6 Tips for Buying a Car Seat

Whether it’s hearing their first words from the back seat or seeing their sleepy yawns through the rearview mirror, some of your favorite memories with your little one are made while they’re in their car seat. There’s a lot to consider when choosing an infant car seat — from ensuring it fits your child correctly to buying a convertible car seat that can adjust to forward-facing as your child continues to grow. Take a look at these tips on how to shop for a child car seat. With such precious cargo riding right behind you, you’ll be glad you did!


Table of Contents

Why Are Car Seats Important?

How to Buy a Car Seat

Tip 1: Decide on Features That Work for You

Tip 2: Focus on Getting the Fit Right

Tip 3: Weigh Price Against Features

Tip 4: Inspect Carefully Before Buying a Used Car Seat

Tip 5: Learn How to Properly Install Your Car Seat

Tip 6: Register Your Car Seat With the Manufacturer

Get the Right Coverage for Your Car and Your Family

Frequently Asked Car Seat Questions

Why Are Car Seats Important?

Car seats are key because they’ve been proven to save lives and reduce the severity of injuries when used properly. Because infants and youngsters are so vulnerable during car accidents, child safety seats are really the best way to protect your kids traveling in your car. And since a properly-installed car seat is required in all 50 states, we’d like to help you get up to speed on keeping you little ones as safe as they can be when you’re out on the road.

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How to Buy a Car Seat

Start by verifying that child passenger car safety seat you choose is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Often, you’ll find the AAP’s emblem or endorsement on the box. You’ll also want to take into account your child’s age, size, weight.

While ratings and reviews can be helpful places to start, here are six key tips to keep in mind when the time comes to buy a new car seat:

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Tip 1: Decide on Features That Work for You

There are a lot of different car seats on the market today. You may want to reach out to your pediatrician and ask which car safety seat they would recommend. Be sure to ask friends how they came to a decision on which car seat to purchase, too. Look for info in reviews online on car seat comfort, durability and ease-of-use.

Rear facing seats for infants might require a wide-angle mirror mounted to the headrest, so be sure to inquire about those too. Look for models that offer safe, user-friendly harness straps that safely buckle the child into the seat. How easily does the cradle detach from the mounting bracket? Is the seat’s fabric machine washable? Is a frame stroller available for the car seat? If so, that can save you from waking the baby if they fall asleep in the car.

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Tip 2: Focus on Getting the Fit Right

As you probably already guessed — car seats are not one size fits all. And if you’re just starting your search, your first step is to determine which type of car seat (rear-facing, front-facing, booster seat, seat belt and more) is safest for the age, weight and height of your kiddo. Also, be sure the belt’s position and length will work with bulky winter clothes. To keep costs down, you might want to think about getting a convertible car seat.

While they sometimes cost more up front, they can make it easier to keep your kiddo safe for several years, meaning you don’t have to buy a new seat every time Junior sizes up. Win!

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has a great car seat size calculator to help you find the right car safety seat. Just be certain to verify that any car seat you’re eyeing will mount into your car safely.

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Tip 3: Weigh Price Against Features

Hands down, the car seat is one of the most important purchases you’ll make when you have a new baby on the way. But don’t be swayed by price. A higher price tag — or a model with lots of cool features — doesn’t necessarily mean the car seat meets today’s safety standards. Choose car seats with a proven track record that will adjust to your child as they grow.

Models that claim side impact protection may seem attractive but be sure the crash test data backs up the maker’s claims.

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Tip 4: Inspect Carefully Before Buying a Used Car Seat

Thinking of buying or borrowing a used car seat? It’s vitally important to know the background of what you’re getting. While it might look new, car seats can have hidden issues from their previous lives — like being weakened or broken from an accident or featuring outdated or recalled technology. If you’re looking into a used car seat, make sure you:

  • Know the date it was manufactured, its model number and look online for safety defects
  • Download the PDF of the original user’s guide and installation instructions
  • Call the maker and verify that the model has not been recalled
  • Verify the seat’s height and weight limits will work with your child
  • Don’t use the car seat if parts are missing, cracks or visible signs of wear are present or it was in a car crash

When in doubt, go new. Experts agree that buying a brand new car seat is best since safety technology changes so rapidly.

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Tip 5: Learn How to Properly Install Your Car Seat

Before you head out on any adventure with your bundle of joy, you’ll want to be certain the car seat’s mounted securely. Carefully read the instructions and follow the maker’s recommendations on placement. It’s always a good idea to have your car seat installation checked by a certified professional.

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Tip 6: Register Your Car Seat With the Manufacturer

Registering your car seat is one of the smartest ways to make sure you’ll hear about any safety defects or recalls right away. You can also check out our car seat safety guide — these tips help ensure you’re keeping your little ones well-protected.

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Get the Right Coverage for Your Car and Your Family

Having the right car seat is vital to your kid’s safety. And so is having the right protection. Be sure to reach out to your American Family Insurance agent to make sure you have the right car insurance coverage for everything that matters most.

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Frequently Asked Car Seat Questions

  1. Plan on making a purchase approximately 3 weeks before the baby arrives. That way, you’ll have time to read up on the product, get it properly installed and registered with the maker.

  2. Yes, you really do! Infant car seats are specifically designed to protect newborn babies from the forces encountered in a car crash. 

  3. In today’s competitive car seat market, there’s little evidence that says expensive car seats do a better job than inexpensive alternatives. What really does matter is that the seat is properly installed, regardless of cost.

  4. Convertible car seats can be mounted rear and forward-facing as the child grows. They may prove to be more costly, but their value can be realized over time because you’ll only need one car seat for the first few years of your baby’s life.

  5. Heatstroke can occur quite quickly in infants, even on moderately warm days. Several car seat alarms, reminder apps and hot car warning systems are on the market today to help busy parents remember the baby in the back seat.


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Related Topics: Car Safety , Safe Driving