Buying guide to car seats
Be it at home or outside, we all take adequate precaution to ensure that our little ones don’t come to any harm. Taking the child out with you when you are driving is a major cause of concern faced by many parents. This is where a car seat can help. The right kind of car seat for children and the proper restraint system starting from birth to 11 years will go a long way in making your drives enjoyable and keeping your child safe even during mishaps.
There are different types of baby car seats available in the market from birth to 12 years of age. The aim of this Buying Guide to Car Seats is to simplify their features and help you select the right one for your baby. Parents are really spoilt for choices when it comes to buying kids car seats. Child car seats are available depending upon the baby’s age, height and weight.
The four different types of car seats include -
- Infant car seats or rear facing car seats
- Convertible car seats
- Toddler car seats or Booster car seats
- Built-in car seats
Infant car seats are essentially rear-facing car seats are designed to accommodate a child from birth up to 20-22 lbs or approximately 10 kg and can last up to 9 or maximum 12 months.
Some car seats feature a large handle that allows you to carry it as a baby carrier or attach it to a travel system stroller when out of the car. A travel system is a combination of a baby stroller and a detachable car seat that snap fits onto a detachable base that stays in the car. There are special infant seats available for preterm and low birth-weight infants too. Choose seats that provide different recline levels, sufficient head, spine and neck support. Some seats provide angle indicators and angle adjusters along with an adjustable harness. While a 3-point harness goes around the crotch and down the shoulders, a 5-point harness restrains the shoulders, hips and crotch providing total protection. A twist-free belt is ideal for the baby as it prevents chaffing.
It is extremely important to fit the seat properly as it can affect the safety of your child. Once your baby has exceeded the specified weight limit for the car seat or its head is higher than the top of the seat then it is time to switch to a toddler car seat or a convertible car seat.
Convertible car seats last for a longer time from birth till your child outgrows the car seat and give the most value for money. Depending upon the weight of your baby, this convertible car seat can be used either in a rear facing or forward facing position. These types come with a 3 or 5 point harness and a shield and can accommodate babies weighing anywhere between 20 to 40 points and sometimes up to 65 pounds as well depending upon the model. Unlike infant car seats, these are fixed in the car and cannot be carried around.
Always used in the forward facing position, Booster car seats are meant for toddlers weighing between 30 to 40 lbs, while a few can accommodate weight of up to 80-100 lbs based on the model you choose. The restraint system used may vary model-wise from a regular seat belt, a lap shield or a 3 or 5 point harness. Most booster seats have an adjustable energy absorbing headrest and armrest with cup holders and large storage pockets. Some models feature adjustable side wings that protect the child’s head to prevent any impact-related injury.
Regular boosters with a detachable back and cushion type seats that are used to lift the child so that he can be restrained using the car’s safety belt. Such boosters are referred to as Belt-positioning boosters. When restraining the child with the car’s seat belt, ensure that the belt is worn as tight as possible within comfort, the lap belt is placed over the pelvis near the upper thigh and not the stomach and the diagonal strap should go over the shoulder and chest and away from the neck. A child needs to be over 57 inches to be able to use this car seat system. When using the booster in this manner, it is advisable to follow the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly.
High-back booster seats with adjustable headrests are recommended for kids who fall asleep during the drive or for installing in cars without a high seat back or a headrest. Make your child try out various models and see whether the seat accommodates its height comfortably.
Some major car companies like Chrysler and Volvo feature factory fitted Built-in booster or integrated car seats. These forward facing booster seats accommodate toddlers weighing over 20 lbs. Once the kids grow older, these seats can be converted to a regular seat for older children and adults.
For preterm infants or babies with low birth weights, Special seats or beds are available. These beds allow a child to lie down flat so that s/he can breathe properly. Specially designed seats are available for children with physical disabilities and breathing problems. Consult your paediatrician regarding this.
Tips for buying car seats:
- Buy car seats according to your child’s correct age, height and weight.
- As different brands offer different models in each of these types, it is advisable to try out various models with your baby in it before purchasing.
- Check the dimensions of your car and the seat that you plan to buy. Try and see if the seat neatly installs into your car. Ensure that there is enough space between the driver and passenger seats and the baby car seat. Check whether there is enough space for rear facing car seats.
- The car seat should be easy to install and quick to fix when needed. Check whether the seat snap fits and the restraint system and belts clasp properly.
- If buying seats for preterm babies, go for ones with a weight limit of 4 to 5 lbs and the harness strap position at 8 inches or below.
- Opt for a car seat with EPS foam and head impact protection for extra security against accidents.
- Babies are known to be messy and often soil the seats. Check whether your car seat covers are stain-resistant and easy to remove and wash.
- For those planning to buy a second hand car seat, do ensure that it is less than six years old and has not been involved in any accidents.
- Choose car seats that feature Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children feature or LATCH attachments. If the vehicle seat and the baby car seat both have latch system, then you need not use the vehicle’s safety belt. Check whether your baby’s car seat is compatible with the latch system of your car. Otherwise, you will have to resort to the regular seat belts for restraining.
- Consider how long your baby will be able to use that car seat, before buying. You might want to go for a long lasting convertible car seat. If your baby weighs on the higher side then go for a seat that allows more weight.
- If you have plans to buy a new car shortly, check whether the car seat you buy will fit readily into that new car as well.
- Try installing the car seat in various positions and see how it fits. Check whether the belt system in your car allows the car seat to fit in properly. Also check whether the car seat bottom is flat enough for the baby seat to sit snugly.
- The harness should open and close easily. They should fit tight but not tight enough to choke or hurt your baby. Check for the quality of seats and backrest. A well cushioned seat with a shock absorbing EPS shoulder and headrest provides comfort for the baby when the car goes over tough bumps. Check for the car shield and canopy, especially in travel systems.
Graco Car Seats
Graco popular for its baby products, offers a wide range of strollers and baby car seats for newborns to children who weigh 100 lbs or are 40 inches tall. Graco Car Seats sport many models such as CarGo, SnugRide, TurboBooster, Comfortsport Convertible, Nautilus 3-in-1 and many more.
Outfitted with reinforced steel that provides years of durability, all Graco car seats are extensively crash tested along with side impact testing. They feature 5-point harness along with plush and comfortable seats made of EPS energy absorbing foam that provides protection against sudden impact. The open loop belt guides allows proper adjustment of your vehicles seat belts in case of belt-positioning boosters.
With a 5-point harness and a belt-positioning booster, Graco’s Nautilus 3-in-1 functions as a regular seat once you remove the harness and finally as a booster cushion after the back is detached. Some models of Graco Car seats offer a two and three position recline for easy comfort on long journeys. The contoured armrests feature a cup holder and large easy to access pockets for storage. This car seat takes weight from 20 to 65 lbs.
Rigorously crash tested, the Graco’s TurboBooster SafeSeat accommodates kids weighing within 30 to 100 lbs. These car seats have a fully adjustable headrest and armrests and hideaway cup holders.
Well engineered for your child’s safety, all Graco Car seats offers variations in terms of design, patterns and colours. You are sure to find a suitable match for your car’s interiors.
Recaro Car Seats
Recaro, manufacturers of aircraft seats, is also a leader in baby car seats. Recaro Car Seats provide a lot of options with its various models and styles. Its Convertible Car Seat accommodates kids weighing up to 70 lbs or grown up to 8 years of age. The young sport model is apt for kids weighing 80 lbs or up to 12 years in age. The High Booster model accommodates body weight from 30 to 100 lbs and is meant for children between the ages of 3 to 12 years. These car seat covers are made of stain resistant and durable microfiber or breathable fibre with soft mesh inserts and are completely washable.
Recaro seats feature 3-point to 5-point harness, adjustable headrests and integrated armrests and are available in a variety of patterns and colours. These ergonomically shaped seats provide total comfort. Some models offer deep side wings for protection against sudden impact. The Recaro seats have well padded seats and shoulder and headrest sections constructed of energy absorbing EPS foam. Most of these car seats feature the latch system design for security.
Summing it up
As you are aware, if you are looking to buy car seats, there are plenty of options tok choose from, in terms of design, style, model/brand, and pricing. Well, what this does is make your job slightly difficult when it comes to picking up a car seat that is just perfect for you. Use this guide as a reference and make a well-informed and wise decision.
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