Buying a Car | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Car Seat Safety for Kids

Buying a Car

Whether you are buying a new or used car, choose one with safety in mind, especially if you will be driving children.

Important points to consider when buying a car

Make sure your child safety seat fits in the car

Not all child safety seats fit in all vehicles and all seating positions. If a vehicle has bucket seats, it may interfere with proper safety seat installation. In this case, you may want to try a child safety seat with a narrow base and top tether strap. The best way to tell if your child safety seat fits in a particular vehicle is to bring the seat with you and try to install it before buying the car. Also check to see if the car has lap and shoulder belts in all back seating positions.

Child safety seats will not fit properly in the rear seats of many pickup trucks. Also, side-facing jump seats in trucks are not safe for children under any circumstances.

Some vehicles are safer than others

When it comes to the safety of child passengers, not all vehicles are created equal. Parents should pay special attention to important safety features such as air bags when purchasing a new or used car for their family, or assessing their current vehicle. To learn more about what parents need to know about air bags, and to access the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s parent-focused brochure about car safety, visit our About Air Bags page.

A pickup truck should not be considered a family vehicle. Children in the rear seat of compact extended-cab pickups are nearly five times as likely to be injured as children seated in the back seat of other vehicles, according to research conducted by CHOP. Another study found that children riding in large vehicles and luxury passenger cars were at the lowest risk of injury.

Should I look for a car with LATCH ?

Although LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) was designed to make child safety seat installation easier, the old system of using the vehicle's seat belt to install a child safety seat is just as safe if done correctly. Don't worry if you're buying a used car that doesn't have the LATCH system. You can install a child safety seat just as tightly — and safely — with the car's seat belt system and tether anchor.

What about the air bags in a used car?

If you are buying a pre-owned car, it’s important to know if the air bags are in good shape. Whether buying a used car from a friend, relative, dealer or through an ad, be sure to ask the following questions:

If the seller doesn’t have this information, have the car checked by a car technician before buying.

The back is where it's at

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all kids younger than 13 years ride in the back seat of vehicles.

Any car you buy should have easy access to the back seat. Two-door cars may make it difficult to install a child safety seat and to get your child in and out of the car seat. Be sure to choose a vehicle with enough rear seating positions for the number of children you'll be driving in your car.

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Four Key Safety Tips

  • Restrain your child on every trip, every time.
  • Keep your child in the back seat.
  • Use the best safety restraint for your child's size.
  • Use child safety seats and seat belts correctly.

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