A Parent’s Guide to Buying a Safe and Reliable Car Seat

You will make lots of important purchasing decisions as a parent. Safety is the number one consideration when you’re shopping for an infant car seat, a convertible car seat or a booster car seat. Below are a few tips to help ensure you buy the right car seat and protect your child in the event of an accident.

Know What Kind You Need and Don’t Cut Corners

Your car seat selection depends on the size of your child, not his or her age. A rear-facing infant car seat is designed for newborns generally weighing five to 22 pounds. Infant car seats typically are lightweight and portable with a detachable base.

A convertible car seat can safely accommodate a child from infant to toddler-sized. These seats can be rear-facing to safely carry an infant (up to 20 pounds) and later turned to the front and used for toddlers between 20 and 40 pounds.

A booster seat is safest for children 40 to 100 pounds. These seats make it safe for children to use seatbelts otherwise designed for adult passengers. Note that Florida law requires children ages three and younger to ride in an approved child car seat.

Hand-me-downs are great for clothing and toys but think twice about accepting a used car seat. Safety technology and requirements frequently change, and usually become more strict. Buying a new car seat ensures your choice matches the latest industry standards. Additionally, a used car seat might have compromised or weakened fixtures – such as those caused by wear-and-tear – that are invisible to the eye.

Save Money Other Ways and Always Buy These Certain Safety Features

Convertible car seats offer the best value, as they can be used from the time of your baby’s birth until he or she is ready for a booster seat. If you want the convenience of easily removing a sleeping baby from the car (such as what’s available with an infant seat), consider shopping for an infant car seat/stroller combo.

All car seats should come with basic safety features like:

  • side-impact protection at the baby’s head;
  • a five-point harness (two shoulder straps, two across the belly and one between the legs); and
  • the LATCH system (this enables the base to fasten without the use of seatbelts).


Look for the Stamp of Quality and Stay Current on Safety Recalls

Choose a car seat that has received the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Associated (JPMA) seal of approval.

Car seat recalls are frequent enough to warrant your attention. Check safercar.gov on a weekly basis and/or set a Google news alert with terms like “car seat recall” or the name of your selected car seat.

Learn How to Properly Install the Seat

Read the product instructions. Verify you have properly installed the seat by having your work checked by a trained professional. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides a database of Child Car Seat Inspection Stations. Local options include Babies R Us (6001 W. Sample Rd., Pompano Beach) and the Broward County Sheriff (10550 Stirling Rd., Hollywood).