Types of car seats by Age

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To start with, let’s take a closer look at the infant car seat. This type of car seat is a rear-facing one and is specifically designed for babies who weigh under 30 lbs and are under a year old. It provides excellent support for a baby’s head, neck, and spinal cord. So, if you have a newborn or a 6-month-old, an infant car seat is ideal.

The convertible car seat is another type of car seat for your child. Unlike the infant car seat, it can be used as both a rear-facing car seat and a forward-facing one. A convertible car seat can hold a baby up to 50 lbs, and when your child reaches 2 or 3 years old, you can switch to the forward-facing mode. So, if you want to use a car seat for a more extended period, the convertible car seat is worth considering.

Your child who is over 5 years old and weighs up to 65 lbs? your best bet is the combination high-back booster seat with a five-point harness. It is specially designed to accommodate growing children and provide better safety and comfort. It is a forward-facing seat with a high back that provides extra support and protection against side impacts.

Now that you know the different types of car seats based on age and weight, it’s essential to understand that the safety of your child is paramount. It would help if you considered investing in a top-quality car seat that meets the current safety regulations and standards.

So, when thinking about car safety, do further research on the different types of car seats by age and weight, different types of car seats and ages, types of car seats for different ages, types of car seats by age, and buy the ideal one for your child.

Car Seat Stages : There are 4 Stages of Car Seat

I’m a mother of two bright boys, and I’ve deeply researched and explored the car seat market, particularly during my first pregnancy. Like most first-time moms, I was worried about my child’s safety in the car, wondering what car seats would be ideal for my baby and at what age.

Except for the all-in-one, car seats are designed for specific ages and weight classes. So it’s important to know what car seat to purchase for your child at a particular age. 

The overall progression of car seats for most children has five main stages:

  1. The infant car seat 
  2. Convertible car seat
  3. Booster car seat
  4. Combination car seat
  5. All-in-one car seat 
Type-of-Car-Seats-By-Age

Types of Car Seats at a Glance

Go here to see the full 2023 Car Seat Product List

Age-group

Type of Seat

Infants and toddlers

Toddlers and preschoolers

School-aged children

 

 

Older children

Travel vests

Safe transportation for children with special health care needs

  • Product listing from the National Center for the Safe Transportation of Children With Special Health Care Needs

Here’s a more detailed look into each of these stages:

Infant Car Seat

Infant car seats are suitable for newborns and infants. They’re designed to support your baby’s head, neck, and spine. 

You can skip the infant car seat and use a budget-friendly convertible seat. But I recommend you start with the infant car seat for convenience. 

The infant seat has a base that you conveniently install in your car, so you can click in and out of your infant seat and take your child with you when they’re asleep. You could also put your infant seat into a stroller, creating a convenient travel system.

The average weight and height limit for infant car seats is about 30 lbs and 32 inches.

Infant seats also come with inserts that are about 11 lbs. Check your manufacturer’s manual to see when these inserts should come from your baby’s seat. As for the seat’s handle, refer to your manual to confirm if it should stay up or down. 

More importantly, I strongly recommend only installing a rear-facing infant car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommends that parents not place their infants in forward-facing car seats until they’re mature enough (2+ years).

Convertible Car Seats

A convertible seat is recommended for your child once they have exceeded the weight and height limits for the infant car seat. However, there’s nothing wrong with using a convertible car seat from the beginning and skipping the cost of an infant seat.

When do you convert from a rear-facing to a forward-facing convertible seat? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) insists that parents keep their babies rear-facing until the kids attain the weight or height limits allowed by the manufacturers. This is typically for kids over two years old and over 30 lbs.

Forward-Facing Convertible Car Seats 

Forward-facing convertible seats are suitable for toddlers and children around 2-4, although 9-year-old can still sit comfortably in these. The seats are designed to provide a higher level of protection for a child’s head and body. 

Typically, the weight limit of convertible car seats is around 40-65 lbs.

Only switch to a forward-facing car seat (with a harness and tether) when your baby has reached the recommended age and weight.

Booster Seats

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends booster seats for kids who’ve outgrown convertible seats (4+ years old). The seats are created for a child to be high enough to use the car seat belt conveniently. 

Booster seats are suitable for children who’re out of a forward-facing car seat but are not yet ready for a seat belt alone.

Depending on your child’s height and weight, you have two options: a high-back or backless booster seat. High-back booster seats provide more support for your child’s head and neck and are ideal for cars without headrests or low seat backs. They’re designed to help position the seat belt correctly when fastened. 

Backless booster seats are more portable and can be easily moved between cars. Booster seats have a weight limit of around 80-100 lbs.

Combination Car Seats

Combination seats are suitable for children between 2-8 years old. They’re designed to offer flexibility as the child ages and transitions between different car seat types.

You can use a combination car seat for two settings: 

  1. A forward-facing car seat that’s tethered for younger children and
  2. Booster seats for older children (e.g., a combination high-back booster).

A combination high-back booster seat with a five-point harness is a safer option for children not old enough to use the vehicle’s seat belt with a full booster.

The harness connects your baby’s car seat to the car’s seat belt for safety. It comprises a system of straps that stick to the child’s seat.

If your kid enjoys sleeping in the car, a high-back booster car seat is a better option, particularly for keeping the baby in the correct position. Some parents go for backless booster seats because they fit better in the car, but these seats do not offer the support your child needs to stay seated correctly and comfortably when they fall asleep or forward.

All-in-One Car Seats

All-in-one car seats, or 3-in-1, can be used in the booster seat stage from infancy through toddlerhood. They offer a convenient and cost-effective solution for parents who want to buy only one car seat until their child’s old enough for regular car seats.

Depending on the model, these seats are designed to meet a broader range of weights and heights. They support weights from 40 lbs to 120 lbs.

All-in-one car seats can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s growing needs. These seats can be readjusted to provide a more comfortable position for a newborn, and the height of the harness straps can be adjusted as the child grows taller. When the child reaches the appropriate weight and height limits, you can convert the all-in-one seat to a booster seat.

All-in-one car seats are heavier and bulkier than other car seats, which could bring up a space concern for parents.

Car Seat Size Guide Chart

The table below summarizes the progression of car seats to help you decide what seat to prioritize at particular periods of your child’s growth.

Car seat typeWeight and height limitationsMost common age group
Rear-facing infant car seat4-40 pounds and up to 32 inches tallBirth to 2 years
Convertible car seat5-40 pounds rear-facing and 20-65 pounds forward-facing; up to 49 inches tallBirth to 4 years
Combination car seatHarness mode: 20-65 pounds and up to 49 inches tall; Booster mode: 30-100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall2 to 7 years
Booster seat (high-back or backless)High-back booster: 30-100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall; Backless booster: 40-100 pounds and up to 57 inches tall4 to 12 years
Rear-facing infant car seat4-40 pounds and up to 32 inches tallBirth to 2 years

FAQS

When can toddlers use a booster seat?

The rules also vary by region. In Australia, for example, NSW’s child car seat guidelines state that children between 4 and 7 must be placed in a forward‑facing seat with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat.

At what age do you change car seats?

The AAP suggests that rear-facing seats are safer and recommends that infants ride in rear-facing car seats. In 2018, the AAP updated that recommendation to encourage parents to keep kids in rear-facing seats to meet the weight and height limits set by the manufacturers.

The age at which kids can stop using a car seat varies by state and by the type of car seat. Some states require car seats or boosters until the age of 8. Others have no specific age limit. However, some experts recommend that kids use a car seat or booster until they are tall enough to safely wear an adult-sized seat belt, usually around 4 feet 9 inches or 10 to 11 years old.

When to switch from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat?

You should use an infant seat until your baby reaches the weight and height limit specified by the manufacturer. The average limit is about 30 lbs and 32 inches. 

How do I know if my baby has outgrown a car seat?

When your baby no longer fits into a car seat, it’s obvious they should get out of it. Here are two simple ways to tell if your baby has grown out of the car seat:

  1. They reach the weight limit of the infant car seat, typically around 30 to 35 pounds, depending on the specific model.
  2. The top of the baby’s head is roughly under an inch from the top of the car seat when buckled in.

Transition to a larger car seat, such as a convertible or all-in-one car seat – appropriate for your child’s size and weight.

Always follow the weight and height limits specified by the seat’s manufacturer.

What car seat should an X-year-old be in and why?  

As your child grows, following car seat guidelines is essential to ensure their safety on the road. Here’s a plan for you to follow:

  1. Infancy – 2 years old: Your child should be sitting in a rear-facing infant car seat at this age. It’s safe for the baby and convenient when carrying it out of the car. 
  2. 2 – 4 years old: After outgrowing the rear-facing infant car seat, switch to a forward-facing combination car seat (one with a tether from the manufacturer to keep your child safe).
  3. 4 – 8 years old: Once your child exceeds a forward-facing combination seat’s height and weight limits, switch to a booster seat with a harness. At this age, your child is probably still not tall enough to fit conveniently in the car’s seat belt. The booster seat offers comfort and safety until the kid is over 4ft tall and is up to 8 years old.
  4. 8 years old and up: Most kids at this age are tall enough to fit the car’s seat belt. You can get rid of the booster. Always refer to your car seat manufacturer’s instructions and state laws regarding child passenger safety.

Conclusion

Generally, go for a seat that fits your car and is correctly installed. You can check the ratings and reviews of different car seats online or ask for recommendations from other parents or experts. More importantly, go for a car seat that suits your child’s age and weight, as discussed in this article. We’ve described 4 main stages of car seats you should consider. Your baby’s safety is everything.

Ready to get a seat for your baby? Check out our car seat reviews today. 

Avatar of Keren Simanova

Keren Simanova

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

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Keren Simanova

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