The Car Seat. We like to call this decision ‘the big one’. It can seem the most overwhelming, not just because it’s the piece of equipment most tied to your babe’s daily safety, but because there are roughly a trillion regulations, that all differ slightly from every other country. Oh and did I mention you also have to decide between infant seat and a convertible one? Just add that to the list.
Rest assured, we’re here to help.
The first thing you need to know is that the majority of car seats break down into two basic categories: Infant Seats and Convertible Seats.
- Infant Seats
These seats are the classic ‘take your baby home from the hospital’ car seat. They are rear-facing in the car, are bucket shaped to suit the recline necessary for small babes, typically have a good sized sun-shade attached, and have a handle for portability. An infant seat fits into a separate base (which stays put in your car), making it easy to strap a small babe in and then move them in/out of the car without removing them from the seat.
Infant Seat Highlights:
- Safety – all infant car seats on the market in Canada have passed federal safety standards, and will keep your babe safe and sound
- Portability – you can easily take your sleeping baby in/out of a car without waking them. This is priceless in my books. In many cases you can buy simple adapters for your stroller (so the seat snaps into your stroller seamlessly) making travel even easier!
- Simplicity – because you’re buying a smaller seat that’s specifically for your small(ish) babe, the seats are fairly straightforward.
- Light Weight – this varies by seat, but relatively speaking these are the lightest seats available
Infant Seat Watch-Outs:
- Short(er) Usable Life – you’ll only be able to use this seat for 6 months – 1 year (depending on your babe’s size)
- Incremental Cost – because you could get away with only buying a convertible seat (read on), this seat is technically an incremental cost… that being said, in my books it’s definitely worth it
2. Convertible Seats
These seats are the ‘big boys’ of the car seat world. They are designed, depending on brand, to be both rear facing (with infant inserts for really tiny babes), forward facing, and in most cases a booster as well. These seats strap directly into your car, and your babe must be removed from the seat when getting in and out of the car. Convertible seats typically have a variety of features such as cup holders, extended rear-facing capability, and tethers for increased stability (again, depending on brand).
Convertible Seat Highlights:
- One Shot Deal – theoretically, this could be the only car seat you’d ever need to purchase!
- Safety – all convertible seats on the market in Canada have passed federal safety standards, and will keep your babe safe and sound
- Big Kid Comfort – for larger toddlers and kiddos, convertible seats are well designed for comfy car trips!
Convertible Seat Watch-Outs:
- Portability/Convenience – when you have FINALLY gotten your infant to sleep, just as you arrive at your destination, you WILL have to unstrap them, and take them out of the car seat to remove them from the car, risking a full wake up! This may not seem like a huge deal now, but trust me it is. Same goes for the stroller. You’ll need to remove your babe from the seat in the car, and re-strap them into a stroller if you’re out and about.
- Small Babes – some convertible seats are not safe for very small babes (think preemie sized) even with the infant insert in place
- They’re Big – like, really big. When rear-facing, this could be a concern if you drive a compact vehicle, as there’s a risk that certain brands won’t fit in all back seats in rear-facing mode
Sooooo, now you’ve got the general lay of the land, but you need to know the specifics. So we’ve taken our favourites and broken down the ABCs for you! Here goes:
You’re looking for an awesome Infant Seat? The Maxi Cosi Mico Max 30 is the one.
AFFORDABILITY: The Mico Max retails for $359.99 CAD – putting it in the premium class of infant car seats for a few key reasons:
- Comfortably accommodates babes from 4 – 30 lbs. Notably the the max weight has increased, up from 22 lbs on their AP 2.0 model.
- The lining and cover is easily removable and fully washable… and it matters. Because car vomit is real.
- The design is sleek and simple!
- Adapters for easy stroller transfer can be purchased for almost any stroller model
Maxi Cosi wins at making the lightest weight car seats in their class. It’s ultimately why we love it so much – because when you’re hauling around a 20 pound sleeping infant, the last thing you need is a few extra pounds of car seat on board.
If you’re not looking for a Infant seat, you’re probably on the hunt for an awesome Convertible car seat! The Diono Rainier is your answer.
AFFORDABILITY: No matter how you slice it, a convertible car seat is a big investment. Important to keep in mind though, is that your kiddo will be using it for the next 5-8 (ish) years. Amortizing the cost over the useful life of the seat helps rationalize the big price tag! Plus, you know… safety and stuff
Convertible car seats in Canada range from roughly $250 to upwards of $700 (yipes!). Don’t panic, the Diono Rainier sits in the bottom half of that bracket at $429.
- Extended rear-facing capability. The safest way for your babe to ride is rear facing, and with the Ranier you have the option to rear face up to 50 lbs (it’s highly recommended that your child sits rear-facing until a minimum of 2 years old… but the longer the better from a safety perspective!)
- The sidewalls of the seat are very deep, and filled with high density foam for side impact protection. It’s going to keep your babe’s noggin’ safe in a crash.
- There’s a rear facing tether option, that can be anchored to one of the front seats for increased stability. Not all brands have this feature, and it’s a safety bonus in our opinion.
- The installation with their Super Latch system is quite easy for such a high-tech seat. Diono has a great installation video online as well that makes it even more straightforward. Check it out HERE. (We’d like to add that it’s always a good idea to get your installation checked by professionals… you can never be too careful. Most cities offer free clinics by certified Police or EMT professionals, just do a quick search online!)
- The five-point harness is nicely padded and comfy, but also has a great ratcheting feature which makes tightening it pretty easy, even when you’re reaching across a flailing toddler in rear-facing mode!
- The rainier has a 10 year product life, so you won’t have to deal with an expired seat before your babe grows out of it
- The Rainier also has a machine washable seat cover… because let’s face it with car snacks, soccer cleats, and snowy boots, those things get duuuuurty
- The seat also comes with a cup holder – not a necessity, but definitely makes long car trips a bit easier
Also noteworthy: we always recommend getting the inexpensive angle adjuster (under $20) with this seat. It’s a simple foam insert that inserts under the car seat, and allows the rear-facing seat to sit on a more upright angle, creating more space in the front passenger seat. (Note: the angle adjuster can only be used once your babe has full head control and can sit up on their own – so if you’re using this seat from birth, the rear-facing space requirements are something to consider. You’ll find this is a challenge with all convertible seats – they’re big!)
Ultimately, our favourite thing about Diono car seats, is that they’re the only ones on the market that clearly state they have a full steel frame in their seats. The durability and peace of mind this offers is the reasons we recommend this seat to all of our mama friends… that’s you!
Looking for a safe, but budget-friendly car seat option? The Safety 1st Complete Air LX 65 Convertible car seat is for you!
AFFORDABILITY: This seat retails for just $229 CAD, and considering that it will last from your babes very first trip in the car, right through to their big-kid days, it’s fantastic value for the money.
- Accommodates babes 5-40 pounds rear facing, and 22-65 pounds front facing
- Fully adjustable harness and headrest for comfort
- Crash test rated and approved for safe transport in Canada
The brilliance of this seat is it’s affordability. It offers everything you need to travel safely with your little one for as long as they’ll need a carseat, and it does it for under $250. In terms of value for your dollar, it doesn’t get any better than that.
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