The facts & what You Need to Know
Although the need for infant car seats targets a particular demographic, it’s a known fact that baby car seats are not just a fancy optional extra, they are a necessity and they are the law. As a result of this, there is now a large and highly competitive market in which manufacturers compete to create the safest, most comfortable, lightweight and easy to use seat covering the full spectrum of age groups from New Born all the way up to the age of 11+. Most manufacturers will conduct extensive crash testing, research and other safety tests to determine the exact durability and level of safety that the seat provides. Other than it being the law, more importantly, having the correct baby car seat for your infant will protect them and keep them safe in the event you are involved in a collision.
So, what is the best option for your child? Well that’s a good question and one that will be presented to any new parents to be. It really does depend on a lot of different aspects but the main 2 components are the size of your child, and their weight. For a better understanding, it’s a good idea to check out the many different car seats on offer and the purpose of our blog is to provide with the information you need in order to make the most informed decision for your baby and you.
The baby seats that have a fixed base that stays in the car are the ones that we find perform the best and will have the added benefits of multiple stroller and pushchair options. That and the fact that you can remove the main part of the seat with your child still in it is a massive bonus. Almost all rear-facing car seats have an adjustable handle that you can use to carry your infant when not in the car and then adjust easily to the resting position for easy insertion into your vehicle.
What We Found Out
We took the time to really dive into the different aspects that we feel are useful to know when looking to purchase your first baby car seat. In the next few paragraphs, I will explain the features that I feel were the most important and often overlooked aspects of safety when choosing which seat to buy your infant.
Although we didn’t crash test any of these seats ourselves (we don’t have the means to do that!), we did look at what the manufacturers claimed and looked at seats where the manufacturers had gone beyond the realms of simply conforming to standard regulations set out by government agencies. We also looked at the convenience features such as how easy it was to safely install and how easy it was to adjust to your baby as they grow. Price wasn’t necessarily a feature we took too much notice of as I think you’ll agree, this isn’t one of those occasions where we are looking to get a “bargain”!
These were our primary areas of focus when choosing the best baby car seats and ones we feel are important and useful for others when considering the best purchase for themselves.
Safety – Sounds obvious right? But seriously, safety is and always should be every parent’s primary goal when choosing the right baby car seat for your infant. If you shop at a reputable online retailer or in a shopping mall, you can 99% of the time be confident that every baby seat they are trying to sell you has been rigorously tested to a specific set of regulations which will have been certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), although we later found out that neither the NHTSA nor the manufacturers brand itself are required to publish the crash test results. Most however will if its something to brag about so bear this in mind. We strongly discourage people to go “bargain hunting” when your child’s safety is at stake and recommend you buy from new, avoiding second hand, auction sites or garage sales. Only buy 2nd hand or from friends if you can be 100% confident that the seat is genuine, hasn’t been involved in any sort of accident and is within 3 years old.
A rear-facing baby seat is by far the safest way to transport your child so you should look to keep them in this type of seat for as long as possible. Its worth bearing this in mind when making your first purchase and look for a seat that has a high weight and height limit and that way, should last you longer as your child grows. Convertible seats are the type that switch to front facing when your child reaches a certain age so if really looking for a seat that will last, look out for this type but bear in mind they are normally heavier and harder to get in and out of the car.
Adjustability – The more adjustable features your seat has, the easier its going to be for you to use and the longer it will last as your child grows so initially look for one that can be adjusted to your babies weight and good adjustable head support is also important for this reason. The best Infant car seats will have a single strap centre-pull adjustment that will allow you to tighten the seat belt with one hand which is a very hand feature, trust me. Finally, look for one that has a decent canopy to protect your baby from the elements. Most features across baby car seats are similar and consistent with each brand however, some do it all, some do some bits well and others not and some are just darn right difficult to use. Using the advice given here, choose the one that suits your individual requirements the best and one that meets or exceeds the points mentioned here.
Durability – All infant seats for the car are designed to be secured in the vehicle for maximum durability. It goes without saying that a child’s seat cannot and will not keep them safe if it’s not installed correctly. The only time durability can really be tested in reality is when you have been involved in an accident. We hope that this is never the case however, you MUST check the seat has been crash tested and conforms to NHTSA certifications. All being said, its easy to tell if a seat is well built and you will want one that will keep your baby in place and one that they cant get out of should you need to go shopping or secure the seat to a stroller. If you plan on using you seat with a stroller, the physical activities you do will determine its durability over time. All of the infant car seats we looked at were built to last in all types of physical activity however, there are cheaper versions on the market that wouldn’t last 2 minutes outside of the car.
Convenience & Ease of Use – Along side the adjustability of the seat, we also looked at its overall ease of use. Above all else, you need to make sure you purchase a seat, which is both ease to use and install into and out of your vehicle. This is where personal circumstances will play a big part and largely depends on how long the child will spend in the seat in general and overall, how much time you spend with your child in the car. You should look for a seat that snaps into and out of its base with ease and most modern seats will have a base that stays permanently in the car for added safety and convenience. You should also look for a seat that is easy to maintain. Seats with removable, washable covers will certainly come in very, very handy!
What Else is Important?
Besides the seat being safe and durable, you also need to consider the price. For most, you cant put a price on safety but we still appreciate that not everyone will be looking at the top end. Our reviews have been based on an average price point that we believe is affordable for most families. Our baby car seat reviews loo at the different types of seats available on the market, some aimed specifically at infants from birth upward and some aimed at the convertible types that can be reversed to forward facing to accommodate a toddler up to 65 lbs later down the line.
You will also need to take into consideration the warranty offered by the seats manufacturer and the level of customer service you will get should you need it. As with any warranty, the longer the better. Most come with a 1 year guarantee with most store offering the option to purchase extended warranty periods of between 3 and 5 years. You should also take into consideration if your Credit Card Company or American express card offers any sort of extended warrantee on your purchase, as this will save you both time and money.
Reviews on actual companies such as Baby Trend, Maxi-Cosi and Chicco are available in abundance online, as are reviews of the specific retailers both online and in store so you can make a more informed decision. For the purposes of our reviews, we gave scores based on how responsive a manufacturer was to our questions, both over the phone and via email contact channels.
Our Top Pick
The Chicco Keyfit 30 infant car seat is one that can’t go unnoticed. Its popularity within the US has made it the most popular selling baby car seat and it’s easy to see why. We simply love this seat due to its price point (Under $200), its rich feature list and the fact that it offers the best level of protection we could find. The padding is perfect for a new born and is easily adjusted to provide more room as your child grows whilst still being safe and comfortable. It appears as well that many others agree and the keyfit 30 is one of the widest searched infant car seats on the market today