Basic When to Change Tip #1
DOn’t Rush From One Seat to the Next
Use your current car seat until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limit listed on the label. There is no need to rush on to the next car seat or booster seat.
Every step forward reduces safety just a bit.
Basic When to Change Tip #2
Use A Rear-Facing Seat Until Age 2 or more
All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that permit children to ride rear-facing for 2 or more years. As your child grows, you might have to switch from using a smaller rear-facing-only car seat to using a bigger rear-facing convertible car seat that can hold a larger child, first rear-facing then forward-facing. After you turn the seat forward, adjust the harness, make it more upright, and attach the top tether.
Why keep your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible? If you are in a front-end crash (the most common type of crash) a rear-facing car seat allows your child’s head, neck, and spine to move evenly into the seat, not away from it. It’s the best!
Basic When to Change Tip #3
MOVE FROM REAR-FACING TO FORWARD FACING
Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat should move to a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness and top tether. Use this seat for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed on the seat’s label.
If your child’s weight reaches the limit when using the lower attachments, you will need to switch from using lower attachments and top tether to using a seat belt with top tether.
Your child may need a forward-facing car seat with a harness that has a higher weight or height limit before moving to a booster seat. Not all kids are ready for the freedom of a booster seat.
When ready and after your child gets too big for the weight or height limits of the forward-facing car seat, put your child in a booster seat used with the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt.
How do you know when your child is ready for a booster seat? See the next tip.
Basic When to Change Tip #4
Moving to A Booster Seat
Many parents aren’t sure when to switch their child to a booster seat. Sometimes parents get pressure to use a booster seat from friends, relatives or the child.
We understand that pressure and concern, but it is safer to move from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat only after your child reaches the weight or height limit of the seat you are using. A child in a forward-facing seat with a harness and top tether is more protected than one in a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or when using just a seat belt alone.
Will your child stay in a seat without a harness? If moved to a booster seat too soon, children sometimes climb out of the booster seat. That’s not safe. If she does, it means she’s not ready for the booster seat.
Basic When to Change Tip #5
What to do with your old car seat
When your child gets too big for her car seat, you can give the seat to someone you know. Make sure the seat has all the original parts, labels, and instructions. If the seat was in a crash or is missing parts, throw it away!
When you throw away an expired or unsafe car seat, take it apart and put the pieces in separate dark trash bags to prevent someone else from using it.
Remember, car seats expire. You can find the expiration date on your car seat. Look for the date on a label or imprinted on the plastic.
Share these tips with friends and family!
Want tips for the kids in your care?
Check out car seat safety tips for your child.
Looking for more information?
- Return home, find FAQs, or check the Glossary.
- Find a car seat installation event near you.
- Find your state law.