car seats have a plastic shield that swivels and is held in place by a car's lap belt. While the price tag may be tempting (shield boosters typically cost about £15), it is not recommended to use this type of car seat. When selecting a toddler-to-booster or booster/youth car seat, plan to spend about £50, although pricier models can be purchased for more than £170.
Do not purchase a used car seat. Unless you know the history of a car seat, and can confirm that it has not been in a moderate or severe crash, it is recommended that you buy a new one. Plus, when you purchase a new car seat, it comes with a warranty. Most major manufacturers offer a limited 1-year warranty; others promise to replace a product for a lifetime. Always return the product registration card enclosed in the product packaging. This card lets the manufacturer know where to notify you in case there is a recall.