Purchasing a Safety Seat
No matter what type of restraint your child is using, there is a lot to consider when shopping for a car seat to keep your child as safe as possible while you’re on the road.
Choosing a child safety seat
- Be sure the seat meets national standards. The label should say, "This child-restraint system conforms to all applicable U.S. federal motor vehicle safety standards."
- Put your child in the seat to see if it fits your child properly, based on his height and weight.
- Before purchasing, try the seat in your vehicle to make sure it fits. If a store will not allow this, check the return policy.
- After buying a seat, follow the manufacturer's directions on installation.
- If you are unsure how to install the seat, talk to a Certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician or visit a car seat checkpoint.
For more information about specific car seat models currently available, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website.
Other points to consider
- Infant-only seats (with handles) are portable. Whether placed in a base or buckled directly into a vehicle, they can be easily removed and used as infant carriers.
- Convertible seats can be used both rear- and forward-facing. They have a higher weight limit and can hold heavier, older babies. They can be switched to become a forward-facing seat when your child is 2 years old or when he reaches the maximum weight or height limit of his rear-facing car seat.
- Some convertible child safety seats may not provide the best fit for smaller newborns, especially premature babies (preemies). Learn about car beds - a safer alternative to standard car seats for smaller newborns.
Seating more than one child
The AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend that all children younger than 13 years be restrained in the back seat of a vehicle.
If you are transporting more children than there are back seat positions available, contact a certified child passenger technician in your area for help. If you are concerned you don't have enough seating positions for all of your children, try to arrange to use a vehicle big enough to keep all the children safe.
Is your child's car seat safe?
You need to check your baby's car seat under certain conditions:
After a crash
Safety experts and many car seat manufacturers recommend replacing your child's safety seat after a crash. NHTSA recommends replacement following a moderate or severe crash. Visit the NHTSA website for a detailed explanation of how to tell if a crash was moderate to severe.
Sometimes a defect shows up after car seats are sold. The manufacturers will then recall the seats. Make sure you fill in the registration card that comes with your new car seat and send it in to the car seat manufacturer so they can notify you if your car seat is recalled. Check the following websites to find out if your child safety seat has been recalled:
New seats are best, but if you must use a second-hand child safety seat, keep the following in mind:
- Check when it was made. Look for the manufacturing or expiration date on a label on the seat. The maximum age for most seats is between 6 and 10 years. If you can’t find the information on the seat, check with the manufacturer to find out the expiration date on your car seat. Seats with obvious cracks, holes, dents, or missing parts are not safe to use.
- Don't use a seat without a manufacturer's label. You need to be able to check for seat recalls and age of the seat.
- If you don't know a seat’s history, don't use it. It may have been in a crash.
- You need the car seat instruction manual. If there isn’t one, you can print a copy from the manufacturer’s website.