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Child Car Seats

Tips for Buying a Car Seat or Booster Seat

​​​​When used correctly, car seats and booster seats save lives and reduce injuries. Children can get hurt if their car seats or booster seats are not used properly. Here are some tips on how to choose or buy the right car seat or booster seat for your child.

Car Seat Stages

There are 3 basic types or stages of car seats for children:

  1. rear-facing (faces the back of the car)
  2. forward-facing (faces the front of the car)
  3. booster (faces the front of the car)

Many seats combine more than one stage. It is safest to keep your child in each stage for as long as possible. The rear-facing position is the safest, so don’t rush to have your child use a forward-facing car seat. Check the Car Seat Guidelines in Alberta for more information.

Comparing Car Seats and Booster Seats

Se​at Type What makes this good? Things to think about
Rear-facing only, with base (also called Infant)




  • Has a carry handle. Easy to take out of vehicle, even with baby asleep.
  • Seat base stays in vehicle. If done up correctly, stays tight for every ride.
  • May be sold as part of a travel system that includes a stroller.​
  • Some models can be used up to 16 kg (35 lb.) or 81 cm (32 inches).
  • Can only be used rear-facing.
  • Your baby may outgrow this seat before they are 2 years old.
Rear-facing/ Forward-facing (also called Convertible)




  • Can be used as a rear-facing seat and then changed into a forward-facing seat.
  • Many models have higher rear-facing weight and height limits than rear-facing only seats.
  • Some models may be used rear-facing up to 18 kg (40 lb.) or 91 cm (36 inches).
  • A good choice for rear-facing use if your baby is under 2, but has outgrown a rear-facing only (infant) seat.
  • Some models can be used forward-facing with the 5-point harness up to 30 kg (65 lb.) and 132 cm (52 inches).
  • Not easy to move in and out of the vehicle.
  • Larger than rear-facing only seat.
  • May be hard to fit in some back seats.
Rear-facing/ Forward-facing/ Booster (also called 3-in-1)




  • Combines all 3 types of seats.
  • Many models have higher rear-facing weight and height limits than rear-facing only seats.
  • Some models may be used rear-facing up to 18 kg (40 lb.) or 91 cm (36 inches).
  • A good choice for rear-facing use if your baby is under 2, but has outgrown a rear-facing only (infant) seat.
  • Some models can be used forward-facing with the 5-point harness up to 30 kg (65 lb.) or 132 cm (52 inches).
  • Not easy to move in and out of the vehicle.
  • Larger than a rear-facing only seat.
  • May be hard to fit in some back seats.
  • May have lower height or weight limits than other types of booster seats.
Forward-facing/ Booster (also called Combination of Harnessed Booster)




  • Combines the forward-facing and booster seats.
  • Some models can be used with the 5-point harness up to 30 kg (65 lb.) or 127 cm (50 inches).
  • Can't be used rear-facing.
High-back Booster




  • Offers head/neck protection.
  • Good for vehicle seats without head rests.
  • Some models can be adjusted as your child grows.
  • Some models can be used up to 50 kg (110 lb.) or 145 cm (57 inches).
  • Can only be used with lap-shoulder seat belts.
  • Can only be used by children over 18 kg (40 lb).
Backless Booster




  • Costs less than a high-back booster.
  • Good for vehicle seats with head rests.
  • Some models can be used up to 45 kg (100 lb.) or 145 cm (57 inches).
  • Can only be used with lap-shoulder seat belts.
  • Can only be used by children over 18 kg (40 lb).

Things to Do Before You Buy


Buy your car seat in Canada.

National Safety Mark Sticker 

National Safety Mark sticker

All safety seats sold and used in Canada must have a National Safety Mark. The sticker is found on the side or bottom of the car seat. Car seats bought in the United States or another country will not have a National Safety Mark sticker and can’t be used here. Less expensive seats meet the same safety standards as higher priced seats.

Buy a seat that fits your child with room to grow

The manufacturer's instructions and labels on the car seat or booster seat state the weight and height of children that the seat will protect. Make sure your child’s weight and height are within these limits, with room to grow.

Try the car seat

Place your child in the car seat and buckle them up. If your baby is not born yet, use a doll or teddy bear. Adjust the harness. If you find it hard to adjust, try a different car seat. Since car seats come in many sizes, not all car seats fit in all vehicles. Ask to try the car seat in your vehicle before you buy it. The best car seat for you and your child is one that fits in your vehicle, and that you can and will use correctly every time.

Borrowing or buying a used car seat

Buying a used car seat is not a good idea. Used seats may be missing parts, damaged, recalled,​ or expired, and may not meet current safety standards. If you’re thinking about borrowing a car seat, make sure you find out its history. Any seat involved in a crash should be replaced. There may be no signs of damage, but small cracks or weakened areas can make the car seat unsafe.

Check for recalls

Call the manufacturer, or check their website, with the seat name, model number, and date of manufacture, to find out if your safety seat has been recalled. Go to the Transport Canada website to find out about recalls.

After you buy a seat, check for how to use it correctly.

If you still have questions call Health Link at 811.​

​​​

Current as of: October 30, 2017

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services