Are you a parent or guardian looking for the proper car seat for your child?
Look no further!
In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide based on 4 stages of car seats by age group that tells you which car seat is appropriate for each age group.
Stages of Car Seats by Age Group At A Glance
|Age Group||Ages||Type Of Car Seats|
|Toddlers & Infants||1-3 Years||Rear-Facing|
|Children||8-12 Years||Booster Seat|
|Children||8-12 Years (4’9″ Height)||Seat Belt|
After reading so many guides on how to choose the proper car seat, we have found these 4 stages of car seats by age groups to be the most comprehensive and helpful.
Let’s have a look at each stage and find the proper car seat for your kid according to their age!
Car Seat Stages: 4 Stages of Car Seat Use for Your Child
It’s important to keep your child safe when riding in the car. The best way to do this is to use the proper car seat for their age, height, and weight. There are 4 main stages of car seat use.
Stage 1: Rear-Facing Car Seat
The first stage is for infants and toddlers who ages 1-3 years. They should be placed in a rear-facing car seat in the backseat of the car.
Infants and toddlers are at a higher risk for injury if they are in a front-facing seat during a crash. The rear-facing position helps to protect their fragile necks and spines.
Your child can stay rear-facing until he gains the maximum weight or height limit provided by the car seat manufacturer or until they are 2 years old.
The straps of the harness should be positioned at or below your child’s shoulders. You should place the chest clip at armpit level. This will help to keep your child secure in the seat and prevent them from sliding out.
Types Of Rear Facing Car Seat:
Following are the 3 main types of rear-facing car seats:
- Infant-Only Car Seat
An infant-only car seat is a seat that can only be used in the rear-facing position.
It has a built-in harness and can be used with or without a base. Babies who are up to 8-9 months old, having 22 to 35 pounds and 26 to 35 inches should use this type of seat.
This should be used only for your child’s travelling and not for your child’s sleeping.
- Convertible Car Seat
A convertible car seat can be used in both the rear- and front-facing positions. It has a built-in harness that can be removed when your child is ready to face forward.
These seats do not have handles or separate bases and can be used for children who are 40 to 50 pounds. This should be used only for your child’s travelling and not for your child’s sleeping.
- All-in-One Car Seat
An all-in-one car seat can be used in the rear-, front-facing, and booster positions.
It has a built-in harness that can be removed when your child no longer needs it. These seats do not have a handle or a separate base but can be used for children who are 40 to 50 pounds.
All-in-one seats are the heaviest and bulkiest of all car seats, and ideal for bigger kids.
Installation Tips For Rear-Facing Seats:
- Read the car seat manual and vehicle owner’s manual.
- Use the seat belt or LATCH system to install the car seat.
- Make sure the car seat is installed tightly. There should not be more than 1 inch of movement at the belt path.
- Make sure the harness is snug by doing the pinch test.
- Don’t put a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a car with an active passenger airbag.
- Never put a child in a car seat with the harness straps twisted.
- Use the recline angle indicator to make sure the car seat is at the correct recline angle.
Stage 2: Forward-Facing Car Seat
The second stage is for toddlers and preschoolers who are 4-7 years old or who have reached to the height and weight limits of convertible seats. They can sit in a forward-facing car seat with a harness in the backseat of the car.
When you child is too big to fit in a rear-facing position, they can use a forward-facing car seat. Forward-facing car seats with a tether and harness offer more protection for your child’s spine, head, and neck at the time of a crash.
Kids should continue to ride in a front-facing position with a harness until they reach the maximum weight or height limit for their seat. Most car seats have a weight limit between 40 pounds.
If you are changing a car seat to a forward-facing position, the angle of car seat should not be in a recline angle. The harness straps should be at or above your child’s shoulders.
Types of Forward-Facing Car Seats:
Forward-Facing car seats have the following 4 main types of car seats:
- Convertible Car Seat:
You can use convertible car seat in both the rear- and front-facing positions. It has a built-in harness that can be removed when your child is ready to face forward.
These seats do not have handles or separate bases. This should be used only for your child’s travelling and not for your child’s sleeping.
- Combination Car Seat With Harness:
A combination car seat has a built-in harness and is used in the front-facing position only.
Children weigh between 40 and 65 pounds should use this type of seat. This should be used only for your child’s travelling and not for your child’s sleeping.
- Integrated Seats:
Also known as “5-point harness seats,” these seats are built into the car and have a harness that can be removed when your child no longer needs it. Weight and height limits depends on the seat.
- Travel Vests:
A travel vest can be used in the rear- or front-facing position and has a built-in harness that can be removed when your child is ready to face forward.
These seats can be used for children who are 22 to 168 pounds. These travel vests need a top tether when used in the front-facing position.
Installation Tips for Forward-Facing Seats:
- Read the car seat manual and vehicle owner’s manual.
- Use the harness straps to install the car seat.
- Make sure the harness straps are at or above your child’s shoulders.
- You should adjust the recline of the car seat so that your child is in an upright position. Check the instructions on how to do this.
- Use the seat belt in the locked and tightened position or the LATCH system to install the car seat.
- If you are using lower anchors, make sure weight of child plus weight of car seat should not exceed 65 pounds.
- Tether anchors are usually found on the top of the car seat or behind the car’s headrest. A tether anchor provides extra stability to a car seat in a crash.
- The tether strap should be connected to the anchor and tightened.
Stage 3: Booster Seat
The third stage is for school-aged children who are 8-12 years old and have outgrown the weight or height limitations of their forward-facing car seat. They can sit in a booster seat in the backseat of the car.
Your child needs a booster seat to position the seat belt correctly. Booster seats are used when the seat belt alone does not fit properly.
The booster seat will lift your child so that the seatbelt crosses over their chest and shoulder, instead of their neck and face.
Your child can use a booster seat until they are big enough to use a seat belt alone. This is usually when they are 8-12 years old.
You should use the booster seat with shoulder and lap belt positioning system and not just with lap belt when your child is in a booster seat.
The shoulder belt should fit snugly over the shoulder and across the chest. The lap belt should be low and tight across the child’s hips and upper portion of thighs, not his belly.
Types of Boosters Seats:
There are two types of booster seats: high-back and backless.
- High-Back Booster Seats
High-back booster seats have a backrest that supports your child’s head and neck. They are convenient for children who fall asleep in the car because they provide head support.
However, they can be bulkier and more expensive than backless booster seats. You can use a high-back or backless booster seat with or without a built-in harness.
- Backless Booster Seats
Backless booster seats are less expensive and take up less space than high-back seats.
They are a good choice for children who are at least 4 years old and mature enough to sit without leaning their head on something. You can use a backless booster seat with or without a built-in harness.
Installation Tips for Booster Seats
Before installation of Booster seats, you should read the manual. The plastic clip or guide is used to help position the lap and shoulder belts correctly over your child.
The lap belt should be low and tight across the child’s hips and upper portion of thighs, not his belly. The shoulder belt should fit snugly over the shoulder and across the chest.
Stage 4: Seat Belt
The fourth stage is for older children who are 8-12 years old, 4 feet 9 inches high and have outgrown the weight or height limitations of their Booster car seat. They can sit in a back seat using the car’s seat belt.
Seat belt is designed for an adult body. A seat belt that fits an adult will not fit a child properly. A child is not ready to use an adult seat belt until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and between 8 and 12 years old.
When the child has outgrown the weight or height limits for their booster seat, they can use the seat belt in the back seat.
This is the final stage of car seats. So, every time you ride in a car, you must use a seat belt.
The lap portion of the seat belt should lie low across the upper thighs and child’s hips, not across the stomach.
The shoulder portion of the seat belt should go over the child’s shoulder and across the chest. If your child’s age is under thirteen, do not allow them to sit in the front seat.
Usage Tips for Seat Belts:
- Your child should be tall enough that the seat belt fits properly. While using a seat belt, your youngster should be able to sit comfortably with their back against the seatback and legs bent over the edge of the seat.
- Be careful, your child should not fold the seat belt in half or put the shoulder portion behind their back. Doing this could cause serious injuries in a crash.
- Never ever allow your child to share a seat belt with somebody else. Everybody in the car should have their own seat belts.
What weight should a child be in a car seat?
At least 40 to 80 pounds and under the height of 4’9″ to use a car seat.
Car seat for your child can not be selected by only age. Weight and height of a child is important to be checked before selection of car seat.
Here are different groups of car seats for different heights and weights.
Group 0/0+ – Newborn to 13kg (0 to 15 months)
Group 0+/1 – Newborn to 18kg (0 to around 4 years)
Group 0+/1/2 – Newborn to 25kg (0 to around 7 years)
Group 0+/1/2/3 – Newborn to 36kg (0 to around 12 years)
Group 1 – 9kg to 18kg (9 months to 4 years)
Group 1/2/3 – 9kg to 36kg (9 months to 12 years)
Group 2/3 – 15kg to 36kg (4 years to 12 years)
Group 3 – 22kg to 36kg (5 years to 6 years and taller than 125cm)
It is important to note that if your child does net reach to the maximum height or weight then this could potentially cause problems as they are not being restrained by the car seat in the optimum way.
Baby Car Seats – Group 0/0+ – Newborn to 13kg (0 to 15 months)
This is the first group for car seats. These type of car seats are for babies from newborns to around 15 months old.
They are smaller and lighter and always rear-facing. The seat is installed using the car’s seat belt or pushchair chassis.
Baby to Toddler Car Seats – Group 0+/1 – Newborn to 18kg (0 to around 4 years)
This group belongs to car seats which can be used by babies from birth to 4 years old or till they are 18kg. First, you can keep them rear-facing and then turn them forward-facing when they weigh 9kg.
It is advisable to keep them rear-facing till they are 15 months old. The car seat is fixed in a car, and it cannot be detached. It takes more space in the car.
Baby to Child Car Seats – Group 0+/1/2 – Newborn to 25kg (0 to around 7 years)
This group of car seat is for babies from birth to 7 years or till they are 25kg. They are forward-facing when the baby weighs 9kg. Being over 9 Kg, the car seat can be turned around to face the back of the car.
Toddler Car Seats – Group 1 – 9kg to 18kg (9 months to around 4 and half years)
Group 1 car seats are suitable for toddlers from around 9 months to 4 years old, or up to 18kg in weight – although you can buy some that are rear-facing for even longer, up to around 4 years old.
They’re also known as ‘high-backed boosters’ and are always forward-facing.
Child Car Seats – Group 2/3 – 15kg to 36kg (3 Years to 12 years)
In this group, your child can use the seat with a seat belt. These car seats are for kids from 3 years to 12 years or till they are 36kg. They are also known as ‘high-backed boosters’.
Some seats have a seat belt guide to show you how to position the seat belt correctly over your child’s body. These seats have no harness, which means in a crash, your child is only held in by the seat belt.
Sometimes, these seats use ISOFIX connectors to help keep them in place.
Multi Group Car Seats – Group 1/2/3 – 9kg to 36kg (9 Months to 12 years)
This multi group car seats are for kids from 9 months to 12 years or till they are 36kg. These type of seats can have a five-point harness which can be converted to a high-backed booster seat.
These seats are approved to newer R129 regulations. They don’t protect all the three groups but are a longer version of the single-group seats.
Car seat experts say, it is better to buy a single baby car seat first and then upgrade to a bigger car seat, rather than buying a multi-group seat.
Some multi-group car seats are tested by experts and their recommendations show lower scores for the usage of multi-group car seats.
Therefore, there are some things you should keep in mind when using a multi-group car seat:
They can be difficult to install correctly, especially if you are using them in the rear-facing mode.
They can be bulky and heavy, making them difficult to transfer between cars.
Difficult to convert from one mode to another- this can be time-consuming and confusing, particularly if you are in a hurry.
The harnesses and headrests can be fiddly to adjust, making it difficult to get a good fit for your child.
Backless Booster Car Seats – Group 3 – 22kg to 36kg (5 years to 6 years and taller than 125cm)
This backless booster is only for kids who have outgrown their high-backed booster car seat. They are for kids who are 5 to 6 years old and are taller than 125cm with having 22 to 36 Kg in weight.
The seat is only for use with a lap and diagonal seat belt. It doesn’t have a back or sides, so it’s much smaller and lighter than a high-backed booster.
It’s easy to transfer between cars, making it great for grandparents’ or other relatives’ cars, but it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a high-backed booster in a crash.
So, these are some groups according to the height and weight of the baby or child. You can buy a car seat according to the age and weight of your baby.
But, remember that you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to make sure you install and use the seat correctly.
Do Preemies Need a Special Car Seat?
No, preemies don’t need a special car seat. You can use the same car seat you would use for a full-term baby, as long as they reach the minimum weight limit for the seat.
Should my 5 year old be in a car seat or booster?
Your 5 year old child should be in a booster seat if they have weight over 65 pounds or if they have outgrown their weight limitation of 5-point harness car seat.
Can my 4 year old use a high back booster seat?
Yes, your 4 year old child can use a high back booster seat if they have reached the weight of 40 pounds and are at least 4 years old.
Car Seats by Age Group: FAQs
What type of car seat should a child who is about 45 pounds have?
You can use a convertible car seat that is recommended for a weight of 40 to 45 pounds.
Your child should be in the forward-facing position when they use this seat. They can use this seat until they reach a weight of 65 pounds.
What age can a child stop using a 5-point harness?
Your child can stop using a 5-point harness car seat when they are 5 to 9 years old. They should outgrow the weight and height limitation for a 5-point harness car seat. When they are ready for a booster, they should weigh 65 pounds.
when can a child stop using a booster seat?
Your child should stop using booster seat when they are between 8 to 12 years old. They should also be 4 ft 9 inches in height. When they reach this height, they can use the adult seat belt.
The Bottom Line:
So, these are some general guidelines for car seats by age group. Remember that you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to make sure you install and use the seat correctly.
Also, be sure to keep your child’s height and weight in mind when choosing a car seat.
In this guide, we have explained different types of car seats and also the right age group for each type of seat. With this guide, you can easily choose the best and safest car seat for your child.
We have also explained Car seats groups by weight and height. You can use this guide to buy the best car seat for your child according to their age and weight.
So, don’t wait any longer and buy the perfect car seat for your little one today!