Choosing the Right Car Seat

Are Expensive Car Seats Worth the Money? 
When it's time to shop for carseats, it can be mind boggling to see the range of prices. You can buy the same style of car seat for $50 or $500. Which is better? Are you gambling with your child's safety if you spend $50, or are you a sucker for marketing hype if you spend $500? It's frustrating and nerve wracking for many parents. They want the best, but they also don't want to be foolish with money. So how do you know? 

There are many arguments in mom and baby groups over this. Someone who just paid a premium may be eager to justify her purchase, claiming that you can't put a price on safety. Someone who is struggling just to purchase a car seat new at all may fire back that the extra features are just that - extra. 
First of all, all car seats sold in the US must meet the US government's stringent crash and fire safety standards. No questions asked. Even that bargain seat is safe (assuming it's the right fit for your child and you're buying it new - secondhand seats, squeezing a too big kid into an infant carrier, or boosters for kids who aren't developmentally ready are never safe, but that's another topic.) In many cases, you're paying more for durable fabric, pretty colors, a sleek look, and a more ergonomic shape - and that's worth it to many. But some seats go beyond the standards, packing on extra features that may be worth the price for anyone. 
For example, every time your baby grows, you'll need to check that the harness is fitting them properly. When rear facing, the straps need to come from at or just below the shoulders. So a car seat with easy to adjust harnesses may save you stress, time, and anxiety (because there's nothing more terrifying than taking apart a harness to adjust the straps and the ensuing panic that you didn't put it back correctly). 
Car seat angle is a big deal, from newborns to infants to rear facing toddlers. My husband and I stressed over the angle when we first installed the infant seat. Car seats with a built in bubble or small ball bearing, showing that the seat is at the correct angle, is a huge help, and is probably well worth the money, over the vague, looks different from every angle, colored line on the no frills seats. 
Finally, you want to look at how long your child will use the seat. A big price tag may seem intimidating until you realize that it will take your child from their first trip home from the hospital through their preschool graduation, whereas a cheaper seat will probably not "grow" with your child, and may have lower height and weight limits. Overall, the safest seat is the one that is installed correctly, and that your baby is sitting in correctly!  

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