How to choose the right car seat
Choosing the right car seat for your little one is crucial – it will help keep them safe and comfortable, and may even save their life
When it comes to choosing the right car seat for your child, it’s a decision that goes way beyond aesthetics or your own personal preferences – choosing a car seat is one of the most important purchasing decisions you’ll make as a new parent. However, with so many seats on the market, the choice can be somewhat overwhelming. So here is our cheat sheet for choosing a safe, durable car seat for your little one – so you can get on with your day and rest assured that your tot is in safe hands.
- You have to choose the right seat for your child: Don’t worry about what your friends have or what your mom tells you to buy – think about how you’ll use the car seat, and what you’ll need from it. Initially, all babies will need a rear-facing seat, but these can come as stand-alone infant seats, convertible seats (that can transition to toddler seats when your baby has outgrown the rear-facing mode) or even 3-in-1 systems (which can be used from birth until your tot is around seven, and no longer needs to ride in a booster seat). The safest choice, most experts agree, seem to be stand-alone infant seats, simply because they are designed to fit small babies best. Your tot will be ready for a forward-facing seat when her head is within one inch of the top of her current seat.
- How big is your car? Put simply, some car seats are behemoths. If you drive a similarly large car, this won’t worry you. But if your car is on the small side, consider a seat with a narrower base. It’s often a good idea to drive to the showroom itself, so you can have a look at what the seat will look like when it’s installed. If you’re going to have two car seats in the back (ie one for an older child, one for your baby), check how much room will be left once the two seats are installed. You may even decide to upgrade to a narrower base for your older child’s seat.
- Try not to buy secondhand: We don’t recommend buying second-hand car seats – there’s just too much at risk. While hand-me-downs are great for your bottom line, and the planet, older car seats may not meet US safety standards (whereas all new seats on the market must, by law) and may have even been involved in a car accident, thus compromising their safety. If you do buy secondhand, get a thorough history of the car seat, check it for any cracks, check its safety credentials (and date of expiry – these are usually at the rear of the seat) and ensure the straps still fit your baby snugly.
A few other things to think about:
- In a perfect world we wouldn’t be strapping our kids into car seats laden with flame retardants but laws dictate that they must contain them. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that all materials inside a vehicle in the US meet anti-inflammability standards in the event of a crash. This includes car seats. So regardless of what seat you choose they will all need to meet this regulation. There are three types of flame retardant classes: Brominated, chlorinated, and phosphate-based. Brominated and chlorinated chemicals are also called halogenated and are the ones that are most notably harmful to developing children. Some brands such as Britax and Clek have removed halogenated flame retardants from their seats due to their toxicity to people and the environment.
- Many car seats now offer side-impact protection, which is essentially energy-absorbing foam that will better protect your baby’s head and abdomen in the event of a crash. This is not a requisite, but it’s certainly nice to have.
- Look for seats with two-piece retainer clips – these are quite tricky for little fingers to pull apart, which you’ll appreciate as your tot gets older and more curious!
- Try the harness adjuster in-store before you buy – it should be easy to move the harness and adjust it.
- Look for easy-to-clean fabrics (ie no corduroy!). Some car seats even come with detachable fabrics that can be machine-washed.
Always (always!) have your car seat fitted by your local certified Child Passenger Safety technician. The safest car seat in the world can be compromised by poor installation.
At The Tot, we have a wide range of safe, durable, comfortable car seats for your baby. Here are a few of our top picks.
The Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller: When you’ve got a crying baby – or a sleeping one – the last thing you want to do is fuss around with their car seat or stroller. In fact, wouldn’t it be amazing if their car seat became a stroller, with the click of a button? This was the thought process of Yoav Mazar, founder of the Doona – the world’s first infant car seat that transforms to a stroller in seconds, no additional parts required. Doona is tested and certified as an infant car seat, stroller, reclined cradle and hand-held carrier in both the US and Europe.
Clek Fllo Car Seat: Clek’s compact convertible car seat equipped with safety from every angle – extended rear-facing, energy-absorbing crumple technology, and advanced side-impact safety! Tailored in GREENGUARD select certified Crypton fabrics and designed with best-in-class width at 17 inches, providing space to fit 3-across easily. Fllo comes with a steel Anti-Rebound Bar, which improves stability by limiting rotation of the child seat, helping protect your child’s head from impact in the event of a collision.
Britax – Advocate Clicktight Convertible Car Seat: The Britax Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat includes the ClickTight Installation System for the safest and easiest installation in every car, every time. This seat also offers three layers of side impact protection, an impact-absorbing base and steel frame for maximum safety. Rest assured your child’s harness is within range of proper tightness thanks to the Click & Safe Snug Harness Indicator. In a recent report, the Ecology Center, tested the chemical composition of leading car seats to discover the presence of harmful chemicals. The Britax seats tested were by far the safest of any brand, leading HealthyStuff.org to designate Britax the “Best Overall Child Seat Company” as the gold standard for chemical compliance.
Cybex Cloud Q Infant Car Seat: Renowned for their innovative technology and research that results in award-winning ergonomically designed car seats, Cybex’s Cloud Q Infant Car Seat is rear-facing and improves on the strong tradition of previous Cybex premium infant car seats by providing a full-recline position outside of the car as well as an 11-position height-adjustable headrest that simultaneously changes the harness length and sitting angle.
Nuna PIPA Lite Car Seat: Tough yet lightweight. Protective and portable. Exactly what you both need. Boasting a svelte new design, their new PIPA lite weighs in less than every infant car seat—only 5.3 lbs. With UPF 50+ sun protection, it’s easy to get out and about. It’s also refreshing to know they haven’t added any harmful flame retardants.
Nuna PIPA Lite LX: Made with a Merino wool and TENCEL™ lyocell fiber blend, the PIPA Lite LX also has GOTS certified organic cotton fabric inserts, harness covers & crotch cover, making it feather light and extra safe. With no added flame retardants, it’s simple to install and a supremely secure design that exceeds American safety standards.
Clek Oober Toddler Booster Seat – Cloud: The Clek Oobr provides full back support with a metal sub-structure, Rigid-LATCH system and is covered in GREENGUARD select certified Crypton super fabrics, making it totally toddler-proof. This miracle fabric provides protection against stains, moisture and odor-causing bacteria; and is free of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants.
Clek Foonf 2018 Convertible Car Seat: Made with revolutionary safety technology, GREENGUARD select certified Crypton fabrics and innovative convenience features, this model has advanced side impact protection with an energy-absorbing, foam-lined headrest that’s connected to the frame using steel rods, providing maximum head protection in a side-impact collision. Foonf’s Rigid-LATCH system makes proper forward-facing installation effortless, while the easy to engage recline function makes each ride more comfortable.
Cybex Platinum Solution Q2-Fix Booster Seat: With the addition of their patented, reclining headrest that prevents the dangerous tipping forward of the head during sleep, and an optimized Linear Side-impact Protection, the Cybex Platinum Solutions Q2-Fix Booster Seat ensures the highest level of safety and comfort. The new automatic height and width adjustment allows for a flexible and optimal alignment of the seat to the child’s size, while a new air ventilation system guarantees a comfortable seating temperature even on hot days.
Browse through our range of Tot-approved Car Seats.