How to choose best convertible car seat: A complete buying guide


As per federal laws, parents have to buy a special car seat in order to protect their child from probable accident. All the states have laws in place which requires ensuring that children under four years of age should be restrained to the child safety seat. In this guide we will discuss about different types of seats, pros and cons of using convertible seats and what should be your major concerns while buying a seat.

Types of convertible seats

 
Many a manufacturer has made plethora of seats available to the consumers. Most manufacturers differ in their recommendations about the weight and age suitable for their products.
            It has been said that the infant should ride in the rear facing position till it turns a year old but a recent study calls to double the age. The infant is restrained to the seat by 5-point harness till it turns 4, when it can be placed in a booster seat which is secured with lap and shoulder tap.

Type of Car Seat

Age Range

Weight Range

Rear-facing Infant Seat
0-12 months
5-22 pounds
Convertible Car Seat
0-4 years
5-40 pounds
High Back Booster Seat
4-6 years
33-55 pounds
Booster Seat
6-11 years
48-79 pounds
 

What is a convertible seat?

                A convertible seat is designed in a manner that the kid tends to grow with it. A convertible seat, which can be installed in a car, can be installed in rear facing or front facing style as per the law in the state. In many states, the laws enforces parents to have the convertible seat in rear facing position till their infant is one year old while some research work done lately suggests that the time span should be doubled.
            A convertible seat has 5-point harness system among which 2 straps restrain the infant’s shoulders, 2 restrain the thighs and 1 is crossed between the legs. After the kid turns 4 or weighs 45 pounds, he is shifted to booster seat.

All-in-one car seat

                All-in-one car seat is a convertible seat which can be converted into a booster seat when the kid turns 4. Initially for 2 years the kid rides in rear facing position and after it he rides in front facing position. When the kid turns 4, the back support is removed from the all-in-one seat and the base is attached to the normal car seat. Now the kid is secured from the accident by shoulder and lap strap.

Pros:

·        Can be used for longer period.
·        As parents don’t require to buy an infant seat and toddler seat separately, it often is a cheaper solution.

Cons:

·         Convertible car seats are too big comparing to the infants. So parents often need to provide external objects as headrest for their children till they grow up and match the height of head rest.
·         Convertible car seats are not easy to install and remove. It often gets very difficult to remove an installed seat. It is very inconvenient when the infant is sleeping.
Albeit a few drawbacks the convertible car seat has remained the best options for the parents so far.

How to choose a Convertible Seat

            All seats are required to meet the basic safety standards directed by the law in the respective states. Although all the seats that are available to parents suffice the minimum requirements, parents should be cautious than sorry. It is advised for parents to stop using the seat after 6 years provided that the plastic material tends to weaken with time. Parents are also advised to stop using a seat which met with an accident and purchase a new one. One of the most popular and considerably safer features are 5-point harness, LATCH system and Protection from side collision.
User convenience
NHTSA is acronym of National Highway Transport Safety Administration. NHTSA accredits stars to the seats. The seat with most stars is easier to install and use. Also, it is considered to be the safest.
5-point harness
5-point harness is considered the safest feature among the ones offered by the manufacturers. The 5-point harness has straps for the infant’s either shoulders, both thighs, and one strap goes between the legs. Thus, provides five point protection for the infant. In a case of accident, these straps restrain the infant in its place and keep him from sliding down from the seat. A plastic buckle is there at shoulder which keeps the baby’s head from the effect of accidental collision.
LATCH
LATCH is known as “lower anchors and tethers for children”. Latch system allows parents to directly tether the convertible seat in their car instead of using the seat belts to keep it in its place. A convertible seat is expected to have three LATCHs, two tethers at bottom and one at the top. There are two types of LATCH connector: Push Connector and Hook Connector. Push connector has been the more convenient option between the two.
Side Protection
Although not required, some of the seats come with side protection. This feature is allowed because of shock absorbing foam which is used in these seats.

Other Important Things to Look For

            Although safety comes first for the baby, there are other aspects which also require to be discussed while buying the car. Once you have finished with the safety features, you can check the design, ease to use, comfort etc. As the seat is going to stay in your car for several years, you wouldn’t want to buy a thing you’d later regret of buying.
Comfort
As discussed above, your infant is going to sit in the convertible seat for several years, as a parent you’d think about the comfort of your child. Chest straps can provide good amount of comfort to the baby. Of course, you wouldn’t want your baby to be rubbed at wrong places. It is necessary to find a comfortable seat otherwise you’ll find yourself putting towels or cushions on the seat to make it more comfortable.
Washable Cover
Dealing with an infant, you’ll often find it dirty. They like to do it. I can range from eatables to excretory materials. Surprisingly most of the convertible car seats come with fixed cover. As a parent you wouldn’t allow your child to sit on a filthy seat. So it’s always advisable to buy a seat with removable and easily washable cover.
Easy Adjustments
As the definition of the convertible seat goes, it is designed to grow with the child. So evidently it is supposed to be easily adjustable. Parents should avoid buying the seats which requires to be removed in order to accommodate growing babies.

Installing the Seat

            You might feel that anyone who can read instruction manual can install the seat but the stats show the contrary. According to NHTSA, 3 out of 4 car seats are improperly installed.
            A convertible car seat is best to be installed at the backseat. As discussed earlier, it should be in the rear facing position until your child overgrows the maximum height or weight advised by the manufacturer.
            We don’t recommend you to buy second hand convertible car seats as they might be missing clandestine parts, or may have been involved in an accident in the past. Moreover, the plastic gets brittle with time, so it may break down during collision. So, it’s not advisable to buy second hand convertible car seats.
            In order to ensure your kid’s safety, you should let your installation inspected by the NHTSA’s inspection unit. You can contact them on their website.

Top Brands

            Convertible car seats are manufactured by many manufacturers. They all provide a vast range of products. Before going after any brand you should check the safety features. Some top brands which make convertible seats are Britax, Graco, Evenflo, Peg perego etc.

How much it is going to cost you

            Provided a wide range of products by the manufacturers, the price is very likely to vary. The range in which the good quality convertible car seats fall is $80-$380.
 

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