How to Buy a Convertible Car Seat

There are many convertible car seats out on the market, but which is the best to buy? The best convertible car seat is one that fits in your vehicle correctly, is one that you can afford, is the right size for your baby, and one that you can use properly when your baby rides in the car.

Here are 10 points to consider when purchasing a convertible car seat:
Convertible Car Seat, How to buy

Which is the best convertible car seat?

The Safest Car Seat?

If a car seat is sold in the United States, it must first pass federal crash tests. Extra features, like locking clips that are built in and straps that prevent twisting, make the car seat easier to correctly install.  Proper installation is most important. But all car seats, even the cheapest, have to pass the same basic crash tests.  They are all safe if they are properly installed.

Car Seats Must Fit the Baby

Choose the car seat by your baby’s height and weight. Infant seats that face to the rear can only be used to about 20-22 pounds. Convertible car seats should used facing to the rear until the child is at least 1 year old, or in some models 2 years old, and then can be used facing forward. Check the weight limits on the box of the convertible car seat you are choosing. When considering height, the baby’s head should be at least one inch below the car seat top when using the seat facing to the rear. When using the seat facing to the front, the top of child’s ears should be lower than the seat top.

Easy to Install?

If you don’t read the instructions and install the car seat properly every time, then even the most expensive car seat is not safe for your child. Read the manual and use the car seat in the way that it is supposed to be used. Choose a car seat with instructions you can understand and use it correctly every time. Also read parent reviews and our convertible car seat reviews to find out if a particular model is easy to install.

Does the Car Seat Fit Your Vehicle?

Seats in automobiles come in many different shapes and sizes.  Not all car seats will fit in every car.  It is important that the car seat you select fits in your car with little problem.  It should be tightly installed at the correct angle and with only an inch or less of side-to side movement.  Many baby stores will let you try out the car seat in your vehicle, with a store employee’s help, to make sure it fits before you buy it.  Check the store’s return policy when you do decide to buy one.

Five Star Rating System

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has a five-star rating system (5 stars is the best) to rate how easy the car seat is to use.  The rating shows how easy the seat is to install, how easy it is to put your child in, and the readability of the instruction manual.  Choose a convertible car seat with a high star rating.

Five-point safety harness

5-Point-HarnessA convertible car seat with a five-point safety harness is the best.  This has five straps: one on each shoulder, one on each thigh, and one between your child’s legs.  They should be adjustable as you will want to change the harness as your baby grows.  Look for car seats that can be adjusted easily.  Better car seats adjust from the front, and some have belts that you can adjust with one hand and buckles that are quick-release.  Look for seats that have a higher weight limit listed for use with the harness.

LATCH (Lower anchors and tethers for children)

Since 2002, all car seats and cars use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. This system allows you to fasten the car seat directly to your car or truck instead of using a seat belt. Installation is easier and safer with this system. Convertible car seats should have a top tether and also bottom straps.  Some convertible car seats do not recommend using the top tether strap when the seat is in the rear-facing position. Please read and follow your car seat’s instructions.

Ease of cleaning

Kids are messy and the car seat is sure to get dirty.  Surprisingly many car seats do not have removable covers.  Look for one with a removable and machine-washable cover.  This will make cleanup a breeze.

Comfort

Look for a seat that is well padded and that has good head support.  Your baby will be more willing to ride in the seat if she is comfortable.  You look for a comfortable ride when you buy a car.  Give her a comfortable ride too.

Side-impact protection

Look for car seats that advertise “side-impact protection”. These car seats have special foam that absorbs energy and better protects your baby’s chest and head when hit from the side.

Advantages of using a convertible car seat

A convertible car seat is made to be used for more years than an infant car seat.  A child from birth up to around 80 pounds can ride safely.   It can be used facing forwards or backwards in the car.  Also it is more economical to only have to buy one seat.
These reasons make a convertible car seat a good choice.

Safety Features

Make sure that you read the car seat’s instruction manual carefully and install the seat correctly.  It is estimated that 3 out of 4 car seats are not installed properly.
If you are having problems with the installation or have any questions, have your car seat professionally checked.  The National Highway Safety Transportation Administration has car seat inspection stations available to help you.  Go to www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm to find the inspection station nearest to your home and to make an appointment.
Never install your baby’s car seat in the front passenger seat.  Car seats should be properly installed in the backseat. For children under the age of 2, install it facing the rear of the car so that your child will be looking at the seat. This is the safest way for your child to ride and most new convertible seats can hold a kid up to 40 pounds in this position.  It’s best to keep your baby safe as long as possible.  They may not like it, but it is the best way.

Car Seat Accessories

When buying a car seat, do not buy any car seat accessories or installation aids. A good rule to follow is that “If it did not come with the car seat, then it’s not safe to use with the car seat”. These accessories are not crash-tested like the car seat, and do not have to follow the federal safety standards.  They can cause your child injury during a crash.  It is not safe to use aids that position your child’s head, unless they come with the car seat.  Seat belt ratchets are not needed if your car seat is properly installed. Use of these extra products will many times cancel the car seat warranty.

One thought on “How to Buy a Convertible Car Seat

  1. Hey great article, this is going to help a lot of moms and dads, I am having trouble choosing a car seat. But I think we will buy a convertible one. Thanks.

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