With so many models available from various manufacturers, how do you choose a car seat that’s the best fit for you and your baby?

Well, the best car seat is not necessarily the one that looks the most fashionable or the one that’s the most lightweight. It’s a combination of features that, when combined, make the finest car seat.

In this post, I’ll talk about the main factors to consider when buying a car seat, top features to look out for, and a few safety tips to remember. 

Factors to consider before choosing a car seat

Your budget

There are all types of car seats available on the market. You’ll find convertible, hybrids, seats for smaller cars, larger cars, and more. They also come at different price ranges, meaning you can find an affordable car seat that costs $50 and a more luxurious one that will cost $400. What you can do before making a purchase is to decide on a budget and the set of functionalities you’d want the car seat to have. By having a clear idea of what you need and what you can afford, it’ll be easier to find the best product for you.

Your car space

You can be driving a more compact vehicle like Kia Forte. Or, you can have a Ford Explorer parked in your driveway. These two cars have different spaces, which means that you have to take the space into account when choosing a car seat. If your vehicle is smaller, opt for a smaller sized car seat, and vice versa. Make sure you measure your space before purchasing so that you buy a car seat that fits comfortably in the back of your vehicle.

How many car seats will you need?

If you and your partner drive two separate cars, then you may need to get two car seats for each vehicle. In this case, you have to measure each car separately and buy the seat that’s the best fit for each car. However, if your schedules allow it, you can get one car seat and move it from one car to another as needed. If you choose this option, make sure you get a car seat that’s super lightweight and easy to install. 

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how to choose a car seat
baby sleeping in car

Top baby car seat features to look for when choosing a car seat.

Convertibility

If you don’t want to purchase a different car seat every few months or years, then the ideal pick would be to get a convertible car seat. There are many 3-in-1 and even 4-in-1 car seats that easily transform from a rear-facing seat to forward-facing one and, ultimately, to a booster seat. The best thing about convertible car seats is that they will last you from infant through when the child is in preschool. In the long run, this is a smart move as it’ll save you a great deal of money.

Ease of use

Ease of use is one of the most common things parents struggle with. To avoid getting frustrated and stressed, make sure you opt for a car seat that makes it easy to get your child in and out of it. This is especially so if you and your partner drive two separate cars and will be moving the car seat from one car to another regularly. Pay attention to factors like its harness, the shape of its seat, and how it installs in your car.

Comfort

Children are so fragile, and the car seat you want to buy should be comfortable and fit them nicely. The most comfortable car seats are made of high-quality material, include lots of padding, come with cup holders, and other essential features for cozy rides. If your child will be spending plenty of time inside your car, then it’s smart to invest in a more comfortable product.

Portability

Some families install the seat in the car and leave it there for months, even years. Others move the car seat around a lot. For example, you might plan to use the same car seat for more than one vehicle. Or maybe you want the option to carry your baby in the car seat while he’s asleep. It’s even possible to get a portable car seat that’s compatible with a stroller, perfect for carrying around a sleeping baby. If portability is what you want from a car seat, make sure you also get one that is lightweight and comes with an ergonomically designed handle for more comfortable carrying.

Stroller compatibility

If you’re one of those parents who move a lot, you may want to choose a car seat that’s compatible with a stroller. These car-seat-stroller combos work great together, and the best thing is that you won’t have to wake up your baby in order to transfer him from the car seat to the stroller. You simply need to unclip the car seat from its base in the backseat, snap it onto the stroller and be on your way.

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baby sleeping in a vehicle

Baby car seat safety tips

Keep kids rear-facing

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants should ride rear-facing until they outgrow their rear-facing-only seat. Rear-facing is the best way to keep the baby safe. Once the child outgrows the rear-facing seat, he/she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat. The best option is to get a convertible car seat that easily transforms from a rear-facing to a forward-facing car seat. 

Get the right fit for your child

Another thing to keep in mind is that car seats have weight and height limits. For example, one car seat can have a weight limit of 20 lbs while another 40 lbs. As kids grow up so fast, you want to get a new seat as soon as your child reaches the height or weight limit. As a general rule of thumb, there should be at least one inch of space between the top of the seat and your child’s head. 

Don’t let your baby sleep in the car seat for a long time

Remember that even though babies can easily fall asleep in a car seat, that’s not the best place for them to stay asleep. There’s nothing wrong with taking short naps in the car seat, but for extended sleep, the ideal place for safe and sound sleep is the baby crib or bassinet. Parents who plan on sleep training their babies shouldn’t let their babies make a habit of falling asleep inside a car. 

Check the installation

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. That’s why NHTSA evaluates car seats, including ease of installation. Before placing your child in the seat, make sure the seat’s base is very snug to the car. Once the baby is seated, make sure all buckles and latches are safely in place. Always read the car seat’s instructions on how to install the car seat and check how you can use the car’s seat belt as additional protection, if available.

Did you know that infants sleep better while being wrapped in a swaddle? Take a peek at our list of 5 fantastic baby swaddles that parents love.

Final word

Congratulations! Now you know everything there is to know about how to choose a car seat and ensure your child’s safety. 

Decide on a budget before you go scouting for a car seat, check your car space, and decide on the number of car seats you’ll be needing. Then, think of which features are critical for the car seat you have in mind, whether that is convertibility or stroller compatibility. 

Once you purchase your dream car seat, make sure it’s safely installed and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.