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Monday, February 19, 2007

Car Seat Confusion

One of the most difficult purchasing choices we've made has been the car seat. I remember when we registered for our baby shower, which seems like eons ago now, we spent about 2 1/2 hours in Babies R Us staring at the traveling systems (car seat and stroller combos); we registered for only one item, then left exhausted.

We did finally choose a travel system, but unfortunately, no matter how careful we were with that first choice, our son decided he had to keep growing, and grow he did - right out of that car seat. Oh, no! We had to pick ANOTHER ONE? Egads, and on the tail-end of all that Consumer report confusion. If you recall, Consumer Reports did a study and (erroneously) reported that most of the seats they tested had failed miserably at 35 MPH. Turns out they had tested the seats at a much higher speed than they reported (about 70 MPH). One name brand stuck out in my mind from that study, though: Britax.

The seats tested by Consumer Reports were infant seats, made for babies up to about 22 pounds. But we were in need of the next step up. I did my homework and came to a conclusion: I didn't care if Consumer Reports screwed up on telling us what speed they tested at. If they tested at about 70 miles per hour (as stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and a Britax seat survived it, that's the car seat I want. Of course the Britax tested was the Companion, meant for babies up to 22 lbs., so I looked into the next size up - the Marathon. Pricey? Enough so to make you want live off bread and water for a while. But Britax seats consistently exceed U.S. standards, and for that reason, I don't mind shelling out the extra dough.

All the bells and whistles on this seat are a bonus too. It's padded well for longer rides, it's easy to install, and it's easy to get baby in and out of. My son seems very comfortable in it. I can't wait to take a longer trip to test it out. In fact, I'd be happy to sit in it myself if only I could get the shoulder harnesses over. This seat is definitely engineered very well.

If you can't afford a fancy-shmancy car seat for your child, don't despair. Just take your time and do the homework. Check the company websites, talk to the experts in the baby stores, and read online reviews. I often find the reviews on websites like or are the best way to find out what people think of the products after they've owned them for awhile.

Start your searches early for items as important as a car seat - babies grow fast, and before you know it, you'll have to make that purchase. These aren't decisions you want to rush. Oh, and check to make sure your car seat has been properly installed. Many local fire departments or police stations do free inspections.

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