Forward Facing Car Seat Buying Guide

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What is a Toddler Forward-Facing car seat?

A toddler car seat is for children who have outgrown their infant car seats. These seats are Forward-Facing, and allow the child, room to sit in an upright position and look outside the window, while still anchoring them through various protective features.

Why Should I Choose a Toddler Forward-Facing Car Seat?

As a child enters into toddler hood, your child’s head, neck and spine have firmed up nicely. He is now ready to face the world and take in newer sights and sounds. A toddler car seat enables your child to do just that, while still providing the protection needed, using harnesses and impact shields.

Which One Will Fit My Infant?

On the basis of characteristics, a Toddler Forward-Facing car seats have been broadly categorized into two categories:

1. Group 1 & 2

Group 1&2

A Forward-Facing car seat has a five-point (or a three-point) harness or an impact cushion meant to secure your toddler. These car seats come with an adjustable harness and side impact wings, which distribute unexpected impact over a wider area, while at the same time keeping the shoulder straps hooked onto the child’s shoulders.

Cushioned seats distribute the impact using the three-part seat belt. Such seats have an adjustable back, as well as a headrest. Some front facing car seats have a detachable base, which can be strapped to the seat using the car’s seat belt or by using ISOFIX. This makes it easy for them to maneuver in and out of the car.

Group 2 is larger in design than Group 1; similar in features, but with enhanced capacity to accommodate older or heavier children.

Specifications

Position sitting Sitting, Forward-Facing, curtain airbags in a few select models
Recommended weight Group 1 – 09 to 18 kg (20 to 40 lbs)
Group 2 – 15 to 25 kg (33 to 55 lbs)
Approximate age Group 1 – 09 months to 04 years
Group 2 – 4 to 6 years (Few can accommodate older children too)
Recommended Height As per seat construction
Best Buy Period Buy it as soon as your child outgrows standards of infant car seat.
Lasts About 06 to 08 years depending upon the growth rate of your baby and size of the seat.

 

2. Convertible Car Seat

Convertible Seat

What is Convertible Car Seat?

A convertible car seat is one that you can use throughout different stages of your child’s early life. For this reason, a convertible car seat is probably the most practical and economical car seat.

This kind of car seat transitions from a Rear-Facing position to a forward-facing position, and you can continue to use it for your child as she moves from infancy to toddlerhood. A few car seats even double up as booster seats and extend their support till your child’s preteen phase. Such seats are often known as ‘All-in-One/Combination Seats’.

Why Should I Choose Convertible Car Seat?

A convertible car seat is an economical choice for parents with a limited budget allotted for car seats. However, a convertible is less safe than an infant or toddler car seat and also comes with limited features as compared to infant car seats.Like other forward-facing seats, these seats are also equipped with an adjustable harness and side impact wings which distribute the impact force, evenly spreading it over a wide area, keeping shoulder straps hooked onto the child’s shoulders. Convertible cushioned seats even out the impact using the car’s three-point seat belt and usually have an adjustable back and/or headrest too.

A convertible car seat is economical in the long run, but has limited use for newborns. It might not be ideal for newborns because the slots might not fit well to secure them snugly into the car seat.

Convertible car seats are heavier and thus not easily portable. Once installed, you cannot snap it in and out of the car, and this can be an inconvenience, especially if your baby is sleeping in it.  However, it is good choice if your baby fits well in the harness and if you don’t plan on moving the baby in and out of the car often. Experts recommend that you use infant car seats for newborns before moving on to convertible car seats or that you use convertible car seats with low bottom harness slots suitable for infants. Low bottom harnesses could fit well to your newborn, keeping him secure in the seat.

Specifications

Position Lie back orientation in rear facing and sitting in forward facing, curtain airbags in a few select models
Approximate Weight Rear facing limit – up to 13 kg (29 lbs) Forward facing limit – 9- 18 kg (40 lbs) Up to 33 kg (73 lbs) for All-in-one/combination car seats
Approximate Age Birth to 04 years (Few can accommodate older children too)
Approximate Height As per seat construction
Best Buy Period Keep it ready before arrival of your baby for his/her first ride home or buy it as soon as your child outgrows standards of the infant car seat- if you want to start with an infant car seat (recommended).
Lasts About 04 to 06 years depending upon the growth rate of your child and size of the seat.

Benefits & Limitations

Here is a comparative analysis for forward facing and convertible child car seats. This will give you a bird’s eye view of all the pros and cons and help you with your buying decision.

Benefits Forward Facing Group 1 Forward Facing Group 2 Convertible
Handling Convenience X X X
Portability via detachable base X X X
Adjustable Multi-recline positions X Yes Yes
Enhanced Security X Yes X
Higher weight and age limits X X Yes
Convenient for multiple cars X X X
Convertible to infant carrier X X X
Pocket Friendly X X X

 

Limitations Forward Facing Group 1 Forward Facing Group 2 Convertible
Not portable X X X
Cannot remove the back X X X
Heavy and Bulky X X Yes
Low Security Levels X X X
Cannot be used at different stages of your child’s life X Yes X
X Positive    X Negative   Yes   No

How to Buy

Now that you know what to look for in a group 1 and 2 Forward-Facing car seat and a convertible car seat let’s find out how to go about determining whether these features are really suitable for your child –

  • Check if your child fits well in the seat, and if the seat fits well in your car.
  • Operate the safety harness and check for ease of operation in the least possible time. Check the car seat for all safety features.
  • Look for ease of conversion to Forward-Facing from rear-facing and vice-versa. Conversion should not require un-installation of the car seat.
  • Recline in all positions mentioned, to check for child comfort in all positions.
  • Check if the car seat has a strong comfortable base.
  • Look for a low shoulder harness if buying a convertible car seat starting from the infant stage.
  • Use pillows to check the maximum width the seat can accommodate.
  • Change the headrest positions and check for comfort.
  • If you are going to be switching cars often, try transferring the car seat to a different car to check for easy portability.
  • Check to see that the chassis and tether provide maximum safety.
  • Read the recommended feature labels, safety instructions and user manual.
  • Buying car seats online from a trusted website will save you the trouble of testing all these details yourselves, as the website will provide the images of all the necessary features and certify the product before putting it up for sale. You can also access reviews, opinions of other users, ratings etc. from the comfort of your home. Just ensure that you choose a product with a reasonable return policy, so that in the event you require a replacement, the process is easy.

The Truth About Those Common Myths of a Toddler Forward-Facing Car seat

1. Myth

All Forward-Facing child safety seats are the same, so it doesn’t matter which one I buy.

Fact: Car seats differ in features, comfort and convenience to a large extent. Each car seat has its own benefits and limitations. Therefore, it is important to choose judiciously.

2. Myth

A child car seat is required only till 2 years of age.

Fact: A child, who is above 2 years, does not have the disposition or the frame to fit into a regular car seat belt. Without a toddler car seat, your child is exposed to injuries and trauma in the event of an unexpected car accident or impact.

3. Myth

I had purchased a car seat at the time of my child’s birth. It is from a trusted brand and I need not purchase another toddler car seat.

Fact: You should continue with the same car seat only if it meets all the requirements for your child’s weight and height. If your child has outgrown the standards of the infant car seat, then you must get a replacement and look for a toddler car seat.

FAQs

1. I Found Many Cheap Forward-Facing Car Seats in The Market. They Meet All Requirements of a Child Car Seat. However, They have a 3-Point Harness Instead of 5–point Harness. Can I Go for Any of Them?

A 5-point harness secures the child through five straps. A 3-point one secures the child through only three straps. The 5-point harness is more secure and effective than a 3-point one. Even seats with an overhead shield are not considered as safe as seats with 5-point harnesses. Many manufacturers have stopped manufacturing car seats which have a 3-point harness. However, there are several economical options available in Forward-Facing seats with 5-point harness, which you could choose from as well.

2. My Baby is Low on Weight. Can I Use a Convertible Car Seat?

No, you must not use a convertible car seat if your baby is low on weight. Babies with low weight require extra care. Infant Group 0 will be the best fit for your baby.

3. How Soon I Can Move My Toddler to Forward-Facing Car Seat?

Your child should ideally be in rear-facing position for as long as possible. Do not hurry to move your child to a Forward-Facing car seat. Keep your child in the rear–facing position, till your child outgrows the safety standards of a rear–facing car seat.

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