Children come with a lot of stuff. From cribs and highchairs to teethers and toys, there’s always something that's required. But there is one essential piece of equipment that most hospitals won’t even let newborns leave without: a car seat. Buying the right car seat for your child is maybe one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent.
But with so many car seats available it can be daunting to decide which seat to get and when to get it. Front-facing or rear-facing? How do you install the thing? Which one’s the safest? Does the most expensive seat mean it’s the best?
From car seats for newborns to booster seats for older children, follow the Pish Posh Baby car seat buying guide to help you decide which car seat will best suit your family.
Which car seat should I buy?
The best car seat for your child is the one that fits your child, fits your car and one that you’ll be able to use correctly every time. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all option – many parents will buy three or four different seats by the time their child finishes kindergarten. Why? Because car seats are specifically designed to be as safe as possible for different developmental stages of your child.
So, from a safety point of view, children should stay in the safest car seat until they outgrow it. That means: don’t try to move your little one too quickly to the next stage car seat - their safety may be compromised.
Keeping Your Baby Safe
All our seats pass through rigorous National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing, but a seat is only as safe as how well it is installed. Although car seats need to meet federal safety standards, many children are still injured in crashes. This is partly because three out of four car seats are not installed properly. Check out our article on seven car safety mistakes to avoid.
Here is a list of features that will leave less room for error during installation and make your car seat easier to use day in, day out.
Car Seat Safety Features To Consider
- Push-on LATCH system connectors. All seats can be secured using a seatbelt or the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system – a set of metal clips buried in the back-seat cushions and a top tether. Push-on LATCH connectors (as opposed to a less expensive hook) are easier to attach to the vehicle’s metal anchor, and disconnect with the push of a button.
- Separate straps. Separate straps for each half of the body makes it less likely the straps will twirl or become uneven, which can be dangerous in a crash.
- ‘No rethread’ harness. As your child grows, you’ll need to adjust the shoulder strap height. Some seats require you to pull the straps out and rethread them through the seat, while others are much simpler – look for a ‘no rethread’ harness.
- Safety belt lock-off devices. These help pinch the belt into place.
- Correct rear-facing seat positioning. Some seats have a built-in ‘foot’ or ‘load leg’ as well as different recline positions to help achieve this.
Pish Posh Baby's Car Seats
Pish Post Baby stock three categories of car seats: infant seats, convertible seats (which can be rear- or forward-facing), and boosters (harnessed and backless) for older children. Regardless of which seat or installation method you choose, children up to 2 years old (or until they are too tall and heavy for that type of seat) should be seated rear-facing (looking at the back seat) - the safest position possible.
1. Car Seats For Newborns And Infants
All infant seats are rear-facing only, and the most common type snaps in and out of a base installed into the car, as well as into a stroller frame. Infant car seats use a five-point harness, come with a newborn insert to use from birth and typically last until your child is 6 to 15 months old. These bucket-style seats are convenient because they can also serve as a baby carrier, albeit an unwieldy one.
If you’re a first-time parent, we always recommend making sure you choose a lightweight infant car seat, because you’ll not only be carrying the actual seat but your baby inside as well! Try the Nuna Pipa Lite RX Infant Car Seat + Pipa Relx Base ($499.95), which is lightweight enough to tote while doing your shopping or the Maxi Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat PureCosi ($219.99), which is one of the lightest infant car seat in its class, with a super-comfy ergonomic handle.
Alternatively, pick a car seat with integrated wheels: the Doona+ Car Seat Stroller ($550) has wheels that flip down to convert into a complete travel system.
For added safety, choose a car seat that has a ‘load leg’. The Clek Liing 2021/2022 Infant Car Seat ($439.99) has a European belt path for baseless installs as well as an energy-absorbing metal load leg for increased stability.
2. Convertible Car Seats
A convertible car seat, also known as a toddler seat, can face either backward or forward in the car but experts recommend that a convertible seat be used in rear-facing mode for as long as possible. The Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat ($549.99) is designed for both revolutionary forward-facing safety performance and extended rear-facing use, allowing for most kids to remain rear-facing until their fourth birthday. It’s also safer to keep your child in a five-point harness until they outgrow the height/weight limits. Don’t rush moving to a booster!
Convertible seats typically last until your child is 4 to 6 years old, are heavier and generally far less portable. Because it won’t usually be removed from your car, you don’t need to worry about its weight. Comfort is key! For a child of 9 to 12 months and up, we recommend a seat that’s super comfortable for longer rides as well as being easy to install.
The Maxi Cosi Pria 3-in-1 Car Seat ($299.99) can be used from birth to 10 years old. Children can ride rear-facing, from 4-40 pounds; forward-facing to 65 pounds; and up to 100 pounds in booster mode. Converting to each new stage is simple and intuitive, so you can quickly make car seat adjustments.
We also recommend a seat with a cover that you can remove and wash as these seats tend to get dirty (think food + toddlers = MESS). The Britax Grow With You Clicktight Booster Seat ($319.99) has an easy-to-remove cover for cleaning without uninstalling the car seat or removing the harness.
3. Car Booster Seats For Older Children
High-Backed, Harnessed Booster Seats
By the time your toddler seat is well worn, it’s time for your child to graduate to a high-backed, harnessed booster seat. Your child should weigh a minimum of 40 pounds, be at least 4 years old, able to sit still in the car and avoid slumping when falling asleep in the car. High-back boosters provide extra head and side impact protection.
Try the Chicco MyFit Harness + Booster Car Seat ($209.99): its LATCH connectors are not only safe but also mean the booster won’t fly off the seat when not in use.
Backless Car Booster Seats
Your child should move to a backless booster seat once their ears reach the top of the head restraint of the high-back or harnessed booster seat. Backless boosters use the car’s safety belt to keep your child in place, lifting them higher in the seat so the belt contacts firm parts of the body, like shoulders and legs, rather than soft parts, like stomachs.
Try the Clek Olli Backless Booster Seat ($119.99), which comes in a range of fun colors, the Chicco GoFit Plus Booster ($54.99), which is equipped with LATCH to help stabilize the seat while the child gets in and out, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Shuttle 120 ($119.99), which comes with a carry handle and adjustable shoulder clip, making it easy to use on the go.
Still can’t decide?
Finding the best car seat depends on your child’s age and weight. Have a look at our chart to help you choose. And as always, our dedicated team of baby gear experts would be more than happy to answer any questions to help you make the right choice.
You can view the whole Pish Posh Baby car seat collection here.