WHAT SEAT SHOULD I BUY?

Congratulations! You did your homework and you’ve decided what type of seat will be safest for your child to use. But wait, there are still plenty of decisions that need to be made before you’re ready to buy a car seat. All car seats that are rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) meet the government’s safety standards. All seats on the market that are rated are safe, but it’s important to determine which one fits your child and vehicle best in order to not compromise the performance of the car seat. Once you’ve figured out what car seat is appropriate for your child and vehicle the hard work is done, the rest is in the details and features.


Visit safercar.gov for more information about choosing the right car seat for your child.

Before you buy a seat, make sure it will fit in your vehicle. Many retailers will allow you to test out a floor model of their car seats in your vehicle, take advantage of that and make sure you give special consideration to these common areas of incompatibility between car seats and vehicles:

AFTER-MARKET PRODUCTS

WINTER COATS

DO NOT STRAP YOUR CHILD INTO A CAR SEAT WHILE SHE IS WEARING A THICK OR BULKY WINTER COAT

Even though the harness may look tight, the coat actually creates a lot of compressible space between your child’s body and the harness. In colder weather, dress your child in a lightweight or fleece jacket, harness her into the seat, and then tuck her heavy coat or a blanket over top of her.

EXPIRATION DATES

Car seats really do expire! Do you ever wonder why?


  • Materials wear down after time and car seats are especially prone to potential deterioration due to being left in the extreme heat and cold of a vehicle day after day, year after year. Even if your car seat looks fine, there may be structural weaknesses that you can’t see and it may not perform as it was intended if you’re using it past its expiration.
  • Safety standards change so an expired seat may not meet the current government standards. Car seat manufacturers are constantly updating and improving their products to keep your children safer.

Expiration dates vary by manufacturer so be sure to check the manual for your specific seat. If you’re unable to locate an expiration date on your car seat, or in your car seat manual, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) suggests replacing your car seat after six years.


If you have an expired seat you should discontinue using the seat immediately! When disposing of an expired seat you should do it in such a way that it can’t be re-used by anyone; remove the cover, cut the straps, and mark it clearly as “expired – do not use”.

RECALLS

Check NHTSA’s Recall Webiste to see if your car sear has been recalled.


Registering your car seat when you purchase it is a great way to make sure that you receive updates on any future recalls of your product.

AFTER AN ACCIDENT

 

CAR SEATS SHOULD ALWAYS BE REPLACED AFTER BEING INVOLVED IN A MODERATE TO SEVERE CRASH, AND MAY NEED TO BE REPLACED AFTER A MINOR CRASH.

Check with your car seat manufacturer.
 

USED SEATS

When in doubt, do not purchase and/or use car seats from garage sales or secondhand shops. Used car seats may be missing parts, be damaged, or have an unaddressed recall. Keep in mind that a seat may have damage that isn’t visible after a crash. If you must use a secondhand seat, be sure you’re receiving it from someone you know and trust, and that you know the entire history of the seat. If you are planning to donate or receive a used car seat, use our Used Car Seat Donation Information form to be sure that the seat's history is known by all parties involved.

HEAT EXHAUSTION


DO NOT LEAVE A CHILD UNATTENDED IN A VEHICLE FOR ANY PERIOD OF TIME

It’s important to keep your child safe in and around your vehicle even when you’re not on the road. Temperatures inside of a vehicle can raise nearly 20° within 10 minutes. Teach your children not to play in or around cars. Keep doors locked, and keys out of reach of your children.