Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Understanding the Differences in Car Seats

Understanding car seats

If you spend enough time studying crash test data, or walking up and down store aisles looking for the perfect car seat, you’ll discover that after a while they all look alike.

Although the seats may all look the same, they’re not. The seat that’s right for you is one that:

  • Is age, weight, and size appropriate for your child
  • Fits in the backseat of your car(s)
  • Can be installed and uninstalled easily

There are three main categories of car safety seats:

  • Rear-facing infant seats
  • Front-facing car seats
  • Boosters

There are also convertible seats which start out as rear-facing seats then convert to front-facing ones.

A child’s first car seat will be a rear-facing infant seat. Some rear-facing car seats function only as a seat, and are meant to stay in the car at all times. But some seat manufacturers also make rear-facing seats that double as an infant carrier.

Many infant carriers can accommodate babies up to 30 pounds, which means you can extend the life of your first car seat a little longer. However, these dual use safety seats can get heavy so buyers beware.

Your child should ride in his rear-facing infant car seat until his head is even with the top of the seat. At that point he’s ready to graduate to a convertible car seat. A convertible seat is bigger than an infant seat while still allowing a child to ride facing the rear, which is recommended until he’s at least 2-years-old (or until he meets the forward facing guidelines outlined by the manufacturer). The longer a baby can ride facing the rear the better.

Once the criteria for rear facing vs. front facing have been met, you flip the convertible seat so it faces forward, and your child is ready to see the road as you do.

When your child reaches 4 or 5 years old he’s likely ready to graduate from the convertible seat to a booster. A booster seat is similar to those used in restaurants. It boosts a child’s height so that the seatbelt fits snugly along the upper thigh, and across the upper shoulder. If you notice that the belt cuts across or pinches your child’s neck, he’s probably not quite ready for a booster seat.

It’s not uncommon to have a child ride on a booster seat until he’s 11 or 12 years old. States have their own guidelines that outline when kids can ride booster seat free, but the general rule of thumb is they can be set free when they reach 4’9” (57”).

Regardless of which chair you’re using (infant, convertible or booster), or how old your child is, it’s best to have them always ride in the backseat for maximum safety.

Additionally, when buying a car seat, try to work with a knowledgeable salesperson that will take the time to explain the differences between the makes and models. He should be willing check out your car to make sure the seat that you’re considering will fit. And a super salesperson? Well, he should help you with installation.

If you need a little extra help adjusting your car seat you can stop by any police station, fire station, or hospital for assistance.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...
P0359 OBD-II Trouble Code: Ignition Coil I Primary/Secondary Circuit Malfunction
P0359 code definition The P0359 code indicates that a fault has been detected in one of the vehicle’s ignition coils, generally the number 9 coil. This code can also be associated...


Related questions

Q: How many airbags does my vehicle have?

Your vehicle is equipped with six airbags, which can greatly reduce injury or save your life in the event of an accident. Your vehicle has two front-impact airbags, two seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and two roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags. Tips The...

Q: What safety precautions should parents follow?

In addition to ensuring that children ride in the back, and that they’re correctly seated in a rear facing car seat, a front facing car seat, or booster seat as dictated by your state’s laws, you should also follow these...

Q: What type of child seat should I use?

Using the right type of child seat is critical to protecting your little ones while on the road. Your Altima is able to accommodate three different types of child seats: Rear facing child seats Front facing child seats Booster...