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Car Seat Categories Explained!

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If you are having a baby, you may be overwhelmed by the car seat options on the market and confused on which one is right for your child. And we don’t blame you! Infant seat? Convertible seat? Booster seat?! What does it all mean?! In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week (next week!), we wanted to help new and expecting parents on their car seat buying journey.

car seats explained

In today’s Baby Gizmo video, I’m going to explain the three main car seat options. I hope it helps you decide which seat is best for you! The video is a broad overview for car seats intended to help expecting and new parents navigate to the type of car seat that is best for their child.

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.

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.

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.

Watch for future Baby Gizmo episodes that will dig deeper on how to pick out specific car seats in each category. The car seats featured in this video are: Chicco KeyFit 30 Magic, Chicco NextFit Zip and the Chicco KidFit Booster

Disclosure: This video was sponsored by Chicco.

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