Whether you are using a universal registry like BabyList or MyRegistry; or working with a local Babies R Us, BuyBuyBaby or Target store; one of the bigger ticket and most important items on your list will be a car seat. Hospitals and birthing centers require parents to have a car seat prior to heading home with baby in the car, though there are different laws in every state regarding child passenger safety. If you are traveling in any sort of passenger vehicle – car, SUV, pickup truck or taxi – you will need a car seat to safely and securely transport your newborn.
Selecting a Car Seat
Will you opt for an infant car seat, a rear-facing only car seat or a convertible car seat? You may be thinking, “I’ll buy brand X because that is what my sister or friend uses,” but remember – buying a car seat is an investment in something you are going to use very often, if not daily, over the course of months or years. Finances, lifestyle, the size of your vehicle and functionality preferences will all play a role in deciding on the right seat for your new family.
Shopping for car seats can also be a crash course in new terminology, so here are a few helpful distinctions.
Infant Car Seats: Also called infant carriers and bucket seats, these seats are rear-facing only. The base of an infant car seat is removable and stays attached to your vehicle car seat. Infant car seats are very convenient and fit smaller babies very well. But babies can outgrow them within 8-12 months, meaning you’re going to have to buy another car seat much sooner than you think. Infant car seats start under $100, which can seem like a bargain until you add in the cost of additional seat purchases you’ll need to make over the course of your child’s life.
Travel System: Infant car seats and strollers are often sold together as a travel system. The infant car seat is designed to attach to a stroller for easy transitions from car to home or car to activities and errands. Travel systems can run anywhere from $100 to over $1,000 depending on brand, functionality and seating capacity.
All-in-One Convertible Car Seat: Also referred to as a convertible+booster. Designed to provide a safe and secure fit from birth to 8+ years. An all-in-one convertible car seat can offer extended rear-facing, forward-facing with a five-point harness, and proper seat belt positioning as a high back or backless booster. Depending on your child’s height and weight, a convertible car seat can possibly be a “one and done” purchase. Like other car seat options, pricing on all-in-one convertibles can vary widely depending on brand, the materials used to create the seat and functionality. State requirements for how long your child needs to remain rear-facing may also influence what type of seat you choose to purchase.
Combination Harness to Booster Car Seats: Designed to accommodate forward-facing children in a 5-point harness before transitioning to belt-positioning booster mode. Height and weight limits vary.
High Back Booster Seat: Like the name suggests, these seats come with a high back for added comfort, support and properly placing the shoulder belt on a child. Once a child reaches the maximum height/weight limit of their five-point harness they should move to a booster seat. Boosters ensure proper seat belt position and have been proven to help reduce injury in the event of a crash. Headrests and deeper side walls offer added side impact protection. Some high back boosters like the Diono monterey XT expand and adjust to grow with your child. Many high back boosters are also sold as 2-in-1 boosters, meaning they can also be used as a backless booster.
Backless Booster: Designed to help properly position the child so the adult seat belt fits them properly, backless boosters are small, lightweight and convenient. The Diono Solana booster seat offers the option of using integrated LATCH connectors for a safe and secure installation.
Quick Car Seat Buying Tips
- Think of a car seat the same way you think about insurance. You buy the best coverage you can afford that will provide the best benefits for you and your family, and then hope you never need it. Your child’s car seat is an investment in their safety.
- Take a look at safety ratings and consumer reviews for all the car seats you’re considering. Does the number of recalled products or safety notices from a manufacturer matter to you?
- Does the car seat you’re interested in actually fit in your vehicle? All car seats won’t fit into every car. Once installed, how much room does it leave for other passengers?
- What’s inside the car seat? Only plastic? Or does it have a full steel frame? Learn why heavy is good.
Diono car seats are built solid, for your precious cargo. Discover why parents consistently choose our radian rXT all-in-one convertible and why it has a 4.8/5 star rating from Baby Center moms.