Car Seat Sizing 101

When it comes to our children’s safety in the car, it is up to us to ensure that we stay up to date on the rules and regulations of the road. The most optimal way to keep your child safe in the car is to use the correct car seat in the right direction.

Car accidents are the leading cause of preventable death in children in the United States. However, it has been said that those who properly use car seats reduce the risk of death or severe injury by over 70%. That’s a massive percentage when it comes to protecting our children. Unfortunately, on the flip side, over 50% of car seats are installed and misused across the country, an alarming number considering the lack of safety.

When purchasing and utilizing a car seat, the most significant factors to consider include your child’s age, weight, and height. 

It is essential to do background research before diving into a car seat purchase, especially your first time. Aside from following the owner’s manual that comes with the car seat you purchase, consider learning more about proper car seat installation and usage from your local fire department or pediatrician.

The right fit is essential to safety.

When it comes to choosing the right car seat, there are various factors you must consider. Unfortunately, not all car seats are created equal. From a rear-facing infant seat to a school-aged booster seat, knowing when to use what style is imperative to your child’s overall car safety. Here is a brief breakdown of the different types of seats on the market.

Rear-Facing Seats

  • Used for infants up to 35 pounds.
  • The ideal option for leaving the hospital post-birth.
  • Smaller in size and comes with a carrying handle.
  • Most include a base installed into the car, which the seat attaches in and out of for more convenient and secure placement.
  • Style can only be placed in a rear-facing position for car travel.

Convertible Seats 

  • Can be used in a rear-facing position then later converted to a forward-facing position as the child grows in size.
  • Often includes a carrying handle. 
  • Often bigger and bulkier than the infant seat due to the longevity of use to accommodate a child’s growth.
  • Rear-facing weight limits that exceed the infant limits, typically 40-50 lbs allowing more room for larger babies and toddlers to stay rear-facing.
  • Built with a 5-point harness seatbelt system.

All-in-one Seats

  • Larger in size than an infant or convertible seat.
  • Fits in larger vehicles when rear-facing but may have a more challenging time in smaller ones.
  • Does not come with a carry handle or base component.
  • Has higher weight limits (40-50 lbs) to accommodate for the growth of a child from infancy to toddler-aged.

Booster Seats

  • Used for children who have outgrown infant and toddler seats based on weight and height limits.
  • They come in high-back or backless forms.
  • Use lap and shoulder belts built into the vehicle as their safety harnesses.
  • Most do not come with anchors that hold them into the vehicle. The seat is free moving and locked into place once the child sits, and the standard seat belt is fastened.

Children who are 4’9” and taller and between the ages of 10 and 12 begin to use a standard car seatbelt without a booster seat. All children, regardless of size, should remain in the back seat until they’ve reached 13 years of age. 

Now that we’ve covered the different types of car seats to use based on your child’s age and size, it is important to mention when not to use a car seat based on underlying factors. 

Do not use a car seat…

…if it’s too old. 

…if it’s been involved in a moderate to severe car accident.

…does not come with proper instructions.

…is missing pieces

…is broken in any way.

….was recalled at any point.

Car safety is essential to the overall safety and wellbeing of your child. Knowing the type of car seat to use based on age, weight, and height is imperative to choose a seat that works for your child as they grow. Avoid focusing too much on marketing, reviews, and cost and more on overall safety features. If you have additional questions or need further assistance on car seat installation, we always recommend finding a local child passenger safety technician in your area.