Rear-facing or Forward-facing? This Car Seat Guide Has All the Information You Need

Is your kid riding in the right child safety seat?

Father take baby out of car happy family lifestyle dad and child together parenthood childhood concept iStock

Rear-facing or forward-facing? Booster seat or safety belt? If you have children, you know there are a lot of questions about how, exactly, to keep them safe in a car. Find the answers in our car seat guide.

Car seat guide: Which seat should I use?

If you’re not sure when to move your child to the next type of car seat, look at these stages:

Rear-facing safety seat: Children should stay rear-facing as long as possible, up to the limits of the car safety seat. This includes almost all children under the age of 2, or older if the child hasn’t yet reached 35 pounds (weight may vary by car seat).

Forward-facing safety seat, with harness: Many seats can take children up to 60 pounds or more. When they’re ready and exceed the seat’s limits, move them to a belt-positioning booster seat in which they can sit properly with the safety belt at the correct height.

Belt-positioning booster seat: Use this until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder safety belts fit properly—generally when children are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall and 8 to 12 years old.

Lap and shoulder belts: When children can use the vehicle’s safety belts without additional safety seating, they should always use lap and shoulder safety belts for optimal protection.

Front seat versus back seat: All children younger than 13 should be restrained in the vehicle’s rear seats for optimal protection.

Infographic showing different kinds of car seats Andrew Roberts

Car seat guide: What are common mistakes to avoid?

Moving out of a booster seat too soon: Use booster seats until safety belts fit properly. This is when children can sit with their back against the seat, knees bending at the edge of the seat and feet touching the floor.

Not installing the car seat tightly enough: The car seat shouldn’t move side-to-side or front-to-back more than 1 inch at the belt path.

Not tightening the harness straps enough:  Harness straps should lie flat, without any twists. Be sure the harness is snug enough that you can’t pinch any extra material at the child’s shoulder.

Not wearing safety belts: The driver and everyone else in the vehicle should always ride safely buckled up. Kids are watching their parents and learning.

Car seat guide: Should I buy a new or used car seat?

Sure, it’s nice to save by buying it used. But when it comes to car seats, used is not usually a good idea. Here are four reasons to buy a car seat new:

1.     The used car seat may be worn or damaged, and it won’t offer maximum protection in a crash.

2.     Used car seats may have been recalled due to defects. Using a recalled seat puts your child at risk. When you buy your new seat, register it using the model number on the seat’s label. You can register online or call the number listed on the label. You’ll be notified if your car seat is recalled.

3.     Car seats can expire. An expired car seat could fail in a crash because the materials deteriorate over time. Find the expiration date at the bottom or back of the seat.

4.     Used seats may be missing key parts, and there are many—hardware, straps, clips, instruction manuals and more. If some parts are gone, that makes the seat less effective in a crash.



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