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

Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...
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...
What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?
Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all...


Related questions

Q: How do I secure a child restraint system with an inflatable seat belt?

When using an inflatable seat belt to secure a child restraint system, follow these steps: 1. Place the restraint firmly in the seat. 2. Grab the shoulder belt and lap belt together, directly behind the belt tongue. 3. Route both...

Q: How do I install the top tether for a forward-facing car seat?

If your child’s forward facing car seat has a top tether, it can offer additional security and safety. Installing it is pretty simple, too. Here’s how: Make sure the car seat is correctly positioned in the seat. Raise and...

Q: How do I choose the right child seat?

Your child must be in a child seat of some type until they are large enough to use the seat belts properly. The type of child seat used will be determined by your child’s weight, height and age, as well...