Car Laws & Safety

4 Car Seat Stages You Must Know About

There is nothing more important than protecting your child in every way possible. Whether it’s protecting them against the sun with sunscreen, the cold with a winter coat, or from injuries with a car seat, it’s your job as a mother to always look out for her child. 

The easiest thing you can do to keep your child safe when driving in a car is to buy them a car seat and install it properly. However, there may be some confusion about what type of car seat your child needs. Choosing the wrong one could be disastrous in the event of a car accident. 

The CDC found that using car seats reduced up to 81% of injuries from car accidents when compared to regular seat belts. Imagine boosting your child’s protection simply by choosing the right car seat! 

There are four stages to follow when it comes to child car seats. The first stage uses a rear-facing seat, the second stage uses a forward-facing seat, the third stage uses a booster seat, and the fourth stage is a regular adult seat belt. 

All of these stages have their own car seats and weight regulations that go with them. So, if you’re curious about which car seat is needed for each stage, keep reading. By the end, you’ll know exactly what type of car seat is right for your child. 

Stage 1: Rear-Facing Car Seat

A rear-facing car seat is for newborns and children up to four years old. These seats offer high-quality protection. They typically have a base that attaches to the car’s seat so you can carry the piece that holds your child in and out. 

Mothers with rear-facing car seats usually put a mirror in front of the baby so they can see their faces in the rearview mirror. 

It’s extremely important that you install this car seat correctly. There are too many accidents that occur when the car seat isn’t installed right and becomes loose while on the road. 

Weight Capacity

The weight capacity for a rear-facing car seat is up to 22 pounds. Children under the age of two should definitely be sitting in one of these seats. 

If you notice your child’s legs look a little squished while sitting in the rear-facing car seat, there’s no need to worry. This is completely normal and doesn’t cause any harm or discomfort to your baby. 

Do not push your child to the next stage before they are more than two years old and weigh more than 22 pounds. Keep them in the car seat until they are ready to move up.

Installing the Car Seat

As I mentioned before, it’s extremely critical to install a rear-facing car seat correctly. Your child’s life depends on it! Always place the car seat in the back and read the manufacturer’s instructions about how to install it.

Each car seat is different, so it’s important to follow the necessary steps. The seat should be sitting at a 45-degree angle and tightly attached to the car’s seat. Lock your seatbelts and pull them tight. There shouldn’t be more than an inch of movement. 

Recommended Rear-Facing Car Seats

If you aren’t sure where to start your search for a rear-facing car seat, look no further! We have three of the best-recommended car seats for you to look into and decide if they fit your needs or not. 

NunaPipa RX Infant Car Seat

This rear-facing car seat may be the lightest seat on the market. Weighing just 5.3 pounds, you can easily lift your child in and out of the car. The only downfall for some parents is that it does require a base to be installed in the car.

So, if you live in a city or constantly switch cars, this may prove to be a difficult problem. 

Evenflo Lite Max DLX Infant Car Seat

This affordable car seat is one of the best choices you can make to protect your little one. It’s constantly a top tick for safety features. It also has an adjustable headrest so your little one is always comfortable. Children weighing from 4-35 pounds can fit comfortably in this car seat. 

Uppababy Mesa Infant Car Seat

This car seat is super versatile and incredibly easy to install, which is great for those parents who always seem to struggle with this kind of stuff. It’s also LATCH compatible to ensure it is secured in the car. Children up to 32’’ can sit in this car seat safely. 

Stage 2: Forward-Facing Car Seat

Once your child grows out of the rear-facing car seat, it’s time to upgrade to a forward-facing car seat. This seat offers a tether and harness system to keep your child secured in the seat. 

Usually, children use a forward-facing car seat until the age of five. You may be wary of purchasing a rear-facing car seat because of the limited amount of time you’ll have with it. Don’t fear, though! 

Convertible car seats are available exactly for this issue. A convertible seat allows a rear-facing car seat to turn around become forward-facing. This means you’ll have up to five years of use with it. 

Weight Capacity

Usually, children up to the age of five are eligible to safely use a forward-facing car seat. However, the weight capacity is 40 pounds. If your child is under the age of five and exceeds the weight limit, then they may be able to move on to the next stage. 

However, depending on the type of car seat you purchase, your child may be able to stay in it until they are 85 pounds. Remember to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and manual for more information about your specific seat. 

Installing a Forward-Facing Car Seat

A forward-facing car seat should always be installed in the backseat of your car. Reference the instruction manual before beginning the installation process. 

Some car seats use the LATCH system, which better secures the seat to the car. Make sure you’re aware of whether or not your seat uses this system. When installing, lock your car’s seat belt and make sure it isn’t loose. There shouldn’t be more than an inch of movement. 

Recommended Forward-Facing Car Seats

I understand, there are a lot of car seats on the market and it’s overwhelming. You may not have any idea where to begin your shopping process, especially if you’re considering a convertible seat. Here are some options to start the process. 

Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

There is no easier convertible car seat to install than this one. Say goodbye to threading the seat belt through the back and wriggling it in the place.

This car seat has a compartment underneath where you can loop the seat belt through. You can also purchase an additional anti-rebound bar for even more protection for your beloved child. 

Evenflo Sonus 65 Convertible Car Seat

This is a great affordable option for parents in the market for a convertible car seat. Its features are pretty basic, but it does exactly what it needs to do, which is protecting your child. 

There is also a 65-pound weight limit, so you can get even more use out of this forward-facing car seat than others.
The small frame structure is great for moms with multiple children and a sedan. You can easily fit three of these in the back seat. 

Cybex Sirona S Convertible Car Seat

This car seat probably has the highest tech and dynamics to come to the car seat market. With 360-degree rotation, it’s never been easier to get your child in and out of the car. 

It also has 12 adjustable positions to better fit your car and make your child more comfortable. You’ll always know what your child is up to with the SensorSafe clip on the harness. If it senses trouble, it will alarm you to get your attention. 

Stage 3: Booster Seat

You’ll be shocked at just how quickly your child grows out of their forward-facing car seat and into a booster seat. This is stage three of the child car seat journey. 

Booster seats have two options: supportive backing or backless. Usually, children who are just transitioning to a booster seat will use the back. As they get bigger, you can remove the backing and simply have the base part.

A booster seat isn’t as attached to the car’s seat as stages one and two. Instead, it’s mostly held in place by the child’s weight. 

The main objective of a booster seat is to, well, give your child a boost to correctly fit in an adult seat belt. The seat belt should come across the lap, not over the stomach, and across the chest as if an adult was wearing it. 

Weight Capacity

A booster seat is usually for children between the ages of eight and twelve years old. The seat may be used by children who are less than four feet and nine inches tall. 

It’s important to read the manufacturer’s instructions about weight and height limits pertaining to your particular car seat model. Each one is different and may handle more weight than you expect. 

Remember, the adult seat belt must fit comfortably around your child. This means it shouldn’t come across any delicate areas, like the stomach or neck. 

Installing a Booster Seat

Installing a booster seat is fairly easy compared to the rear-facing and forward-facing car seats. Oftentimes, they use the LATCH system, which is pretty simple to do. 

The thing to remember about a booster seat is that the child’s weight is what will keep it in place most of the time. It isn’t as securely fastened as the previous seats. That being said, your child should sit all the way back in the seat and the seat belt should fit properly. 

Recommended Booster Seats

Once your child grows out of their convertible or forward-facing seat, it means you’re in the market for a booster seat. As with any important purchase, you may feel intimidating by all of the information and models out there. 

Here are some of my favorite booster seats for you to consider when purchasing one for your child.

Grace Turbobooster High Back Booster Seat

This booster seat comes with a removable back, so your child is comfortable no matter how tall they are while using this seat. It’s also adjustable, adding even more optional comfort.

The seat supports children up to 100 pounds in weight. This means you’ll get even more use out of the seat than traditional boosters. 

Clek Oobr Booster Car Seat

Another booster seat with a removable back, this car seat is optimally designed for the comfort and safety of your child. It supports children up to 57’’ and 110 pounds to even longer use. 

A great feature this car seat has is the reclining option. No longer will your child feel uncomfortable sleeping in the car on a long road trip. Now, they can adjust the seat how they want. 

Chicco Kidfit 2-in-1 Belt-Positioning Booster Car Seat

If you’re looking for variety in the colors and some style, this booster seat has it! It also offers LATCH system attachment and ten heigh adjustments so your child is secure and comfortable. 

Plus, the arms and seat are removable and machine washable so you can also keep your child safe from germs. The back also comes off for when your child grows bigger, but still needs the support of a booster seat. The seat supports children up to 110 pounds. 

Stage 4: Adult Seatbelts

When it comes to the time that your child grows out of their booster seat, they can now safely sit in the adult car seat. Remember, the seat belt should fit properly over your child’s chest and lap for it to be protective and not dangerous in the event of a car accident. 

Your child should also stay in the back seat until they are thirteen years of age. However, this rule is also determined by your state’s driving laws. So, make sure to check local laws before allowing your child to sit in the front seat of the car. 

Tips for Buying a Car Seat

Before you choose which car seat to purchase for your baby, toddler, or child, make sure to spend time doing your research. While most car seats are essentially the same, some may have features that others don’t. 

Figure Out Which Seat You Need

Before you even start looking at car seats, figure out which kind you need for your child. If you read through this article, you probably already have a good idea of which type you need. 

This depends on your child’s age, weight, and height. Once you know this, you’ve completed the first step of purchasing a new car seat. 

Research Features 

Every car seat serves the same purpose, but some are more luxurious than others. You can find some that recline in the seat, have security alarms, and even convert from rear to forward-facing seats. 

You should examine which features are important to you and if they match your price point. Car seats can range anywhere from $65 to $500 depending on the brand, features, and more. 

Get to Know Your Car

You use your car every day, so only you can choose the right car seat to put in it. Is your backseat big enough for certain seats? Will one seat be easier to get in and out of the car than another? 

It’s a good idea to look on forums where other parents talk about which car seats they use for your car’s model. This will get you the best, most customized research information possible. 

Shop Around

You probably have your go-to baby stores. Check these stores first for a car seat before going to others. Don’t be afraid to shop online too. Ecommerce stores tend to have a wider selection of car seats. Plus, you can read the reviews of each seat before you purchase it. 

Keeping Your Child Safe in a Car Seat

Protecting your child from danger and injury is probably your top priority as a parent. The best way to protect your child while riding in the car is with the proper car seat for their age and size. 

There are four stages of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat, and finally adult seat belts. Remember to refer to your state’s laws and the manufacturer’s instructions for the seats you do end up buying. This will keep you safe and abiding by your local laws. 

Always put your child’s car seat in the back of the car. Never drive without your child properly strapped into their car seat, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You never know what could happen while on the road. 

Now that you know the four stages of car seats and tips for purchasing one, you can now go out and get the one that is right for you, your car, and your child. 

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren