I’m going to assume that you already know what your State’s Car Seat Laws include, and I’m also going to assume that you already know what the NHTSA Car Seat Recommendations include as well. If not, I suggest you read this first.
Following these recommendations is the best way to keep your child as safe as possible, and having a complete understanding of what your State’s Car Seat Laws are will help you avoid any unnecessary fines.
What Are My Car Seat Options:
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you see it, you have a lot of options when it comes to car seats.
Let’s assume that you want to follow the NHTSA Recommendations, and you would like to keep your little one rear facing for as long as possible, and forward facing and harnessed for as long as possible. The way I see it is, you have four options.
Option 1) Infant Car Seat – Combination Harness to Booster Seat
– Get an infant car seat with the highest maximum weight capacity you can find, like 35 or 40 pounds. Then find yourself a combination harness to booster seat that will allow you to keep your child harnessed for as long as possible. I’ve seen them go up to 85 pounds in harness mode, that’s like 10 years old!
Advantages: Infant car seats are probably the most convenient when you have a little one. You don’t have to unbuckle Baby at every stop. Simply detach the seat from the base, and you’re on your way. Also you can skip buying an expensive convertible car seat, and those combination seats usually offer the highest weight limit in harness mode. In other words, this option will most likely keep your little one harnessed for as long as possible.
Disadvantages: There’s a good chance that your little one will outgrow the seat height before the weight limit in the infant car seat. Even if you do find an infant car seat with a max weight of 40 pounds, it’s hit and miss whether or not you’ll make it to 40 pounds. Worst case scenario, you find yourself left with option 3 or 4.
Option 2) Convertible Car Seat – Booster Seat
– Skip the infant car seat all-together, and get a convertible car seat to start. Look for one that will allow you to keep your little one rear-facing up to 35 or 40 pounds, and one with a harness mode that goes up to at least 60 pounds. After that you can get yourself a simple belt-positioning booster seat.
Advantages: No need to worry about an infant car seat! And, chances are your little one will be able to stay rear-facing for longer. Also, from what I hear, some baby’s prefer the space of a convertible car seat, as opposed to a cramped infant car seat that get’s hot. Just read this article, Convertible Car Seat: What Saved Our Car Trips.
Disadvantages: Some convertible car seats are just too deep for small infants. So if your baby is smaller than most, you may want to consider option 1. Also, you will have to unbuckle and buckle Baby at every stop. This is probably one of the biggest reasons why parents choose to go with the infant car seat first. My thought, get yourself a nice, easy to use baby carrier. That way, you can simply put Baby in the carrier at every stop. It’s better for Baby, and better for you!
Option 3) Infant Car Seat – Convertible Car Seat – Booster Seat
– Or you can just buy all three. Let’s say you have an infant car seat that goes up to 25 pounds, and your little one outgrows it somewhere around 20 pounds. You would then want to get yourself a convertible car seat, one that goes up to at least 40 pounds rear-facing, and has a harness limit of at least 60 pounds. After that you’ll be ready to transition to a simple booster seat.
Advantages: You get the best of all three worlds. The convenience of an infant car seat, the roominess of a convertible car seat, and the ability to keep them rear-facing for as long as possible. Also, if you decide to make it a combination harness to booster, instead of a regular booster, you’ll be able to keep your little one harnessed for as long as possible too.
Disadvantages: You end up buying 3 seats as opposed to two, so it can get expensive, especially if you choose to go with a combination seat instead of a regular booster.
Option 4) Convertible Car Seat/Booster Seat
– Get yourself a car seat that’s a convertible and booster seat all in one. There are a couple of options out there, like the Diono Radian RXT, that will go from 5 pounds to 45 pounds rear-facing, up to 80 pounds in harness mode, and up to 120 pounds in booster mode. These seats are usually listed under convertible car seats, just to let you know.
Advantages: Obviously, you only have to buy one car seat!
Disadvantages: They’re usually pretty big seats, and some are really tough to fit rear-facing in a vehicle. Also, because they’re pretty big, smaller infants do not fit well in them.
Now, you don’t have to buy the most expensive car seat for all three categories. Most expensive doesn’t always mean safest. So make sure you do your research and watch for sales, especially online. In the end, following the NHTSA Car Seat Recommendations is the best way to keep your child safe. Knowing that your child is as safe as possible is price less.
Click here for a list of some of the BEST Car Seats available.