“What is the best car seat or best convertible car seat?” The answer may surprise you
is the most commonly asked question about car seats. Well, since your car is shaped differently than mine and your child is probably shaped a bit differently than mine, not to mention our preferences are probably a bit or a lot different, theor best convertible car seat car seat that works best for your car, your child and for, well, you is going to be different than the best convertible car seat that works best for me and my family.
So what IS the best car seat or best convertible car seat for YOU, YOUR child and YOUR car?
Below you will find the topics you need to consider when determining which car seat is best for you.
Fits Your Child
It is important to choose a car seat that accommodates the height, weight and age of your child as well as any behavioral needs (s)he may have.
You should also check out the latest recommendations for safe travel. For example: A recent study showed that toddlers are 5 times safer riding rear facing than forward facing until their second birthday. This means that you would want to choose a car seat that allows your child to ride rear facing for as long as possible.
Easy to Use
Once you choose the correct seat type for your child, check out the various features on those car seats. You may find a feature easier to use than me or vice versa, but this Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Rating system from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a pretty good indicator of how easy or difficult a feature is to use. The rating system goes from an ‘A’ to a ‘C.’ A is the best rating. C is the lowest rating.
Keep in mind, however, that a car seat may have all A’s, but may not install safely in your car and therefore is NOT a good choice for you. And a car seat with a lot of C ratings is just as safe as a car seat with A’s, but may be a bit more difficult to use.
Buckles into Your Car Properly
Believe it or not, some car seats DO NOT work in some cars. This is because cars aren’t all shaped exactly alike. So if you’re looking for a “universal” car seat or that one best car seat for every car, you’re not going to find it. Many, if not most, stores will let you take a car seat to your vehicle to try it out in your car before you buy it. Find out how to tell if a car seat installs properly in your vehicle.
The first thing I must point out to you is that all car seats in the United States must meet the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). There are specific federal guidelines for how a car seat must perform during a specific crash test and a few guidelines for how the car seat is designed.
Having said that, there are some additional safety features that are nice to have and are not required in the FMVSS. Here are some features to look for:
EPS/EPP Foam: Helps absorb some of the shock from a crash, similar to a bicycle helmet; partially or entirely lines the inside of the car seat
Side Impact Testing: Many car seat manufacturers are testing their car seats in side impact crashes allowing them to provide better protection for your child.
Side “Wings”: Provides an extra barrier between your child’s head and the incoming metal from a crash. Most are lined with EPS or EPP foam. (A possible bonus…head support for a traveling sleeping child.)
Ability to rear face longer: Rear facing is safer (5 times safer for children from ages 1 to 2). Some car seats have a rear facing weight limit of 40 pounds.
Ability to use harness longer: Five or seven point harnesses offer more protection than three point. Keep your child in a harness longer by purchasing a car seat that goes to a higher weight limit. Many car seats now go to 50, 65 and even 80 pounds. But beware: check for higher top harness slots or your child will outgrow the height before the weight.
Seat belt guides for boosters (esp ones that adjust): Allows for the seat belt to rest in the safest position on the child’s shoulder.
In Your Price Range
The extra safety features are nice to have, but don’t think that your child won’t be safe if you don’t spend $200 on a car seat.
Remember, all car seats sold in the United States must meet the same Federal Motor Safety Standards and, therefore, must all perform a certain way in a crash.
Also, it’s much more important to have a car seat (regardless of the price) that you know the history of (ie: a new car seat or one from someone you know and trust) than to get a used fancy one from a garage sale or other avenue.