Did you know that there are four stages of car seat safety based on age? With all kinds of car seats on the market and companies vying for your purchase, it’s hard to know what to trust. Proper car seat use is crucial to your child’s safety as car accidents occur frequently. Car seat use reduces the risk for injury in crashes by 71–82% for children, compared with seat belt use alone. If your child should be using a car seat, make sure they are. Now, let’s go through some of the need-to-know facts about proper car seat use.

Types of car seats needed based on age

Infants & Toddlers

Birth to 2-4

Rear-facing seats

Infants and toddlers require a rear-facing car seat. In the case of an accident, these seats are proven to absorb most of the crash forces. Plus these seats support the head, neck and spine and help keep them safe therefore reducing the likelihood of serious injury.

Toddlers & Preschoolers

2-4 to ~5

Front-facing seats

Older toddlers and preschool-aged children who have outgrown their rear-facing seats should be transitioned to a new style of seat. These car seats are front-facing and include a harness and top tether.

School-Age Children

~5 to ~10

Booster Seats

For children who have outgrown their front-facing seats the next car seat style is a booster seat. Booster seats help bridge the gap as this is the age range where seat belts don’t quite fit yet. Boosters do just that; boosting your child to a taller height to allow the seat belt to be worn properly. Use this style of seat, until they have grown into a seat belt.

Once the seat belt fits properly, your child no longer needs to use a car seat. However they should continue to ride in the backseat through age 12.

 Proper Car Seat Use


1. Know what to buy

Knowing what you need to buy is largely based on how old your child is. Check out our age ranges listed above for reference. Also make sure you choose a seat that accommodates for your child’s current height and weight as well as some room for growth.

2. Ensure proper installation

More than half of all car seats are installed incorrectly or not being used properly. Read the instructions and follow the installation steps accordingly. Also, be sure to read how to use the car seat from the instructions too. Not all car seats function the same way.

Pre-owned car seats can be more difficult to install and use correctly as they don’t always come with directions. In this case, turn to the internet. Make sure you use the right name and model of the car seat when searching for installation and use instructions. If that doesn’t help you can contact the manufacturer directly.

Most importantly after installation do a double-check.

3. Getting the right fit

Once you’ve correctly installed the car seat, make sure you get it set to fit your child just right. Over-tight and over-loose harnesses can cause safety hazards and discomfort. Take your time, especially when buckling your child in for the first time.

4. Know when to transition

Each car seat has its specific limitations. These limitations can be found in the instructions and sometimes even right on the box. It’s important to know the height and weight range the seat is designed for. Once your child reaches the maximum, it’s time to look for a new seat that will accommodate your growing child.

Additional Tips:

Rear-facing car seats are often rated as the safest style. There’s no need to rush into a front-facing seat unless necessary.

Check the weight ranges for convertible seats. They vary more than rear-only or front-only seats.

Sources: HealthyChildren, Safe Kids Worldwide, Nemours KidsHealth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention