Types Of Car Seats | A Complete Guide

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It goes without saying that car seats are vitally important to keep children of all ages safe when riding in the car.

To ensure this happens, they need to be in the correct seat and parents need to understand how to choose a seat that is the best fit for their children.

This guide will look at all the different types of car seats, as well as the pros and cons of each option.

What are the different types of car seats? Here are the pros and cons of each type.

History of car seats

At one point in time, car seats were invented to help children sit higher in the seat so that they could easily see out of the window. It wasn’t until the early 1930s that Bunny Bear Company released a seat that was commonly used by parents to prop riders up for parents to keep an eye on them.

In the 1940s, companies created metal frames with canvas seats stretched across the top. These attached to the front seat of the car, allowing children to enjoy a great view out of the front.

Even though car seats had already been around for decades, it wasn’t until 1962 when they were finally seen as safety devices. Briton Jean Ames created a seat that faced the back of the car and included a Y-strap to help hold the child in place. At the same time, Len Rivkin created a seat that had a metal frame for safety.

In 1968, car companies started creating their own seats that were designed to help protect a child from the dangers of a crash. Ford and General Motors made their own seats to use in their vehicles. Even though they were popular, it took nine years for regulations regarding car seats to be introduced.

In 1971, the first federal standards were adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration but it took until 1979 for Tennessee to introduce the first car seat law. Six years later, all states had laws but only 80% of all children used car seats in a vehicle.

What to consider when buying a car seat

Finding the right car seat is important to ensure that a child is as safe as possible when on the road. One of the first things that parents need to consider is what type of seat they need. Children of different ages will require different types of seats to ensure that they are safe when on the road.

It’s important to consider not only the age of the children but also their height, weight, and development. Some older children who have developmental delays may need a more supportive car seat that is designed for younger children because it will help support and protect them.

Parents also need to consider if the seats they want to buy will easily fit in their vehicles as some are too large to fit in smaller cars.

Even the safest car seat will not work as well as necessary when it is in a vehicle where it can’t be properly installed.

Finally, parents can look for additional features and extras that help to set a car seat apart from others on the market. Cup holders, additional padding, and armrest areas are all options that parents may want to look for when shopping for new car seats.

What are the different types of car seats?

There are three main types of car seats that parents need to choose from when shopping. Knowing the difference between infant, convertible, and booster seats and when each of them is the best option for a child will help you make a smart decision when shopping.

Infant car seats

Infant car seats are very popular options with new parents since they are designed to offer amazing protection for new babies. They not only are sturdy and reliable but incredibly comfortable, which allows babies to sleep on the go.

Because they often come with a base that will allow the seat to pop in and out of the car without removing the child, they make it easy to transport a sleeping baby. The problem with these seats is that they generally have low height and weight limits so parents will have to plan to invest in a new car seat before the child gets older.


  • They can often be used as part of a travel system to make transporting an infant easier.
  • Rear-facing design is great for keeping infants safe in the car.
  • They offer plenty of padding and support for infants to protect them when on the road.
  • They are designed specifically to support infants and keep their bodies, heads, and necks supported and protected.


  • They are very heavy and can be difficult to carry when an infant is larger.
  • Infant car seats will quickly be outgrown, sometimes before a year.
  • They can’t be used as a forward-facing seat.

What is the best infant car seat?

To be honest, convertible car seats dominate the market these days, as parents are obviously thinking long term. But there are still a lot of infant car seats to choose from.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat is a great option for a rear facing car seat. It has newborn positioner so you can use it with newborn babies straight away, comes with a base, and it’s very easy to get your baby in and out.

For some other options, check out this comparison of two infant car seats by Graco and Britax

Convertible Car Seats

Parents who don’t want to have to buy multiple car seats will love that they can use a single seat for both infants and toddlers. Convertible car seats are a great option for parents who want to install a single seat and then not worry about changing it for years.

Although they work with infants, most convertible car seats don’t offer all of the padding and support that infants may require to be safe, especially if the infant is very small. However, they are incredibly sturdy and durable, making them able to last for years and stand up to busy toddlers.


  • They can be used as a rear-facing and a forward-facing seat.
  • They often come with additional features such as cupholders, making them ideal for use with toddlers.
  • The higher weight limit means that they can be used with larger children or with older children without having to buy a new seat right away.
  • They have a higher price tag initially but will last for so long that they end up being a fairly good deal over the life of the seat.


  • They don’t provide the best fit for smaller infants.
  • They can’t be removed from the car and used with a travel system, which will make it difficult to handle sleeping children.
  • The heavier frame makes it difficult to move this seat from one car to another.

What convertible car seat is the best?

The Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 is a great option if you want something which will last a long time. It offers 10 years of use and keeps your child safe and secure until they’re ready for just a seatbelt.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this blog post which compares the Graco 4 in 1 with the Evenflo Symphony LX, two of the more popular options for convertible car seats.

Booster Car Seats

Once a child is too large for a traditional car seat but is still too small or young to sit directly on the seat, then they can use a booster seat. These car seats provide the boost that children need to be able to sit up and remain safe when on the road.

Versions with and without backs are available and most have cupholders so that kids can be even more independent. As long as they are installed correctly and the seat belt rests in the right place on the child, then they are a great way to keep kids safe and ensure protection in an accident.


  • Installation is fast and easy.
  • The back can be removed when the child is a little older, allowing for more freedom and comfort.
  • Lightweight design makes transporting the seat to a different vehicle simple.
  • This is the most inexpensive type of car seat on the market.


  • Many kids think that they are uncool, especially when they still have the back.
  • They can slip and slide on the back seat if the seatbelt isn’t tight enough.

Which booster car seat is best?

Check out the Chicco KidFit Zip 2-in-1 Belt Positioning Booster Car Seat. It’s comfortable, durable and easy to clean.


Are there any alternatives to car booster seats?

The main goal of a booster seat is to raise the child off of the seat to ensure that the seat belt is correctly positioned on the body. This is what will protect them if they are in an accident. While using a booster seat is the best way to keep kids safe in the car, they are not always the best option, especially when traveling in a taxi.

In this case, using a vehicle seat belt positioning vest such as the Ride Safer Travel Vest is a good option. These positioners ensure that the belt is positioned in the correct spot on the child’s body the entire time that he or she is in the car.

These vests hold the seat belt in place on the child and are made with a foam that will help to absorb energy from any crash, ensuring safety.

What are the parts of a car seat called?

Understanding the parts of a car seat is key to ensuring that a child is safely strapped in when on the road.

The part of the seat that actually holds a child in place is called the harness. Harness straps come over the shoulders and are held in place on the chest by a chest clip. The buckle is what connects the straps to the crotch strap.

On the back of the car seat is a tether strap, which is used to stabilize the top of the car seat in the vehicle. Lower anchor attachments are also on the back and are also used to hold the seat in place.

A harness adjuster button and strap comes from the bottom front of the seat and can be tightened or loosened to keep the child safe in the seat.

When should the car Seat be front facing?

While in the past it was common for parents to consider the age of a child when determining when to turn the car seat around, that has since changed.

As recently as 2018, new recommendations are that a child stays rear-facing for as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants children to face to the rear until they reach the highest height or weight limit on the seat.

This means that more children will be rear-facing for longer as seats generally accommodate up to 45 or 50 pounds. The longer that a child is rear-facing, the safer he or she will be.

What are the weight requirements for car seats?

Understanding weight limits is key for parents to choose the right car seat for their children.

Most infant car seats will last until the child reaches 35 pounds or outgrows it by height. This can vary, however, from manufacturer to manufacturer so parents need to check each seat to verify the limit.

Convertible car seats will have weight limits for when children are rear-facing as well as for when they are forward-facing. The limit for rear-facing is generally between 35 and 40 pounds but can be even higher.

As for forward-facing seats, most have a higher weight limit of around 65 pounds.

When do car seats expire?

Car seats expire to ensure that children are always as safe as possible.

Thanks to new technological advancements, safety standards, and the fact that materials will wear out, replacing a car seat before it expires is important. This also means that parents need to make sure that the car seat they buy hasn’t already expired.

Car seats don’t have a hard and fast rule about when they will expire, which is why they have the expiration date on the label located on the seat.

Most will expire around six years after manufacturing so parents who can only find information about the manufacture date will want to buy a new car seat six years after that date.

Why is a rear-facing car seat best?

Rear-facing car seats are much safer than ones that face the front of the car as they are able to better protect children from injury during an accident.

The force from a crash is evenly distributed across the back of the seat as well as the child’s body, which prevents major trauma.

Additionally, the head is held in position and its movement is limited, which decreases the likelihood of neck injury. For this reason, although children want to face forward as soon as possible, keeping them rear-facing longer is a much better and safer alternative.

Do convertible car seats need a base?

Unlike infant car seats, which will click in and out of a base that has been installed in the back seat of the car, convertible car seats don’t require a base. This does mean that parents need to make sure that they take time to install the seat correctly.

Since the seat doesn’t require a base, this means that it won’t be as easy to move to a different vehicle. Once it has been installed and tightly positioned in the car, it is common to leave it there until the child is ready for a new seat.

Do car seats have airbags?

Even though car seats have been around for decades, it wasn’t until 2018 that a company created a car seat with built-in airbags. Maxi-Cosi released the AxissFix Air, a convertible car seat that uses a CO2 cartridge to instantly inflate airbags in a crash.

These airbags are located in the shoulder pads of the seat and help protect the child by reducing force from a frontal collision.

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Author: Dad Racket

Graham runs the place around here. He likes making a "little noise" about all things to do with tennis and parenting. Check out his about page to learn more.

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