How To Choose A Car Seat – Tot Guide

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. In this guide we look at the different types of car seats available, chemicals to avoid and share our favorite Tot Tested and approved picks!

A mother putting her child in the Clek Liing Infant Car Seat
Image from Clek

When it comes to choosing the right car seat for your baby, the decision goes way beyond aesthetics and the alluring cup holder.

But before we dive into safety and compatibility, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Do I want an Infant Car Seat or a Convertible Car Seat?

Can’t answer yet? It’s okay! We’ll get there.

In this guide, we’ll go over:

  • Car seat types
  • Tips for choosing a car seat
  • Chemicals to avoid in car seats
  • Our top car seat picks

Scroll down to learn more!

 

Car Seat Types

When it comes to car seats, there are two main contenders: infant car seats and convertible car seats. (There are also booster seats, but these come later in life.)

 

Infant Car Seats 101

 

A mother and child pushing a baby in a Nuna Pipa car seat clipped into a stroller

 

While an infant car seat is any car seat that can be used from birth, most ‘infant car seats’ are ones specifically designed for 0 – 6 month olds and are always rear-facing.

Think: capsule type carrier with a handle.

There are three ways to use your infant car seat:

  • As a capsule that stays in your car
  • As a carrier
  • As a seat on your stroller

 

#TotTip

 

If you want to use your infant car seat with a particular stroller, you need to check that it’s compatible. Some may clip directly on, some need adaptors and some sadly won’t work together at all.

 

 

Convertible Car Seats 101

 

Clek Foonf 2019 Cloud

 

Convertible car seats are car seats that also go from birth, but convert into a seat that can take your tot through toddlerhood and sometimes beyond.

This means they can be both rear and forward facing. While some have everything you need to go straight home from the hospital, you may need to buy additional newborn inserts for others. 

 

Tips For Choosing a Car Seat

Choosing the right car seat for you will ultimately come down to your personal preferences.

Below are our tips for finding the perfect option!

 

#1 Determine if you want an infant car seat or a convertible car seat.

 

While infant car seats are considered to be the safest choice because they are specifically designed to cradle small babies, there are numerous highly rated convertible car seats on the market.

Ultimately, this choice comes down to:

  • Do you want to be able to take it in and out of the car and use it as a carrier?
  • Do you want to use it as a 3-in-1 travel system with your stroller?
  • Will you actually be doing that much road travel in the first 3 months?

If you answered yes to the first two bullets: go infant car seat. If you don’t see yourself hitting the open road anytime soon or care about using it with your stroller, then perhaps a convertible car seat is for you!

 

#2 Evaluate how much space you have in 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 (e.g. 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.

 

#3 Ask what the car seat is made with.

 

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. The majority of brands achieve this through the use of flame retardant chemicals.

When it comes to these chemicals, there are three types of flame retardant classes:

  • Brominated
  • Chlorinated
  • Phosphate-based

Brominated and chlorinated chemicals are also called halogenated and are the ones that are most notably harmful to developing children.

Luckily, the brands we love and trust have removed halogenated flame retardants from their seats due to their toxicity to people and the environment. They’ve also managed to create completely flame retardant-free car seats by using naturally flame-resistant materials such as wool.

 

#4 Try not to buy secondhand car seats.

 

We never 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.

 

#5 Make sure the car seat has these features.

 

  • Check to see if it has either a rigid or flexible LATCH installation. While older car seats used to rely on a car’s seat belt to anchor it safely (and these were nearly impossible to install), most cars all now have car seat anchor points that can safely clip to the car seat’s LATCH system.
    • Rigid LATCH systems are straight metal and plastic connectors while Flexible LATCH Systems have metal and plastic clips as well as an adjustable belt. Both are way better than using a seatbelt to thread through and lock.
  • 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 (e.g no corduroy!). Some car seats even come with detachable fabrics that can be machine-washed.

 

#6 Watch out for fakes.

 

a comparison of the real doona car seat to a fake version

 

While most people think of a knock-off Louis Vuitton bag when they hear the word, ‘counterfeit’, the reality is: no industry is spared and fake kids products are quickly becoming a very dangerous problem.

Unlike websites like The Tot and brick and mortar stores like Target, online third-party marketplaces like Amazon and eBay aren’t currently held liable for selling counterfeit products. Since safety should NEVER take a vacation, be very wary if purchasing a car seat online. You can read more about the true cost of counterfeits here.

 

#TotTip

 

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.

 

Chemicals To Avoid In Car Seats And Why

At The Tot, we never use or recommend anything that hasn’t passed The Tot Test. This means we’ve examined third-party testing, dissected ingredients lists and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition to ensure it doesn’t contain any of the chemicals we avoid.

When it comes to shopping for a car seats, these are the following chemicals we like to steer clear of:

 

Flame Retardant Chemicals

Flame retardant chemicals have been linked to endocrine and thyroid disruption, impacts to the immune system, reproductive toxicity, cancer and adverse effects on fetal and child development.

 

PFAS Chemicals

PFAS (poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are a large family of different chemicals that have been shown to cause developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.

 

VOCs

Volatile Organic Compounds are suspected human carcinogens that can “off gas” into your environment, essentially polluting the air in your home. Exposure can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and skin problems. Higher concentrations may cause damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system.

 

Polyurethane Foam

Long-term exposure to chemicals emitted by polyurethane foam may cause cancer, infertility, miscarriages, autoimmune Issues, neurological disorders, child behavior issues, allergies and asthma.

 

PVC

PVC, also known as polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl, is an incredibly toxic chemical that is harmful to our bodies and to the environment right from the production phase through to disposal. It contains additives like phthalates, lead, cadmium, organotin that are quite toxic and have been linked to asthma, allergies, reproductive problems and cancer.

 

BPA + BPS

Bisphenols mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, female infertility, and obesity. BPA is an especially dangerous endocrine disruptor since even small amounts of this chemical have been shown to cause serious reproductive damage, especially when the exposure occurs in utero.

 

Harmful Phthalates

Many phthalates are known endocrine disruptors associated with asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.

 

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and very low levels can irritate and burn the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Those with asthma may have exacerbation of symptoms when exposed to formaldehyde.

 

Lead and other heavy metals

Exposure to heavy metals can cause nerve damage, learning and behavioral problems, reproductive damage and irreversible brain damage.

 

Click here to read the full list of chemicals we avoid and why.

 

 

Our Top Car Seat Picks

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.

 

2020 Clek LIING Infant Car Seat and Base

 

Key features:

  • Suitable for use from 4 – 35 lbs
  • Seat weighs 9 lbs
  • Effortless installation with your vehicle’s built-in anchors using the Rigid-LATCH system
  • Free of flame retardant chemicals
  • Screened for over 10,000 chemicals and VOCs known to pollute indoor air, the Clek Liing C-Zero Plus is UL Greenguard Certified.

 

Clek Liing Thunder

 

2020 Clek LIING Infant Car Seat & Base

 

$419.99

Available in more colors

BUY NOW

 

 

Nuna Pipa RX Infant Car Seat and Base

 

Key features:

  • Suitable for use from 4 to 32 lbs
  • Seat weighs 7.6 lbs
  • Five-second, LATCH installation for easy, confident set up
  • Free of flame retardant chemicals
  • Screened for over 10,000 chemicals and VOCs known to pollute indoor air, the Nuna Pipa RX Infant Car Seat is UL Greenguard Certified.

 

Nuna PIPA RX + RELX Base Caviar

 

Nuna Pipa RX Infant Car Seat & Base

 

$349.95

Available in more colors

BUY NOW

 

 

Nuna Pipa Lite R Infant Car Seat and Base

 

Key features:

  • Suitable for use from 4 to 32 lbs
  • Seat weighs 5.3 lbs
  • Five-second, LATCH installation for easy, confident set up
  • Free of flame retardant chemicals
  • Screened for over 10,000 chemicals and VOCs known to pollute indoor air, the Nuna Pipa Lite R Infant Car Seat is UL Greenguard Certified.

 

Nuna PIPA Lite R + RELX Base Caviar

 

Nuna Pipa Lite R Infant Car Seat & Base

 

$399.95

Available in more colors

BUY NOW

 

 

Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller and Base

 

Key features:

  • This GENIUS car seat goes from car seat to stroller in seconds!
  • Suitable for use from 4 to 35 lbs
  • Seat weight 16.5 lbs
  • Inner cushion is anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic with humidity and thermal regulation

 

Doona 2018 Car Sear Stroller in Black

 

Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller & Base

 

$499

Available in more colors

BUY NOW

 

 

Bugaboo Turtle by Nuna Infant Car Seat and Base

 

Key features:

  • Suitable for use from 4 to 32 lbs
  • Seat weighs 8.8 lbs
  • Two-step, five-second install, with correct installation indicators
  • Free of flame retardant chemicals
  • The Bugaboo Turtle fits only the Bugaboo Fox and Lynx stroller

 

 

Bugaboo Turtle Carseat

 

Bugaboo Turtle by Nuna Infant Car Seat & Base

 

$349

BUY NOW

 

 

Nuna Rava Convertible Car Seat

 

Key features:

  • Suitable for use from 5 to 65 lbs
  • Seat weighs 27.2 lbs
  • Designed to provide up to two additional inches of legroom when rear facing and extra support for forward-facing riders.
  • Free of flame retardant chemicals
  • Screened for over 10,000 chemicals and VOCs known to pollute indoor air, the Clek FLLO Convertible Car Seat is UL Greenguard Certified.

 

Nuna Rava Lake

 

Nuna Rava Convertible Car Seat

 

$449.95

Available in more colors

BUY NOW

 

 

Clek FLLO Convertible Car Seat

 

Key features:

  • Suitable for use from 14 to 65 lbs
    • When using with infant-thingy (sold separately), you can accommodate a child that’s 5 lbs and 19 in.
  • Seat weighs 25 lbs
  • Boasts a best-in-class narrow width under 17″ at its widest
  • Integrated Flip foot for rear-facing installation
  • Free of flame retardant chemicals
  • Screened for over 10,000 chemicals and VOCs known to pollute indoor air, the Clek FLLO Convertible Car Seat is UL Greenguard Certified.
  • Made in Canada

 

 

Clek Fllo Shadow

 

Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat

 

Ranging from $379.99 to $409.99

Available in more colors

BUY NOW

 

 

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