Complete guide to choosing the best car seat for your baby

Complete guide to choosing the best car seat for your baby

Of all the things you will buy for your child, a good car seat is one of the most important. You will need one from when you bring your baby home from the hospital until she is old enough to wear an adult seat belt, usually around 10 years or older.

What’s scary is that nearly 46 percent of child seats and boosters are installed incorrectly. A poorly installed seat leaves the child vulnerable in an accident.


All car seats are required to meet federal safety standards in a 30 mph crash test. Although this only happens in the United States. Although the same does not happen in Mexico, manufacturers expropriate/produce baby seats under the same standards.

Ease of use is considered: How easy it is to follow the instructions or handle the buckles and straps; and how well the car seat fits into five different vehicles with challenging interiors. Therefore, the better the seat in these tests, the better its chances of installing it correctly and securing your child safely.

Spending a lot of money does not necessarily mean that you will get the best car seat. Many mid-priced models perform as well or better than the more expensive ones. Whatever the cost, a certain seat may not work with your car.

Planning is highly recommended. Use our guide to find the right seat for your child (and the car).

Choose the correct model

As your child grows, he will need to transition from one car seat to another. We explain the different types of car seats to help you focus on the right one for your needs.

Child car seat (Infant)

This is the first seat for most new parents. It can only be installed rear-facing and has a removable bracket connected to a base installed in the car.

This car seat provides the best fit for newborns and small babies, and it can be used in children from 2 to 18 kilos. (depending on the model).

Most kids will probably be too big before they get too heavy for these car seats.

A child is too big when the crown of his head is less than an inch from the top of the car seat shell or when he exceeds the height limits of the seat.

Product ImageProduct NameBuy Now
Graco_SnugRide_SnugLock_30_Infant_Car_Seat_Balancing_Act-195x247Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Orion custom_1

Convertible seat

After having exceeded the capacity of a child seat, the next step is a convertible seat, which must be purchased no later than your child’s first birthday.

It can be installed facing backwards or forwards.

Like a child car seat, the harness system has a higher weight limit for rearward orientation. This means that children can ride rear-facing for longer, which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends as the safest option.

It must be installed rear-facing for children under one year of age and weighing less than 30 pounds. These seats can be used rear-facing between 18 and 22 kilos. (depending on the seat).

Some manufacturers allow forward-facing after 1 year of age, rearward facing up to at least two years recommended, or rear-facing seat limits. When your child is ready, the seat can be turned over and used facing forward until it is time to use a booster seat.

Many can hold children up to 30 kilos. Although the minimum weight limit allows for newborns and smaller babies, this type of seat often does not offer the best fit for smaller babies or the convenience of a removable carrier.

Product ImageProduct Description
safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Car Seat
  • Built to grow: The 3 in 1 car seat built to grow for extended use through 3 stages: Rear facing 5 to 40 pounds, forward facing 22 to 65 pounds, and belt positioning booster 40 to 100 pounds
  • Side impact protection: The grow and go’s side impact protection helps keep your child safe
  • Easy in, easy out: Harness holders keep the harness in an open position so it is easy to get your child in and out of the seat. Rear facing height is 19 to 40 inches. Forward facing height is 29 to 52 inches
  • Quickfit harness: With the quickfit harness you can easily adjust both the harness and headrest in one simple step
  • Wash and dry: Machine washable and dryer safe seat pad features snaps that make it simple to take off of the seat; No fuss for truly easy cleaning
One click UAS

Raised seat (booster)

When your child exceeds the weight or height limit of a forward-facing seat’s harness, it’s time for a booster that uses the seat belt of the car itself.

When your child exceeds the weight or height limit of a forward-facing seat’s harness, it’s time for a booster that uses the seat belt of the car itself.

Although the backless versions are portable and easy to install, we recommend the high back models because they position the shoulder belt better, provide some side impact protection, and are more comfortable for children to support their heads.

Product ImageProduct Description
  • DuoZone combined head and shoulder protection with 10 positions for growing children
  • SuperCinch LATCH attachment and one-pull tightener helps keep KidFit in place and kid-ready for easy in/out
  • ErgoBoost double foam padding and contoured seat design provide support in all the right places. Single Recline Seat Adjustment
  • 2 space-saving cup holders fold away when not in use and are removable for easy cleaning
  • Removable, machine-washable seat pad and armrest covers

All-in-one car seats

These provide great value when carrying a child from birth to a car seat. They are a tempting money saver. There are tests in which they have found that trying to do too much doesn’t do any task.
This type of seat accommodates children from 2 to 22 kilos, seated facing backwards, children from 10 to 30 kilos. Facing forward in a harness, and children from 13 to 54 kilos. In booster mode.

All-in-one car seats are typically large and heavy, lack the convenience of a removable baby carrier, and may not fit smaller babies (or smaller vehicles). They could be a good back seat or a seat for a caregiver who transports a child less often.

Product ImageProduct Description
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Car Seat, Blue Coral
  • Built to grow with your child, this safety 1st car seat supports infants from 5 pounds to toddlers of 40 pounds as a rear facing car seat, 22 to 65 pounds forward facing toddler car seat, and 40 to 100 pounds as a belt positioning booster
  • An adjustable 3 position recline makes it easy to get a good fit for the seat in your car, assembled product dimensions 24.00 inches x 19.00 inches x 23.75 inches
  • Harness holders keep the harness open, making it easier to get into and out of the seat; front seat passengers can enjoy up to 7 inches more legroom with the rear facing infant seat's reduced footprint
  • Adjust the height of the headrest and harness in 1 easy step with the quickfit harness; even in booster mode, the headrest adjusts easily, ensuring the best fit for your child
  • Two integrated cup holders keep snacks and drinks close; easy to clean, the seat pad removes easily, ready to go into the washing machine and dryer
  • This car seat meets or exceeds federal, ASTM, and JPMA safety standards and includes a 1 year limited warranty
  • Safety 1st believes parenting should have fewer worries and more joyful moments; as the first and only leader in child safety, safety 1st is here to give you peace of mind so you can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying every first you experience with your child

Booster Toddler

Children can only use these at the appropriate weight, age, and height limits for forward-facing sitting.

Designed to be forward-facing only, these have a harness (to be worn up to a certain height and weight) and then transition to a booster by removing the harness. They are for children who weigh between 9 and 40 kilos with a harness and between 13 and 54 kilos in reinforcement mode.

Boosters are a less expensive alternative to convertible seats (if your child meets the weight and age requirements for facing forward), and they offer a safe option for an older child who is not yet ready for a booster or car seat.

Product ImageProduct Description
Graco TurboBooster LX Backless Booster Car Seat with Latch System
  • Helps safely transport your big kid from 40-100 lbs. and up to 57 inches tall
  • One-hand front-adjust Latch system secures booster to vehicle seat
  • Secure connection keeps booster seat properly in place while seat is unoccupied
  • Be sure to check your local and state laws, as well as AAP and NHTSA recommendations, for car seat usage
  • Keeps booster steady for easy self-buckling for your independent child
  • Graco ProtectPlus Engineered: a combination of the most rigorous crash tests that helps protect your child in frontal, side, rear & rollover crashes; additional testing based on the New Car Assessment Program and for extreme car interior temperatures

Terms to learn

Here’s a quick list of the most common characteristics of seat types. When installing, it is advisable to follow the seller’s manual (or brand) of the vehicle and the instructions of the baby car seat. Consider having a child passenger safety technician to review the installation. In prestigious stores, there is usually one.

LATCH connectors

A child seat with a harness shall be equipped with LATCH (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) connectors of a rigid lower anchor or hook type.

These attach to the lower anchors embedded in the fold of the vehicle seat. All cars built after 2002 have these LATCH anchors.

They have a weight limit, so when the combined weight of your child and the car seat exceeds 30 kilos, install the seat using the vehicle seat belt.

Top tether strap

Forward-facing harness seats include a top tether strap that anchors to the vehicle seat and keeps the child seat shell secure, significantly reducing the potential for head injuries. We recommend that the top tether strap be secured for all forward-facing installations.

Harness system

All infant, convertible, all-in-one and toddler booster seats have a built-in adjustable harness system. As your child grows, he will need to continually adjust the harness to position the straps correctly.

In rear-facing seats, the harness straps should be at or below the baby’s shoulders. For forward-facing seats, the straps should be at or above shoulder height.

Many harnesses are adjusted by re-passing the straps through the slots in the fabric and the seat shell, but some offer an easier external harness adjustment option.

In all cases, the chest clip must be at the level of the armpits. The harness is tight enough when it cannot pinch any webbing on the child’s shoulders.

Recline Indicator

If a seat can be installed rear-facing, a recline indicator tells you if it is at the correct angle. (We found that ball or bubble gauges are easier to read than a simple level line.)

Some seats have recline ranges for different ages: Babies start out more reclined, so they don’t obstruct their breathing, and then they get more upright as they age, allowing more room for front-seat passengers.


Many seats come with covers/pads/cushions to help fit for a more comfortable ride. Use only accessories that the car seat manufacturer approves for your particular seat.

What you need to know before buying

Know your child: You make a habit of keeping track of your child’s height and weight, which (along with age) can determine the size of the seat and when it is time to move to the next level. Note: Any health or behaviour problems will also affect your choice. 

Familiarize yourself with stores: Some stores will let you try installing a seat in your car, which is great because we’ve found that the angle of the cushion or the placement of the seat belt can make a car and a child seat incompatible—also, a must: a store that accepts returns, that offers free shipping.

Know Your Car: Review the child safety sections of your vehicle owner’s manual and study relevant features such as belts, LATCH, and seats. 

If it’s not your first seat …

Even the most experienced parents can be confused about the correct seat type and time to change. 

  • Keep the baby facing backwards until he is at least 2 years old. 
  • Until your child exceeds the height or weight limits of the harness, continue with a forward-facing harness. 
  • It would be best if you had a booster seat until your child is 1.40 meters tall, between 8 and 12 years old, and adjusts properly to the vehicle belts. 
  • It would help if you replaced a seat that is damaged in any way or has been in a serious accident. 
  • Even after your child is ready to use just the vehicle belt, they should ride in the back seat until age 13. 
  • Seats that have not been in an accident can be reused, but they expire. Some have a date printed, usually on the manufacturer’s label or moulded into the seat, which always includes a date of manufacture. Others expire in a certain number of years, so it’s up to you to check your child seat manual and do the math. 

5 ways to make sure your child is safe

Studies conducted by NHTSA and in the field indicate that misuse rates for car seats, booster seats and seat belts vary between 74 and 90 per cent. Yes, you read that right. Most of the child seats are not installed correctly. Here’s how to do it correctly:

Right seat: Check the height and weight limits of the seat. Age is also an important factor because it reflects your child’s development. 

Set it up correctly: Once installed, the seat should not move more than 3 cm from side to side or front to back. Don’t be discouraged, and this can be not easy. 

Harness Height: In the rear-facing installation, the harness straps are at or below your baby’s shoulders. For forward-facing installation, the harness straps must be at or above a child’s shoulders. The chest clip should always be at the level of the armpits.

Tight harness: If your child is securely attached, they should not pinch any fabric from the straps on the child’s shoulders. 

Final check: Lean to the right and hold tight. Check the recline angle of rear-facing seats (most have an indicator) to prevent the child’s head from falling forward and obstructing breathing. 

For forward-facing seats that are installed with the LATCH system or seat belt, always hold and tighten the top tether strap to help prevent forward movement, which could cause a head injury.

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