Types of Car Seats for Your Baby

Car seats are designed to make transporting your baby in a car safer. What type you choose will depend on your baby's age, height, and weight, and whether or not you want to be able to easily remove the seat.

Make sure you get the right seat for your baby's age and weight, that it fits in your vehicle, and that you use it every single time. Remember to check both your vehicle and your car seat owner's manuals to make sure you're installing and using your car seat correctly.


Infant Car Seat

Mother putting baby in car in car seat

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An infant car seat is designed for infants. This is usually from birth until your baby is at least 2 years old and reaches the weight limit for the seat. when he or she will likely need a bigger seat. These car seats are designed to ride in your car in the rear-facing position only.

The infant car seat can also double as a carrier. (Don't place the car seat in the grocery cart—even if it clicks, it's not designed for that and is very dangerous. Instead, consider a sling or other carrier.) Many models of this infant car seat can either be strapped into the car directly or into a base that stays strapped into the car seat. Multiple bases can be purchased for multiple cars.

An infant car seat can last you six to 24 months, depending on the growth rate of your baby and the size of the car seat. Some babies outgrow the infant car seat faster than others. Once your child reaches the maximum weight OR height limit for the seat, it's time to switch to another type of car seat designed for older babies and toddlers.

Getting a new car seat doesn't necessarily mean that you should turn the car seat so it's facing forward. You'll want to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible because it's safer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing position until they are 3 years old or has reached the height or weight limit designated by the car seat manufacturer.

Premature infants under a certain weight may need to use a car bed prior to riding in an infant car seat.

Car seats have expiration dates. Be sure to check your car seat, particularly if you're using a car seat from a previous child.


Convertible Car Seat

Convertible Car Seat in the back seat of a car

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Convertible car seats are used from birth until your child outgrows a car seat. This means that you can get more use out of your investment. They can be used in forward-facing or in rear-facing positions, depending on the weight of your child. Rear-facing is used for infants up to 3 years, and you can start putting your child in a forward-facing position once they are 3 years old.

The downfalls to convertible car seats are that they are not portable and cannot be used as an infant carrier. They do not have bases and are not easily moved from one car to another. Some parents find these bigger seats more difficult to use for smaller infants, though their bulk often promotes a feeling of safety.


3-In-1 Seats

Safety 1st Grow and Go Air Car Seat

Photo from Amazon

All-in-one seats, or 3-in-1 seats, are similar to convertible car seats, except that they work as a booster seat too. The advantage of this seat is that you only have to buy one seat and it'll grow with your child from rear-facing to forward-facing to a booster seat until they are old enough to just use a seatbelt.


Booster Seat

older child in booster car seat

Ronnie Kaufman / Larry Hirshowitz / Getty Images

Booster car seats are to be used only for kids in a forward-facing position. The minimum weight requirement varies from 30 to 40 pounds, depending on the model you select. The good news is that the booster car seat works until your child is old enough to not need a car seat anymore.

As infant car seat laws change and vary from state to state, many states are going with higher weight requirements for children in car seats.

This type of car seat can have its own set of buckles or harness or it can use the seat belt already found in your car. Your child's height will dictate which is most comfortable. If possible, try the car seat out with your child prior to purchasing it.

Currently, the recommendation is that your child should be in a car seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, which is between 8 and 12 years old. Your child should also only ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Car seats: Information for families.

  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Car seats and booster seats.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.