Every year in Quebec, over a thousand children under the age of 9 are victims of road accidents. *
Whether you're a first-time parent or a seasoned one looking for an update, shopping for car seats may be a little daunting; luckily, nowadays, the internet is full of professional and personal reviews as well as professionally compiled safety ratings.
With the whole world at your fingertips, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of brands and models. Should you buy from a Canadian company or go European? Sturdy or sleek Scandinavian? 3-in-1 or separate seats for each stage?
Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right car seat.
While laws may vary from province to province, car seats are usually recommended until at least 18kg (40lbs), which is the average size of a 4-year-old.
While shopping for the right seat for your child, it is not enough to look at the design and price tag:
· Make sure the seat has the Transport Canada compliance label
· Check the expiry date written on the seat
· Double check the seat is compatible with your car
Being a parent is costly, and many baby things are worth getting second-hand, but we strongly discourage getting a used car seat. If you're going to buy one thing new, this is the one.
Vehicle accidents are strong enough to total a car permanently and can easily destroy a car seat. The damage might not be visible to the naked eye, but the car's frame could have been weakened, and micro-fractures could have formed inside the seat. Unless you can be 100% sure the seat wasn't damaged, misused or in a car accident, you can't be certain it's up to Transport Canada standard.
That being said, we understand sometimes you don't have any other options but to buy used. If you do go the second-hand route, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Spending hundreds of dollars on a car seat (or thousands if you want something uber flashy like the Dino Rainier 2AXT Prestige ) doesn't guarantee you the best car seat. Midprice models can work just as well (if not better) than their pricier equivalent.
Before wasting your money on extra bells and whistles, you don't need, consider what model suits your needs best. As your child grows, you'll need to transition from one car to another and choosing the suitable model from the beginning can be a big help.
There are three possible models to choose from:
The very first one you'll need, the infant car seat, is rear-facing and can be easily removed (these models are often compatible with strollers). The snug fit and easy mobility make this the best fit for babies and can usually be used for children up to 18.5 kg (40lbs). However, most children outgrew this car seat fairly fast as they become too tall or too heavy for it.
This model takes your child from birth to booster seat seamlessly. Typically, this seat accommodates children from 1.8 to 22.5 kg (4 to 50lbs) in a rear-facing position, from 9 to 29.5kg (20 to 65lbs) in a forward-facing position, and 13.5 to 54.4kg (30-120lbs) in booster mode. Although a great value, the all-in-one model is very bulky, heavy and lacks the convenience of a removable carrier (this is particularly useful for transporting a sleeping baby from car to home).
Similar in shape and size to the all-in-one, this model follows the infant car seat and mimics its harness system. It can be used in rear-facing and front-facing positions and transitions easily from infant to child stage, although it doesn't provide the optimal fit for newborns and babies.
Although the minimum weight and age for children to ride in a booster seat vary from province to province, it's always a good idea to boost(er) it up! When your child outgrows her forward-facing seat but is still small enough that the seat belt doesn't fit correctly over her sternum and the center of her collarbone, boosters offer a safer alternative and come in two different styles: backless and high-back. While the former is compact and effortless to install, the high-back one offers greater side-impact protection and is more comfortable.
Once you have selected the right car seat, it's time to get it properly installed. If possible, the seat should be in the back, in the middle of the car, away from airbags. Fasten it using the anchorage system (UAS) to firmly secure it; consult your vehicle owner's manual as well as the car seat handbook for instructions on what to do. And when in doubt, you can also visit Child and Road Safety Organizations to check car seat installations.
Your child deserves the ultimate protection from her very first car ride to the last day she'll be needing a booster; shop accordingly.
*Statistics from Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec