Your baby is on the way and you have read all the research, reviews and recommendations. With so many different types and configurations of car seats available today—the search can be very overwhelming.
One of the most important things to consider when preparing for your new baby is purchasing a car seat. In fact, you can’t leave the hospital without one! But, don’t sweat it. Here are three tips for choosing the perfect car seat for your precious cargo.
1. Find the Right Seat
Type of Seat
What type of car seat should you get? Infant, convertible, booster? Tracey Fejt, RN, trauma outreach and injury prevention coordinator at Banner Children’s at Desert in Mesa, AZ, says if you are on a budget, that a convertible car seat may be the most affordable.
“There are convertible or 3-in-1s that work for both infants and toddlers that transition from rear-facing to forward-facing,” Fejt says. “These often can be more economical for parents and saves them from buying an infant seat. Just make sure to follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recommendations.”
She also recommends finding a car seat with the highest weight limit for rear-facing, because it is important to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible.
You can check out the NHTSA guide to help narrow down your choices and then locate the big box stores that carry those brands and models to see them in person.
Don’t Buy Used
As tempting as it may be, do not buy used says Fejt. “You won’t know the history of that seat. There could have been recalls or it could have been involved in a crash. You just don’t know,” Fejt says. “Car seats do have a shelf life, so heed the dates on the seat.”
Know Your Car
Check the child safety section of your vehicle owner's manual, and study up on relevant features such as belts, LATCH system and seats. It’s good to also check the width of the seat, particularly if you will be installing more than one car seat or booster—you want to make sure they will all securely fit in the back.
For more car seat guidelines, check out this Banner Health video on car seat guidelines.
2. Install Car Seat Properly
According to NHTSA nearly 60% of car seats are improperly used. This isn’t reassuring when you find out that car crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S., a number that can be cut by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers if car seats are used correctly.
Fejt suggests reviewing the manufacturer instructions for both the car seat and your vehicle, plus and take a car seat class. “There are a number of really affordable classes available through Banner Health.”
Check out the NHTSA website for more car seat installation tips. If you still need help with installation, a Child Passenger Safety Technician can help you. Many local fire departments and police stations offer free car seat inspections.
3. Register Car Seat Online
Now that you’ve purchased and installed the right car seat for your infant or child, it’s time to register it. Make sure you register your car seat with the manufacturer to receive recalls and safety notices. There is usually a postcard-size form attached to your car seat when you purchase it. Complete that card and mail it in. Additionally, some companies provide the ability to register online. You can also sign up with NHTSA to receive email alerts about booster and car seat recalls.