Car Seats: When Is It Time to Buy the Next Type?

Choosing the correct car seat for your child’s age and size can potentially save their life in the event of a crash. So how do you know when it’s time to buy the next type of car seat? A new crash test from Consumer Reports and a new California law may have changed some of the older guidelines you’ve referenced in the past for buying car seats. We’ve compiled advice from trusted sources to create an updated guide for when to buy a new car seat.

According to Consumer Reports, a child should transition through three different types of car seats as they grow up:

1. The Infant Car Seat

This is a detachable, rear-facing car seat that snaps in and out of a base that is anchored to the vehicle. Conventional wisdom has been that parents wait for their child to outgrow the infant seat by height or weight before transitioning them to a convertible car seat.infant car seat

In a recent round of crash tests, Consumer Reports found results that are prompting them to advise parents to transition to the next car seat sooner. To prevent potential head injuries, Consumer Reports is now advising parents to move their children from infant seats to rear-facing convertible seats by their first birthday.

Research shows that when a child suffers a serious injury in a car crash, it is most often because of head contact with the front seatback.

Consumer Reports’ rear-facing crash test results found that a dummy that represented the height and weight of a 12-month child was protected from striking its head against the simulated front seatback in 24 out of 25 convertible car seat models. With the same size crash test dummy in infant car seats, Consumer Reports found that only 16 of the 30 seats allowed head contact.

2. The Convertible Car Seat

convertible car seatThis seat is first installed facing the rear and then it can be switched to forward-facing once the child is at least 2 years old. This is the seat that Consumer Report recommends your child spends the most time in. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children stay in the rear-facing position until age 2 and that parents wait until their child reaches school age to transition to a booster seat.

It is now required by law in some states, (including California, as per a new law) that children under the age of two must be in rear-facing car seats.

If your child is under the age of two, but their feet touch the back of the vehicle seat already, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following advice: “Children can bend their legs easily and will be comfortable in a rear-facing seat. Injuries to the legs are very rare for children facing the rear.”

3. The Booster Seat

booster car seatbooster car seat


This seat is meant to raise your child up to allow the car’s seat belt to fit safely. Know that booster seats must be used in seats that have both shoulder and lap belts. They can never be used with just a lap belt. To check that the booster seat is the correct size for your child, make sure that:

  • The lap belt lies low and snug across your child’s upper legs.
  • The shoulder belt crosses the middle of your child’s chest and shoulder and is off their neck.

Keep in mind that vehicle seatbelts are made for adults. Most children will not be tall enough to ride safely with a car’s seat belt until they reach 8 to 12 years old.


Have a serious injury and need legal advice? Contact Howard Blau.


Please Be Sure to Read the Following References:


“Best Convertible Car Seats of 2017.” Baby List. 2 January 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017 from

“Car Safety Seats: 2016 Guide for Families.” American Academy of Pediatrics. 2016.

Naranjo, Michelle. “The Safest Car Seat for Your Child.” Consumer Reports. January 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017. Vol 82 No. 1. Access a copy at


Pictures from:

“Graco SnugRide 35 LX Infant Car Seat with Safety Surround TM Protection.” Target. Retrieved 8 February 2017 from

“Best Diono RadianR120 Convertible Car Seat, Storm Price.” Strollers & Car Seats. Retrieved 8 February 2017 from

“24 Safest Booster Seats.” Parenting. Retrieved 8 Fabruary 2017 from