One of the endless important purchasing decisions you have to make when you have a child is which car seat you are going to choose. There are many questions to ask yourself, What stage car seat do I need? How long will my child be safe in it? Is the seat I am choosing legal where I live? The list of questions just goes on and on, so here are a few guidelines to help you. If you want suggestions on which seats to buy, check out this post over written by our friends The Babble Out.

The stages of child car seat use

There are four stages of child car seat, and some car seats or travel systems cover more than one stage. You should place your baby in the car seat appropriate for their weight and height and keep your little one in each stage for as long as possible.

Stage One – Rear-Facing Seats

Placed at an angle of 45-degrees, rear facing car seats are angled, so your baby’s head is adequately supported for them to breathe. The harness should be adjusted each time you place your baby in the seat as different thicknesses of clothes can affect the fitting.

Don’t worry if your child’s feet touch the back of the seat, as long as they are within the weight and height limits for the seat; they will be safe. They might even enjoy kicking their feet!

Rear-facing seats should only be used in the back seat as an airbag deploying in the front of the car could cause serious injury or even death.

Stage Two – Forward Facing Seats

You can move up to a forward facing seat once your little one has outgrown the height and weight limits for your rear facing seat. Stage two seat have harness straps that are designed for a child’s small shoulders, and like the rear-facing seat, you should check the adjustment of the straps every time.
Some seats, such as the one shown above, are multi-stage so you can move them from stage one rear facing to step two forward facing.

 Stage Three – Booster Seats

Once your little one is more of a bigger one and has grown out of the forward facing position you can move to a booster seat. This will raise your child, so your vehicles seat belt fits properly over their shoulders and across their lap.

Stage Four – Seat Belts

When your baby is still your baby but has grown into a mini you, they can move up to an adult seatbelt, without a booster seat but be sure to keep them in stage three for as long as possible.

Other things to consider

Once you know which stage is safe for your baby, you can start narrowing down your choices.

  1. Make sure the car seat can be safely installed in your vehicle.
  2. Think about how often you may want to move the seat from vehicle to vehicle. Some stage one seats have the option of buying extra bases so you can easily clip and unclip the seat in multiple cars.
  3. Do not use a seat that has been involved in a crash. There may be damage to the seat you cannot see that can make the seat ineffective or even dangerous.
  4. Register your car seat with the manufacturer, so if any safety issues or recalls are issued, you will be contacted directly.
  5. If you are using a car seat you have previously used for a younger child, check the date the seat was made and ensure it is not out of date (yes, car seats have an expiry date!)
  6. Only buy a car seat that is certified for use in the country you are using it in. Different countries have different safety standards, and you must use a seat with the appropriate certifications. For further information, you can check out the regulations for Canada & the US.


Disclosure: I was paid to write and publish this article on Redheaded Patti. All opinions are my own, and the points of view in this post were not influenced in any way by the sponsor.


  1. No funnies here. But my older son who is still in his 5 point at 6 years has boogers wiped all over the side of it. If it were not too much of a PIA to clean I would have had it washed by now!

  2. We’ve been ;looking for a new car seat for our grandson that will be born in April. This was very informative and the car seat looks very nice

  3. It’s been many years since I bought a car seat but fight with my grandkids buckling them in and out! Have a new grandbaby again so this would be wonderful!

  4. For our first baby I researched a lot online and had it down to three car seats. Then my husband come in and just tell me which ever seat I choose they all passed safety tests. I guess I over thought of the selection.

  5. Not much of a story. But I find it odd that this grandma is the only one that knows how to install a car seat.

  6. I went to TRU to buy a newborn seat. The person was so clueless helping me he tried to give me a booster seat!

  7. I through mine in the garbage,my mom was holding my daughter and her hand slipped and the buckle came un-done. My daughter went to the grass,she was fine but I was a wreck

  8. Honestly, I don’t have any car seat related stories! All I know is I hate transferring them from one car to another! :O

  9. I fastened my son in his car seat really good and about 10 miles or so we were stopped at a license check ,the officer said cute kid and started telling me that is was good that I secured him properly and my son said No I did it myself and he undid his strap and unbuckled and jumped into front seat and I just about died but officer put him back and just laughed at me very hard

  10. I was looking at car seats at the thrift store when another mom came up to me and explained that if nothing else I needed to buy the car seat new since their was no way of knowing if it was in a accident. Once a carseat has been in a car with a accident you are suppose to replace it

  11. First time parents have it the worst there are so many types of carseats now. Rear facing, forward facing, expandable, grow with your child 3 in 1 convertible carseat. Knowing which one to pick is hard. But when it comes to safety. Research and find out which has the highest safety rating and will most importantly fit in your car, husband vehicle, and in any other person that might have to travel with your baby to and from car.

  12. Our children were 15 years apart. Car seats had changes A LOT. When we had our daughter we had no idea of the clips under the seats in an SUV. My husband installed it as my daughter was born early and unexpected. When we left the hospital, we drove down the interstate and when we went to get off on the exit ramp, as the car went around the ramp, the car seat started lifting up sideways.

  13. We could definitely use a new car seat and once that is not complicated.

  14. I don’t have nay funny stories, but it did take us 3 trips to the store and two webinars to decide on an infant car seat. There is a lot to know!

  15. My son used to sit in his and toss his shoes out the window. I still laugh when I see shoes laying in the road.

  16. It is very important that your car seat is installed correctly. Apparently a huge percentage of cars seats are improperly installed.

  17. I am helping my sister buy a infant seat and they is a lot of info out there. We’re not sure which one to get..

  18. I remember how many options there were when we bought a car seat for my son. I was blown away by all of the different styles and features to choose from.

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  19. I’ve never purchased a car seat but I am surprised at how many people from older generations seem to think they are silly and unnecessary!

  20. We are thinking of switching from his infant seat to a convertible seat. It’s so heavy to carry around and winter is almost over so it may be time to switch soon.

  21. I have four kids and I had to buy a new one with each child. My first two kids were too close in age and then when I got to the last two the car seats had disappeared from moving. Buying a car seat can be stressful especially now with so many choices!

  22. When our grandchildren are very young and in the rear facing car seats, we find it easiest to buy the same seat base their parents are using. The same car seat carrier can click into the base of their parent’s car or the grandparent’s car.

  23. Back when my son was born in the early 80s, carseats were just becoming a necessary item. The one I had was little more than molded plastic, very lightly padded–poor kid! Now, as I shop for my grandbabies, I am amazed at the choices.