Pros:
You get more usage for your money. The convertible car seat can be used from infancy until the child out-grows it - usually several years later. It may be the only car seat you need until your child is about 4 years old!
 
Cons:

Convertible car seats do not fit smaller babies as well as an infant car seat does. Convertible car seats are bigger and roomier and may not provide the support new babies require and snug, comforting feeling they enjoy.
The convertible car seat cannot be used as a carrier for your infant. Therefore, you will need to move your baby to and from the convertible car seat whenever you get in and out of the car.

Age Range:
Newborn - 4 years, depending on model of car seat and weight/height of child

Price Range:
$60 - $330

Car Seat Buying Guide

Our Car Seat Buying Guide helps you choose the right car seat for you and your baby.  Every state in the U.S. requires infants and children up to age 8, at the least, to ride in a child car seat.  Therefore, choosing the right car seat is not only an important purchase, it's a legally required one!  Acquiring a used car seat should not be an alternative unless you know the car seat's history including its expiration date (due to car seat improvements and changing safety standards, never use a car seat over 5 years old) and whether or not it has been recalled.  If a used car seat has been in an accident, consider it unusable since the safety of the car seat may have been compromised.  For your child's well-being and your peace of mind, it's best to buy new.  As the most significant piece of baby gear you'll buy, choosing the right car seat is a decision worth putting some time into.  And although all car seats must pass the same federal crash tests, some makes and models may suit your child better than others.  In order to make an informed decision on which car seat is best for your child, you'll first need to read through the car seat buying guide to understand the differences between the various types.

Car Seat Types

Infant Car Seats:
Infant car seats are designed for newborns to babies, usually up to about 22 pounds and 26 inches in length. (These numbers may vary depending on the model of car seat chosen.)  Infant car seats are installed in the car facing backwards.  They have an internal harness that safely straps your baby into the carrier.  This carrier then snaps into a base, which is secured to your car.

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
Our thoughts:  It's worth the money to buy an infant rear-facing car seat before buying a convertible car seat even though you may only use it for about 9 months (perhaps longer depending on the model of car seat).  Infant car seats just fit small babies' bodies better than the larger convertible car seat (see the car seat buying guide - convertible car seat type), which in turn, may make them safer.  Also, the #1 rule in our house is "Never wake a sleeping baby!" and being able to transport Junior from the store to the car to the house without waking him is priceless.  Plus, having a car seat you can carry will allow you to have a safe place to put your baby when shopping or when visiting Grandma.  As for the weight of carrying a heavy baby in the car seat: what a great bicep workout!


If you have more than one vehicle, we strongly recommend buying two car seat bases.  That way, you can leave the bases in the car and not have to worry about re-installing them whenever you transfer the car seat to a different car.  It is well worth the extra money to buy a second base if it means saving yourself the time (and frustration!) of re-installing the base every time.
Pros:
You can carry your baby around in the car seat, which means not having to wake him or her when you get out of the car at your destination.
Most infant car seats fit nicely into the basket of grocery carts, allowing you to safely transport your (hopefully sleeping) baby while getting some shopping done.  Another preferred way to shop hands-free is to carry your infant in a baby carrier (front pack, sling, wrap, etc.).  
Infant car seats can also snap into a compatible infant car seat frame and used as a stroller. (More on this in our stroller buying guide section.)

Cons:

Carrying your baby in the car seat, especially later on when he/she has gained some weight, is heavy!
Depending on the size of your baby and how fast he/she grows, you may only get about 6-9 months' use out of it.

Age Range:
Newborn - 1 year, depending on model of car seat and weight/height of child

Price Range
: $80 - $280

Convertible Car Seats:
Convertible car seats can be used for both infants and older children up to 40 pounds or more.  Convertible car seats are generally used rear-facing until your baby is at least 1 year old and weighs at least 20 pounds.  The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat, which can be found on the back of the seat.  The convertible car seat can then be turned around (forward-facing) and adjusted to accommodate an older child.  There is no base for the convertible car seat to snap into; it attaches directly to your car.  This can be done using the LATCH system.

Our thoughts: Your child is equally safe in either an infant car seat or convertible car seat assuming your child fits the seat properly. Although it requires purchasing two different car seats, we recommend waiting to buy the convertible car seat until your baby out-grows it. Safety experts recommend all babies less than 20 pounds be in an infant car seat, which will better accommodate their smaller bodies and properly recline to support an infant's head and neck.

Britax Roundabout  Convertible Car Seat
What is the LATCH system?  LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.  It is the recommended way to secure your car seat to the car.  All vehicles and safety seats made after September 2002 have the LATCH attachments as required by the federal government.  Instead of using your vehicle's seat belt, car seats attach to two anchor bars installed in the lower seatback.  These anchors may be concealed under the fabric of the seat.  The LATCH system has made installing car seats less confusing, resulting in more correctly-installed child safety seats. 

*If your vehicle is older than a 2002 model, don't worry!  There are other ways of installing a car seat safely without using the LATCH system, including using the car's seat belt and the car seat's tether strap.  Refer to both the car seat's manual and your vehicle's manual to determine the best way to install your car seat.
 

BUYING GUIDES
CAR SEAT REVIEWS
Booster Seats:
Children should use a 5-point harness car seat through at least age 4 and about 40 pounds whenever possible.  Once your child has surpassed these age and weight limits, it is time to graduate to a booster seat!  Until a seat belt fits your child properly (usually when they're about 4'9" and weigh 80 to 100 pounds), he or she needs to ride in a booster seat.  Statistics show that riding in a booster seat reduces the risk of injury in a crash by 59% compared to using a seat belt alone, yet only 6% of children that should be in a booster seat actually use one.  Children that use a lap belt alone risk ejection, severe injuries, and paralysis.  Booster seats position both the lap part of the belt and the shoulder belt properly on the child's body to prevent injury to their internal organs.  Most all booster seats require the use of your vehicle's lap and shoulder belt.

Of course there are multiple types of booster seats available.  Confused as to what's what?  Let's go through each of them right here at the car seat buying guide to make it simpler.

Combination Booster Seat:  A combination booster seat is just what it says - a combination between a forward-facing car seat and a booster seat.  The difference is in using the harness straps for a smaller child, then removing them and simply using the seat belt instead once he or she is older and bigger.  Combination booster seats are ideal for children that have outgrown their convertible car seats, but aren't ready to sit in a traditional booster that uses the vehicle's seat belts.  Once they meet the weight and height requirements, this seat can then transform into a regular booster seat.

Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite Convertible Car Seat
High Back Booster Seat:  The high back booster seat works by giving your child the height he or she needs to safely use your vehicle's seat belts.  When sitting in their booster seat, both the lap and shoulder belt rest on the strong hip and shoulder bones of your child's body instead of soft internal organs, which are more susceptible to injury should a crash occur.  The high back helps to protect your child's neck from whiplash and also provides a place for your child to rest his or her head to either side when sleeping.

Graco TurboBooster Car Seat
Backless Booster Seat:  The backless booster seat works the same way as its brother, the high back booster seats, using both the lap and shoulder belt to fasten your child.  In fact, backless booster seats can actually be somewhat safer than high back booster seats since the child sits right against the vehicle seat.  Backless booster seats don't provide any head or sleeping support however.  These booster seats tend to be more popular with older kids, since they are less conspicuous than high back booster seats.

Clek Olli Backless Booster Seat
Pros:
Safety, safety, safety!

Cons:

Your child may resist using a safety seat for as long as is recommended.

Age Range:
4 years - 8 years, depending on model of booster seat and weight/height of child

Price Range:
$25 - $280

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