Of all things you’ll buy for your son or daughter, a good carseat is probably the most significant. You’ll need one as soon as you take your child home from a healthcare facility until they grows enough to match into a grown-up seat belt, typically around age 10 or later. What’s scary is that practically 46 percent of child seats and boosters are installed incorrectly. A poorly installed seat leaves a kid vulnerable in a crash.

All car seats must meet federal safety standards in a 30-mph crash test. CR has tested seats for a lot more than 30 years, and we go further today with a simulated 35-mph crash that better represents current vehicle environments. We also test for simplicity: How simple it really is to check out instructions or manage buckles and straps; and how well the automobile seat fits into five different vehicles with challenging interiors. Therefore the better a seat does inside our tests, the better your likelihood of installing it correctly, and safely securing your son or daughter.

Spending lots of money doesn’t invariably mean you’ll get the very best carseat. Many midpriced models are well as or much better than pricier ones. Whatever the price, some seat may merely not work with your vehicle. For this reason we strongly recommend preparing in advance. Use our guide to determine the proper seat for your son or daughter (and car), also to know when you will have to move your child to another one.

Choose the best Model
As your son or daughter grows, you will have to transition from one carseat to another. We make clear the various types that will help you zero in on the correct one for your needs. To find out more which cars work best with child seats, start to see the Driving With Kids, or Child Safety, parts of our vehicle road-test reports.

What things to Know Before YOU GET
• Know your son or daughter: Get accustomed to keeping track of your son or daughter’s height and weight, which (along with age) can determine seat size so when its time to go up to another level. Note: Any behavioral or medical issues will also affect your decision.

• Know your stores: Some retailers enables you to test-install a seat in your vehicle, which is excellent because we’ve discovered that cushion angle or seat belt placement could make an automobile and child seat incompatible. Also essential: a store that accepts returns. Large shops such as for example Target and Walmart give a limited selection of products to get and a wider selection available online. Trusted online retailers such as for example Albee Baby, Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, and Diapers.com offer a straight larger collection of seat brands and models. Many retailers offer free shipping on child car seats. Make online purchases only after you have seen the models in true to life. You will discover higher-end models at specialty stores or boutiques.

• Know your vehicle: Check the child-safety parts of your automobile owner’s manual, and study through to relevant features such as for example belts, LATCH, and seats.

WHETHER IT’S Not Your First Seat…
Even seasoned parents could be fuzzy on the proper seat type so when it’s time for a change. Have a look at our tips for the minimum number of seats your son or daughter will need before they’re ready for just the automobile seat belt alone.

• Keep your child rear-facing until at least 24 months old.

• Until your son or daughter outgrows the harness height or weight limits, stick to a forward-facing harness.

• Your child requires a booster seat until they are 57 inches tall, between 8 and 12 years old, and fits the automobile belts correctly.

• You should replace a seat that’s damaged at all or that is in a extreme accident (use NHTSA’s checklist).

• Even after your son or daughter is preparing to use just the automobile belt alone, they should ride in the backseat until age 13.

• Seats that contain not experienced a crash could be reused, nonetheless they do expire. Some have a printed date-usually on the manufacturer’s label or molded in to the seat, which always carries a production date. Others will expire in a specific number of years, so it is up to you to check on the kid seat manual and do the math.

Illustration: Chris Philpot
Car Seat Ratings
5 Ways to ENSURE THAT YOUR Child Is Safe
Studies conducted by NHTSA and in the field indicate that carseat, booster seat, and seat belt misuse rates change from 74 to 90 percent. Yes, you read that right-the most child seats aren’t installed correctly. Here’s how exactly to do it properly:

Right seat: Check the seat’s height and weight limits (see our timeline above). Age can be an essential factor since it is reflective of your son or daughter’s skeletal development.

Seat tight: Once installed, the seat shouldn’t move a lot more than 1 inch laterally or front to back. Do not get discouraged-this could be tricky.

Harness height: In rear-facing installation, the harness straps are in or below your baby’s shoulders. For forward-facing, harness straps ought to be at or above a tot’s shoulders. The chest clip should be at armpit level.

Harness tight: If your son or daughter is secured properly, don’t be in a position to pinch any fabric on the straps at the child’s shoulders.

Final check: Recline right and tether tight. Check the recline angle for rear-facing seats (most have an indicator) in order to avoid allowing the child’s check out fall forward and obstruct breathing.

For forward-facing seats installed with either LATCH or seat belt, always attach and tighten the very best tether to greatly help prevent forward movement, that could cause head injury.