Still have questions? Check out the FAQs below for more information.

You may also find a local certified Car Seat Technician for more support.

Car Seat Safety

Q: What are my car seat choices?

Did your eyes lose focus when you walked in the store and saw so many car seat choices?

Car seats come in three main types, and each type offers a variety of options.

Most kids are between 8 and 12 before the adult seat belt will fit them correctly. Use the Seat Belt Fit test to see if they are ready.

Q: Is one car seat safer than the other?

All car seats are required to meet and pass crash tests under U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Inexpensive seats will meet the same standards as the more expensive seats but may not have all the comfort features you want. Select a car seat that has all the features you want before you make the purchase. That way, you know the manufacturer has tested and approved them for use with your child. If you have questions after you get your car seat home and have tried to install it, seek out a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician to assist you at an event or inspection station.

Q: How can I find out about my state law?

Every state in the country has a child passenger safety law and each state law is different. Some laws protect children up to age 18 while others may stop at 5 or 8. Laws generally provide for the minimum protection, but we at Safe Kids Worldwide know that parents want what is best for their child. That is why we use Best Practices, developed by child passenger safety industry experts, as a foundation for our tips. To find your state laws, go to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (www.ghsa.org) and look to the left for “state laws” to see what your state requires.

Shopping for a Car Seat

Q: What are NHTSA’s Ease of Use ratings?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) works to make it easier for families to obtain and use a car seat correctly. Their Ease of Use star system ranks every car seat to help parents and caregivers find a car seat that has easy-to-follow labels, color coding and instructions. The Ease of Use Rating does not measure safety or rate crash performance. Five stars will tell you which car seats have the best information while one star lets you know it may be more difficult to get information.

Q: Can someone at the store help me install my car seat?

There may be some stores that will have certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians to assist you but that is not guaranteed. Call first and ask if they have a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician on staff. Just because a store offers to put a car seat in a customer’s car does not mean your helper will be properly trained. Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are well-trained to teach families to install their car seats in their cars. Safe Kids coalitions host thousands of car seat checkup events around the country with trained technicians. Find an event here, or if there isn’t one near you, look here for a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.

Q: Is it okay to buy the car seat before the baby is born?

Yes, in fact, it is a smart decision. We highly recommend that pregnant moms not wait until they are on the way to the hospital to try to install the car seat! Select and practice installing your car seat at the fourth or fifth month when it is easier for you to climb into the back seat to try different locations and get familiar with the seat belts or lower anchorsRear-facing-only car seats do not use a top tether so you will have only the seat belt or lower anchors to practice with. Learn the basics of harnessing your baby, too. Use a teddy bear and try moving and adjusting the harness straps. Follow the car seat and vehicle instructions to make sure that baby’s first trip, and every one after that, is a safe one. Be sure you prepare everyone who will transport your baby so they can use your car seat correctly, too.

Expirations, Recalls, and Used Car Seats

Q: Do car seat expire?

Car seats expire, usually between 6 and 10 years. Look for a label on the car seat or in the plastic shell that indicates the make, model, date of manufacture and manufacturer information. Quick tip: Take a picture of the label with your phone and keep it handy.

 

Q: How can I be alerted if my car seat is recalled?

If you have registered your car seat by sending in the registration card or registering it online, you will be contacted by your car seat manufacturer about any safety issue and the fix for it. You may also sign up to register your car seat and receive e-mail alerts about car seat and booster seat recalls from NHTSA. If your car seat is recalled, do not panic. You will automatically receive the recall “fix,” and instructions for making the repair, without even asking for it. Sometimes the fix is changing a label or adding or switching out a part. Fix your car seat and tell your friends, too. Recalls can be considered an upgrade.

Q: Do I need to buy a new car seat?

Unless you are using a family member’s car seat and you know its history, buying a new car seat is best. This will assure that you have a car seat that has the latest technology and all the parts, labels and instructions that go with the car seat.

In some parts of the country there are programs that recycle car seats. Contact your local waste management company to see if they are doing this.

Car Seat Maintenance and Care

Q: How do I make sure this car seat lasts a long time?

Car seats expire, usually between 6 and 10 years. Look for a label on the car seat or in the plastic shell that indicates the make, model, date of manufacture and manufacturer information. Quick tip: Take a picture of the label with your phone and keep it handy.

Follow the cleaning instructions for the car seat. When not in use, store it in a dry, cool place. Don’t use bleach or harsh chemicals or an iron. Don’t place pads or harnesses in the washer and dryer unless directed to do so by the manufacturer.

Moving Seats and Carpooling

Q: Is it easy to move a car seat from car to car?

Car seats can be moved from car to car but be aware that the vehicle seat belt systems, and lower anchor attachments and top tethers may or may not be easily accessible or fit the car seat the same in each vehicle. Buying an extra detachable base for some rear-facing-only car seats can be convenient and make it easy to move rear-facing car seat carriers easily from one car to the next. A car seat or base can be used with a seat belt in one car and LATCH in another. The best way to learn this is by reading your car seat manual and car manuals at the same time. A certified car seat technician can also help you figure this out.

Q: How can you tell the car seat is locked into place and secure?

Once a car seat or detachable base is installed tightly with either the seat belt or lower attachments (LATCH), place your hand in the base or car seat and push down to take the plush out of the car’s cushion. Then re-tighten and lock the seat belt or lower attachments. Working with two people makes this very easy. Once you have the base or car seat in as tight as possible, look at the angle indicator to be sure the angle is still good for a rear-facing child. Do the Inch Test to be sure the car seat is locked by placing a hand at the belt path and trying to move the car seat side-to-side and front-to-back. If it doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction, it is locked in place. Check the tightness of the car seat periodically to be sure it is secured. If your child is forward-facing, they will ride upright and will also use a top tether with the tightened and locked seat belt or with the tightened lower attachments to hold the car seat in place.

Q: Do I need a car seat for each car?

It can certainly be more convenient for caregivers to have several car seats but it is not always practical. Be sure whomever is moving the car seat is familiar with both the car seat and vehicle instructions. Rear-facing-only car seats often come with a base that stays in the car. You can buy extra bases and move the carrier between cars for babysitters, grandparents and parents.

Q: What do I need to know about safe carpooling?

Be sure any driver who transports your child has a valid driver’s license, carries auto insurance, has a good driving record and has not been convicted of a crime against a child. Discuss safe passenger rules with older children when riding with someone else. Be sure that each child will ride in a car seat, booster seat or seat belt, based on individual age, weight and height. Make sure that all children exit a vehicle on the curb side. Once children exit your car, wait until they are safely supervised before driving off. And if someone else is driving your child, remind them to never leave a child alone in the car, even for a minute. Keep the empty car and trunk locked, so kids cannot play in or around a vehicle.