Tips for Choosing a Child’s Car Seat

The car seat is an essential piece of child safety equipment. Here are some tips that will help you get the right one.

  1. Read your vehicle owner’s manual carefully before going shopping — to see exactly where the car seat should go and how it should be installed.

Having scanned the manual will ensure a better buying experience. Car eats can be attached using either the seat belt or the LATCH system (which stands for the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, and which all new vehicles have). You can decide before buying which one you want to use and then look for a seat based on how you want to install it — belt or LATCH.

  1. Make sure you choose the correct seat for your child’s age, weight, and height.

Each car seat owner’s manual details the weight and height specifications for that seat.

  1. Know how much room you have in the back seat. A seat with a large base may not fit in a small car — you may have to opt for one with a narrower base instead.

Also consider who’ll be sitting in the back seat. How many children do you have? How many are in car seats? Take back seat measurements before you go shopping and bring the measuring tape with you to the store to measure the base of the seats.

  1. Make installation easy. There should be clear instructions on the seat itself. Choose one that explains installation with a diagram as well as text.

Make use of all the instructions you can — those in the instruction booklet (which should always be kept with the seat), and the diagrams on the seat itself — to have the best possible chance of installing the seat correctly.

  1. Check the belt path — make sure it’s easily accessed, and that the seat belt is properly fastened and secure.

If you’re going to install the safety seat with the car’s seat belt, you’ll do so using the safety seat’s belt path — it’s what will keep the seat secure.

  1. Choose a seat with two-piece retainer clips. These clips are more difficult for a child to unfasten.

The two-piece clips take some dexterity and ingenuity to unfasten. Without these, toddlers may be able to unbuckle and climb out of their seat by themselves.

  1. Look for accessible harness adjusters.

All safety seat harnesses adjust, but you want to make sure the adjustments are easy to reach and simple to use. An improper harness adjustment makes the seat less effective in the event of a crash.

  1. Choose something easy to clean. Seats made with a smooth fabric will wipe clean more easily than a textured fabric such as corduroy.

This one’s more about cleanliness than safety — but easy-to-clean is a virtue, too.