Car Seats

Tuesday, 13 September 2005 | Tags: , , ,

Nearly one third of children ride in the wrong restraints for their age and size, while many more children are not buckled up at all. Buying the right car seat at the right price can be as hard as installing it correctly. We test some seats and get some tips on safe installation.

The Basics

  • Infant seats are for children from birth to 22 pounds and are strictly rear-facing.

  • Booster seats are for children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds, and are strictly forward-facing.

  • Convertible seats are designed for children from infancy to 80 pounds and can be rear- or forward-facing.

  • Make sure the car seat you buy has been certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

  • A five-point harness is considered the safest way to strap in your baby.

  • Look for padding on the seat that is both removable and washable.

  • For infants, consider a car seat with a separate seat and base, which lets you snap a sleeping baby in and out of the base without disturbing her.

Other Considerations

  • For infants, consider a car seat with a separate seat and base, which lets you snap a sleeping baby in and out of the base without disturbing her.

  • A LATCH system in your car stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”. Found in most cars made since 2002, it eliminates the need to use lap belts to secure the seat, but you still need the tether strap for forward-facing seats. A LATCH system makes securing the seat easier, and doesn’t affect safety as long as the seat is installed properly.

Be Aware

  • Not all car seats fit in all cars. Test it by installing it in your car before you buy.

  • It’s a good idea to take your car and car seat to a local car seat inspection site to ensure you’re using it properly. Phone your local police station for more information.

  • Be careful about buying used car seats since some models have been recalled.

  • For more information in Canada visit http://www.tc.gc.ca/roadsafety/childsafety/menu.htm, or www.nhtsa.dot.gov in the US


Some tiny friends helped us test drive these 5 types of car seats:

(Please note: this test was done for The Shopping Bags series between 2000-2007. While the models are no longer available, the shopping tips still apply. For the most up-to-date information on car seat regulations, please see your government’s transport standards: Canada, USA)

  • Infant-only seat, no base, 2 point harness: $60
  • Infant-only seat, with base, 3 or 5 point harness: $100
  • Infant-only seat, with base, 5 point harness, s-shaped handle for easy carrying: $130
  • Convertible for newborns to 40 pounds, 5 point harness, 3 slots for straps: $100
  • Convertible for newborns to 80 pounds, 5 point harness, 3 slots for straps: $200

Our specific tests and results include:

Ease-of-Use Test

We looked at the assembly manuals, assembled and installed the seats in our cars, and attempted to place our wiggly helpers into them to test the harnesses and chest clips.

  • The infant-only seat with no base had only two harness positions, making installation more difficult.

  • We liked the infant model with the separate base because we could easily add and remove the seat from the car.

  • We found the multiple harness positions good for the $100 infant-only car seat. This allows for adjustments as your infant grows.

  • We thought that the extra padding of the $200 model may add to its price but not to its safety.


For infant seats, we highly recommend one with a base because it’s so much easier to get baby in and out of the car. Though a convertible car seat that takes your child from birth to seat belt stage sounds appealing, be sure to test it in your car at all stages of use.


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