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Car Seat Recommendations and Buying Guide

Car Seat Recommendations and Buying Guide

Whether shopping for your first-time infant seat or making the switch from convertible to booster, there are many choices for car seats. Since a car seat can ultimately save your child’s life, it is extremely important to know the options that are available before you begin shopping.

The following tips will give you an overview of the different types of car seats and two important features to look for in the seat you buy.

Types of Car Seats

Infant car seats must be installed rear-facing. U.S. law requires children to sit in a rear-facing position until they reach 12 months or 20 pounds; however, the longer you keep them rear-facing the safer they will be. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping children rear-facing until either two years of age or they have reached the maximum height and weight limits of their individual car seat. When shopping, look for infant car seats that have a high weight and height limit that will allow your child to stay rear-facing longer.

Convertible car seats can be installed in both rear- and forward-facing positions and are a good choice for parents looking to accommodate their child from the infant through to the toddler stage. As with an infant seat, it is important to pay attention to the specific height/weight requirements on a convertible seat. This can vary between brands and models within brands. Also, because of their larger size, some convertible seats will present a challenge to install in smaller cars. Be aware of the size of the seat you are purchasing in relation to the size of your vehicle.

Booster car seats are the final type children will use. Combination booster seats are a great buy; they feature a forward-facing harnessed mode plus the ability to be used as a belt-positioning booster with the vehicle seat belt. It is important to keep your child in a harness for as long as possible, so look for a booster that allows them to remain in a harness up to a higher weight and height range. When your child is ready to transition to a belt positioning mode, the harness is removed and the booster can be used to help place the vehicle belts in the optimal position. For older children, backless boosters also help position the vehicle belts correctly, but they do not offer an internal harness. It is important to remember that backless boosters and boosters in belt-positioning mode need to be secured with the vehicle belts, even when the child is not using them. This stops them from becoming projectiles in the event of an accident.



The acronym stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. LATCH is required for all cars currently manufactured in the United States. With LATCH, car seats are attached directly to the vehicle, rather than with a seat belt, making installation easier for parents. Look for features that allow LATCH to be attached with one click, making it faster and easier to install the car seat when moving between vehicles.


Note: LATCH is a feature required in most car seats manufactured today, but belt-positioning boosters, which are intended to use the vehicle’s own seat belt system, do not require LATCH.


Side Impact Protection:

Car accidents, particularly side impact crashes, are one of the most dangerous impacts for back seat passengers. One in 3 crash fatalities involving children are side impact, nearly all of which involve head trauma. Many car seats offer side impact protection, but the level of safety differs between brands and models. Research the different types of protection being offered in the car seats you look at to find the one that will best protect your child.


Safety 1st offers advanced Air Protect® Side Impact Protection that provides a double layer of protection to help save lives in the event of a crash. Find out more information about this advanced technology on our Air Protect® page.


Easy Installation:

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), even with easy installation features, as many as 85% of car seats on the road today are installed incorrectly. Both new and experienced parents are encouraged to find a certified child passenger safety technician in their area to help ensure they are installing their car seats correctly. Call your local hospital, police station or Safe Kids Chapter to locate one near you. The NHTSA site also offers a Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator tool.


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