Over the past few years, one common question kept popping up in my inbox – are infant car seats safer than convertible?
For some age ranges, yes – for others, no – it’s a complicated topic that needs careful analysis.
From security features to weight and size limits, choosing between the two might not be such a simple task.
This is the guide that answer all those burning questions.
To make things easier for you, I’ve decided to go over the main properties of both car seat types and hopefully help you in the process of deciding between infant and convertible car seats.
What’s the difference between an infant and convertible car seat?
The main difference between infant and convertible car seats is their lifetime (how long they can be used for).
While infant car seats are made only for babies, convertible car seats can be used even by school-aged children.
Although both infant and convertible car seats have the same basic function – to keep our little ones safe in vehicles – they’re different in many ways.
Read more at: infant car seats vs convertible car seats
Features of a infant seat vs. convertible
Let’s check out the main feature differences between the two.
Infant seats are easier to use
Infant car seats are easy to use thanks to their snap-on base.
This feature makes it easy to secure your baby in the seat before placing it in the car. And don’t even get me started on how many times this snap-on base saved my life when I needed to take my baby out of the vehicle during nighttime or pouring rain.
Infant seats are more travel-friendly
Infant car seats are now commonly sold in a set with a stroller, also known as a travel system.
You basically get a 2-in-1 because you can transfer the car seat between the vehicle base and the stroller base without waking up the baby.
Convertible seat grows with your baby
Convertible seats come with the most significant advantage of transitioning together with your baby. From when you leave the hospital until it’s time to transfer to a booster seat, convertible seats can convert into anything you need them to, hence their name.
That’s a huge plus when comparing the costs you’ll have to spend just on car seats.
Related: What to do with an old car seat?
Size of the seats
Infant car seats are lighter, as they weigh between 10-20 lbs. So, carrying them from a vehicle to your home shouldn’t pose a problem even with a baby inside.
Since they’re intended only for infants, infant car seats are typically smaller and more convenient. They need to provide a snug and cozy fit for all newborns.
However, we can’t say the same for convertible car seats.
Because these seats are designed to provide a comfortable and safe car seat for a wide age range, they can weigh at 30+ lbs. Also, they come with countless additional parts and belts that make the whole seat pretty heavy.
The size isn’t the most vital characteristic of convertible car seats either.
Their bulky design often doesn’t fit into smaller vehicles, so make sure to check the sizes of different manufacturers and measure your vehicle space before you place an order.
For further reading: How to get a free car seat Medicaid?
Limitations of infant car seats
Infant car seats are pretty limiting regarding how you can place them and how long your baby can use them. Namely, you must install it in the rear-facing position, as many experts recommend using this position until your baby’s at least two years old.
Moreover, if your baby exceeds the predefined height (less than an inch from the top of their head and the top of the seat), weight (30-35 pounds), and age (more than 2 years of age) limits, it’s time for a new car seat.
So, the parents are forced to buy a new car seat reasonably quickly after the first one.
Convertible car seats give parents more freedom since they work in rear-facing and forward-facing positions.
Not only that, but these seats have a weight limit of 65-80 pounds, so they’re the perfect seat that’ll accompany your kid from the newborn stadium to the school age.
For further reading: How long can a newborn be in a car seat?
FAQs about infant and convertible car seats
Is an infant car seat safer than a convertible?
No, infant car seats are not safe than a convertible.
Provided that that you use the two seat types correctly, they’re just as safe for most kids.
There’s even some new research that suggest that, for bigger babies (age 1 and above), the convertible seats are a peg safer. You can read about the research here.
The problem with transitioning to forward-facing too soon
I’ve noticed many parents using convertible seats make the mistake of transitioning their baby to the forward-facing position sooner than they should.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to know when to forward face a car seat because doing it too early can put your little one at risk of getting injured.
Besides that, parents who are up to date with the latest age, weight, and height requirements can rest assured knowing their baby is fully protected whichever option they go with and don’t have to ask themselves are infant car seats safer than a convertible.
Can a convertible car seat be used instead of an infant car seat?
Yes, you can use a convertible car seat instead of an infant car seat as long as they’re installed properly, are within the weight and size limits and rear-facing.
The idea behind convertible car seats is to purchase one car seat and use it for your kid throughout different life stages, eliminating the need to buy multiple car seats over the years.
Different customizable features allow parents to safely accommodate their newborns, toddlers, and small children within the same space. For example, you’ll only have to ensure your convertible car seat has the safety features required for small and gentle infants.
Related: What to do if my baby hates car seats?
When is the right time to switch from an infant car seat to a convertible?
The right time to switch from an infant to a convertible car seat is as soon as any of the conditions below are met:
- Your baby’s head is less than an inch from the top of the seat;
- Your baby is more than 35 pounds;
- Your baby exceeded the infant car seat age of 2 years.
The verdict – which seat is better?
Infant car seats vs convertible car seats – which one is the better choice?
Simply put, it all comes down to your needs, vehicle type, and personal preference. For example, suppose you have a bigger car and look for a long-term and budget-friendly option. In that case, we highly recommend a convertible car seat.
On the other hand, if you have a smaller car or enjoy the maximum comfort of travel systems, infant car seats might be better.
In addition, parents usually prefer infant car seats because of the LATCH system. Still, you can also learn how to tether a car seat without anchors.
When it comes to safety, no car seat type is safer than the other, it’s just a question of convenience.
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.