6 expert tips parents need to know when purchasing or upgrading a car seat


(BPT) - Whether you’re already a parent or you're expecting your first baby, you know how important child car seats are for safety. But like many parents, you may have questions about how to shop for the best car seat, ways to ensure your child’s seat is installed correctly or when to upgrade as your child grows. With Baby Safety Month (September) underway and Child Passenger Safety Week coming up (September 18-24), there's no better time to reevaluate your family's car seat needs based on the latest expert tips and product innovations.

A survey1 conducted by baby brand Chicco revealed that 42% of children spend four or more hours in their car seats in a typical week — a significant amount of time that proves the importance of car seat safety. To equip families with the latest knowledge on car seat use and features, Child Passenger Safety Technician at Chicco and father of three Josh Dilts is offering advice to help families keep their children safe and secure when in transit.

When starting to shop for your child’s first or next car seat, Dilts says, "Parents should prioritize these top features: child fit, vehicle fit, comfort and ease of installation.” His other tips:

1. Comfort matters

Comfort is vital for safety. An additional survey2 from Chicco revealed that 99% of parents said their child’s comfort is important when it comes to car seat safety, with 80% rating it as very or the most important.

"Comfort leads to good posture, which contributes to safety," noted Dilts. "An uncomfortable child wiggles more, risking shifts or sliding down in the seat."

2. Consider cleaner offerings

Another revealing insight in the survey showed that 94% of the parents said they'd pay more for products that reduce their child’s exposure to harmful chemicals, including 57% who said this was very important.

"Chicco offers a selection of car seats that are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low chemical emissions, contributing to healthier air quality around your baby," said Dilts. "Some top sellers are also now available with our innovative ClearTex® fabrics that have no added chemicals and are inherently fire-resistant."

3. Don’t choose hand-me-downs

Car seats have expiration dates not just to ensure your car seat meets today’s safety standards, but also because plastic becomes brittle over time. This can compromise a car seat's safety. Always check the expiration date to be sure it's safe to use and ensure the seat has not been recalled by checking the NHTSA.gov/recalls website.

4. Check your child's fit

When buying car seats, check the weight and height limits. Rear-facing infant car seats are required for newborns and young infants. It also helps to get a seat with an easy-to-install stand-alone base for the vehicle so you can easily click the car seat carrier in and out of the base and into a stroller to help transport your child to each destination.

One great option for infants is the Chicco KeyFit 35 ClearTex® car seat, a consumer favorite, featuring an easy-extend 5-position headrest system that easily adjusts for children up to 32 inches tall, allowing you to keep your little one in the same rear-facing car seat longer. For older children, the KidFit ClearTex® PLUS 2-in-1 Belt-Positioning Booster has an easy-adjust headrest that provides proper seat belt positioning.

"Another option for parents to consider is the Chicco OneFit ClearTex® All-in-One Car Seat, designed to fit from birth through booster," said Dilts. "The space-saving design fits easily into your vehicle — it can fit three car seats across — and can accommodate tiny newborns, later transitioning from a rear-facing harness to a forward-facing harness, then to a booster."

5. Don’t move to the next stage too soon

Parents often want to turn their child forward-facing when their baby’s legs touch the vehicle's seat back. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limits of the rear-facing car seat.

6. Install car seats correctly

Follow your car seat's manual or online video instructions. Then see if your child's car seat is installed correctly by doing the "inch test."

"The 'inch test' is a crucial check to ensure your child's car seat is installed securely," Dilts said. "Place both hands at the car seat installation belt path and pull side-to-side and front-to-back. If the car seat moves more than one inch in any direction, uninstall the seat and start the process over again."

The OneFit ClearTex® also comes with a QR code on the side of the seat that parents can scan and instantly have easy access to installation tutorials and digital resources.

Lastly, if additional assistance is needed, ask your local fire department, which will typically have a Child Passenger Safety Technician on hand that can check if your car seat is installed correctly.

For more on products and tips to help keep your child safe on the go, visit ChiccoUSA.com.

1Conducted in August 2021, Engine Insights collected data via a CARAVAN Parents Omnibus to obtain a national and statistically projectable sample, surveying 1,004 U.S. parents of children ages 0 to 8 living at home.

2Conducted in March 2022, Engine Insights collected data via a CARAVAN Parents Omnibus to obtain a national and statistically projectable sample, surveying 1,004 U.S. parents of children ages 0 to 8 living at home.