How to Choose a Car Seat

A car seat is one of the most important things you'll buy for your young child. From going to doctor's appointments to play dates, keeping them comfortable on the road is obviously of the utmost importance to you as a parent. Choosing the right car seat, especially with all of the different options on the market, can seem a little tricky.

Use this guide from Pottery Barn Kids to pick a car seat for your child no matter how old they are. Choosing the right car seat will keep your child secure, protected and give you peace of mind when you're behind the wheel.

Choosing the Right Type of Car Seat

You want the best possible car seat for your child so they look forward to taking a ride with mom or dad. Multiple models of car seats on the market can make finding the right one confusing.

The most important factors to keep in mind when choosing a car seat are your child's age, weight, and height. You'll also want to make sure any car seat you're looking at meets national safety and security regulations. Don't worry - pretty much all models sold through reputable retailers in the United States go above and beyond these regulations.

Before shopping, measure your vehicle's back seat depth for the correct size car seat.

Rear-Facing Models

Rear-facing seats are generally used for very young children that weigh 20 pounds or less. Kids this size should be sitting in rear-facing seats at all times.

Once your child's head is within one-inch of the back of the car seat, it's time to upgrade to a forward-facing model since they're too big for rear-facing options at this point.

While size and weight issues for this type of car seat can seem tricky, rear-facing car seats are generally used for children under the age of two.

Forward-Facing Models

Forward-facing car seats are the next option after rear-facing models for most parents. These keep slightly older, larger children comfortable as long as they don't exceed the weight limit.

Forward-facing car seats are typically used by parents with children in the age range of two to four and under 40 pounds.

Booster Seat Options

Booster seats are typically used for children between the ages of four and eight years old. To use a booster seat, your child should be over the weight limit for most forward-facing car seats, which is 40 pounds.

Once a child is eight years old and approaching 4"" to 4' 9"" in height, riding in the back of the car without a booster seat is acceptable.

Installing Your Car Seat

Paying attention to your car seat's owner's manual is essential when it comes to installation. Every car seat is different, so paying close attention and learning how to properly install the car seat by memory is a must for parents.

When choosing a car seat, you generally have two options for installation. LATCH systems, which stands for lower anchors and tethers for children, are often easiest in new cars designed to work with them. However, they can be made to work in older cars as well with some minor adjustments.

Car seats that attach using your seat belt are also effective and some of the simplest to install in new and older cars. These car seats are also among the easiest to use if you have more than one vehicle for your family.

Whatever you choose, make sure you understand how the latches, buckles, and clips designed to hold your child in place work before you put them in it. You'll also want to look for a harness that fits your child and is approved by your car seat manufacturer.

Make it Last

Buying a car seat isn't something you need to do all the time, so getting it right the first time is important. You'll also want to buy something that you find stylish since it's going to be in your car. As long as the seat is right for your child, have some fun with the design!

What you do want to ensure is that you get as much use out of your car seat as possible. As your child grows, you may need to make adjustments if possible or opt for a different model. High-quality car seats will stand up to being taken out of your car and put back in multiple times either.

Another thing to consider is keeping your car seat clean. Car seats with smooth seats are much easier to wipe down than those with textured material, so keep that in mind when shopping. Car seats with smooth edges that won't trap dirt are also much easier to keep attractive and sanitary.

Making sure your child is safe every time you get in the car is a huge responsibility for a parent. With the right car seat and a little practice installing it, you can rest easy when traveling with your child.

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