I had a reader question this week that was above my pay grade, but I knew just the person to ask. David from Baby Blossom is a great resource whether you're shopping for your first baby or your fifth! Check out his notes on car seats, following the reader's question.
Question: "I'm getting ready to have my first baby and I'm trying to not totally break the bank on everything. Is it really a big deal if I buy a used carseat as long as it isn't expired? Are there any that work for longer than just a few months? Maybe one that converts somehow so it lasts at least until they're 3?"
It’s easy to go overboard on baby gear, first keep one thing in mind… “Buy what you need, when you need it.” Unless you are getting a used seat from a very trusted source (relative or close friend), DO NOT use a used seat. You simply do not know the seat’s history. Try other areas to save, but don’t scrimp when it comes to car seats and safety. This doesn't mean you have to be extravagant. Regardless of where you buy a new child car seat, every new seat sold in the U.S. has to meet minimum federal safety standards.
While you will lose some of the conveniences of an infant seat (easier to carry a sleeping child and an ability to attach to some strollers), choosing to skip the infant car seat (the “baby bucket”) in favor of a convertible car seat will save you money in the long term. The convertible seat will often cost more upfront than the infant seat, but you would need a convertible anyway after the child has outgrown the baby bucket (usually 8-12 months after birth).
Convertible seats “convert” from rear-facing position (used from birth to two years) to forward-facing position (from two years to seat capacity limits). While many convertibles are rated from 5-65 pounds (or higher), you really want a seat that has specific features to better accommodate an infant. Often this is done with a cushion or insert provided by the seat manufacturer. Think about it…this seat has to protect a newborn as well as provide comfortable space for a preschooler. There are numerous convertible seats on the market. The newest one is the Chicco NextFit. The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFit includes a unique infant insert (the TinyFit) that can accommodate a newborn as little as 4 pounds. This insert basically makes a mini-seat (for the infant) inside the larger seat.
Lastly, an important element of any child car seat is how properly it is installed in the vehicle. Especially as rear-facing installations of convertible seats can be complex. Be sure to have the installation checked by a certified car seat technician.
(Note from Kristina- if you haven't already, "like" Prince William County Fire and Rescue- they host FREE car seat inspections on a regular basis)