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What You Should Know About Car Seats

You can't just go and get the first car seat you see for your child, you need to know how safe they can be, what they offer and the laws surrounding them.

What You Should Know About Car Seats

If you’re a parent then chances are that a large portion of your attention is locked to your children and their safety. That mentality doesn’t, or shouldn’t, go away once you enter a car, especially if you realize that what you’re driving is 3,000 or more pounds of hard jagged steel, brittle plastic and thin aluminum. Don’t let that worry you though, as while cars can have their bad days when it comes to accidents, they are safer than they’ve ever been.

However when it comes to your kids’ safety it’s probably your life’s work to close the gap between “safe as ever” and “as safe as possible.” With that in mind, you’ve gone and landed the safest SUV around in your driveway, but you’re still missing something not only essential by your own standards, but by the law.

We’re talking of course about the car seat, but you can’t just go onto Amazon and hit the “1-click buy” button without first doing some research. You could end up getting a defective car seat, and that is something you (hopefully) want to avoid.

How Car Seat Progression Works

The world of car seats, as you begin to explore the options, unravels like the universe itself. To know what you’re up against, it’s important to first familiarize yourself with the laws surrounding car seat safety.

According to California state law:

  • Children under two-years-old must use a rear-facing car seat, unless they weigh 40 pounds, or are 40 inches tall, just over three feet.
  • From 2-8 years old the child must use a car or booster seat, and is not allowed to sit in the front.
  • As soon as the child hits 8 years old or 4’9” tall, they may still use a booster seat but at the very least must be secured with a safety belt.

Child safety seat laws vary by state, so be sure to check your state’s website for details.

Check Out the Best Used SUVs for Car Seats

These laws don’t necessarily mean you must buy three different seats. Most if not all car seat manufacturers make what are called convertible car seats, which can switch from front facing to rear facing. Manufacturers also make what are called all-in-one car seats, which are switchable from front to rear facing, and detaches from its base to make a booster seat.

When looking for an all-in-one or convertible car seat, be sure to pay attention to the weight limits and know that there are specific weight limits for each setting. In other words, a seat might have a label that says it’s tested to 5-110 pounds, but that doesn’t mean the front-facing setting is tested to 110 pounds.

It means the seat as a whole can handle up to 110 pounds, depending on its position. Familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual of whichever seat you decide to buy before you start using it.

What To Look For In A Car Seat

To really make sure you’re getting the best car seat, you should be focusing on several factors:

  • Construction
  • How it straps in
  • Weight
  • Convenience
  • How well it fits into your car
Pick The Right Car Seat For What You Drive

So much of choosing a proper car seat depends on what kind of car you own, so do some research and try to find the best-fitted, safest car seat that fits in your car.

Like anything else there are about a million different brands to choose from, and each of those has its own models, and sometimes several versions of each. Bear in mind each of these is going to vary greatly in price. Also, some are convertible which means they can be rear or forward-facing.

Learn More about the Best Sedans for Car Seats

Car Seat Guides

Here are a few models we recommend based on reviews we obtained from experienced parents:

Chicco KeyFit 30 ~ $200

  • Good for newborns/infants
  • Multiple bases available for multiple cars that allow for easy transfer between vehicles
  • Adapters available for strollers

Britax Advocate Clicktight ~ $308

  • Great for toddlers
  • Heavy, but extremely secure
  • Easy to install with seatbelts
  • Side impact protection

Evenflo Tribute Sport Convertible ~ $60

  • Extraordinarily cheap
  • Light
  • Not as secure as Britax, but very convenient

UPPAbaby Mesa ~ $300-350

  • Compatible with UPPAbaby Vista stroller
  • Very sturdy and easy to install (heavy)
  • Good for infants

Clek Foonf ~ $350-450

  • Easy to install
  • Sturdy
  • Good for after infancy

Maxi Cosi Mico ~ $200

  • Not too heavy
  • Good ventilation
  • Easy to install/clean
  • No adapter for certain strollers

Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible ~ $300

  • Convertible
  • Can be switched to a booster seat
  • Graco just as sturdy as Britax

Some other popular brands:

  • Nuna
  • Orbit Baby
  • Peg-Perego
  • Recaro
  • Safety 1st

Learn about the Best Car Seats for Small Cars

As each brand carries several different models it’s important to find the model that’s appropriate. For instance, not all Gracos are the same as the Nautilus 65 which accommodates taller kids.

As you can see car seats vary from tens of dollars to hundreds, or sometimes more than a thousand, The trick is to find one that fits your kids and your car, and since you’re paying a lot for it, find one that’s secure.

The Instamotor TeamThe Instamotor Team

Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.

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