According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for children under the age of 14. Fortunately, parents can greatly reduce this risk through the use of car seats. When used properly, a car seat cuts an infant's risk of death by 71 percent, with a 54 percent risk reduction for kids over the age of one [source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration].
Faced with these statistics, the question isn't whether or not to use a car seat, but how to choose the right one for your child. According to guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should ride in a car seat from birth until at least the age of eight, and some kids will need a car seat up to the age of 12.
Obviously, a tiny infant will have vastly different requirements than an older child when it comes to choosing a car seat. AAP recommends that infants ride in rear-facing seats until they reach the age of one and weigh at least 20 pounds (9 kilograms). Kids should then be placed in a front-facing car seat until they meet the maximum weight rating on that particular seat, usually 40 to 80 pounds (18 to 36 kilograms). From that point, children should sit in a booster seat until they're at least 4 feet 9 inches (144.76 centimeters) and can be safely restrained with a standard seatbelt [source: American Academy of Pediatrics].
Parents who follow the AAP's standards will find that their child needs three different types of car seats over the child's lifetime. Fortunately for parents (and their wallets), this doesn't necessarily mean you'll need three different car seats. Instead, parents can look for all-in-one products that replace individual car seats. With an all-in-one car seat, you can enjoy the benefits of both rear- and front-facing car seats, as well as a booster seat all-in-one unit. These combination products grow with your child from birth to 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms), converting to meet his or her needs with each new stage of development.
Convinced that all-in-one car seats are one of the most important home appliances you'll ever buy? Read on to learn about the different types that are available, and how to choose among them.