Quick Guide to Choosing a Car Seat

5 July, 2022

I use the word quick lightly in this title. Nothing about choosing the best car seat for you should be quick. Take the time to do the research (or better yet, let us help you!) and really determine which seat is going to work best for you. Here are some pointers to get you started…

What is the best car seat?

The best car seat is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and that you feel confident in using correctly every time.

What type of car seat is recommended based on your child’s age?

Image provided from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA recommendations reflect best practice and promote car seat and booster seat use for as long as possible.

What is the difference between Rear-Facing, Forward-Facing and Booster?

Rear-Facing Car Seats are designed to support the head and neck of an infant or young child in a frontal crash. When an infant or young child is properly restrained rear-facing, the head and neck move together with the car seat, allowing the crash force to be spread across the shell of the car seat. This protects the infant’s or young child’s head, neck, and torso, reducing the risk for a neck and/or spine injury.

There are three different types of rear-facing car seats – Rear-facing Only, Rear-facing Convertible and Rear-facing All-in-One.

  • Rear-facing Only: Typically, these seats have two parts – the carrier and the detachable base. These seats have a shorter lifespan than convertible and all-in one seats, but are much more portable, and are compatible with most stroller frames for when you’re on the go.
  • Rear-facing Convertible & Rear-facing All-in-One – these seats have different modes of use. They have a 5-point harness and can be used in both rear and forward-facing positions, which lengthens the amount of time you can use them. All-in-ones also eventually convert to a booster seat.

Forward-Facing Car Seats are used once your child has outgrown their rear-facing car seat. While forward-facing car seats do have minimum weight and height requirements, the best practice is to keep the child rear-facing until the maximum weight and/or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer has been reached.

There are a few different types of forward-facing car seats – Convertible, Combination, All-in-One and Forward-facing Only.

  • Convertible: These seats can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing.
  • Combination: These seats are forward-facing only and can be used with the internal harness or as a booster seat.
  • All-in-One: Can be used rear-facing, forward-facing with harness, or as a booster seat.
  • Forward-facing Only: Just as it sounds, these seats can be used forward-facing only with a harness. These seats cannot be used rear-facing or as a booster.

Booster Seats are designed to be used with vehicle lap-and-shoulder belts. Seat belts are designed to fit adults, not children, so a booster seat raises and positions a child so the vehicle’s lap-and-shoulder belt fits properly.

There are two types of booster seats – (1) High back and (2) Backless

  • High back: These are typically recommended for vehicles that have a low seat back only or which do not have a head restraint. The high back provides head, neck and back support for the child. It can also help ease the transition from a harnessed seat. Some high backs do convert to backless.
  • Backless: These must be used in a vehicle seat that has a head restraint if the tops of the child’s ears are above the vehicle seat back. Most backless boosters come with a shoulder belt positioner to adjust the height on the child if needed. (Only use belt positioners that were provided with the booster seat).

And as above, Combination and All-in-One car seats also have a booster feature.

Choosing the right car seat can be a daunting task. Always consult your vehicle and car seat manuals to ensure compatibility and proper installation and usage instructions. Reach out to a Certified Child Safety Technician (like us!) for that extra piece of mind and as always Nesting Together is here to help. We want you to feel confident every time you’re on the move! Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Below are some great car seat resource links for any additional information.