Parenting means making a lot of decisions, and as all parents know some decisions harder than others. Choosing the right car seat for your baby can be especially tough – babies grow quickly and car seats are expensive. And lets not forget the most important point of all – safety.
All car seats sold in the US must abide by the NHTSA federal regulations. The types of car seats available for babies can generally be broken down into three categories – rear facing seats, forward facing seats and booster seats. But what do each of these mean?
The Three Types of Baby Car Seats
Rear Facing Seats
A rear facing car seat is one that can be strapped into the car facing the rear of the seat in front. All infant car seats for newborns are rear facing, and they are generally the safest type of car seat for babies.
You are recommended to use a rear facing car seat for as long as possible – that is as long as your child fits. The general guideline is up to 2 years old, or up to 50lbs. This can differ by the actual car seat used and the size of your child.
Warning: Never use a rearward facing car seat in the front seat in the presence of an active airbag.
Forward Facing Seats
Forward facing seats are ones that can placed onto the seat facing forward to provide added protection. They are generally used for children up to four years old with newer types of forward facing car seats used until around 8 years old.
Booster seats are for children aged four to seven years. However, experts recommend that you let your child sit in a booster seat until he or she no longer fits in it. They are forward facing but use the car’s built-in seat belt to strap the child in.
As the NHTSA recommends keeping children in their seat for as long as possible parents often struggle with knowing when to purchase their next car seat, and with the cost associated with this. But there is a solution.
There is a car seat that can combine rear facing and forward facing car seats into the one – and sometimes even with the addition of a booster seat. This is what is called is a convertible car seat.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are more practical because they can be used both as a rearward and forward facing seat, and some can even include a booster seat. Since they are convertible, they can be used from infancy up until around 48 months, or until your child no longer needs a car seat at all!
Although many are heavier, there are convertible car seats that are portable and easily carried. Most importantly – they are safe. A convertible car seat has been shown to provide even more protection in safety tests than infant car seats, and with side impact protection, their safety profile can only improve.
Things to Look for in a Convertible Car Seat
Not every convertible car seat is compatible with every car model. Some fit nicely whilst others do not fasten into place. It is important to buy a car seat that fits perfectly into your car so that it can be installed properly.
Once tethers and the seat belt hold the seat, there should be very little movement. Note however that seats can move a little even though it is correctly installed. Movement sideways should not exceed more than an inch.
Keep in mind that most infant fatalities happen due to car seats being installed incorrectly. It is imperative to ensure you install the car seat correctly.
If you want to know what else to consider, read my convertible car seat buying guide and reviews.
My Pick for the Best Convertible Car Seat
So which car seat do I think is the best?
Britax USA Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
I am all about safety. It is the primary indicator of a quality baby car seat and I prioritize it over everything else when I review convertible car seats. That is why my top pick is the Britax USA Advocate Convertible Car Seat.
I have mentioned before that this car seat is the most suitable one for newborns – and this really is because of its safety profile. The car seat is well padded and easy to install – one of the biggest advantages when most fatalities occur due to incorrectly installed car seats. The car seat is easily adjustable to fit your baby and looks great too.
Now, the car seat is not a 3 in 1 and can not be used as a booster seat. This is the only disadvantage of it in my opinion and a reason why other options may be more suitable for other parents. But my confidence in this car seat’s safety for a newborn, and its ability to be used rear facing to a higher weight limit make it my top pick. Click here to read my full review.