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Car Seat Buying Guide

Jon Whittle

Car Seat Basics

Rear-Facing Seats

The AAP now recommends that children remain in a rear-facing seat until at least the age of 2, or until they reach height and weight limits set by the manufacturer. You’ll also want to choose a seat with a five-point harness (pretty standard nowadays). You’ve got a few options in this arena:


Infant-only seats

Pros: They’re small, they have handles, and they usually come with a base that can be left in the car (for two-car families, you need two bases, not two seats), so you can get baby buckled in inside, and then just snap the seat into the base. Bonus: they allow you to bring a sleeping baby inside at the end of a trip without waking her!

Cons: They have a somewhat limited lifespan. The weight limit of infant seats ranges from 22 to 35 pounds, at which point you’ll have to buy a convertible or 3-in-1 (see below). Also: Once your baby starts to pack on some pounds, the handy handle becomes less useful because the seat + baby may become heavier than you want to lug around.


Convertible seats

Pros: These seats can be used rear-facing and then flipped forward—which means you can use one seat for longer. They may also have higher weight limits for rear-facing as well, sometimes up to 40 pounds. 

Cons: They’re bigger than infant seats, and you typically just use it in one car (they don’t have handles or bases). You may also need to use some padding or rolled towels to keep a very young infant properly positioned, says Dr. Durbin.

Plus: 17 Convertible Car Seats With Extended Rear-Facing


3-in-1 seats

Pros: These babies can take your peanut straight through to her booster days. They can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and then converted into a belt-positioning booster. 

Cons: These tend to be the biggest of the bunch, so if you’ve got a small car, fit might be an issue.