I get it. Buying the best toddler car seat can be amongst the most significant decisions that you make in regards to your child’s safety. After all, it is the life of your precious little one we are talking about.
I think I spent more time researching my first daughter’s car seat than I did on my first investment property (and that is NOT A TALL STORY).
It is a huge consideration, and then you add in all of the other decisions that you need to make and the features that you can choose from; price range, black, grey, pink, floral, cup holder, no cup holder, activity tray, moisture-wicking material (cue cartoon spinning head and explosion!).
And then comes all of the jargon, the ridiculous acronyms and crazy language that comes with choosing your best toddler car seat! It is like learning Morse code using guidelines from a foreign language.
It is a big decision not only due to the safety of your baby but also because of the budgeting considerations.
Let’s face it: car seats cost money.
So to save you the many hours of labour, and the headaches of trying to tie all of the tiresome deliberations together, I thought I would save you time and give you my Top 9 Considerations when choosing a car seat.
I relived this experience for you, so here goes.
What do you need to know how to buy car seat?
1. Read Your Car Manual
This one is IMPORTANT. This one is VITAL.
Doing this will help you to determine the ANCHOR system that is supported by your car in order to secure your babies car seat to your vehicle.
Yes, I said SECURE.
Long gone are the days when you could whack your newborn baby into a shoebox and place them on the parcel shelf.
Doing this will save you both TIME and MONEY. Different car seats have different ANCHOR systems. And trust me, you don’t want to go out and decide on your babies transportation safety casing, to get it home and find out that IT DOESN’T latch on your car!
You will come across a lot of new language like ISOFIX, top tether, belt system, Latch, to name a few. Find out the one that is supported by your car and then you can match your car seat accordingly.
It is kind of like heading to Walmart for a plug light only to get home and find that you needed a screw light but MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE.
Once you find this out, contemplate the following;
- Different countries and states have various regulations for what they deem to be the safest way of ANCHORING your babies’ car seat. Check that your vehicle satisfies these regulations. It may mean that you need to get a different system put into your car.
- The best-protected place for your baby is in the rear middle seat of your vehicle. You may like to ensure there is an anchor system for this position. Please note, if you do need to get a new anchor system; this must be done by a professional. A D-Link attached to a random handle just won’t cut it.
- Some states require you to have your car seat installed by a certified professional
Yes, I said install.
Installation is a process. Each car seat comes with instructions and pictures.
We recommend that a professional install your car seat, even if you are not legally required to, due to the following reasons:
- Your babies safety is of utmost importance. Save yourself the time, worry and concern by getting someone that knows how to do it…to do it for you.
- It could potentially save your relationship.
Car seats can be confusing mother fuckers with all the diagrams and angles and steps of installation.
Installing a car seat is much like putting together a flat pack from Ikea, it is the ultimate test of strength in any relationship.
Imagine trying to straddle your gorgeous babies new safety pod, whilst strategically placing your toes so that you don’t slip. You try to find the tiny holes in which to slide your hands between each side of the skin-slicing foundations of the car seat, reaching desperately with your fingertips to grab hold of the belt buckle to pull it out the other side.
Or imagine having to use superhuman force to yank back the rear car seat in order to locate the anchor that is somewhere in a hidey-hole, somewhere in the abyss between the rear window and the back of the seats.
How about fumbling like a drunk woman through her purse, trying to attach the car seat straps to the anchor systems that were designed to be accessed only by people with hands as small and delicate as fairies?
Then there are the arguments that can be caused by the discrepancies of the 1mm differences as you and your partner stand back and analyse the angle of the seat.
Save yourself the hassle, get it done by a professional.
In all seriousness though, the angles, anchor systems, retention and tension of the straps of your car seat, are vital for your babies safety.
2. Are You Planning on Having More Children? Do You Currently Have Children?
I bet I stumped you on this one.
Why on earth am I asking this?
Simple: You will need to able to fit seats into your car for your future children if you are considering having more!
If you currently have 1 or more car seats in your vehicle, you need to able to fit your new one in. Make sure you take measurements to ensure that your current, previous, or future car seats, can fit into your car. They are stout and sturdy pieces of equipment.
Trust me, no amount of maneuvering, pushing, shoving, or sandwich artistry will help you out if you have purchased car seats that do not all FIT IN YOUR CAR. You could, of course, opt for a bigger car.
3. Do You Want a Rear-Facing or Convertible Seat?
Your baby has to be rear-facing until it reaches a certain height. Then you get to turn it around and let your baby see what is in front of him or her.
So you have two options when buying a car seat.
Let’s look at these options simply:
- Rear Facing Car Seat
- Convertible Car Seat
A rear-facing seat, also known as an infant car seat has a base that is attached to your car and the seat itself can clip in and out of the base. In this type of car seat, you can take your baby in and out of the car, and keep them in the seat when they are settled or sleeping. It is perfect for shopping and being out and about.
Do you want a seat that is equipped only for your newborn baby and young baby stages?
If your babies are like mine and don’t seem to grow much until they are around 2.5 years old, it’s not much of a problem.
But if your babies seem to grow as if someone is sneaking into their nursery and are secretly feeding them fertiliser. You may need to invest in a new car seat in as little as a few short months.
If you are the futuristic type, the other option is a convertible seat. This type grows with your baby and converts into a front-facing position.
It used to be that you could turn your baby around and get a booster seat when your child reached a certain age. But, unlike the old days, your baby has to reach a certain size before you have to turn your babies seat around or upgrade your car seat.
Convertible car seats will grow with your child and hold them snuggly in their infant stages and help them see the world in their toddler stages and beyond.
4. Do I Want a Travel System?
A travel system is a seat that attaches to both your pram and your car seat.
Genius! You don’t have to worry about rousing your sleeping baby when transferring your squishy little bubba between the pram and the car. They can stay happily asleep and know none the better.
However, there are some disadvantages to travel systems also.
- Travel systems are rear-facing only car seats. You’ll need to purchase a new one when it is time to turn your child around.
- If you end up having a caesarian section, you cannot lift weights until you have healed from your operation. It means that you will need someone with you present at all times to do the transferring between car and pram.
5. What Type of Climate Does Your Region Have?
Why does this even matter?
Trust me, it does.
I was living in the middle of the Australian Desert, and the material of my car seat played a HUGE part of my choice. My babies are hot little frogs. And car seats encapsulate their small bodies to keep them safe.
Some babies can get sweaty in their car seat, so if you live in a humid or hot climate, consider a car seat with natural fibres and moisture-wicking material.
6. Easy to Clean
TRUST ME! Just trust me.
Babies and children are amazing.
There is something special about disassembling a car seat and finding a month old half-eaten apple amongst the various types of crumbs beneath the car seat.
But somehow, little ones manage to get a fantastic array of food and muck, not only around, but also in and on their car seats. There is nothing like peeling back the fabric after a poo or spew explosion and trying to scrape it away and locate any that may be hiding.
You don’t want to leave any of this behind.
Did I mention that you should TRUST me on this?
Ask for recommendations from other families on how quick their car seat is to clean. One of my momma friends had a baby who suffered from severe colic, and she was FOREVER washing the car seat.
She ended up forking out for a new one because the original one seemed to have concealed spaces and disappearing crevice’s that would house bodily fluids, mouldy sandwich crusts, scraps of food and tidbits of god only knows what.
I think the funniest item that any of my friends ever found wedged in the cavity of a car seat was a half-eaten flip flop.
Now I don’t know about you, but it isn’t the fact that a flip flop was in there; it is the fact that someone ate it.
7. What Features Do I Need/Want?
I have even more choices?
Buying a car seat is like buying a car; you have so many options.
- Aesthetic: What do you want your car seat to look like?
- Safety Features: lateral headrests, neck pillows, chest pads, impact-protection shields, side wings, side-impact protection
- Type of Seat: rear-facing, travel system, convertible, booster, all of these depending on the size of your child and your requirements. You can use this as a guide to finding out the best ‘type of seat’ for the safety of your child.
- Extras: cup holders, activity trays, Bluetooth speakers, the list goes on.
NOTE: Please be mindful of purchasing non-regulated features and extras. Although it may look comfy and provide your baby with entertainment, it may not be safe for your little one.
For example, you may choose to buy a trendy supported insert for your little one. Gorgeous. There your child is, tucked in, sleeping soundly, surrounded by your favourite baby print. But please consider if these items affect harness placement or push your baby out of a safe position.
Now you get the picture.
We have created a baby car seat picker template for you to download and use to make it easy.
All you need to do is:
- tick the features that you want your car seat to have,
- write a description of the features that you would like (e.g., blue/moisture-wicking/cup holder), and
- go out and find the chair that best suits you!
8. Be Careful When Buying Secondhand Car Seats.
This one is big. Please consider what you are about to learn if you are going to purchase a secondhand car seat. A car seat is an essential investment in the safety of your baby. It is not something that you want to fall short on.
There are a few dangers and things you need to check if you are picking up a secondhand car seat:
- Is the place/person you are purchasing or receiving it from trustworthy? Make sure that you can 100% trust the information that is being passed on to you regarding the car seat you are getting. You need to be sure that the information you receive is honest and that the car seat is in outstanding condition.
- Has the seat been involved in any accidents? Car seats can only take a single impact – that is one IMPACT. After that, the car seat is no longer safe. If you are purchasing a car seat that has been in a collision or crash in the past, then it IS NOT SAFE FOR YOUR CHILD.
- Check the expiry date on the car seat. Yep, just like food in the fridge, a car seat has a used by date. Most secondhand shops won’t take seats that are past their expiry date, but you.
9. Budgeting for Your Car Seat
A car seat can be a pricey item if you pay for it all at once.
Let me soften you up about it.
A way to think about it is dividing the price of the seat by the years that it will last you.
For example, if your car seat costs you $400 and you use it for four years:
400/4 – 100.
Therefore, you have invested $100 a year into the safety and comfort of your child.
Consider these options to help you pay for your car seat:
- Put your car seat on layby. If you prepared early, and you have picked out the car seat that you would like, many stores will allow you to pay your car seat off over time.
- Rent a car seat. There are options for you to rent a car seat. Many baby stores, birth centres, and online stores provide a rent-a-seat option. It may provide you with a chance to continue to save until you can afford the car seat that you want. Punch the numbers though; it may work out less for you to purchase a seat outright instead of renting.
- Put the car seat on your baby register or wishlist. Why on earth not? If you have a register or wishlist for the baby shower or delivery of the baby, set up an option where people can put money towards the purchase of your car seat.
- Just ask. I lost count of the times my family and friends asked me what they could buy for my babies. ‘Is there anything that your baby needs?’ Try this. ‘Yes, there is. If you would like to, we would love it if you could contribute to our car seat’!
So, are you now ready to make the best decisions in buying your child’s car seat?