How to Choose a Car Seat

Last Updated: January 30, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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Want to learn how to choose a car seat for your baby? You are in the right place! Choosing the right car seat for your little one is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent. 

And I remember all too well how overwhelming the process can feel!

Car seats provide essential protection for your child during car rides, and it’s important to choose one that fits your child’s age, weight, and height, as well as your vehicle. 

This article is here to help you better understand the different types of seats available and walk you through considerations, pros, and cons, so that you can make an informed choice!

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Considerations before choosing a car seat

One of the best things you can do before you start looking at options is figure out what your specific needs are when it comes to a car seat!

Sit down and ask yourself the following questions to get started:

  1. What is the weight and height limit of the car seat? Make sure the car seat is appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height
  2. What is the installation process like? Check to see if the car seat is easy to install and has clear instructions
  3. Does the car seat fit well in your vehicle? Not all car seats fit well in all cars, so make sure to check compatibility before purchasing
  4. Is the car seat comfortable for your child? Look for a car seat with enough padding and support to keep your child comfortable on long car rides
  5. What safety features does the car seat have? Look for a car seat with features such as a five-point harness, side-impact protection, and energy-absorbing foam lining
  6. Does the car seat come with a warranty? Consider purchasing a car seat with a warranty to protect your investment in case of defects or issues
  7. What is the car seat’s reputation for safety and reliability? Look up reviews and safety ratings from trusted sources to ensure you’re making a safe choice for your child
  8. Does the car seat meet your lifestyle needs? Consider factors such as weight, portability, and compatibility with strollers to ensure the car seat fits your lifestyle
Baby Registry Guide

Infant car seat vs convertible car seat

Now let’s understand the difference between infant car seats and convertible car seats. Most parents do decide to get both of these styles – but know that you can get away with skipping the infant car seat if you are on a budget.

Convertible car seats

A convertible car seat is a type of car seat that can be used from infancy to toddlerhood, and sometimes even beyond. Unlike infant car seats, which are rear-facing only and used until around the first year of life, convertible car seats can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing.

They’re called “convertible” because they can be converted from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing position, depending on the age and size of your child.

Convertible car seats are a must-have to keep your baby safe beyond the use of your infant car seat and travel system, and some parents skip an infant seat and start with this right away (though I do recommend reading through the pros and cons of both convertible and infant car seats before making that decision!).

Pros of convertible car seats

  • Longer lifespan: Convertible car seats can be used from infancy through toddlerhood and beyond, so you don’t need to buy a new car seat as your child grows
  • Cost-effective: While convertible car seats may be more expensive upfront, they can ultimately save you money in the long run since you won’t need to purchase separate seats as your baby grows
  • More versatile: Convertible car seats can be installed both rear-facing and forward-facing, giving you more flexibility and options. You can also find options that will work with your car and unique car seat set-up, and some even swivel for easy access when getting baby in and out

Cons of convertible car seats

  • Heavier and bulkier: Convertible car seats tend to be larger and heavier than infant car seats, which can make them more difficult to move between vehicles or carry with you on-the-go
  • Less convenient: Convertible car seats are meant to stay in the car – meaning you can’t transport your baby in this car seat, and they are not compatible with travel systems

Related Reading: How to Choose a Baby Carrier

Infant car seats

Infant car seats are specifically designed for infants and younger babies and are rear-facing only. These car seats typically attach to a base that stays in your car at all times, making it easy to move your baby in and out of the car without disturbing their sleep. 

We recommend purchasing multiple bases for your and your partner’s cars to avoid having to switch the base out. Bases are far less expensive than the actual car seat, so this can be a cost-effective way to make your life easier!

Pros of infant car seats

  • More portable: Infant car seats are typically smaller and lighter than convertible car seats, making them easier to carry and transport
  • More specialized: Infant car seats are designed specifically for newborns and provide a secure and snug fit for smaller babies
  • More convenient: If you use a stroller frequently, many infant car seats can be easily attached and removed from compatible strollers

Cons of infant car seats

  • Shorter lifespan: Infant car seats are designed for use only during the first year or so of your child’s life, meaning you’ll need to purchase a separate car seat once your child outgrows it
  • More expensive in the long run: Since you’ll need to purchase a separate toddler car seat, using an infant car seat and then switching to a convertible car seat can ultimately cost more than using a convertible car seat from the start

Looking for more help with how to choose a car seat?

Choosing a car seat was probably the most overwhelming decision for me as a first-time mom. 

Since then, I’ve connected with Michelle from Safe in the Seat, a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Expert, who offers resources to help you with all things car seats!

I highly recommend her Infant Car Seat Buying Kit and Infant Car Seat Safety Course!

These resources will eliminate stress and give you the peace of mind you deserve when it comes to your baby’s car seat safety. Use code MLN at checkout for 15% off!

Baby Registry Guide
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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