Complete guide to choosing the best car seat for your baby
guide to choosing the best car seat

Complete guide to choosing the best car seat for your baby

Of all the things you will buy for your child, choosing the right 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. This is 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.

Guide to choosing the best car seat

All car seats must 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 approve/produce baby seats to 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 greater its chances of installing it correctly and securing your child safely.

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

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

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 choose the right one for your needs.

Child car seat (Infant)

This is the first seat for most first-time 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 most comfortable fit for newborns and small babies, and it can be used for children from 2 to 18 kilos. (depending on the model).

Most kids will probably be too much weight 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 seat height limits.

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 exceeding the capacity of a child seat, the next step is a convertible seat. This 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 in 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 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 seating after 1 year of age, rearward positioning up to at least two years is 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. It also does not offer 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 car’s seat belt.

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 car’s seat belt.

Although the backless versions are portable and easy to install, we recommend the high-back models. This is because they position the shoulder belt better, provide 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 tempting money savers. There are tests that show that trying to do too much doesn’t produce any results.
This type of seat accommodates children from 2 to 22 kilos. Seated facing backwards, children from 10 to 30 kilos. With a harness facing forward, children weighing from 13 to 54 kilos. In booster mode.

All-in-one car seats are typically large and heavy, lack a removable baby carrier, and may not fit smaller babies (or smaller vehicles). They could be used as a 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 cheaper 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 seat types characteristics. When installing, it is advisable to follow the seller’s manual (or brand) of the vehicle and the baby car seat instructions. Consider having a child passenger safety technician 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 vehicle seat fold. 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 a 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 adjustable harness systems. As your child grows, he will need to 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 moving the straps through the slots in the fabric and the seat shell. However, 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 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 level lines.)

Some seats have reclining 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 seat.

What you need to know before buying

Know your child: You should 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 helpful 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, 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 when to change it. 

  • Keep the baby facing backwards until 2 years old. 

  • Until your child exceeds the harness height or weight limits, 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. This will ensure that your child adjusted properly to the vehicle belt. 

  • 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 expire. Some have a date printed, usually on the manufacturer’s label or moulded into the seat, which always includes a manufacture date. 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 percent. Yes, you read that right. Most child seats are not installed correctly. Here’s how to do it correctly.

Right seat: Check the seat’s height and weight limits. 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 may not be an easy task. 

Harness Height: In rear-facing installations, harness straps are at or below your baby’s shoulders. For a forward-facing installation, harness straps must be at or above 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 fabric from straps on 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 installed with the LATCH system or seat belt, always hold and tighten the top tether strap to prevent forward movement, which could cause head injury.

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