If you have a big car, buying anything is a breeze. You have more room space for groceries, stroller and what-nots, all together (we even know some who pack their swing/cradle and playard!), AND you certainly do not have to worry about your car seat not being able to fit in your car.
Small car owners, you know the struggle - how many times have you bought a car seat online, only to have to return it later because it doesn't fit in your car? It doesn't help that most car seats only show their height and weight limits and and not their exact size dimensions!
And lets not get into rear-facing car seat in a small car. The extra space and approved safety angle to adhere to often means you are left with not much space to even fit yourself in the front seats.
We have now come up with a list of the best car seats for small cars to make your car seat buying experience a less painful one. With these, you no longer have to contemplate upsizing your car. They are mostly convertible ones, and if you don't know what these are, we have put together a short explanation for you below.
1. What is A Convertible Car Seat?
To put it very simply, a convertible car seat is one that allows you to convert from rear-facing to forward-facing.
If you do not already know, babies start from rear-facing before switching to forward-facing when they grow older. There's a more detailed explanation guideline below, so definitely check that out if you want to learn more about this.
2. Benefits of Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are the type that we'd recommend getting for your small car because that way, you do not need to go through the buying experience twice when your little one graduates from rear-facing. Other benefits include:
- Convenience - Like we said, you just need to buy once and that's it. From infant to toddler, there is no need for multiple car seats at different ages.
- Value - Convertible car seats grow with your child until he doesn't need one anymore.
- Versatility - Some include a booster seat for school-age children which again, is a true value of your investment.
Let us now look at what is the best convertible car seat for small cars in the market.
3. Top 8 Best Car Seat for Compact Car
Best Convertible Car Seat 2017
4. What to Look for to Find the Best Compact Car Seat
Having read our convertible car seat reviews, you should now have a fair bit of idea of which model to get. If you are still confused, the following criteria may assist you to find the one for you:
Size. This is a no brainer. Given your compact car is the issue to start with, you should always first look at the size of the car seat you intend to buy. Our review above provides most of the dimensions required to give you a good gauge, though we'd recommend measuring the exact car space you have before making your purchase.
Psst, if your car is really mini (we're talking about Beetle, Fiat kind of mini) and none of the above really fits, then your last option will be the Combi Coccoro Convertible Car Seat. It has the smallest dimension at just 15.5 inches wide and 18 inch front to back so it will fit in even the smallest of small car. Mind that you will have to compromise on something though, and that is weight capacity. The maximum you can go is 33 pounds (rear-facing) and 40 pounds (front-facing) so this is really for the newborns. The Combi Coccoro makes for the best infant convertible car seat for the really small and compact car.
Booster. This may be your second point for consideration. How long do you intend to use your car seat? If you want your toddler to sit in one for as long as it fits, you will want to find those that can be converted into booster seat. All-in-one like the Graco 4ever or 3-in-1 like the Safety 1st Grow and Go have amongst the best booster car seat that make them the best car seat for 5 year old and best car seat for 6 year old in the market.
Price. Of course, you will want to buy according to your budget. If you cannot afford or do not want to spend $200-$300 on a car seat (though we'd say such price is usually justified, at least the ones we chose in our best car seat reviews above), there are a number of convertible car seats that are at a more affordable range such as the Evenflo Tribute LX Convertible and Safety 1st Guide 65, both of which are below $100. Don't worry, we have already filtered out the inferrer ones so you can have peace of mind that these car seats are good in quality, without breaking the bank.
Installation easeness. Do not underestimate this in your consideration factors. A car seat that is difficult to install is actually a hindrance to many parents. Lucky for you, we have done the hard work of eliminating the impossible ones, leaving only the easy-to-install in the above recommendations for you to choose from (this particular one from Britax is really the champion out of all).
Safety features. This is probably the least you have to worry about because while most car seats are already designed with safety in mind, you can be certain that the ones we reviewed and recommended above have definitely met the standard safety requirements and beyond for you to shop with peace of mind.
5. Rear-facing 101 Guideline
Have you ever wondered why some car seats face the front, while some others are rear facing?
They are not just for aesthetic or your preference or convenience, but they serve one very important reason - safety.
Rear-facing car seats are mandated for newborns and infants because they provide the best support to a child's head, neck and spine, which are still quite soft as they are still developing. They prevent your child's head from being thrown away from his body in the event of any sudden stop or worse, a car crash. It is only when they grow older that parents switch to a front-facing car seat. Now you know why rear-facing car seats are so popular!
In the past, many parents usually switch their children to forward facing when they reach 1 year of age. However, new guidelines in 2013 mandate children to sit rear-facing until they are 15 months old. Even more recent is that both the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend children to face backward until they outgrow their seat. This means most children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 or 3 years old.
When forward-facing, it is recommended that children use the built-in harness system of the car seat for as long as possible until even the forward-facing weight/height is outgrown. If you think that's it, your child is ready to sit in the normal seat with seatbelt on, you are wrong. Authorities have advised that children should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat for ultimate safety until they reach at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. This is why you should try to look for car seats with the biggest weight and height limitation, like this and this.
So even though most 4-in-1 are pricier than other car seats, we think they are well worth it because like the Graco 4ever, it really lasts you forever (well, at least 10 years) from infant to toddler hood. The day you remove it completely off from your car is the day your child truly doesn't need one anymore.
Before you go, you may like to check out more the following: