We are sure that you already know that the car crash stats are grim. According to the CDC, 35% of kids 12 years and below who died in a crash in 2015 were not buckled up.
However, there are some positive stats too. For example, by using car seats, the mortality rates of infants are reduced by a whopping 71%, and 54% for toddlers.
If you are ever in doubt, the middle back seat of the car is the safest position to place a car seat. Car seats placed on either side of the car next to the windows tend to take greater impact in a collision.
If you have more than one child and need to position two car seats in your vehicle, place the car seat of the most physically vulnerable child in the middle section and the other, next to the window.
The 4 Phases of Car Seat Safety
There are 4 different phases to transition your child through to ensure maximum car travel safety:
To work out if your child should be rear-facing or forward-facing, you can use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website supported by the United States Department of Transportation. Look for the relevant section to enter in your child’s birthday, weight and height information. The website will then provide you with a guideline of what kind of car seat you should be using and how much longer you have until you should consider switching car seats.
Car Seats According to Age
Infant seats allow your child to be rear-facing until they reach 1 year old. However, you also have the choice of using convertible car seats or all-in-one car seats. In fact, Consumer Reports recommends that you transition your child to a convertible car seat earlier.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric’s latest updated guideline, your child should be in a rear-facing car seat from birth to 2-year-olds or until he or she reaches the maximum height and weight recommended for the seat, normally around 36 inches and 30 to 40 pounds. Statistics show that the safest position for a child is rear-facing as there is more protection for your child’s neck and spinal cord. In other words, the longer that you can keep your child sitting rear-facing in your infant seat, the better.
However, you do have the option of purchasing an adaptable infant seat which can be used as rear-facing for children until age 2 or approximately 40 to 45 pounds and then, used as front-facing until your child outgrows the maximum height and weight recommendations of the adjustable car seat which is normally around 65 to 70 pounds.
There is also a third option of purchasing an all-in-one child seat which does everything; rear-facing, front-facing and booster. It is normally great value but depending on what’s important to you, the all-in-one car seat also can have disadvantages.
Your child should continue to be in a forward-facing car seat until he or she outgrows the height and weight restrictions of the child seat (could be around 40 to 80 pounds). At that point, you could move your child to a booster seat but he or she should continue to ride in the back seat of the car, not the front. It is always safer to keep your child in the back seat for as long as possible.
Your child should stay in the back seat of the car in his or her booster seat until your child reaches a height of about 4 feet 9 inches. It is also better to stay in the booster seat until your child’s knees can bend comfortably at the edge of the seat. When your child is tall enough so that the car seat belt can be positioned across your child’s thighs (not stomach) and the shoulder belt can be placed across your child’s shoulder (not face or chest), your child may be ready to transition to the adult’s safety belt.
The back seat with the safety belt is still the safest place for your child This is because the impact of airbags in the front seat inflating in an accident is powerful and can cause injuries to children.
So What Exactly Is A Convertible Car Seat?
A convertible car seat is a car seat that can be used as a rear-facing car seat for infants and then, converted into a front-facing car seat with a harness and tether when your child turns 2.
Some of these seats can also be used as booster seats which makes them similar to All-in-One car seats. Unfortunately, manufacturers have created a bit of confusion for the average consumer as they use the names interchangeably. This means that some adjustable infant seats can do everything that an All-In-One car seat can, which is rear-facing to booster.
These are a few advantages of buying a convertible car seat:
- Better value than buying an infant car seat that you can only use for a maximum of 2 years before you have to upgrade to a bigger seat.
- Your child can remain rear-facing for a longer period of time compared to an infant car seat as the convertible child seat is designed for a variety of sizes and weight.
- You can avoid spending an inordinate amount of time researching car seats. Finding one that you love that you can use for a longer period of time is going to be less stressful than having to repeat the research process all over again in a few years.
- Your child may have grown accustomed to the seat and there is no need to transition your child from one seat to another.
- You (not just your child) may have grown accustomed to the infant seat and getting a new one means that you will have to get used to using this new one.
- Not having to change your child seat will result in less going to the landfill and is more environmental-friendly.
- You may wish to get a new seat anyway as new models are being manufactured every year and these seats do get dirty and tired-looking after a few years.
- These tend to be less bulky and heavy compared to all-in-one car seats.
- Compared to an infant car seat, some of the these seats try to do too much and end up being less comfortable and arguably, also less safe.
- Although less heavy than some all-in-ones, convertibles are much heavier car seats than infant car seats.
- Convertibles are not designed to be carried out of the car on a regular basis. They tend not to have a base click-in system and the car seat is meant to be left in the car. This means that you will have to physically carry your infant out of the car and if he or she is asleep in it, you will have to wake him or her up. Not something to be taken lightly!
- Some do not recline so it is less comfortable for your infant to sleep in.
- You will need to purchase a separate travel system such as a stroller.
Convertible Car Seat Vs Infant Car Seats & All-In-One Car Seats
Compared to an Infant Car Seat
Convertible Car Seat Advantage
Convertible Car Seat Disadvantage
Compared to an All-In-One Car seat
Convertible Car Seat Advantage
Convertible Car Seat Disadvantage
Questions to Ask Yourself if You Should Get a Convertible Car Seat?
- Is my child bigger than the average child his or her age and likely to outgrow an infant car seat early?
- How important is it for me that my child can remain rear-facing?
- How often will I be using this car seat?
- Do I intend to travel outside with my child a lot?
- How much weight can I manage, ie. do I want to be carrying this car seat around outside?
- How likely is it that my child will fall asleep in the car and will I have to move him or her out of the car when I arrive?
- Do I intend to stay outside for long periods of time where my child might end up sleeping?
- Is my child extremely fussy when getting into the car seat and is familiarity important?
- What is my current and future budget for car seats?
- Will I most likely want to update this car seat when newer models or features come up?
- Do I prefer using a separate stroller/travel system or do I prefer matching click-ins for the car seat and stroller?
Safety Features to Look for in a Convertible Car Seat
A great car seat should have a 5-point harness system. These points are where the straps attach to the car seat. Two points are at each shoulder, two at your child’s hips and the fifth is the buckle between your child’s legs.
LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It is required for car seats made in the US but if you intend to purchase one outside of the US, look for similar qualities. LATCH allows car seats to be installed in the car without the need for a seatbelt. In other parts of the world, there are similar systems such as ISOFIX, UCSSS and UAS or Canfix in Canada.
Normally made of impact-absorption foam on the sides of the car seat.
This cushions your baby’s head when the car moves from side-to-side or you are on bumpy roads.
It’s a good idea if the straps are wide, don’t twist easily and come with pads to protect your child’s neck against rubbing from the straps.
There should be chest clips that clip together and are placed across the child’s chest.
Make sure that it’s not too difficult to adjust the length of the straps as you will find yourself frequently adjusting these depending on what your child is wearing.
Adjustable car seats can vary significantly in their height and weight restrictions. Make sure that you always check these details before purchase so that you are buying something that is appropriate for your child.
The longer that your child can remain rear-facing, the better.
Some adaptable car seats are larger than others. If you have more than one child who will be needing a car seat in your car, this will be an important consideration so that they can fit side-by-side. Remember that the middle back seat is the safest place for a child.
Some car seats are designed better for taller children, with a higher back or higher harness slots. Your child’s shoulders should be at or below the slots.
The car seat expiry date starts from the date of manufacture. Some car seats expire faster than others. Make sure that you choose one that lasts for the amount of time that you need it to.
Incorrect installation of car seats is a major factor to consider for safety.
Safest Convertible Car Seat
After taking into account the NHTSA’s ratings, parent ratings and our own research, we came up with our list of safest convertible car seats;
|Graco 4Ever 4-in-1||Check Price|
|Graco Milestone All-in-1||Check Price|
|Britax Boulevard ClickTight||Check Price|
|Graco Smart Seat All-in-One||Check Price|
|Diono Radian RXT All-In-One||Check Price|
|Graco Extend2Fit||Check Price|
|Evenflo Symphony DLX All-in-One||Check Price|
We then took into account the factors that we mentioned earlier in this article and narrowed down our list to our top 2. According to Consumer Reports, both these car seats received the BEST rating for crash testing safety.
This Graco Car Seat is one of the safest convertible car seats around. It not only meets the US crash safety standard but also meets the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP)’s standards which are 2x the car seat standard. Its frame is made of steel and this car seat has been side-impact tested for occupant retention using the 5-point harness too.
This car seat allows rear-facing starting from a mere 4 lbs which means that you can use this car seat for newborns. This seat allows your child to remain rear-facing till 40lbs and front-facing till 65lbs. After that, this car seat can be adjusted to become a high-back booster seat for up to 100lbs and finally, the booster seat can be completely removed for extended use till 120lbs. You can expect about 10 years of use from the date of manufacture of this car seat.
The head rest can be adjusted in 10-positions and there are 6 recline positions. The chest clip makes a nice click so that you can be sure that you have done it up properly. The harness strap can be adjusted relatively easily. In addition, this car seat comes with 2 cup holders for drinks and/or snacks. The seat cover can be removed for washing when it gets dirty.
A safe buy, we think!
This Graco Milestone All-in-1 is very similar to the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 above. However, there are a few differences. Besides being cheaper, this Graco Milestone All-in-1 only goes up to 100lbs instead of 120lbs. This is because it doesn’t come with the backless booster capability. This car seat only has 4-recline positions instead of 6. Also, although the head rest has the same energy absorbing foam technology, it doesn’t have the 10-position function that the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Car Seat has. It also comes with 1 less cup holder.
Of course, these functions may not matter to you. You could always buy a booster seat separately and you may not care about the 10-position head rest or extra cup holder. As the manufacturer may have deals at certain times of the year, we suggest that you do a price comparison and then decide if the price difference is worth the extra features.
Here is a quick comparison chart of these 2 car seats.
|Graco 4Ever||Graco Milestone|
|Maximum weight limit||120 lbs||100 lbs|
|Rear-facing weight range||4-40 lbs||5-40 lbs|
|Front-facing weight range||20-65 lbs||20-65 lbs|
|Booster weight range||30-100 lbs (high back belt-positioning)||30-100 lbs|
|40-120 lbs (backless belt-positioning)||Nil|
|Expiry date||10 years from the date of manufacture||10 years from the date of manufacture|
|Side impact protection||Yes & energy absorbing foam||Yes & energy absorbing foam|
|Head rests||Yes- 10-position head rests||Yes|
|Straps with comfort pads||Yes||Yes|
|Easy adjustment for harness straps||Yes- Simply Safe Adjust Harness System without need to rethread||Yes- Simply Safe Adjust Harness System without need to rethread|
|Ease of installation||Yes- Easy-to-read level indicator||Yes|
|Bonus||2 cup holders||1 cup holder|
We hope that you found this useful. If you can, nothing beats going into a store yourself with your little one and testing the car seat out directly.