Looking to buy a car seat? Whether you are buying one for your newborn baby or you are upgrading your child to a booster seat, here are a few basic tips for car seat shopping. If there’s one topic every parent has to visit at least once in their life, it’s car seats. You can’t leave the hospital without one, so it’s important to know the basics of picking the right one for your family! I’m a little bit obsessed with car seat safety – I think part of it comes down to the fact that I’ve been in a couple of car accidents, and I just want to make sure Jack is as safe as possible (even if some people think we’re crazy for having a three-year-old who is rear facing.) There are tons of car seat safety posts out there, and I know they can sometimes cause contention, so today I’m focusing on the basics – tips for buying a car seat! We’ve bought a couple of different car seats for Jack, and I always put a lot of thought and research into doing that. While you’ll probably be just fine if you hop over to Babies ‘R Us and get one, I think it’s a good idea to do a few differe
1) Research online
There’s so much information about different car seats that are on the market online. You can go to websites like Babies R Us, or manufacturers websites. Plenty of people have written guides about the best car seats, and if you frequent parenting forums like on BabyCenter, there are tons of people willing to answer questions! CarSeat.org is a great resource for finding information. I think it’s good to research online first – whether you want to buy online or in store. I always find that when I go into the store, I get overwhelmed with all the options, and I end up wanting to research them at home anyways before I make the final purchase. If you research online first, it makes going into the store a lot less overwhelming.
2) Go to the store
So, after you’ve done your research online, I highly recommend going into the store. Even if you want to buy online (and often, you can find better deals. Though some baby stores will price match, so keep that in mind.) When we were buying Jack a convertible car seat, I went into the store with a couple of different options in mind. The car seat I thought we would end up buying ended up not being what we wanted, and we got another option. Had we just purchased it online without looking at the them in person, we may have ended up disappointed! Many stores will also allow you to take the demo version out to your car to see if it will fit. Not all car seats fit well in certain cars, especially with smaller vehicles. You don’t want to end up with a car seat that doesn’t fit!
Chances are, you want your car seat to last awhile – perhaps even for multiple children. There are tons of different options for car seats out there, and there are varying levels of how long they will actually last. For instance, if you get an infant car seat, that will only last until about your child’s first birthday. However, there are convertible car seats that accommodate children as small as five pounds all the way up to 80-100 pounds! We personally loved having our infant car seat, and we didn’t mind buying a convertible car seat when Jack outgrew it. But if you are on a budget and you don’t want to be able to move your infant from the car to inside using their car seat, buying a car seat that they can use from infanthood to toddlerhood might be a good option.
On a similar note, when you do purchase a convertible car seat or booster seat, you want to know what the height and weight limits are on it for both rear and front facing. For instance, I knew we wanted to rear face Jack for as long as possible, so we purchased a car seat that could rear face until he was 40 pounds, and it was able to convert to a front facing car seat until 70 pounds. It’s also important to note the height limit on a car seat, since most kids will reach that before they reach the weight limit (especially with infant car seats.)
There are many car seats that can work as both a front facing harnessed booste for a child and last until they are just using a backless booster seat. We were recently sent the Evenflo Platinum Evolve 3-in-1 Combination Seat, which is an awesome option if you are looking for a long lasting booster. It accommodates children from 22 pounds up to 110 pounds, so it’s definitely one of those really cool looking, and he can’t wait until he is able to use it! It looks pretty cool – and what kid doesn’t want TWO snack/drink holders!
Some other great features of this car seat is that it has Outlast Technology, which means that the car seat was built to keep your child comfortable in hot AND cold weather, which is awesome – especially if you live somewhere like we do that has very cold temperatures and very hot temperatures throughout the year. It is equipped with connectors and latch guides for quick installation (view the installation video here), and it has been designed and tested for structural integrity at energy levels approximately 2x the federal crash test standard. You can buy it from Babies R Us here!
4) Car Recommendations
Look around online for car seat recommendations for your specific vehicle. As I mentioned before, not all car seats are great for every vehicle. You can also find recommendations for car seats that can be fit three across, which is important for some families! When I was looking around for our first car seat for Jack, I had to make sure it was something that could fit in a smaller vehicle, and that definitely ruled out quite a few options.
5) Car Seat Laws and Recommendations
Car seat laws vary from state to state. Some states just require that your child is in some kind of restraint device, while others have specific height and weight limits. If you move to a new state, you definitely need to see if the laws have changed. When we lived in Utah, they only say that a child under 7 and under 57″ be in a restraint device (and there are no laws dictating what kind.) However, in Colorado the law states that a child must be over one and 20 pounds to be front facing, between 1-3 in a child safety seat, and 4-7 in a booster seat. You can check this website for the most current laws for your state. With that said, I think that you should pay attention to current recommendations from the AAP. These organizations have the most recent information and test results on car seat safety, and I personally believe it’s the best advice to follow. After talking with our pediatrician and doing a lot of research, I feel even more confident in these recommendations over just the bare minimum that states give. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure your are legally buckling your child in and making the best decision on the information you have!
6) Don’t buy used
I’m all about saving money when you can – especially when it comes to baby products. However, you shouldn’t buy a used car seat – especially if you don’t know all the details of the car seat’s history and can 100% trust that the previous owner says. If a car seat has ever been in a car accident (even a fender bender), it shouldn’t be used again. Even something as simple as washing the car seat straps incorrectly can make a car seat work less effectively. Most second hand stores, like Once Upon a Child, don’t even sell or buy used car seats. However, I have seen these stores selling new car seats at discounted rates, so that’s a good place to go!
7) Know the expiration
Did you know that car seats expire? They do! It varies depending on the car seat, but if you are planning on using a car seat with more than one child, I highly recommend purchasing one that has the furthest away expiration date so you don’t have to splurge on a new one every few years! You should be able to view this information before you purchase a car seat. If not, you can check on the manufacturers website for how long their car seats last, and then compare that date against the manufactured date that will be listed on the car seat.
When to Buy a Car Seat
If you are about to have your first baby, make sure you have your car seat bought and installed before your baby is even born. I’d recommend shooting for at least by 30 weeks. Hospitals require that you have a car seat to take your baby home in, so you don’t want to have to rush to try and find one a few hours before you are getting ready to take your new baby home! When it comes to upgrading your car seat or buying a booster seat, I would recommend looking around when you feel your child is just about ready to move up. You could always buy one well before you even need it if you find a good deal. That’s what we did with Jack’s convertible car seat!
Where to Buy a Car Seat
There are tons of places to buy car seats. We have purchased a car seat from Target and Babies R Us, but you can really find them at most retail stores. Purchasing them online is also a great option, since you can look for the best price that way usually. As I mentioned before, please avoid buying car seats from Facebook garage sales, Craigslist, or garage sales, UNLESS they are sealed and in the original packaging.
Evenflo® is taking extended use and comfort to the next level with the introduction of theEvenflo Platinum Evolve. Visit Evenflo.com for more information.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Evenflo®. The opinions and text are all mine.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.