Best Convertible Baby Car Seat Buying Guide
So your baby is fast approaching his first birthday, huh? Oh, how time flies, don’t you think? You wish your baby would stop growing so fast. You want to savor every moment, in slow motion because before you know it, he would have grown into a toddler. In a blink of an eye, he would have outgrown those cute baby clothes that you bought months before his arrival, only for him to wear it for a month or two. You wish you could slow down time. So does your baby needs list.
A growing baby will need new things that are age, weight and height appropriate for him. Often times they grow so fast that they easily exceed the limitations of the baby products you have bought to aid you in taking care of your baby. Say your infant car seat, for example. You will find yourself looking for a bigger infant car seat to accommodate your baby even before he turns one year of age. Then comes the time for a convertible baby car seat to enter your life.
In the United States, the mandated requirements in the use of child safety seats may differ from state to state. Child safety seats may be classified into infant car seats, convertible baby car seats and booster car seats. The type of child safety seat to use will be determined by the age, height and weight of the child. Infant car seats are required by the law for infants until they are both one year of age and 20 pounds in weight. It is highly recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the NHTSA to continue the use of rear facing car safety seats when transporting children until they are two years of age.
Booster car seats are required for children until they are able to properly wear an adult seat belt, though in states like South Dakota and Florida, if a child is four years of age or older, he or she may wear the adult seat belt without a booster seat. It is important to note, however, that the NHTSA recommends the use of booster seats for children under 4 ft and 9 inches regardless of their age and weight.
This is a buying guide for the best convertible baby car seat. You probably have a lot in your hands with your baby growing so fast and all. We are here to help make your life a little easier. We here at ParentsNeeds HQ hope that this convertible baby car seat buying guide will help you when you are making a decision on which car safety seat to get for your growing baby, especially when there is a number of things to consider. A lot of manufacturers have convertible baby car seats out in the market that come in various shapes and forms, offering different features and advantages over each other. We are here to discuss with you the things that you need to look for in a good convertible baby car seat, and hopefully help you narrow down your list of choices to a manageable one.
What is a convertible baby car seat?
Convertible baby car seats are child safety seats, which can transition from being a rearward facing seat into a forward facing seat. These are usually purchased once the baby turns one year of age or when the baby exceeds the height and weight limit of the infant car seat, whichever comes first. These car safety seats are useful when your child has outgrown his infant car seat but is not quite ready yet for a forward facing car seat. Convertible car seats have a higher rear facing weight limit, and depending on the model, they can be used up to 40 to 50 lbs. This type of child restraint must be installed facing the rear for children who are less than one year of age and weigh less than 20 lbs. Rear facing set-up is recommended until the child is at least 2 years of age. When the child is ready, the car seat may be turned to face forward until it becomes time for a booster car seat. We shall talk about booster car seats next time.
What are the things you should consider when buying a good convertible baby car seat?
● Your child
First and foremost, the reason why you are in the market for a convertible baby car seat is probably because your child has outgrown (or just about to) his trustee infant car seat. Know your child’s height and weight since the suitability of car safety seats largely depends on these criteria. Child safety seats are crash tested by manufacturers to determine that level of protection it can give covering a specific height and weight range. It is important that your child’s height and weight be within the specifications of a car seat to ensure maximum protection and effectivity in an event of a collision.
● Safety rating
When it is your baby’s safety that we are talking about, you would want to buy a car seat that will actually keep your baby safe with minimum harm or none at all. All car safety seats are crash tested to determine the effectivity of these seats in an event of a crash. The federal standard is to test these seats in a 30 mph crash. Consumer reports have been conducting crash tests for over 30 years and they regularly update their processes to accurately reflect the current conditions of vehicular accidents. They conduct their crash tests at 35 mph. Look for a convertible baby car seat that has a high safety rating from consumer reports or other equally trustworthy organizations.
● Ease of use
The best convertible baby car seat will not only have a high safety rating but will be easy to use as well. One factor that can deem a convertible baby car seat easy to use is its ease of installation. Easy to install convertible baby car seats are more likely to end up being properly, well, installed. A large percentage of car seats in use are actually poorly installed, and this highly decreases the chances of the car seats to actually protect the children. Look for a convertible baby car seat with good reviews from consumers regarding its ease of installation. A good car seat will have clear and easy to follow instruction materials. A good seat will also have a good LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system that could be paired with your vehicle, trouble-free and painless. Its LATCH system could be color coded or labeled accordingly to help you see which goes with what. Other features that you may look for are built-in indicators which could help you determine if you have properly installed your convertible baby car seat. Such indicators may include spirit levels or air bubbles that can tell you if the car seat is properly levelled.
● Side impact protection
While most car seat models are designed against frontal collisions, few are equipped well enough to protect against a side impact crash. Look for a convertible baby car seat that is padded with energy-absorbing foam that can minimize crash impacts even when the impact is from the side.
● Easy to adjust
When the harness is easy to adjust, the chances that you will get the harness tightness right is high. The harness should be fitted correctly on your child because a loose harness may only serve to cause further injury in an event of a crash. A good convertible baby harness will not take up too much of your time because it will have quick release buckles and straps that do not twist. There will be no need to fiddle with it. The car seat may also have adjustable headrest that you may eventually remove once your baby grows.
● 5-point harness
Speaking of harnesses, look for a convertible baby car seat that has a 5-point harness, although all new models are already equipped with 5-point harnesses anyway.
● Easy to clean
Some car seat models are actually quite hard to clean and maintain. It is best to look for convertible baby car seats with removable covers that you could regularly wash. You wouldn’t want your baby to be sitting on something that is crawling with germs.
Going out on a drive with an infant is no easy feat. Babies are easily irritated and it surely will be hard to focus on the driving part when you have a bawling baby at the back. There are good convertible car seats in the market that are designed for comfort. Choose a car seat with quality padding and soft linings that can soothe your baby. A calm baby is equal to a calm drive, which could mean more safety for you and your baby.
● Your car
Get familiarized with your car and read your owner’s manual. See and find out if your vehicle is compatible with the LATCH system, although new car models should be compatible by default.
● Your budget
Car safety seats are not exactly cheap. To get a quality convertible baby car seat, prepare to spend somewhere between $100 to $400.
Important things to keep in mind:
- Do not forget to do your own research. Read up on specifications and features of different convertible baby car seat models. Prepare a checklist for the features that you would want your car seat to have and through your research, narrow down your choices to those that meet the most features on your checklist.
- Once you have installed your convertible baby car seat, have it checked by your trusted local stores. Better yet, have professionals install your car seat for you. The effectivity of the car seat to protect your child in an event of a crash depends on correct installation.
- As the NHTSA recommends, it is best to keep your child in a rear facing position until they are two years of age. Flip the car seat to forward facing position once the child has reached this age or has outgrown the weight and height limitation for rear facing child safety car seats.
- Know when to retire your convertible baby car seat and when it is time for your child to move on to booster seats. Know the height and weight limit of your car seat and use it for as long as your child meets the specification.
- Check the tightness of the harness every time you strap your child in the seat by performing the pinch test. The harness is tight enough when you can no longer pinch away the fabric from its shoulder straps.
- Avoid dressing your child in bulky clothing like winter clothes before strapping them on. These types of clothing are thick. They may prevent the harness from being properly adjusted and may end up being too loose. During a crash, bulky clothing may compress and the loose straps may then stand to increase the risk of injury. The best way to do it is to dress your baby in normal clothing and tuck a cozy blanket over him once he is properly strapped in.
- Avoid buying second hand convertible baby car seats when you are unable to know the car seat’s history. Damaged car seats or ones that have already been in a crash should no longer be used.
We here at ParentsNeeds HQ understand how gruelling it could be to go out shopping for convertible baby car seats even when you already have an idea what features you want your car seat to have. Perhaps it may be even harder when you have a checklist because then you would want to go through each model and see which meets your requirements the most. It could take hours. We are happy to tell you that we have compiled a list of convertible baby car seat models that possess most of the desirable features we have just discussed with you. Check out our Top 5 Best Convertible Baby Car Seat Reviews and see if our number one choice, the Evenflo SureRide DLX Convertible Car Seat, could be the best seat for your baby.