When buying a car seat, you can buy an infant or a convertible car seat. Infant car seats are usually rear-facing and can carry children up to 40 pounds. Convertible car seats can be forward- or rear-facing and can carry children up to 57 inches tall and 80 pounds. The all-in-one or 3-in-1 car seat, a type of convertible seat that is adjustable between forward- and rear-facing, can be changed into a booster seat for up to 120-pound children.
To make sure your newborn is not overwhelmed, buy a convertible car seat that has a newborn insert or padding for comfort. Unlike infant seats which can be clicked onto the seat, convertible seats need to be installed because they are heavier. Compared to infant car seats, convertible seats are a bit harder to install/remove and to carry your baby around in.
Considerations to make when buying a convertible car seat
A 5-point harness–A baby car seat should have one strap for each shoulder and hip, and another one that goes between the child’s legs. These straps are found on all modern car seats because safety is crucial.
Side impact protection –As your child grows, the harness needs to be adjusted. Good-quality car seats have a harness and straps that can easily be adjusted from the front. Some car seat models feature belts with single-handed adjustments with quick-release buckles.
LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) – All vehicles and car seats manufactured after 2002 are compatible with the LATCH system with which the baby car seats are directly attached to the car frame and not to the seat belts. Convertible car seats feature lower anchor connectors and a top tether strap.
However, some manufacturers may advise against the use of the top tether strap for the rear-facing position, so be sure to consult the instruction manual. Also, take into account the LATCH weight limit in the car seat label or manual.
Comfort –Your baby will have a comfortable ride with a well-padded seat that provides a lot of support for the head.
Easy cleaning –Where there are kids, there’s likely to be a mess. So, if possible, find a car seat with a cover that detaches fairly easily and is machine-washable to make the cleanup process easy.
New or second-hand –It is not advisable to buy second-hand car seats as they may be missing some important parts, and their usefulness may therefore be compromised. If you use a second-hand seat, you may end up using one that has since been recalled because of a fault in the design that can result in safety issues.
Furthermore, the plastic used to make baby car seats becomes more fragile as it ages and may easily break in case of a crash. However, if you choose to buy a second-hand seat, make sure that it has all the parts, is no more than 5 years and has never been in an accident.
Cost – Convertible baby car seats can cost anywhere between $55 and $500 or more. Top-tier convertible seat models usually have the capacity to carry higher weights than mid- or low-range car seats. Needless to say, these seats also last longer.
A note about expiry of convertible car seats
Many parents fail to notice when the baby’s car seat is about to expire. In fact, when a car seat is handed down from friends or family, it has probably already expired. Using an expired car seat is a common mistake. While it may seem as though the idea of car seat expiration is simply a way to dupe you into buying another car seat, the truth is that the limitation on use ensures maximum protection.
To make sure the car seats are effective, manufacturers continually carry out crash tests. Based on the results of these tests, the manufacturers build better car seats, meaning that expired ones may be out of date and lack technology that could save a child’s life in a crash.
So, while the thought of throwing out a car seat that appears to be perfect seems counterintuitive, it is important to note that car seats fall under the category of products for which quality cannot be judged solely by the naked eye. Replacing acar seat that is about to expire can save your child’s life.