If you have a small child, buying the right car seat is non-negotiable.

This might be common knowledge, but seriously, a car seat is important. Studies show that car seats reduce the chance of child fatalities in accidents by up to 71%. That’s a massive increase in safety, and I’m sure every parent out there wants as much protection for their child as possible. Though finding any old car seat is easy, finding the right car seat for you can be tricky. Here are some quick tips to help you out.

First, you want to make sure you’re not using an expired car seat. Yes, car seats do expire, and it’s not because they’re going to stink up your fridge. Most car seats have an expiration date of roughly six years because of how much safer car seats become in that time frame. In other words, if you look at a six year old car seat today, you’ll probably find it’s lacking important features that modern car seats have. While it’s tempting to use hand-me-down seats, you’ll absolutely want to buy newer seats instead.

Second, you’re going to want the right size car seat. Most car seats fall into two general categories: rear facing seats for ages 2 and younger, and front facing seats for ages 2-10. There are “convertible” seats that are usable for a few more years compared to rear facing seats, but that’s really up to your preference. Either way, you’ll want to make sure your seat is tightly fastened around your child, with the harness straps hugging around the shoulders.

Once that’s settled, you’ll want to be on the lookout for key features in your car seat. The first is a 5 point harness. This harness is widely recommended by experts because it wraps around the child’s shoulders, waist, and between their legs. This keeps your child much more secure in the seat. The second major feature you’ll want is side-impact protection. As the name implies, this means your seat comes with extra padding to the sides of your child to better protect them from t-bone collisions. These are among the most common types of accidents on the road, so the extra protection here is a must have.

Beyond that, all car seats on the market should be generally safe to use. Because car seats need to pass strict regulations to be sold, you shouldn’t have any risk of a rotten seat as long as you buy new. Some seats will try to advertise “more” side-impact protection than others, but I’d recommend taking this claim with a grain of salt. Since there’s no concrete method to test how much side-impact protection a seat has, the statement doesn’t amount to much more than marketing buzz.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to the safest car seat for your child. Still, your journey isn’t quite over just yet. I’d highly recommend having your car seat certified by an expert after installation, especially since some car seats are harder to set up than they look. You’ll also want to make sure your car seat is a good fit for your car.

For both of these issues, I’d be happy to lend you a helping hand. If you want the peace of mind of a perfectly selected and installed car seat, give me a call or send me a message. I know your child is precious cargo, and I’ll do everything I can to make sure your car seat is as safe as possible.