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When to Change Your Child’s Car Seat

Time to Move to the Next Type of Car Seat?

  1. Don’t be in a rush. Use your current car seat until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limit listed on the label. Don’t be in a hurry, because every step forward reduces safety just a bit. Why? If you are in a front-end crash (the most common type of crash) a rear-facing car seat allows your child’s head, neck and spine to move evenly into the seat, not away from it. Each seat is designed for maximum safety at a specific weight, height and age.
  2. Rear-facing car seats. Ride rear-facing until your child is at least 2 years old. As your child grows you might have to switch from using a smaller rear-facing-only car seat to using a bigger rear-facing convertible car seat that can hold a larger child. Learn more about babies in car seatsWatch this video to see if your child is ready to move to a forward-facing car seat.
  3. Forward-facing car seats. After your child reaches the weight limit for rear-facing, you will then turn the convertible seat forward-facing, or use a forward-facing only car seat with a 5-point harness and top tether. Your child may need a forward-facing car seat with a harness that has a higher weight or height limit before moving to a booster seat. Learn more about little kids in car seatsWatch this video to see if your child is ready to move to a booster seat. 
  4. Booster seats. After your child gets too big for the weight or height limits of the forward-facing car seat, use a belt-positioning booster seat with the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt. Learn more about booster seats

What to Do with your Old Car Seat

  1. Pass it on. When your child gets too big for her car seat, give it to someone you know. Make sure the seat has all the original parts, labels and instructions. If the seat was in a crash or is missing parts, throw it away.
  2. Expired or unsafe seats. If your car seat has expired or is unsafe, take it apart and put the pieces in separate dark trash bags to prevent someone else from using it.