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The 101 of buying a car seat.

Guest Contributor November 09, 2017
Mother helping a baby in a car seat.

If you want to drive with a child in your car in Ontario, you must have a car seat. In Ontario, all drivers are required by law to use car seats and booster seats when transporting young children, and the fine for failing to do so is up to $1,000 plus two demerit points upon conviction.

But that’s not the real reason you should have one. The real reason is because your child is safer in a car seat. When used properly, car seats can reduce the risk of infant death and injury by 71% – which is significant because keeping your child safe is the most important thing in the world.

When it comes to purchasing a car seat, there are a few things you should know in order to make the right decision and get the seat that’s right for you, your family, and your car.

Get the right seat.

The first thing to know is the car seat requirements in your province or territory and what type of seat you need. Each province or territory has its own car seat restrictions and requirements. You can find Ontario’s car seat requirements under the child safety section.

There are stages of car seating for kids, such as:

  • Rear-facing seats: These have a five-point harness to keep an infant in place and are used for babies and young toddlers until they outgrow the seat requirements, usually for at least the first year. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, however, as this is the safest way to travel.
  • Forward-facing seats: For toddlers who have outgrown rear-facing seats.
  • Booster seats: Booster seats come with or without a back. Those without a back are used with a car seatbelt, while those with a back are used with the five-point harness (like both the rear-facing and forward-facing seats for younger children).
  • Car seatbelt: Once a child has outgrown the height and weight requirements for a car seat or reaches the age of 8, they can sit in a regular seat with a seatbelt. It is recommended that children travel in the backseat as this is the safest place to be.

Different types of seats.

Car seats can be purchased for each stage, from infant to booster, or as convertible seats that will grow with your child. The convertible seats may save you money in the long run, but one drawback is that they can’t be removed from the car if your baby is sleeping, so you have to take the baby out of the car rather than the whole seat. And many parents would agree that there is great value in having the ability to not disturb a sleeping baby.

Every model will have its own weight and height restrictions, so you should check that your child fits them, particularly an older child.

Happy little boy in a car safety seat.

Buy from a Canadian source.

Canadian safety standards differ from the standards in other locations. The National Safety Mark indicates that a child car seat is certified to Canadian safety standards. According to the government of Canada, it is illegal to import, sell, or use child car seats and booster seats in Canada that do not have this mark. So, make sure it has the mark.

Transport Canada notes that, “Parents are strongly advised to buy a seat only from a Canadian retailer to make sure the seat meets Canada’s rigorous regulations for safety.”

Register your seat.

Always register your new seat with the manufacturer as soon as you get it so you will be notified of any recalls. Recalls happen on a regular basis.

Car seats don’t last forever.

Car seats come with an expiry date, and are good for about 5 to 10 years. This is because the materials used in them can only be guaranteed for a certain amount of time. Check the date on your seat and be sure to replace it if needed. This is why it’s best to buy a new seat if possible, and not to pass car seats on as hand me downs.

Another reason not to use a second-hand seat is because a car seat that has been in a collision can’t be guaranteed as safe.

Make sure you install the seat properly.

All vehicles and car seats made since 2002 come with an anchor and strap to keep the seat in place, but a study released in 2013 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the anchor strap is only used about half the time.

If your vehicle doesn’t have these, you will have to figure out the proper way to use the seat.

If you have any trouble with installation or use, you can visit a local car seat clinic.  Representatives at these events will help you install the seat safely and ensure that you have the right seat.

Happy motoring to you and your family!