For the past couple of years I have toyed with the idea of writing about car seats since it’s one of the most common topics people ask me about. I have always taken car seat safety seriously and have never been comfortable with writing about it because I’m not an expert. Just because I chose one seat, doesn’t mean that it’s the way to go. You have to consider budget, size of child, size of car and what characteristics are most important. All car seats are safe so if you can’t afford a $500 seat that claims to be the safest, it does not mean that you aren’t choosing a safe option for your child.
Instead of listing options, I wanted to share the websites and resources that I use regularly for choosing new seats and safely installing. You can use their guides to figure out which is the best car seat for your family.
How do you know it’s time for a new seat?
Check the height and weight requirements for your specific seat. Once my boys were too close to the top of the pumpkin seat, it was time to buy a convertible. You can start with a convertible from the beginning- most have inserts that can accommodate tiny babies, but the pumpkin seat is convenient to move a sleeping baby in and out of a car without disturbing them.
As of August 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that children should ride in rear-facing car seats until they reach the height or weight limit for the seat. Previous guidance said that children should ride in rear-facing seats until at least age 2. Keep in mind that after-market car seat accessories are a no-go. If it didn’t come with the seat then you technically shouldn’t be using it. This includes seat protectors, those cute bear strap cushions, etc. because the seats were not crash-tested with any of these products. If you have questions about a specific item then check your manual or the Facebook group below.
Ok, moving on…I know I will get asked what we have and why we chose it so I’ll knock that out of the way real quick.
Why? I always knew I wanted to go with the UPPAbaby Vista stroller system so it was just an easy choice to stick with the same brand. It clicks in to the stroller without adapters and the car base is so easy to install that it’s nearly foolproof. I loved this for other caregivers who might have my kids. I also found the cover easy to wash and that came in handy with the many early blowouts. It’s expensive, but I put it on my registry and hoped for the best. We have used it with two babies now and we have had zero complaints.
My short list:
Convertible Seat: Maxi Cosi Pria 70 + 85 Max
Why? This seat is not the top rated mostly because there are complaints that the straps are too hard to tighten and it’s big. This things don’t really bother me and after hours of research, we ultimately picked this seat for 3 reasons. 1. It’s considered one of the most comfortable seats available. We drive to see my family 4 hours away and I want the boys to be comfortable for all the road trips. 2. The cover is washable. Not all of them are so I highly recommend choosing a seat with a washable cover…kids are gross. 3. For some reason the fabric doesn’t get very hot. I have sweaty boys and they stay pretty cool in this during the hottest days. 4. It’s a no rethread harness so you don’t have to rethread the harness to fit different heights (big time saver).
My oldest has the 70 which just explains the weight maximum and we just bought the 85 Max for my 8 month old because they upgraded the chest clip.
My short list:
Ok, now that we’ve crossed that off the list, let’s get to the amazing resources available for you to use when looking for a new seat.
Car Seat Websites
I visit both of these sites when shopping for a new seat, wanting new info or wanting to install a seat. Bookmark them and follow their social media accounts.
Car Seat Facebook Group
I am in this Facebook group that will assist you with install help, choosing a new seat or just answering any questions you have. I do skip over sometimes when I see cringe-worthy posts. It’s entertaining if nothing else.
Local Car Seat Resources
If you are one of my St. Louis readers then I will link the Children’s Hospital Safety Stop below. For everyone else, just search something like “car seat install” and your city and look for a local hospital with a certified car seat specialist. You can make an appointment and they will assist with making sure the straps are placed correctly on the child and the seat is installed per the instructions. You will need the child to go with you. This is usually a free service.
What about local fire stations? Many of them will offer car seat installation, but you need to make sure that it is a certified specialist touching your seat. I have read many stories in that Facebook group about families who take it to the station and it is installed incorrectly. It’s still a great option, just be sure to ask to work with someone who has the certification.
Any other car seat shopping tips? Leave a comment!