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Different Car Seat Options for Your Child

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When you are expecting your first child, the variety of car seat options can be overwhelming. Friends, store clerks and other parents are throwing around words like “bucket seat”, “booster”, “convertible”, “forward-facing”, “rear-facing”, “high back booster”, “infant seat” and many more and you might just look at them like a deer in headlights.

“Why so many choices?”

five different car seat categories displayed

“How many seats can my one child possibly sit in?”

“I thought it was an infant seat, why are they calling it a bucket seat?”

“Does the booster need a back?”

“Why is it called a convertible?”

These are just a few questions that might be bouncing around in your head when you first hit that car seat aisle at the baby store. No fear, my friends, because we have broken it into categories and we show you the different options in today’s Baby Gizmo Video.

Oh, and if you have a friend that has that deer in headlights look when you start to talk car seats, just send them our way! 🙂

If you are a new or expecting parent for the first time, you might be a little overwhelmed by the different categories of car seats. If you’ve never had a baby before you might not know which one to choose and why are there so darn many. Today I wanted to show you the three main categories of car seats.

As a matter of fact, I’ve broken it into five different categories of different car seats you can choose the best for your baby. Before you freak out, you’re probably not going to need all five car seats for your child. You could get away with one maybe two depending on your choice.

Infant Car Seats

The first car seat category is the infant car seat, also known as the bucket seat if you are old school. You might hear your parents or grandparents refer to it as a bucket seat.

The infant car seat is for newborns up to about 30-35 pounds depending on the car seat brand and model. This is a rear-facing car seat only. NOTE: It can never forward face. It also can be used as a carrier because it does have a base that stays in the vehicle. You can take the car seat out out of the vehicle with your baby in it to transport them to a stroller or into the house.

Example of an Infant Car Seat: Maxi Cosi Mico

Remember that an infant car seat usually accommodates up to 30-35 lbs depending on the actual car seat. For those not familiar with babies too much yet, that is about a typical two to three year old. You should keep your baby rear-facing as long as you can and at least two years. It’s also important to note that car seats have a height maximum so your child may hit the height max before they hit the weight maximum.

Convertible

The next car seat category is the convertible car seat. A convertible car seat means that it can convert from rear-facing to forward-facing. (Again, remember the infant car seat DID NOT convert and is only for rear-facing.) Depending on the convertible car seat you choose, it depends on how high the weight capacity goes rear-facing.

Some convertible car seats go all the way to 45 pounds rear-facing which is pretty fantastic. Then you can switch them to forward-facing and some convertible car seats have very high forward-facing weight capacities such as up to 80- 85 pounds. You want to look for those high weight capacity car seats to get the longest use out of your car seat investment.

Convertible car seats are a bigger seat than an infant seat but you can use them with a newborn. Many start with a minimum weight capacity of only 5 lbs. Many of them have recline features to get the perfect install. While convertible car seats have a much longer use period, they are just not as portable as infant seats and you’re not going to be able to clip it to a stroller. You are going to leave it installed in your car.

The convertible car seat is a good option that is going to last you a long time. You can probably get a good 6 years of use (depending on the car seat brand and model) out of a convertible car seat depending on the size and growth rate of your child. Many convertible car seats have an expiration date of 6 to 7 years from manufacture but some go all the way up to 9-10 years with expiration.

Example of a Convertible Car Seat: Britax One4Life Clicktight

Full-Size Car Seats

The next category is the Full-Size Car Seat. This is a forward-facing car seat that is one of those in-between seats that can ONLY be used forward-facing so it cannot be used from birth. This type of seat typically starts at 25 lbs but I do not recommend putting a 25 lb baby in it because that is too little to be forward-facing.

Full-size car seats have a 5-point harness and can go up to typically 85 lbs depending on the brand/model. Some full-size car seats convert to a belt-positioning booster once your child hits the max 5-point harness weight. For example, the Britax Grow with You Clicktight has a weight capacity of 65 lbs with the 5-point harness but a 120 weight capacity as a belt positioning booster seat. It also has a long 9 year expiration date.

Example of a Full-Size Car Seat: Britax Grow with You Clicktight

High Back Booster

The next category is the booster seat. High back booster seats start at about 40 lbs but we recommend keeping babies in a 5-point harness as long as possible. So we don’t recommend a high back booster starting at 40 lbs. We would recommend waiting on a high back booster seat until they have reached the maximum weight or height on a convertible car seat or full-size car seat (one with a 5-point harness) and then transitioning them to a booster seat.

A high back booster positions the vehicle seat belt to the proper position on your child and gives them added protection around their head.

High back booster seats typically have a high weight capacity of up to 120 lbs so it could be your last stop on the car seat train.

Example of a High Back Booster: Chicco Keyfit 2-in-1

No Back Booster

There is another last stop option on the car seat train is a no-back booster. This is an option for older children and I wouldn’t recommend it until your child is between 8 – 12 years old.

A no-back booster is designed to boost up your child’s bum to bring them to the correct height for proper positioning of the vehicle car seat belt.

Example of a No Back Booster: Graco Turbobooster

These are the five different categories of car seats. If you’d like to see some examples, check out our Baby Gizmo Different Car Seat Options Video. The recommendation is to keep your child in a car seat or booster seat until they are 4 foot 9 inches or between ages 8-12.

For more tips on car seats, go here or here.

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