Infant car seat vs convertible car seat, which is best for a newborn passenger?
This guide will help you to understand the key features and differences between infant car seats vs convertible car seats, so you can make a confident decision about which is best for your Very Important Passenger.
When you welcome your newborn to the world, you’ll want to protect them every way you can, particularly on those early road trips.
We recommend giving yourself plenty of time to research and think over which car seat to purchase, as there are many options available and if you’re new to this, it might seem a little overwhelming!
This guide is designed to help you to understand the key features and differences between infant car seats vs convertible car seats, so you can make a confident decision about which is best for your Very Important Passenger. Here are a few questions you might find yourself asking.
What is an infant car seat?
As the name suggests, they are designed specifically for infant passengers. As it is the safest way possible for a newborn to travel, all infant car seats are positioned rear-facing. Some people believe that infant car seats are slimmer in design than convertible car seats, but that depends entirely on the manufacturer, so it’s best not to use this as a decision-maker!
Like all car seats, they come with a weight and height limit and your passenger must travel in their seat until they reach them (unless you are switching to a different car seat that is suitable for their weight and height).
You will need to purchase an alternative car seat once your child reaches these limits.
They look portable, can I carry them?
It’s common that infant car seats are compatible with strollers, this combination is known as a travel system. This means you can easily uninstall the car seat, attach it to your stroller and continue your journey without disturbing your baby.
How do they install?
You may have already heard of LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children), a simple system that attaches most car seats, not just infant car seats, to your vehicle.
Infant car seats usually come with a base, the seat attaches to this base and the base attaches to your vehicle. If you plan on using your infant car seat in multiple vehicles you’ll most likely be able to purchase additional bases for each.
What should I look out for?
Great question! Firstly, check if it is compatible with your vehicle. Does your vehicle have LATCH? If so, then make sure your infant car seat does too. Most obviously, you’re going to want to check the safety features. For example, shock-absorbent materials or side impact protection. Check out the harness on the seat, do they look soft to touch, and are they easily adjustable? We also recommend looking for a sun canopy or drape, particularly if you’re going to be using the seat as part of a travel system. Your child’s comfort is also important and will give you additional peace of mind that they are content and comfortable in their car seat. Happy passengers = happy parents! Look out for things like head support, fabrics and extra padding. If you’re using a travel system, be sure to check that your stroller has suitable adapters!
Convertible Car Seats
Now let’s learn about the other alternative option and discuss the key features of convertible car seats. In simple terms, these car seats convert from one mode to another, meaning they begin as an infant car seat but are suitable for a longer duration of time. They can be positioned both rear-facing and forward-facing and are installed as a more “permanent” car seat, though some are lightweight and can be moved easily between vehicles.
Can I use a convertible car seat instead of an infant car seat?
Yes! That’s one of the biggest advantages of a convertible car seat, and means they are a very cost-effective solution as you can travel with this seat from day one for many more years. Convertible car seats are cleverly designed to accommodate newborn passengers and feature protection and safety for the smallest of infants.
How long do they last?
That depends on the manufacturer. Diono Radian® All-in-One Convertible Car Seats are suitable from birth to booster, which means 5 lb to 120 lb, or birth to approximately age 10. It’s also useful to note whether these car seats have removable and washable covers and if you can buy replacement parts if necessary. Trust us, as parents we know just what our kiddos can put their car seat through!
Will it fit my vehicle?
You might hear “convertible car seats are bulky and take up lots of room” but that isn’t exactly the case, and you’ll find lots of car seats that will fit comfortably in your vehicle. Diono Radian® car seats are famous for their slim-fit design and fit 3-across in most vehicles.
What should I look out for?
As they’re a bit of an all-rounder, convertible car seats are likely to have additional features designed for infant, toddler, pre-school to big kid. You might want to look out for infant support or inserts that can be used for those earlier days, and how long it is suitable to travel rear-facing. At Diono we recommend all children travel rear-facing for as long as possible.
It’s also important to look out for how the seat will grow with your child, as you don’t want them to become uncomfortable or unsupported throughout the years. Features such as expandable seat width, adjustable headrest and internal capacity are the key areas to look for.
Just like infant car seats, you’ll also want to check the ease of installation and whether it is LATCH compatible with your vehicle. **Top tip! Check if there are any handy tutorials or installation videos available on YouTube to support you through this.
To conclude, either or both car seats are suitable for your infant passenger, however, depending on your lifestyle and how you want to use the car seat will determine which one you choose. Convertible car seats are not stroller compatible and remain in the vehicle, however they have a much longer lifespan than infant carriers and are a very cost-effective solution if you’re wanting to save money and provide safe travel for your child.