Choosing the Right Car Seat

11956361_mChoosing a child safety seat shouldn’t be complicated, but it is. It must be the right size and style for your infant or child. The seat must be compatible with your vehicle, they are not universal. Finally, it must meet the current safety standards, not be subject to a recall and, if it is a used seat, you must make sure that it has not been damaged or involved in a crash.


Babies should always start out in a rear-facing seat. Check the label on the seat for height and weight limits. Some allow for children up to about three years old while others are only designed to accommodate infants up to 12 months. The safest choice is to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible, but do not exceed the seat’s height and weight limits. The America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping your child rear-facing until they are at least two years old.

Never place a rear-facing seat in front of an active airbag. It places your child too close, where the force of the airbag deploying can cause serious injuries.


Somewhere between one and three years old, you will need to switch to a forward-facing car seat. In most seats, you can use the top tether until your child reaches 40 pounds. Some seat allow for the top tether to be used longer, so check the label or the manual, as well as your vehicle’s manual to determine the maximum weight limit. Some forward-facing car seats will accommodate a child up to 80 pounds.

Booster Seats

At about four years old or 40 pounds, or when he outgrows the forward facing seat, your child can move to a booster seat. The booster seat is used until your child is large enough for the seat belt to fit properly by itself.


You must never place a rear-facing seat in front of an active airbag. You should avoid placing a forward-facing seat, booster seat, or any child, in front of an active airbag, and if it cannot be avoided, move the seat as far back as possible to minimize the force if the bag deploys.

Of course, you child should really be in the backseat. May cars have side-impact airbags in the backseat, and those may pose a danger as well. You will need to check your car seat manual and vehicle manual to determine if you can place the car seat next to a side airbag.

Other Concerns

Check the expiration date on your seat. Never use a car seat that has been involved in a crash. Check to make sure that your seat has not been recalled before you use it, and on a regular basis while you are using it.