When it comes to choosing the right car seat for your child, there are many factors to consider. One of the most important decisions you will make is selecting a 3-point harness car seat or a 5-point harness car seat.
Both types of seats have their pros and cons, and it can be challenging to decide which one is right for your family.
In this blog post, I will compare 5-point harness car seats and 3-point harness car seats so that you can make an informed decision about which type of seat is best for your child!
What are car harnesses?
A car harness is a system of straps that attach to a child’s car seat and connect it to the vehicle’s seat belts. Harnesses are designed to keep children safe in the event of a crash by distributing the force of the impact evenly across their bodies.
Currently, two types of harnesses are widely used in car seats: 3-point harnesses and 5-point harnesses.
3-Point Harness Straps
A 3-point harness has two shoulder straps and a waist strap. The shoulder straps connect to the car seat at the sides, and the waist strap connects to the car seat in the middle.
The shoulder straps should be positioned so that they are at or below your child’s shoulders, and the waist strap should be at or below your child’s belly button.
This type of harness is modeled after the seat belts that adults use in vehicles, and it is the most common type of harness used in child car seats.
Most booster seats and some convertible car seats use 3-point harnesses.
Advantages of 3-Point Harnesses
There are several advantages to using a 3-point harness car seat:
- Convenient and Easy to Use – Infant seats with a 3-point harness are easy to install and use. The harness straps are typically adjustable, so you can easily get a snug and secure fit for your child. Parents who use a 3-point harness for the first time will find that it is very similar to using a seatbelt, so it is not difficult to learn how to use it.
- Can Be Converted In A Booster Seat – The shoulder belt portion of some 3-point harness car seats can also be easily removed when your child outgrows it, so you can continue to use the seat as a booster seat.
- More Range of Motion – A 3-point harness car seat allows your child to have a more excellent range of motion than a 5-point harness car seat. The shoulder straps are not as constricting, so your child will be able to move around more easily in their seat.
Disadvantages of 3-Point Harnesses
There are also some disadvantages to using a 3-point harness car seat:
- Less Protection in a Crash – A 3-point harness does not provide as much protection to your child in the event of a crash as a 5-point harness. The force of the impact is not distributed evenly across your child’s body, and they could be injured if the car seat is not installed correctly.
- Can Be Difficult to Get a Snug Fit – It can be difficult to get a snug and secure fit with a 3-point harness, especially if your child is wiggly or squirmy. The shoulder straps can also slip off your child’s shoulders if they are not positioned correctly.
- May Not Be For Infants and Small Children – 3-point harness car seats are not recommended for infants and small children because they do not provide enough support for their necks and heads. It is essential to choose a car seat that will protect your child’s head and neck in a crash, so you should consider a 5-point harness car seat for your infant or small child.
5-Point Harness Straps
A 5-point harness has two shoulder straps, two straps at the waist, and one in the crotch area. The shoulder straps and waist straps connect to the car seat at the sides, and the crotch strap or lap belt connects to the car seat in the middle.
This type of harness is the most restrictive and provides the most protection for your child in the event of a crash.
Whether looking for a forward-facing car seat or all-in-one infant car seats, you’re likely to find a 5-point harness car seat.
Advantages of 5-Point Harnesses
If you are particular with safety standards, then 5-point harnesses car seat is the best type. Here are its advantages:
- Highest Level of Protection – A five-point harness car seat offers the highest level of protection for your child in the event of a crash. The force of the impact is evenly distributed across your child’s body, and they are less likely to be injured.
- Adjusts to Fit Your Child – The harness straps on a 5-point harness car seat are adjustable so that you can get a snug and secure fit for your child. The shoulder straps can also be moved up or down to adjust the seat’s height.
- Can Be Used With Infants and Small Children – 5-point harness car seats are recommended for infants and small children because they provide the most support for their necks and heads. The protection also extends to the lower body and hips, so your child will be safe and secure in their seat.
Disadvantages of 5-Point Harnesses
As with the 3-point harness car seat, there are also some disadvantages to using a 5-point harness car seat:
- More Restricted Movement – A 5-point harness car seat will restrict your child’s movement more than a 3-point harness car seat. The shoulder straps and waist straps are designed to keep your child in their seat, so they will not be able to move around as much.
- Can be challenging to get in and out of – A 5-point harness car seat can be difficult to get in and out of, especially for smaller children. The straps can be hard to loosen and tighten, so it may take some practice to get the hang of it. However, with proper installation, the seat should not be too difficult to use.
- Has a specific weight limit – 5-point harness car seats have a weight limit of 18 kg, so you will need to upgrade to a booster seat when your child reaches this weight.
Which is The Best Type of Car Seat Harness For Your Child?
Now that I’ve gone over the difference between 3-point harnesses vs. 5-point harness car seats, it’s time to decide which one is the best type for your child.
It’s evident that the 5-point harness offers the highest protection for your child. I believe that the extra protection is worth the slightly more complicated installation process.
It exceeds the safety standards set by the government, and it can be used with infants and small children. Standard car crash tests are designed to simulate real-life accidents, but accidents like these are much more complex and violent than what the car seat alone can protect against.
For instance, a car can be hit from the side or rear, which can cause the vehicle to spin or rollover. A 5-point harness can protect your child better than a 3-point harness in these types of accidents.
This is because the child is firmly secured in their seat and would not be thrown around the car’s cabin if the vehicle were to roll over.
Delicate parts of the body such as the neck or stomach can be especially vulnerable in a car accident. A 5-point harness can help protect these areas.
Unlike a 3-point harness, which might cause injuries when the seat belt enters the soft tissues of the lower abdomen during a collision, force is dispersed throughout the rigid parts of the body with a five-point car seat.
A 5-point harness can also be helpful in a head-on collision as it helps keep the child’s head from being thrown forward.
So, while a 5-point harness is not required by law, I believe that it’s the best type of car seat for your child.
This is not to say that the 3-point harness does not offer a high level of protection. It still does, and it’s a good choice for many families.
The main reason to choose a 3-point harness over a 5-point harness is when you have a child over the age of 4 who is too big for a 5-point harness car seat.
Since 5-point harness car seats have a weight limit of 18 kg, you will need to upgrade to a booster seat when your child reaches this weight.
A 3-point harness can be used with children up to 36 kg, so it’s a good option for older children.
If you are unsure which type of car seat to choose, I recommend consulting with a certified car seat technician. They will be able to help you choose the right car seat for your child based on their age, weight, and height.
No matter which type of car seat you choose, always make sure that it is properly installed and that your child is properly secured in their seat.
I hope this article has helped you understand the difference between 3-point harnesses vs. 5-point harness car seats.
Steph is a passionate mom who co-founded Wumblers to share her parenting journey with others. She graduated from Concordia University with a masters degree in Education Technology and worked as an advisor for many years. Steph loves being a mom and wants to have more kids.
Learn more about Steph and Wumblers here.