Infant Car Seat VS Convertible Car Seat – How to Pick the Best One

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When you have a baby and your schedule gets busy, or you need to take your little one to a play date, car seats can be a lifesaver. But as with anything related to your child, there are no easy calls. So it comes down to infant car seat vs. convertible car seat: which is best for a growing child? Which is safest and how do they work? And of course, what exactly is the difference between infant car seats and convertible car seats.

In this infant car seat vs. convertible car seat review, we are going to run through all these questions and more. From the stage 1 car seat to the stage 4 car seat, safety, installation, value and comfort will considered and compared with the convertible seat. Here are the main differences between the two, and everything else that goes with it.

Infant Car Seat vs. Convertible Car Seat: Car Seat Installation Issues

There are three methods of securing a car seat: seat belt installation, the car seat latch system and the car seat tether anchor kit. Each is perfectly acceptable in its own way, ranking at the top of the highest safety convertible car seats or infant car seat. However, to know which installation method you should adopt, pay attention to the specifics of your car.

Later, we will go over related questions like how to adjust a baby car seat and how to tighten a car seat base, but for now, here’s a look at the different methods to install a car seat.

Seat Belt Installation

Here’s how to strap a baby in a car seat using a seat belt. Before installing however, it is important to know how to lock the seat belt. Pull the seat belt all the way out. When you let it go back in, you’ll hear a sound after which, you won’t be able to pull it out. Here are the steps for seat belt installation method:

  1. Guide the seat belt through the appropriate belt path for the direction your seat is facing.
  2. Check the angle indicator.
  3. Lock the seat belt either by locking its mechanism or the lock off the car seat.
  4. Tighten the belt by removing excess webbing while maintaining pressure so that the seat moves less than an inch when pulling on the belt.

Car Seat Latch System

The Car Seat Latch System is a requirement cars have had to adopt since 2003. Most cars have 2 LATCH positions in the outside seating positions; some cars have more. Here are the steps for car seat latch system method:

  1. Determine the direction LATCH clips need to be attached.
  2. Route the strap through the correct belt depending on seat direction ensuring there are no twists.
  3. Connect the LATCH clips to the anchor points.
  4. Check the angle indicator.
  5. Tighten the belt by removing excess webbing while maintaining pressure so that the seat moves less than an inch when pulling on the belt.

In terms of which installation makes the safest infant seat, both are equally as safe up to the LATCH weight limit. So an eye would have to be kept on a growing child and the appropriate weight capacity of The LATCH and seat belt installations.

Car Seat Tether Anchor Kit

The car seat tether anchor kit is best used for forward facing seats. Here are the steps for this method:

  1. Find the tether anchor points in your car.
  2. Bring the tether strap from the car seat over the top of the vehicle seat.
  3. Click the strap to the car’s tether point.

Infant Car Seat vs. Convertible Car Seat: Growing Child

The main difference when it comes to infant car seats vs. convertible car seats is in how they are attached and installed in your car. Infant car seats have a base and a carrier. With the base a permanent fixture of the car, the carrier can be clipped in and out as needed. Convertible car seats are permanent attachments to your car. Once in, they should not be removed.

Each has its advantages for a growing child but when choosing between convertible car seats or infant car seats, your needs, your baby’s needs and your car’s capacity all factor in.

Stage 1 Car Seat

The Stage 1 car seat is rear-facing and are part of a bucket carrier and base combination; the base being a permanent fixture, while the bucket can be removed and installed with a baby still in it. A few tips when considering a stage 1 car seat:

  • Check your car seat for specific height/weight limits
  • Keep your child rear-facing until they grow out of the position
  • The car seat must go in the back seat of your vehicle at a 45 degree angle
  • The car seat should not move more than an inch in any direction (except of course the carrier)
  • Make sure there is at least an inch of space between the top of your child’s head and the top of the car seat
  • Ensure the chest clip is in line with your child’s armpit and safely secured
  • When buckled the strap should be snug. You should be able to slip one finger between the strap and your child’s collarbone.

Stage 2 Car Seat

The stage 2 car seat is the convertible and/or forward-facing car seat. Once a growing child is no longer able to fit in an infant seat, they can move into larger ones. The convertible car seat allows children to sit rear-facing for a longer period of time before turning forward later. In a sense then, when it comes to the infant car seat vs. convertible car seat, the latter can be used for a longer period of time given their versatility. A few tips when considering a stage 2 car seat:

  • Check your car seat for specific height/weight limits
  • The car seat must go in the back seat of your vehicle
  • Ensure the seat doesn’t move more than one inch in any direction, even the top of the seat, which should be tethered down
  • The middle of your child’s ear should not be about the top of the car seat
  • Ensure the chest clip is in line with your child’s armpit and safely secured
  • Keep your child in the forward-facing car seat until he or she grows out of it
  • When buckled the strap should be snug. You should be able to slip one finger between the strap and your child’s collarbone.

Stage 3 Car Seat

The stage 3 car seat is the Booster Seat. Designed to work with lap-and-shoulder combination seat belts, booster seats raise a child up so that adult seat belts work effectively. A few tips when considering a stage 3 car seat:

  • Check your car seat for specific height/weight limits
  • If the booster seat has a seat back, the top should be no lower than the middle of your child’s ear.
  • If there is a seat belt guide, it should be at or above your child’s shoulders
  • The shoulder component of the seat belt should rest on your child’s shoulders, not their neck or arms
  • The lap component of the seat belt should be on your child’s hips, not stomach

Stage 4 Car Seat

The stage 4 car seat is the seat belt. Your child is ready to sit without a booster when they can sit with their back against the seat and have their legs hang over the front of the seat without slouching. A few tips when considering a stage 4 car seat:

  • The shoulder belt should rest on the shoulder, not the stomach or neck
  • The lap belt should be on the hips, not the stomach
  • Children under 13 are safest travelling in the backseat

Infant Car Seat vs. Convertible Car Seat: Best Value Car Seat

In terms of value, the differences between infant and convertible car seats are a product of their functions. The benefits of a convertible car seats for newborns is that they can be installed as rear-facing and when the time comes, reconfigured to be forward-facing. You don’t need to buy another seat. With an infant car seat, you will need to buy a seat depending on which stage your growing child is at. However, the ability to move them in their carrier, without waking them, is a great benefit in the early stages. For travel, convertible car seats do not offer the same respite, with you having to wake your child up and transfer them into a carrier.

Save Money With Best Value Convertible Car Seat

The best value convertible car seats have the obvious benefit of being more versatile and longer-lasting. In a way, they grow with your baby. Their value comes from the fact that all you need is one. It makes a great one time investment that carries you through the stage 1 car seat and stage 2 car seat.

For example, the Graco Contender 65 is a great budget convertible car seat that is versatile, safe, and has some great features, especially at its price point. It supports rear-facing from 5-40 pounds, and front-facing from 20-65 pounds. This seat uses a 5-point harness, is side-impact tested, uses EPS energy absorbing foam, and the LATCH system. It uses an adjustable headrest and shoulder harness positioning system that does not require re-threading. That’s extremely rare for a convertible car seat in this price range, and an excellent convenience factor that is worth considering. The top safety rated convertible car seat, it also includes an infant insert, a cup (or snack) holder, two recline settings, and sufficient padding in all the right places, making it one of the most comfortable convertible car seats out there.

Save Money With an Infant Car Seat and Stroller Set

The infant car seat and stroller set combines the functionality of two products into one package. Unlike convertible car seats, the infant car seat and stroller set allow you to travel with your baby, transport him or her without waking them up.

For example, the Britax B-Lively Travel System offers easy maneuverability, easy navigation and quick folding, at a great price. The car seat is shaped like a shell, with a deep seat and curved sides; your baby is kept in a stable position and minimizes side-to-side movement. Transitioning from seat to stroller is easy. You can travel with your baby without disturbing their precious sleep.

Difference Between Infant Car Seat And Convertible Car Seat – Summary

The differences between infant car seats vs. convertible car seats lie in their functionality and term of use. Convertibles encompass the stage 1 car seat and the stage 2 car seat. You can switch rear-facing to front-facing as your growing child needs. Infant car seats on the other hand, are limited to their stages. They, like convertibles, are permanent fixtures in the car, however, the infant car seat’s carrier can be latched and unlatched as and when you need. They may be more limited in terms of age years, but infant car seats allow your child to sleep while he or she travels.

FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions concerning infant car seats vs. convertible car seats.

Q. How To Strap a Baby in a Car Seat?

A. First make sure the car seat fits your baby, set up harness straps and check buckle to make sure both are at the right position. Before putting your baby into the seat, loosen the harness straps via the release mechanism. Once you place your baby in, buckle your baby up, secure the harness retainer clip and tighten the harness.

Watch this great video for detailed instruction:

Q. How To Adjust a Baby Car Seat?

A. After doing up the buckle, pull the shoulder straps up so that the harness lies flat on the child’s hips. Next, pull the adjuster strap at the bottom of the seat to tighten the shoulder straps. Make sure there are no twists in the harness. It is virtually impossible to hurt your baby by ‘over-tightening’ the harness; so don’t worry. Finally, pull down the chest pads; these are designed to stop the straps from sliding off the shoulders.

Watch this great video for detailed instruction:

Q. How To Tighten A Car Seat Base?

A. The method to tighten the base differs between infant car seats vs. convertible car seats. For infant seats, put your weight on the right of the seat, then the left, then right etc, as you pull the latch or seat belt tight. For convertible seats, use your stomach to push the car seat into the back of your car and sway from side to side as you tighten the belt. Lean on the seat with the vehicle’s car seat reclined; return to upright position once the seat is installed.

Watch this great video for detailed instruction:

Q. Is It Okay To Buy A Used Car Seat?

A. If in doubt you should never buy or borrow a used car seat, although generally speaking, most are safe to use. As a buyer, ensure the seller knows the entire history of the seat; make sure the seat was never in a crash; make sure all parts are present and in good working condition; gather information on make, model and expiration date.

Final Word

So there you have it. The differences between infant and convertible car seats safety, comfort, installation and overall use. Each has its own advantages, but to really decide which is best for you, you need to factor in your car and your baby. Infant car seat vs. convertible car seat doesn’t have to be a strict separation. You can use both for the different stages of your growing child’s needs. The important thing is that they are safe and comfortable when traveling with you.

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