Whether you are about to become a new parent or have gone around the block a few times and are simply in need of a new car seat, the purchase decision can feel like an intimidating task. After all, your infant, toddler, or small child depends on you to make the right choice.
A quick online search can pop up everything from product recall news to changing provincial regulations and a swath of conflicting consumer reviews. Thankfully, you’ve parked here, where Park Insurance has mapped out everything you need to know about buying the right car seat for your little one.
5 Things BC Residents Need to Know to Make an Educated Choice About Buying a Car Seat
1. BC Law Regarding Child Seating and Restraint Systems
- Infants – We know that it can be emotionally tough not to have your newborn/infant face you when driving, but it is required that they sit in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 12 months old and over 9kg (20 lbs). You can purchase a headrest mirror so that your child is able to see you, but that is for their benefit alone, as you will need to keep your eyes on the road at all times. View this Transport Canada webpage on how to properly install a rear-facing car seat.
- Toddlers – Required to sit in forward-facing car seats when your child is at least a year old and over 9 kg (20 lbs). They should continue to be buckled into this type of seat until they are 18 kg (40 lbs). View this Transport Canada webpage on how to properly install a forward-facing car seat.
- Under 9 – Required to be in booster seats with seat belts when the child is under nine years of age or until they have reached the height of 145 cm (4’9”) tall. View this Transport Canada webpage on how to properly install a booster seat.
After the age of 9, a properly adjusted seat belt is all that is required. Remember that the shoulder strap should cross the middle of the chest and shoulder, away from your child’s neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, but not across the belly.
2. Register for a Car Seat Clinic
Now that you know the age/size car requirements for your child, it is a good idea to either learn or get a refresher on how to correctly install a car seat in your vehicle, and position your child within. By becoming better educated on the process, you not only ensure optimal safety for your child, you will gain product knowledge that will help you make a more informed choice when visiting a retailer.
3. Know Current Safety Recalls
Before you head to a retailer, get up to date on current car seat safety recalls (and expirations). You can’t depend upon the retailer alone to pull all applicable items off of the sales floor. Use this database to search for safety recall information by make, model, and year.
Transport Canada has also provided a list of recent public notices and consumer information notices for when there is a general issue with a car seat or booster restraint that does not directly relate to compliance or a defect.
Another way to be proactive, is to set a Google alert for concerns regarding car seat and booster recalls. Simply log into your Gmail account and set a Google alert for the following terms:
- car seat recall Canada
- booster seat recall Canada
4. Reference Consumer Reports
One more thing you can do before driving on down to your local retailer, is to check ratings at ConsumerReports.org. It’s also a good idea to perform an online search for “best car seats Canada” and “best booster seats Canada” which will deliver results that will give you some additional insight into concerns outside of the standard requirements, including comfort and ease of installation. Visit multiple websites and look for consistencies in the reviews to help you make an educated consumer choice.
5. Buying an Approved Car Seat or Booster
Reputable retailers in BC are only permitted to sell car seats that meet Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which include Motor Vehicle Restraint Systems and Booster Seats Safety Regulations. These standards require that any car seat or booster manufactured for sale in Canada (or imported into Canada) must be certified and clearly labelled to indicate that they are in compliance. That provides you with the confidence you need when walking into a store to make this all-important purchase.
But like many parents, you may be looking to keep your budget in check by buying a car seat or booster on the secondary market, taking to Craigslist or other local classified ad periodical. What then? You need to verify the car seat’s compliance by looking for the National Safety Mark which is made evident by a clearly placed sticker near the base of the seat. Don’t let any secondary market seller tell you that the sticker simply came off. If it’s not there, or looks like it has been tampered with in any way, don’t buy. At the bare minimum, the car seat must have the following seal:
In addition to the National Safety Mark, the manufacturer will have other stickers with information that indicate warnings, instructions, and height/weight requirements. If these are not present when purchasing on the secondary market, it may be a warning sign. While it is not recommended that you buy a used car seat, it is not realistic to expect that some parents will not do so, so at the very least please do look for the above indicators of quality and safety and remember to consider recent recalls (as per item #3 above).
Another way parents look to cut costs is by buying across the border. While the cost savings and selection can make it tempting, Transport Canada and Health Canada explicitly warn consumers against it. Save those shopping trips to Washington State for diapers and animal crackers instead.