Congratulations! You are about to have the ride of your life.
Of course you’re dreaming of what your baby will look like. And you can’t wait for that first smile. You’ve probably registered for gifts, decorated a nursery, and researched EVERYTHING! You’ve selected a car seat that will keep your baby safe while traveling to and from doctor’s appointments, play dates, and occasional road trips. And that’s when you realize that cute little car you’ve been driving isn’t practical for a growing family. And that brand new car seat won’t fit.
How do you decide which car will best meet your family’s needs?
Look at safety ratings, ease of access installing a car seat, features that utilize all available technology for safety, as well as interior features that will maximize comfort for your family. Find a car that meets all your requirements, then compare those with your budget and future plans for your family. If you plan to have more children in the future, you’ll want to search for cars that fit multiple car seats without a problem.
Safety, safety, safety!
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conduct crash tests and rate cars based on reliability in various scenarios. These are both good resources. Don’t just check safety ratings, check to see how many safety features are offered. A car with the blind spot warning feature will flash a light on the side mirror when another car is in your blind spot. Some cars come with forward collision warning, automatic braking, rearview cameras, and parking systems. Systems such as OnStar (GM models), BlueLink (Hyundai models) and Sync (Ford) have great convenience features and many will automatically call 911 if you hit the emergency button or a crash is detected.
Let’s talk car seats and LATCH systems
Take that new car seat along when you’re shopping for cars to see how easily it can be installed. All newer model cars come with the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system, known as LATCH. Make sure you can locate the LATCH connectors on the seats and check to see if there are Tethers. The lower anchors are used in place of a seatbelt to keep the car seat securely locked into place without threading the seatbelt through the back. The upper tethers are used to further secure the seat in the car and can be used with or without the seatbelt. The connectors for the tethers can be located on the roof of the cargo area or on the back side of the seat. Some SUVs and Minivans only have LATCH systems in the 2nd row, so you will need to check the 3rd row to see if there is a connector there as well. Not all LATCH systems are created equal! One car may have the connectors exposed and will be easy to find. Other cars have them hidden in the seat and can be very difficult to install the car seat.
Many people install car seats only using the seatbelt, studies have shown. What’s the difference? A LATCH system will not only keep the car seat tightly secured, but it will prevent the car seat from being ejected from the car in a crash in the event that the seat belt can’t prevent this (or is compromised). Also, it might be easy for the seatbelt anchoring the car seat to be accidentally unbuckled by the child or another passenger, but it’s nearly impossible for them to accidentally untether a car seat from a LATCH connector.
Everyone is safe and the car seat is installed. It’s time to get comfortable
You will need a car with enough room to carry a stroller and all of baby’s gear. Check the cargo space or trunk if you’re looking at a sedan. Make sure you have room for the stroller and more. Babies are small, but they come with a lot of stuff!
Keyless entry, a hands-free lift gate and a height adjustable lift gate are great features to help when hands are full. The height of the car will make a difference when getting baby in and out, and loading the stroller. For a person of average height, a low car means back problems and a high car means shoulder problems. Try getting the car seat in and out of a car several times before buying. It won’t take long to notice if the height is wrong for you. Check how many air vents the car has and where they are placed. Air vents in the back will help cool the car down quickly in the hot summer months. This can mean the difference between a screaming baby and a comfortable one.
Don’t forget to plan ahead
When purchasing a new car, take into consideration the possibility of more children and where they will fit into this car. Is there enough room for multiple car seats? Are there enough LATCH systems in the car to accommodate more car seats? Even if you only plan to have one child, there may be times you need to drive other children. It is a good idea to have room for an extra car seat. Also consider back seat leg room. Your tiny baby will grow into a child with long legs. If you don’t want to be kicked in the back constantly, check the leg room between the back seat and front.
No matter which car you choose, you’re in for a wild and wonderful ride as new parents. Embrace every moment, hold on tight and enjoy the ride!
Yes, there is a minivan that is also environmentally sensitive. Check out the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Plug-In
Win a Britax ClickTight Child Car Seat
Could you use a brand new car seat? We are giving two of them away! Contest rules: Entries must be completed by 11:59PM CT, June 5, 2017. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents; winners will be notified by email by June 6, 2017. Prize value approximately $275 each; a total of two (2) car seats will be awarded to two (2) separate winners.