Upgrading Your Child’s Car Seat

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April 20, 2023
Edward Smith

Choosing the Right Car Seat for Your Child

When transitioning your child through multiple stages of car seats, the expenses can add up. However, it’s crucial to prioritize your child’s safety when upgrading their car seat. Switching too soon can be risky, and keeping your child’s safety as the primary goal is important. Even though it may seem like the right time to upgrade when your child reaches the minimum weight or height requirement, ensuring that the new seat provides adequate protection is vital. If the seat is too large or the harness is not correctly adjusted, your child may risk serious injury in a crash.

When to Upgrade Your Child’s Car Seat

You should upgrade your child’s car seat when they outgrow it in terms of weight, height, or age or if the car seat has been involved in a crash or has reached its expiration date. Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to upgrade your child’s car seat:

  • When your child reaches the weight or height limit: Each car seat has a weight and height limit specified by the manufacturer. When your child exceeds the limit, it’s time to upgrade to a larger car seat that can accommodate their size.
  • When your child’s head is within one inch of the top of the car seat: When your child’s head is approximately one inch away from the top of the car seat, it indicates that they have outgrown the seat in terms of height.
  • When your child reaches the age limit: Some car seats have an age limit specified by the manufacturer. When your child reaches this age, it’s time to buy a car seat appropriate for their size and weight.
  • When the car seat has been involved in a crash: If your car seat has been involved in an accident, even a minor one, it should be replaced. The car seat may have hidden damage that could compromise its effectiveness in protecting your child in a subsequent crash.
  • When the car seat has reached its expiration date: Car seats have an expiration date, typically 6-10 years after the date of manufacture. When your car seat expires, it’s time to replace it with a new one.

Remember that it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for your specific car seat model and to prioritize your child’s safety when deciding whether to upgrade their car seat.

How to Find the Right Car Seat for Your Child

Use the timeline below to find the right car seat for your child before upgrading their old one.

  • 6-9 months before the due date: Start researching car seats and safety standards to become familiar with the types of seats available and what to look for in a safe car seat.
  • 4-6 months before the due date: Decide on the type of car seat you want to purchase. Consider your child’s size, weight, and age, as well as your vehicle and budget.
  • 2-4 months before the due date: Purchase the car seat and familiarize yourself with its features, installation process, and safety guidelines.
  • 1-2 months before the due date: Install the car seat in your vehicle and have it inspected by a certified technician to ensure it’s properly installed and adjusted for your child.
  • 0-3 months after the due date: Use the car seat as directed and follow safety guidelines, including keeping your child rear-facing until they reach the appropriate weight and height and correctly using the seat’s harness and tether system.
  • Every 6-12 months: Check the car seat’s expiration date and ensure it’s within your child’s recommended age and weight limits. Also, check for any recalls or safety concerns about your car seat model.

Consider a Trade-In

Target stores offer a trade-in event from April 16 to April 29, 2023, which can help parents cut the cost of a new car seat. The retail store gives a 20 percent discount on select baby gear, including car seats and strollers, when consumers recycle their old seats. This offer is valid until May 13, 2023, and is redeemable twice. Target Circle loyalty program members can bring their old seats to the customer service department and drop them into a designated box, then scan the redemption code on the box with the Target app to avail of the discount. The offer can be used online, or shoppers can scan the bar code at the register during checkout. This discount can be combined with other offers.

Parents not living near Target can check with their local baby product retailers to see if they have similar trade-in events. Recycling old car seats is a better way to dispose of them than throwing them in the trash, which can end up in a landfill or be repurposed by someone else.

Car Seat Ratings 

Car seat ratings are a valuable tool for parents and caregivers to help them choose the best car seat for their child’s needs. These ratings assess a car seat’s overall safety, ease of use, and installation process and provide a score or ranking that allows parents to compare different car seat models.

One of the most well-known car seat rating programs is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 5-Star Ease of Use Ratings. This program rates car seats on a five-star scale based on how easy they are to use, with factors like the clarity of instructions, ease of installation, and ease of securing the child in the seat. The ratings can help parents quickly identify car seats that are easy to use and install correctly.

Another popular rating system is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) ratings for booster seats. The IIHS evaluates booster seats based on their ability to properly position the seat belt on a child and assigns ratings of “Best Bet,” “Good Bet,” or “Check Fit” to each model. These ratings can help parents choose a booster seat that will provide the best protection for their child in a crash.

In addition to these rating programs, Consumer Reports also provide car-seat ratings and a buying guide based on safety, ease of use, and overall performance. These can be helpful resources for parents researching different car seat options.

Remember that your child’s safety is paramount, and a properly installed and adjusted car seat is crucial in ensuring their protection while on the road.

Watch the YouTube video below to learn about the best all-in-one car seats in 2023.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a California personal injury attorney. Our law firm understands the devastating impact a car crash can have on a family, and we are committed to fighting for their rights and securing the compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one has been severely injured in a traffic collision or any other type of accident, call us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice and to learn how we can help you recover.

Our experienced injury attorneys have a proven track record of success in car accident cases and are dedicated to providing our clients compassionate and effective legal representation. See our past Verdicts and Settlements.

Photo by Savanna Lee

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