Who would’ve thought there’s a whole terminology in the world of car seats?
The dilemma infant car seats vs. all-in-one is probably what brought you here.
For some, it’s a world of possibilities.
For others, a headache.
For us today – a challenge and a conundrum to be clarified.
Let’s get to it…
If you’ve narrowed down your choices and have to decide between
- an infant car seat, and
- an all-in-one car seat,
you’re halfway there (but only halfway).
Is an infant car seat enough? Is the all-in-one worth the extra buck?
In the guide below, I’ll go over ALL the benefits and disadvantages of both, so you can make your choice.
All with a singular goal – to make your choice informed and easy.
What is an infant car seat?
As you might expect, infant car seats are designed specifically for infants. The infant car seat is the one to get for your first journey back from the hospital.
You can use the infant car seat from birth until your baby reaches the weight limit.
The manufacturer may promise 24 months.
But I wouldn’t bet on it.
Usually, they reach the weight limit when they turn two. It all depends on your baby’s growth speed.
When you make a purchase, make sure to check the weight guidelines. Generally, they range from 4 pounds minimum and 35 pounds maximum.
As for the height limits, they go up to 55 inches.
What is an all-in-one car seat?
All-in-one car seats are made for kids from infancy to the age of 10.
3-in-one and 4-in-one offer 3 or 4 of these modes:
- front-facing mode
- rear-facing mode
- backless booster
- high-back booster
All-in-one car seats are made to fit different modes. All of these modes have a maximum weight and height limit, which tells you when to transition to the next one.
If you’re looking for a one-time investment, this is the one to get.
All-in-one Car Seat vs. Convertible Car Seat
Convertible car seats allow only two seat modes: rear-facing and front-facing.
What does this difference mean for you?
The main disadvantage of convertible car seats doesn’t apply to all-in-one car seats.
You see, you can’t use the convertible car seats for kids who weigh more than 65 pounds.
For all-in-ones, this number goes up to 120.
So it would serve you much longer.
All-in-one car seats vs. travel systems
They’re not to be confused since travel systems include a car seat, a base, carrier, and stroller.
All-in-one includes a car seat that can be used in said four modes. And they’re not stroller friendly.
Now that we have an overview of infant and all-in-one car seats, let’s see the pros and cons of both.
Infant Car Seat Advantages
What’s so great about it is its portability.
It’s easy to pop it in and out from the base.
Since infant car seats have a handle, you can use them as a carrier.
Then you can carry the baby with you to run a quick errand, go to a restaurant, etc.
Some of them come as part of a travel system. This means that your baby stays safe in the seat while you take the seat from the car and snap it into a stroller.
All this without disturbing the baby.
If you have multiple vehicles or grandparents who sometimes drive the baby, you’ll be happy about the following benefit:
You can buy multiple bases for other vehicles, so you’ll be able to switch between them effortlessly.
Infant Car Seat Disadvantages
All this sounds great.
But you know what they say about how kids grow fast?
You’ll have to buy a convertible car seat eventually.
This means finding a budget for two car seats within two years.
All-in-one Car Seat Benefits
The main benefit is that you’ll erase your worries about car seats with this one purchase.
No more researching, no more getting used to a change, and most importantly, no more spending money.
You and your kid will get used to a single car seat and stick with it from infant age to big kid age.
Who knows, maybe this consistency will make it easier for your kid to get used to traveling?
You know how toddlers can get when there’s even a slight change of plans.
The transition from rear-facing to forward-facing and later to booster mode will be a breeze. With an all-in-one, you already have everything you need.
Are All-in-one Car Seats Safe?
I include safety on the pros list.
Let me explain why.
The rear-facing position is the safest.
The longer your child stays in the rear-facing position, the longer it’s protected.
Let’s take a step back here…
- The rear-facing position is possible with both the infant and the all-in-one car seat.
- The infant car seat can hold up to 20-25 pounds.
- The all-in-one car seat in a rear-facing position can hold up to 40 pounds.
For you, this means prolonged use and the convenience of not getting used how new seats work.
Note: This doesn’t mean the infant car seats aren’t safe. They are.
Drawbacks of the All-in-one Car Seat
First of all, there’s the cost.
They’re more expensive than an infant car seat.
Yet their value is long-term.
I recommend you put pen to paper and do the math.
Infant car seats are lighter and more convenient for parents on the move
If we’re talking convenience, infant car seats score a point here.
All-in-one car seats are not at all portable.
They’re large and heavy.
They’re meant to stay in the car, not to carry the baby in them. So they don’t come with handles.
Also, all-in-one car seats aren’t stroller friendly.
Related reads and comparisons: infant car seats vs convertible car seats | car seats age | how long can newborn be in a car seat
Infant Car Seat vs. All-in-one Car Seat
I recommend the infant car seat if you’re looking for
- easy installation
- possibility to share one seat between multiple vehicles
- a travel system
All-in-one car seats are those that are ready for
- a one-time, yet more expensive, purchase
- easy transition between different modes
- more safety in the rear-facing position
It all depends on your needs.
If you want a convenient way to carry your baby, go for the infant car seat.
But be ready to pay for another car seat in the near future.
If portability is not your priority, I’d recommend spending more on an all-in-one, but getting more value.
You might also be interested in: what to do with old car seat | free car seat Medicaid | are swivel car seats legal in us
Are All-in-one car seats safe for infants?
All-in-one car seats are safe for infants.
When buying one, make sure it’s designed for your infant’s height and weight.
Read both the seat’s and your vehicle’s manual to be sure you know how to install it properly.
You may also be interested in: proper car seat strap placement | how to tether a car seat without anchors
How long are all-in-one car seats good for?
Car seats are good to use as long as they meet the weight and height limits and they typically expire in 10 to 12 years.
They also stop being useful as soon as they’re in an accident – even a minor one.
Why is that?
Cold, humidity, and age can affect the plastic and make the car seat unsafe. That goes double for a car accident.
Also, you can clean up the spills and other messes, but you can’t stop the sun from getting a toll on the fabric.
You may also be interested in: what to do with old car seat | clean baby car seat | car seats foam
Is an infant car seat necessary?
An infant car seat is not necessary but it’s a lifesaver if you’re often traveling.
There’s no need to disturb the baby to unbuckle it every time you exit the car.
I’d hate to wake a sleeping baby.
When does a baby grow out of an infant car seat?
A baby grows out of an infant car seat when they reach the weight and height limits. That can happen when they’re only 10 months old or 2 years old.
Resume of the infant-vs-all-in-one seat dilemma
Both of these options are safe for your infant.
The differences lie between portability, size, cost, and how long you’ll be able to use it.
So it only matters what’s important to you and your family at this moment.
Make sure the car seat you chose fits your vehicle well and is easy to install.
There should be no room for mistake in the latter.
That’s what matters most.
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.