So many seats: Discover how to choose the best, safest car seat for your child

So many seats: Discover how to choose the best, safest car seat for your child

Car seats have come a long way since the original models debuted about 100 years ago, consisting of  a simple burlap sack with a drawstring that hung over the headrest on the passenger’s seat.  While these original seats were simply designed to allow the child to look out the window and to keep them in one spot in the car, modern car seats are designed with the primary goal of keeping a child safe from injury in a motor vehicle collision. That is why car safety seats are required by law in all states to provide adequate protection for young children. As car seat designs have thankfully improved over the years,  the sheer number of models, styles, brands and features available now can be overwhelming. You know a safe car seat is important, but how to choose the best one for your child?

These are the top three things to consider when selecting a car seat: 

  1. Your child’s size and age
  2. Your family’s personal needs and budget
  3. Your vehicle size and layout for correct fit and installation

When you get a car seat that is right for your child’s age, height, weight, and lifestyle, your life will instantly become a lot easier. Wondering what style of car seat to choose for your child? Pros and cons of each style? This guide will cover some important details you need to know and more. Let’s dive right in, shall we? 

5 main styles of car seats

There are 5 mainstream car seat styles: 

  • Infant car seats
  • Convertible car seats
  • Rotating convertible car seats
  • All-in-one car seats
  • Booster seats

Here is a closer look at each of these styles, their advantages and disadvantages:


Infant car seats

As the name suggests, infant car seats are designed for infants. They can be used right from birth until either your little one has reached the maximum height or weight limit of the car seat (usually 30-32 inches or 30-35 lbs) OR the top of their head is less than an inch from the top of the seat when buckled in, 

Most infant car seats are meant to be installed in a rear-facing position. They can also double as carriers or easily attach to a stroller travel system for on-the-go convenience. You install them in your car by either strapping them in directly, depending on the model, or attaching them to a base that is strapped in. 

Note that even after switching to a larger car seat style, experts recommend that you keep it installed in a rear-facing position because it is safer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, children should sit in a rear-facing position in their car seats until they are at least 3 years old or until they hit the height and weight limits set by the car seat manufacturer. 


  • Designed for infants - engineered to be safe and comfortable for newborns and infants
  • Convenient - Easily detachable from the car, can be lightweight and highly portable, especially when part of a stroller travel system 
  • Easily transferable - to more than one vehicle with an extra base


  • Short usage - Your child may outgrow it after about 18 months

Our recommendations for top-rated infant car seats: 


Convertible car seats

Convertible car seats are designed to be used right from birth until your little one no longer needs to use a car seat, around school age. Many convertible car seats can fit a child from infancy up to 65 lbs. Because of this, they give you more bang for your buck. 

Convertible car seats can be used in either the rear-facing or front-facing position depending on your child’s weight. The rear-facing position is perfect for kids up to the age of at least 2-3 years old. After your little one is at least 2 years old and meets the minimum car seat weight/height for forward facing , you can switch her to a front-facing position.  However, car seat safety experts recommend keeping your child in a rear-facing position as long as possible, and many modern car seats will fit a child rear-facing up to 50 lbs. 


  • Versatile - They can be used in both rear-facing and front-facing positions.
  • More features - They are usually roomier, sturdier and may offer more features such as cup holders and anti-rebound bars for safety. Most come with a five-point harness and variable recline positions
  • Good value - They grow with your child starting from infancy to toddler to young elementary school age


  • Less portable than infant seats- they are not easily portable due to size, and they cannot be used as infant carriers or attached to strollers.
  • Difficult to transfer between cars - They do not come with a base, which makes them harder to transfer from one car to another
  • Bulkier design for infants - Because they are so bulky, they may not be as comfortable for smaller infants

Our recommendations for top-rated convertible car seats: 


Rotating convertible car seats

These are a sub-type of convertible car seats that can rotate 180 or 360 degrees at the push of a button. They are also called swivel car seats. They are designed to spin on their base to switch from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing position when you push a button or pull a lever, depending on your model. 

Rotating convertible car seats make it easier to get kids in and out of the car seat because they swivel to the side to face the door, which means you do not have to awkwardly reach in to interact with your child like you would in a standard convertible car seat. 


  • Convenience - Make it easy to get your child in and out of the car seat
  • One installation - Ability to switch from front-facing to rear-facing modes at the push of a button
  • Features - Most come with a five-point harness, cup holder options and variable recline positions


  • Heavy - Most are heavier than standard convertible car seats
  • Not portable - Cannot be used with a stroller or as a carrier
  • Large size - They can be quite large, which can be a problem if you want some extra room in the back seat of your car. They may not fit all compact cars.

Our recommendation for the top-rated rotating convertible car seat: 


All-in-one car seats

All-in-one car seats are also called 3-in-1 car seats and nicknamed “one and done car seats”. They work like convertible car seats, except this time they have a built-in booster seat, too. This means you only need to buy one car seat and it will grow with your kiddo right from birth in rear-facing mode to toddlerhood in forward-facing mode, and in seatbelt-positining booster seat mode until she is big enough to fit in a regular seat belt properly. 


  • Great value - They are an economical choice, requiring only one car seat purchase for your child.
  • Super convenient -  as you will not have to research and buy a new car seat every few years


  • Heaviest option - They are heavy and not easily portable
  • Wear and tear - if not cleaned or maintained properly, they may show more stains or not hold up very well when used for many years

Our recommendation for the best all-in-one car seats: 


Booster seats

Booster seats are designed to only work in the forward-facing position. They have a minimum weight requirement, usually around 40 pounds with a recommended age of 4 years old. They are the final car seat style that your child will use before graduating to regular seat belts without the car seat. 

Booster seats will either come with their own harnesses or buckles or you’ll be able to use them with the standard seat belt in your car (this style is called a belt-positioning booster seat). 


  • Easy to install and transfer - belt positioning booster seats are simply installed with a seatbelt and easy to transfer from one car to another. 
  • Offers independence to your child - children can more easily get in and out and buckle/unbuckle themselves when age-appropriate.
  • Less bulky - Backless options offer even more portability for travel. 


  • Limited age and usage - Cannot be used by smaller children or those who are not developmentally mature enough to stay buckled in a moving car. 
  • Good headrest in car is often necessary - You may need to make sure your car has a good headrest, especially if you choose to use a backless booster seat

Our recommendations for the best booster seats: 


Final Thoughts: When should you switch your child to a bigger seat? 

Experts recommend that children should use car seats and/or booster seats until they are at least 4 feet and 9 inches tall and can safely sit buckled in the regular seat of the car with the regular seatbelt fitting properly . This usually happens between the ages of 8 to 12 years depending on your child’s growth rate. Children should also ride exclusively in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old. 

Here is a breakdown of the various types of car seats and when you’ll know your child has outgrown them: (SEE CHART BELOW)

  • Infant seats: Most infant seats are rated for use until your child is between 30 to 32 inches tall or weighs between 30 to 35 pounds. This usually happens sometime between 12 to 19 months when your child will likely outgrow the height limitations before the weight limits. You’ll be able to tell that your little one has outgrown her infant car seat when the top of her head is less than an inch from the top of the seat. 
  • Convertible and all-in-one car seats: Your child will have outgrown her convertible car seat when she hits the manufacturer’s rear-facing height or weight limits. In most cases, the weight limit is about 40-65 pounds. For some children, this may happen as early as when they are 4 years old. You’ll be able to tell that your child has outgrown her seat when the top of her ears reaches the top of the head restraint on the car seat. 
  • Booster car seats: Children must be at least 4 years old to use booster seats. Your child will have outgrown her booster car seat when she is tall enough to remain in place without sliding through the seat belt when the car stops suddenly. She should also be able to keep her back against the vehicle’s seat, her knees bent over the edge, and her feet on the floor. The seatbelt should also fit her properly when she maintains a proper seating posture. This usually happens at some point between 8 to 12 years. 


It is best to ensure your child’s car safety seat follows these recommendations as listed on the AAP website:

Types of Car Seats at a Glance


Type of Seat

General Guidelines

Infants and toddlers


Rear-facing convertible

All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear facing for 2 years or more.

Toddlers and preschoolers

Forward-facing convertible

Forward-facing with harness

Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.

School-aged children


All children whose weight or height exceeds the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years of age. All children younger than 13 years should ride in the back seat.

Older children

Seat belts

When children are old enough and large enough for the vehicle seat belt to fit them correctly, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for the best protection. All children younger than 13 years should ride in the back seat.

Image Credit: The American Academy of Pediatrics



Now that we’ve covered the many styles and types of car seats to consider, hopefully this information has given you more insight on choosing the right seat. In addition to having the knowledge of the styles and fitments, we have found that it is just as important to select a car seat by seeing, touching and testing one out with your child in person.


ZukaBaby offers the largest local selection of in-stock premium infant, convertible and booster seats in the New Orleans metro area. Stop by ZukaBaby’s car seat showroom, speak with a friendly car seat safety expert and have the opportunity to test out a car seat with your child or place one in your car for size. Please contact ZukaBaby for assistance in selecting the best car seat for you and your family, or stop by the store!


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