A complete purchase guide for the best convertible car seat
If you are a parent, your baby’s safety is probably a constant worry that never goes away. There is always a lurking fear that our little precious ones will come in harm’s way, and we are willing to do anything to prevent that from happening. Fortunately, their safety on the road is one aspect that we can control, to some extent.
Enter convertible car seats.
Parents and caregivers have a lot to think about when it comes to children car seats. It has been evaluated that the leading cause of injury and deaths among children in the US, that could otherwise have been prevented, is road-related accidents. But there’s good news; correctly installed car seats can reduce this risk by 71%.
Why convertible seats?
You might think of yourself as the most cautious driver the world has ever seen, you follow all the traffic rules in the book and everything- but fact remains that driving your baby exposed, without a car seat, is a very risky affair. It is not just uncomfortable; it also increases the chances of them suffering serious injuries in the event of an accident. We all know that bad luck does not send a memo.
Extensible crash tests have been done on convertible car seats to verify their credibility as far as safety is concerned. A dummy baby is used in the tests and a road crash simulated. Usually the components tested measure what level of impact or what would happen if the child’s body encounters certain parts of the vehicle. The manufacturers then consider these findings in designing the various types of convertible seats you will find on the market.
There is therefore one major reason why buying a convertible seat should not be a subject for debate, and that is because it guarantees the security of your child on the road. For any parent, knowing that their little is safe and secure should not be a luxury but a priority, and we share the sentiment.
Because we care, we have taken the trouble to compile a list of factors that you should have in mind as you consider which convertible seat to buy. We understand that there are many good models in the market, but you cannot possibly purchase all of them-even if you were running a nursery. We hope that this buying guide helps you make the best choice for your baby, and your pocket!
What to consider when buying a convertible car seat
To pick the best convertible seat for your child,there are a few questions you need to answer. They are not tough- it’s definitely not a school test- but it is important that you consider each of them to identify what you really need. Once you have your answers, you are well on your way to making the best buying decision yet…
Do you prefer an infant car seat first or a one-stop convertible solution?
If you just had your baby, you are probably wondering whether a convertible seat is a good idea for carrying an infant. There are convertible seats that are designed to accommodate toddlers, so do not rule them out just yet. The added advantage here is that as your little one continues to grow, this seat will still come in handy, with a few adjustments here and there.
The lowdown with convertible seats compared to infant car seats is that they lack the convenience of detaching and walking around with. However, if you do not like walking around with the baby and want to cut on costs buying two different seats, then a convertible seat is the deal for you.Check for the most important features such as harness tightness, minimum weight limit, and padding to see whether they can be adjusted to support an infant.
How portable do you need it?
If you’re constantly switching vehicles, say between yours and your spouse’s, you need a seat that is easy to uninstall and install. You might have to consider the weight as well because some seats can weigh up to 30 pounds-and that is without the baby in it! The other convenient but somewhat costly option would be to buy two seats for the separate vehicles.
On the other hand,in the case that you use one car,then you are free to leave your car seat in the same place for the next two,three or five years. You also have the flexibility of picking whichever weight and size of seat as you will not be uninstalling it regularly.
Will you use it often or occasionally?
If you move around a lot and take the baby with you most of these times,you need a seat that is lighter in weight and not difficult to install. If you only take the baby with you on rare occasions, then you can pick a heavier seat with thicker padding for all the comfort he will need.
How much space does your vehicle have?
In case you have a small car whose back seat is sort of cramped, the best convertible seat for you would have to be narrower than average. There are seats whose width is as small as ‘’16-18‘’ inches.These are designed to maximize on the little space available while keeping your baby well tucked in for the journey.
If your car is large enough and the back seat has the allowance, then the seat’s size should not be a big bother. Just make sure to place it in a position that does not interfere with other passengers you might have on board.
How long do you intend to use it?
This might be your first-born and you arealmost sure there’ll be another one in the works soon. Get a convertible seat whose expiration date is much farther away. Most models in the market expire after 6 years but a few have a longer shelf life. Also check that the seat has a higher height and weight limit so that it can accommodate your growing one up to a certain age, then pick up their little sibling with ease.
What type of fabric cover is it made of?
Wherever there is a kid,there’ll be a mess- there’s no going around that. Most convertible seats have fabrics that absorb fluids but just to be safe, buy one whose cover is removable.
If your baby is at the spilling stage and unpredictable potty accidents,then you need a fabric that is easy to wash. The best fabric cover would be a machine-washable one.
Something else to note is that the seat’s straps weaken if submerged in water for extended lengths of time. The best way to clean them would be wiping with a slightly damp cloth.
How to pick the best convertible car seat.
Here are some of the most important features that make for a good convertible seat. Be sure to consider them as you browse through the many options you’ll find online or at the store.
Side impact protection– The main reason why any parent would even consider buying the convertible car seat is to be guaranteed of their baby’s safety. When you go to buy one, check whether it has energy-absorbing foam on the sides. This side-impact mechanism provides head support and protects the baby’s chest. With this, your baby is snug and secure all journey long!
Adequate padding– A well-padded seat gives your baby the comfort he/she needs while travelling. If you find a seat that has enough padding, you save yourself the hassle of adding blankets to the seat to make your baby more comfortable.
Adjustable 5-point harness– The 5 point harness simply refers to the straps that hold your baby in place- two for the shoulders, two around the hips and one that goes between the legs.
As your child grows and their shoulders broaden, you will have to adjust the harness and straps to comfortably accommodate their size. The best convertible seat allows you to do this easily. Some premium models even have belt adjustments with buckles to clip and release.
An adjustable recline– For forward-facing, most manufacturers include multiple settings that let you recline the seat through various angles. The best convertible seat should also have recline settings for the rear-facing position.
The LATCH system– All convertible car seats should come with a tether strap at the top and lower anchors connected to each other. Some manufacturers recommend that the tether strap be not used in the rear-facing position. Be sure to crosscheck the manual for the latch weight limit. Sometimes the limit is indicated on the seat itself. If your child has outgrown the weight limit, it’s time to switch to the seat belt!
Tray-like attachment and cup holder– Believe it or not, your toddler also wants to enjoy the finer things in life. Give them some luxury by getting them a car seat with an overhead shield that rests in front of the belly. Aside from providing extra protection, it is a platform to place their toys. The cup holder, of course, is to hold the juice that they will soon spill on themselves…
Car Seat Safety Tips
It is not an overstatement that your child’s safety should come first. This is why buying a convertible seat is not enough-it should also meet all the safety standards as given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) and the American Association of Pediatrics.
Both organizations recommend that newborns be put in the rear-facing position for a minimum period of two years. Ideally it should be more than 2 years but at this age most babies have outgrown the weight limit of staying in the position.
Once you have acquired a car seat that accommodates your child’s weight and height, the next step is to properly install it. That is why we have instruction manuals! Follow the instructions carefully, paying attention to the LATCH system in particular. Things can get confusing here especially for first time parents who have never encountered a car seat before. In case you are not sure of how to install the seat, go ahead and contact a NHTSA officer in your area. They are a handful lot!
Before you set out and hit the road,check that the baby is buckled in properly in the 5-point harness. There should be no loose straps or belts.
Until children reach the age of 13, it is recommended that car seats strictly be used in the back seat. If you are using a convertible seat that ‘grows’ with the baby, such as the 3-in-1, remember to adjust the features once the child reaches the maximum weight and height limits of one stage e.g re-adjust the straps .
How To Install Convertible Car Seat
Instructional videos demonstrating how to safely secure children in passenger vehicles using various child safety seats and seat belt equipment.
Why you should not buy second-hand car seats
Still on car seat safety, some brand new convertible seats can be considerably expensive, and you may think, why not use a hand-me down, or purchase a used convertible seat from the local garage? This may be an economical route to take but it is not the safest one. Here’s why:
- The plastic may have gotten brittle with time therefore easy to shatter in the event of an accident
- The seat may be well over the expiration date given by the manufacturer. Better believe that those dates mean something.
- Some important parts may be missing or have worn out due to wear and tear. Straps are the major culprits here.
- The current owner may not have the user manual, meaning that the learning curve is gonna be a steeper hill for you to climb. Relying on someone’s ‘word of mouth’ instructions is quite subjective, as they may miss out some crucial tips.
You are most likely to use the convertible car seat for the longest time compared to the infant seats and booster seats. These seats are designed to last your baby through several stages and the best models in the market have all the features to make this possible.
By the fact that they last a long time,convertible seats save you money in the long term.
Convertible seats accept toddlers from infancy when they weigh as little as 5 pounds till they grow way past the 40- pound mark. The same cannot be said for infant car seats which have a weight limit.
As the name suggests,convertible seats can be converted from front-facing to rear-facing. Unlike infant seats which are only front-facing, the former can be adjusted to face towards the back of the car. The recommended period that a newborn should be kept in a rear-facing position is two years.
The 3-in-1 versions are eligible to serve as booster seats for children that weigh upto 100 pounds
Convertible seats have been proven safer in the event of an accident. This has been determined in crash tests done on various models.
Once you master the workings of this seat,you will find that it is quite easy to use.
Convertibles do not have a base,which means that you do not enjoy the convenience of using a stroller with them, as is the case with infant seats. If this is your choice, running errands or going to the restaurant with a sleeping baby in the car seat is automatically out of the plan.
Newborns do not fit well in convertible car seats,especially at the shoulders. Most often than not you will have to dig deeper in your pocket to buy additional support inserts that will enhance the ‘infant’ experience. This is perhaps the reason why most parents prefer these seats for older children.
One other reason why parents may not prefer the convertible seats is that the reclining allowance is too small. This is uncomfortable especially when the baby falls asleep while you are on the road.
They are larger and therefore occupy quite an amount of space at the back seat.
In a rear-facing position,a convertible seat is not as easy to handle. The harness adjuster in some models is tough to use in this position. You have to ensure that you tighten the straps right, in a confined space.There is also a weight limit for rear facing.
Wrapping it Up…
Remember the key indicators of a good convertible seat are ease of use, ease of installation and safety standards. In case of any oddities when installing the seat for the first time, reach out to the dealer that sold you the unit and ask for help. Most manufacturers have reasonable return policies that should grant you a recall in case the seat is faulty. Otherwise, shop away and get your baby the best gift yet!