To help you shop for the perfect car seat, we've compiled information on models in each category. Brush up on car seat basics below, then start browsing the lists by type.
Infant seats are rear-facing only and can take your child from birth up to 35 pounds. They can often be used with certain strollers to create a travel system. A convenient handle lets you carry baby from the backseat to the stroller without disrupting nap time. And, you can use the same car seat for two different cars with the simple addition of an extra base.
Convertible seats start off rear-facing and eventually can be positioned forward-facing. Experts recommend kids remain rear-facing until age 2. Compared to an infant car seat, the convertible seat will accommodate your child longer (although it can't be removed from the car as easily as an infant seat).
Toddler seats and 5-point harness combination boosters are forward-facing only. This option lets your child use a 5-point harness restraint — considered safer than an adult seat belt — longer. After your child reaches the weight limit for the harness, the seat can be used as a belt-positioning booster with your car's seat belt. Some options can accommodate your child up to 120 pounds. Experts say children should use a booster until at least age 8.
Booster seats utilize your car's seat belt and are meant for kids who have outgrown toddler seats, but aren't yet big enough to use the adult seat belt alone.
Tips on Car Seats
1. Choose the right seat for your child's height, weight, and developmental stage.
2. Car seats have any expiry date. If not listed on the seat itself, you can call the car seat manufacturer directly to get the expiration date for your model. Do not use a seat that has been in a crash or seat for which you do not know the history.
3. Make sure the seat is installed securely. You can test this by grabbing the base of the seat where you have secured it at the belt path and give it a firm shake. You do not want to be able to move the seat more than an inch from front to back and side to side.
4. Make sure your child is harnessed in correctly. The harness should lie flat with the chest clip at armpit level. To check whether the harness is secure, do the "pinch test": pinch the harness strap at the shoulder; the straps are tight enough when you can no longer grab any excess webbing.
5. Do not rush to move your child to the next stage of car seat. As long as they meet the requirements of that seat and stage, you can leave them in the position that the seat allows. For example, just because they have reached the minimum requirements to move into a booster seat, you should leave them harnessed until they have reached the maximum height/weight for the harnessed seat.
6. Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. It's the safest position for your child, as it protects their weak head and neck. Most children can stay rear-facing until at least the age of two.
7. Children 12 and under should stay in the back seat.
8. Don't rush to move your child out of a booster seat to a seat belt. The booster seat works to position the adult seat belt over the strong bones of your child's body. Children should not move into a seat belt until they are at least 4'9 (145 cm).
Check your state for any applicable laws and restrictions.
You can do the following five-point test to see if you child is ready for a seat belt:
- The child can sit all the way back against the back of the vehicle seat.
- The knees bend comfortably over the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching
- The lap belt fits snugly across the top of the thighs and doesn't ride up on the stomach
- The should belt goes across the chest bone and the middle of the shoulder, NOT across the neck and NEVER behind the back.
- The child can sit properly for the entire trip.
Top Car Seat Manufacturers list
Angel Guard (330) 723-5928
Aprica (888) 927-7422
Baby Trend (800) 328-7363
Bergerson Health Care* (Special Tomato) (800) 371-2778
Britax (888) 427-4829
BubbleBum (800) 969-6586
Chicco (877) 424-4226
CLEK Inc. (800) 454-6612
Columbia Medical/TheraPedic* (866) 6564-2462
Combi (800) 992-6624
Cybex c/o Regal Lager (800) 593-5522
Diono (855) 463-4666
Dorel Juvenile Group (800) 544-1108
Dream on Me (877) 768-5500
Evenflo (800) 233-5921
E-Z On (800) 323-6598
Graco (800) 345-4109
Gumotex (347) 709-9444
Harmony Juvenile Products (877) 306-1001
Kiddy USA (855) 925-4339
Kids Embrace (866) 947-3287
Kids Fly Safe (CARES Airplane Harness) (800) 299-6249
Learning Curve (800) 704-8697
Lilly Gold/TriplePlay Products (800) 829-1625
Merritt Manufacturing* (317) 409-0148
Nuna (855) 686-2872
Mia Moda (866) 642-6632
Orbit Baby (877) 672-2229
Peg-Perego USA (800) 671-1701
Recaro (248) 364-3818
Regal Lager (800) 593-5522
Safe Traffic System (847) 233-0365
SafeGuard Seat (877) 447-2305
Safety Angel/Safe Start (561) 732-1233
Snug Seat*/Hippo*/Traveller Plus EL* (800) 336-7684
Snugli (800) 233-5921
Summer Infant (800) 268-6237
Team-Tex America/Nania (877) 912-1313
Teutonia USA (877) 838-8664
Thomasshilfen North America (866) 870-2122
UPPAbaby (781) 413-3030