Understanding the Differences in Car Seats

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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.


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Jason

31 years of experience
148 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover Sport - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Surprise, Arizona
Needed new brake pads on my Land Rover-and booked through “your mechanic”- this was my second time using this service and I have to say- these guys are awesome- Today, Jason came out to my work place- and completed the work quickly. Thank you!!
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenix, Arizona
Jason was on time, self motivated, well educated in his craft, and very helpful. I am fully sold on your method of using the home service. Jason helped by creating a safer ride for my wife, saving me time, and saving money for my family. I will be a client forever. Dennis Laycock

Lee

18 years of experience
105 reviews
Lee
18 years of experience
Toyota Camry - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Richmond, Virginia
Lee was professional and knowledgeable. The job did not take long he was a little late but like I said professional because he let know that he was running late. LEE IS AWESOME!!!!!!

Willie

23 years of experience
23 reviews
Willie
23 years of experience
Jeep Compass - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - North Hollywood, California
I made an appointment to have my brake rotors/disc replaced. On the day I scheduled my car services- it ended up raining. Willie checked in, moved my appointment, and continued to communicate through out the day until he was able to come work on my car. He took great car to make the repairs ANNNDDD SAVED ME MONEY by only doing what was necessary (only one of the rotors needed replacing). A blessing.

Honorio

18 years of experience
782 reviews
Honorio
18 years of experience
Saturn Vue - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Sunnyvale, California
This was our second appointment to service our Honda and Saturn with Honorio and we will continue to do so in the future. We highly recommend Honorio.

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