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I looked in the archives but haven't seen any recommendations for car seats since 2001. I am wondering which car seats parents liked the best. We have a 2004 car, so we can install the seat with the newly required hitches, rather than having to use the seatbelt. Are there carseats that will fit an infant and last for a while? Or do you have to buy a new one every year or so?
However, most people find it much more convenient to use an infant carrier seat (AKA ''bucket'') for a newborn, and carrier seats generally are easier to install properly and adjust for a small baby. I recommend getting one unless your budget is very tight. (These seats are also sensible if you'll need to transport the baby in more than one car on a regular basis. You can spend an extra $20 or so on a second base, which stays in the car, and just move the carrier part between the two bases. This is easier and cheaper than getting two convertible seats, and it's a lot easier than uninstalling and reinstalling one convertible seat every time you want to use the other car.) The bucket seat will last from birth to somewhere around 6 months, depending on your baby's size. (Some outgrow them by 3 months, others not until a year.) Ours was a Graco SnugRide; it's a well-rated and popular model, and we liked it.
When your baby outgrows the bucket seat, at around 26'' or 20 pounds (whichever comes first), you need a convertible seat installed rear-facing. A larger seat (such as the Britax Marathon or Cosco Alpha Omega) will last longer because it has a higher weight and/or height limit than the standard/smaller ones (such as the Britax Roundabout or Graco Accel) but you may have a hard time getting a bigger one into your car, especially in rear-facing position (which is necessary until your baby is at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds, and is preferable as long thereafter as possible, up to the seat's weight and height limits for that position). So some people buy a standard convertible (e.g., a Roundabout) and use it for a year or two, and then get a larger convertible or toddler seat (e.g., a Marathon or Husky) sometime after their child is riding forward- facing. Most people who do that need the smaller seat for the next child, so they'd be buying another one anyway. :-) One advantage of getting a Marathon (65 lb. limit) or Husky (80 lb. limit) at that point is that you can avoid switching to a belt- positioning booster as long as possible (harnessed seats are safer than boosters), which is especially important if your child is large for his age.
Britax seats, in general, have the best reputation for quality, comfort, ease of installation/use, and safety. They are also expensive. For us it was worth it, and we have liked our Roundabout Advantage and our Husky very much.
If you can't afford Britax, check the Consumer Reports ratings,
the Baby Bargains book, and the information at carseatdata.org
and various other places. There are many brands and models of
convertible seat that are safe and not too difficult to install
and use; which one is best for you depends on the car(s) you
drive, the size and body type of your child, and the type of
trips you take.
The 'latch' car seats are great. They are very easy to install. The down side is that you have to lug the base with you everywhere.
I have since purchased a Britax Roundabout which I love. It is light weight (key when lugging around airport) and for my baby's rate of weight gain, it should last her until it is time to put her in a booster seat.
If I had to do it over again (the best advice that I never got), I would have borrowed an infant seat and then purchased a car reversible car seat when she hit six months. Infant seats are great for newborns because newborns sleep ALL OF THE TIME. It is nice to not have to get them out of a car seat, into a stroller ,etc while they are sleeping. Also, I would buy one of those cheap 'universal' car seat carriers. After a few months, then I would have looked to buy a real stroller and not have gotten lured into buying a 'travel system.' I am happy with my Pliko-matic, but see several other high quality umbrella strollers that I would have preferred, but when I was shopping, I wouldn't look past getting a travel system.
Hope that helps.
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