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How to Pick a Safe Toddler Car Seat

Updated on March 31, 2013

Keeping your child safe is the most important thing in the world. When travelling by car, it is vital that your child uses a properly fitted car seat.

There are thousands of deaths on the roads. If you were ever to be involved in an accident, having your child strapped safely into a car seat could help save their life.

What Car Seat Should I Buy For My Child?

Infants should use a rear-facing car seat. These seats are not designed to be used in a forward-facing positions. Your child should continue to use a rear-facing seat for as a long as possible.

Normally, rear-facing seats are used by children up to the age of two or until they reach a weight of about 20lbs. When they grow out of an infant seat, your should move to another a car seat designed for babies and toddlers which can be used in a forward-facing position. So, when your little one grows up to be a toddler, you need to get a new car seat.

Convertible Car Seats can be a good investment because they can be used for both infants and toddlers. A child can use a convertible car seat from birth and they can continue using it when they are a toddler. When your child is old enough, the seat can be converted from rear-facing seat to forward-facing car seat.

The downside of convertible car seats is that they are sometimes not very portable. They can be heavy and difficult to move between cars.

Types of Car Seat Harness

It is very important that your child is safely strapped into a car seat. There are several types of harness available for car seats.

  • The five point harness. This has two straps at the shoulders, two at the hips and one at the crotch. This is the most secure kind of harness.
  • The three point harness. This has straps over the shoulders and fasten with a buckle at the bottom of the seat.
  • The T-Shape. This has a padded t-shaped shield attached to shoulder straps.
  • The Overhead Shield. This is a padded bar which swings down over the child.

Never Buy a Used Car Seat

Always buy a new car seat. A car seat is one thing you should never buy used. If you buy a used car seat, you don't know that it hasn't been involved in a crash or not. When a car seat is involved in a crash, its effectiveness is reduced as a result.

How to Choose a Car Seat for a Toddler

All car seats available to buy will have met passed safety tests, so when making your choice you should choose one which best fits your child or vehicle.

  • Check The Weight And Height Limits. Have your child's weight and height measurements to hand when checking car seats. Never choose a seat that your child is not physically ready for. Picking a car seat that is suitable for your child's size is very important.
  • Make Sure The Car Seat Fits Your Car. Some car seats are bulkier than others. Check that the car seat is not too big and that it is going to fit properly into your car. Make sure that it is easy to install in your car.
  • Make Sure You Can Adjust the Seat at the Front. You don't want to have to spend time fiddling around at the back of the car seat. Make sure that it can be adjusted at the front.
  • Check For Comfort. Check things like padding and material type which might affect how comfortable the car seat is for your toddler.
  • Choose A Car Seat That is Easy To Clean. Toddlers can be messy. Pick a car seat which can be easily washed. Go for one a car seat that is easily removable and machine washable. Spills and stains are not a major problem if they can be washed away.

Buying a Car Seat for Your Toddler

  • Do Your Research. It's always worth spending some time researching all the options. Read reviews on the internet, check the data, see what other people say.
  • Try Before You Buy. It's also a good idea to visit shops, so you can actually get your hands on some car seats. This way you can check the feel of the material, get a sense of the size they take up and try them out to see how easy they are to use.
  • Register Your Car Seat. When you make a purchase, register your car seat with the manufacturer. This is important because then you will be notified if the manufacturer finds any defects and recalls the product.

Car Seats for Toddlers

A seat like the Britax Marathon 70 G3-S gets good reports. It has a base which is designed to compress in a crash, which lowers the center of gravity. This reduces the chance of your child being propelled forward. This seat is easy to install. It is comfortable and provides a lot of support. There's a lot of padding for comfort and, if you think there is too much, it can be removed.

The Safety 1st Go Hybrid Convertible Booster uses a five-point harness (the safest harnessing option) for children up to 65 pounds. When your child is big enough, the seat can be converted into a backless booster seat. It's quick and easy to install. One plus point for this seat is its light-weight, so it is easy to move around. Good for urban parents who use cabs.

The Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat can carry a child from 20-100 pounds. With a 5-point harness system, it is good for safety. When your child grows, it can be changed into a high-back belt positioning booster, then later into a backless belt-positioning booster. It's a sturdy and well constructed seat. It's big plus point is that your child can continue to comfortably use it as they grow.


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