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Choosing a Car Seat That Can Be Used Safely in Multiple Vehicles

Over the holidays last year, we moved from Kansas City to San Francisco, and when we made the move, we decided to sell our car and use public transportation as our primary means of getting around our new city. It’s worked out brilliantly so far, but we do still need to use a car sometimes. We use a car sharing service, and we simply reserve the car we want to use for the period of time that we need it. My husband’s favorite is a little Audi, and I could care less, as long as whatever we’re in gets us where we are going. If it were up to my husband, we would use the Audi every time, but it’s not always available. So we end up using various types of vehicles, and thus we end up putting our children’s car seats into all sorts of back seats.

While you may not be quite as extreme in your use of multiple vehicles, many families have reasons to put their child’s car seat in multiple vehicles, whether it’s for regular play time with grandparents or because your child care provider needs to use the seat from time to time. If you’ll be using a car seat in many different vehicles, it pays to find one that will be easy to safely install no matter where your child will be riding.

The first thing you must consider is size. Which car seats are of a size that will be accommodated in the vehicles you anticipate your child will need to ride in? Make a list and check online reviews; many people will share what kind of car they drive and if the seat fit for them. Consider if your child still needs to be rear-facing; many seats that will fit just fine forward facing will not fit certain back seats when they are rear-facing.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of seats to the ones that will fit in all of the vehicles your child will ride in, consider how easy it is to install. Seats that have more complicated installations will take longer to install and leave more room for error. So while one seat might have higher safety ratings than another, if you can’t install that particular car seat safely and easily, then those ratings don’t matter. I find that seats with the LATCH system make installation a no brainer, but seats that have a wide pass-through for the seat belt  are also super simple to place safely and securely.

Next, try out the seats and see if you feel comfortable installing and removing them from the vehicle you use most often. Many stores will allow you to take a floor model of the seat to your vehicle to try it out for fit. If you get good at securing the seat properly in your primary vehicle, it will be easier to place it in other vehicles as well, so you while it might be nice to test it in more than one vehicle, your primary vehicle is just fine. Install the seats you’re considering per the accompanying instructions and see if they are safe and secure with minimal fussing. My test is to find out if the seat moves once I’ve installed it. If it still wiggles, it’s not secure enough. Try placing your knee in the seat and putting your weight on it, then tighten the LATCH straps or seat belt. If you can’t get the car seat securely fastened in place doing this, then try a different seat.

Installing a car seat isn’t rocket science, but it’s obviously important to do it right. If you absolutely love a seat that’s not the easiest to install, but you feel comfortable making the extra effort and know you can install it safely every time, you still must consider who else might be installing it, and if they will feel comfortable with the extra effort. In my years as a nanny, I got pretty good at switching car seats from one car to another, and I truly didn’t mind if it was a bit more complicated; however, I’m guessing that most people don’t hang their hat on their ability to install a complicated car seat safely, so take that into account.

Finally, be confident in your choice and get familiar with the car seat. If you will be the one placing it in each vehicle, that is ideal, but if not, make sure the instructions are handy the first few times someone else will be installing the seat. While most seats are pretty simple to install, it never hurts to double check for safety.

Are you baby safety savvy? We’re giving away two Graco SnugRide Click Connect infant car seats! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment on this post with a personal tip on how you keep baby safe in the car.

The content and viewpoints expressed here within are solely that of the originators. Graco’s sponsorship does not imply endorsement of any opinions or information provided and we do not assume responsibility for the accuracy of the content provided. Please always consult a professional for matters related to your child’s well-being. Click here to see more of the discussion.

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