Many people are looking for advice about choosing the best car seats. The most common questions many people ask evolves around the three popular types of baby car seats: Infant, Convertible and Booster seats (corresponding to stages of a child's development and growth in size).
It would be nice if there were a simple answer, but there are so many different products on the market and so many different children's sizes that the correct answer is actually somewhat complex.
If you think that your child deserves only the best, you need to consider a number of different criteria and the best place to start might be the NHTSA car seat safety ratings.
There are five different categories that are evaluated, and they consist of evaluation of labels, a valuation of instructions, how well the car seat secures the child and the installation features. There is also a category for the overall ease of use which is important to consider as well.
The NHTSA car seat ratings are based on a scale from 1 to 5. It's important to note that any children car seat that is rated buy the NHTSA is going to be safe. They are simply left off the list if they do not meet the necessary minimum standards. Therefore, if you find a model that is not on the list, then you can immediately eliminate that from your consideration.
There are car seat ratings for a number of different types of child restraint systems for vehicles. You will find separate categories for things like car beds, convertible car seats, booster seats, infant seats, toddler seats and more. If you are already aware of the kind of seat that you want, then you can simply go to that category and find the one with the best rating. It is likely that your research into what kind of baby seat is best will come before the evaluation of rating.
There's good reason for determining which kind is the best child car seat before you go to check the ratings.
One of the most important factors in terms of safety is that the car seat fits the child correctly. Even a well-designed baby car seat can be unsafe for a child if they are too large for it.
Car Seat Parts
It's important to make sure that the head does not go too high on the back of the seat and that the straps fall into the right place. Particularly in the case of a booster car seat for instance, if the shoulder belt falls too high then it will go across the neck instead of going across the shoulder as it should. It may also have a lap belt that rides too high on the abdomen instead of across the upper thighs as it should.
Whether you are buying a new or a used baby car seat, also factor into how durable it is. Car seats should be used for about five or ten years before they are replaced. Ten years would be the absolute maximum of time that a car seat should be used. It is also important not to use a baby seat that has been involved in a crash; just like a motorcycle helmet, the safety features can be compromised and the unit may no longer be appropriate for use.
If you check the NHTSA website, you can find locations in your area where you can take a car seat for inspection. It is worthwhile to do this because the inspection is free, and it can offer you some peace of mind that the unit you are using is going to be safe for your child. It should be automatic if you are buying a used car seat or getting one from a friend or family member.
If you are wondering about specific models that are the best in their categories, here is the list we came up with after researching into available options and reviewing expert ratings as well as consumer reports on the best baby car seats.
Based of sales rank at Amazon.com, the best selling convertible car seats are the Britax Chaperone Carrier and Britax Companion Infant Car Seat. However, the highest overall rating in the entire category of convertible car seats goes to the Compass B5050 and B510 models. Surprisingly, the Compass is not nearly the most expensive convertible car seat on the list. It is not always the case that you get what you pay for in terms of safety.
To get the best booster seat for your money, you would be looking at the Evenflo Big Kid AMP No Back Booster or the Eddie Bauer Auto Booster car seat. The Magna Clek Oobr and the Safeguard Child Seat or Go models are some of the other few that score well across all ratings. There are many child car seats that score well in one rating or another, but these ones are models that perform well across the board. You should also look at products made by The First Years; a number of their models are also ones that score will in every category.
If you make sure that you have the best infant car seat that has an excellent rating that is a good start. Because as you child grow older, he or she will require bigger size models like one of the convertible or booster options.
It is also crucial to know how to use the seat and you should consider going to classes to learn how. If you then put the right sized child into the seat, you are doing just about everything you can to ensure the safety of your child.