If you haven’t noticed, car seats have changed a lot since we were little. From built-in side-impact protection to 10-seconds-or-less installation, the technology has come a long way—to say the least.
If you’re about to have a baby, you can take comfort in knowing that every car seat on the market now has to go through some pretty rigorous safety testing. But there are still a few things you should read up on before you pick the “perfect” one.
Fact #1. A car seat is the one baby item you’re legally required to buy — no ifs, ands, or buts. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a car; most hospitals take it so seriously that they won’t let you take your child home without one… even if you’re walking!
Fact #2. You’ll probably end up buying three separate car seats to cover the three separate stages of growth your kid will go through, so that means an infant seat, a toddler seat, and a booster seat.
Fact #3. If that last fact caused you to hyperventilate a little, consider this: You can save money by buying 2-in-1 infant-to-toddler or toddler-to-booster convertible seat options. Just know that if you go the convertible route, you’ll likely compromise a bit on portability and space, since those options can get a bit bulky.
Fact #4. Car seats are one of the few baby gear products that the experts unanimously recommend buying new. So if you were hoping for a hand-me-down, you may want to scrap that idea. Take it from us, car seat technology is always changing; so you’ll want the most up-to-date models available for safety reasons.
Fact #5. According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, the most common problem involving car seats is improper installation. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions and hang on to them for future use.