Choose the right car seat for your child

With so much information available, car seat shopping and installation can be overwhelming for parents. Here are the most important factors to consider when buying a car seat.


Car seat safety is a concept that is often misunderstood by new and expectant parents. At a time filled with planning and preparing for a new addition to the family, parents and caregivers can easily become overwhelmed by the choices and plethora of information available about car seats.

When buying a car seat, you want to pick the seat that fits your car, fits your child and that you will use correctly. Choosing a car seat is important; you will use it almost every day, and it’s important that you weigh all the relevant factors.

Does the car seat fit your car? 

Some car seats are incompatible with vehicles due to the size or shape of the backseat. Try to find a store that will allow you to take the floor model out to your car to try it.

Remember: you want to allow your hand to slide between the back of the rear-facing child restraint and the front passenger seat when it is installed. Don’t forget about the person in the front seat; they need to be at least 25 cm (10 inches) away from the airbag!

Look at your vehicle manual to determine where you can install a car seat in your vehicle. Often the middle of the back seat is the safer position, but not always! Read your manual. A properly installed car seat will move less than one inch from side to side or front to back.

Does the car seat fit your child?

Most rear-facing car seats allow for a five-pound child up to at least a 22-pound (10 kg) child, but some will accommodate a smaller four-pound child. Some rear-facing
seats can remain that way up to 45 pounds (20.5 kg). You want to choose a car seat that will fit the child you are shopping for.

Many parents prefer an infant bucket seat to start with, then move to a convertible later on, but it’s not a requirement. Many convertible seats will fit a newborn perfectly.

Will you use the car seat properly?

Before buying a car seat, practice tightening the harness system and raise and lower the straps. Pick the seat up and carry it around for a few moments to see if it is too heavy for you (Don’t forget, your baby’s weight will be in it too!)

Bring a stuffed animal with you and place it in the car seat to see how it fits. If you like the way the harness tightens, and how the straps rise and lower, you are much more likely to put the baby in properly every time.

Once you have gone through these three steps, you should have your choice narrowed down to just a few, so pick the one you want most. Don’t worry about safety; all seats are tested to the same standard. If the seat is installed correctly, and fits your baby, it will be perfect.

Other tips to help you ensure your child is riding safely:

Make sure you read the manual for the car seat, cover to cover.

Send in your warranty card so that you will be informed of consumer information notices or recalls.

Does your car seat have a carrying handle? If it does, chances are there is a specific position required when in the car. Check!

Do not use after-market products. Anything that didn’t come with your car seat is non-essential and may be unsafe.

Do not put your baby or child in a snow suit. Snow suits can compress in a collision and allow for injury or ejection. (Always bring it, though!)

Car seats are one-collision items. Any sort of collision or damage to your car necessitates a new car seat. Even if your child wasn’t in the seat at the time.

Car seat laws are MINIMUMS. Best practice is to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, forward-facing as long as possible, and in a booster seat until they actually fit the seatbelt.

There may be groups or coalitions in your area that can help by answering your questions or checking your installation. Make sure the person you ask is a nationally certified children’s restraint technician or instructor. Ensure they have certification on their side!


S.E.A.T.S. for Kids, located in the Ottawa Valley and Kingston, is always available to assist parents and caregivers through inspection clinics, seminars, phone calls or emails. All of our volunteers have the highest level of training available. Go to for more tips and information on car seat safety, or join us on Facebook. 


Photo: © AChubykin