What Is The Difference Between an Infant, Convertible, All-In-One, and Booster Car Seat?

Car Seat Differences

When you start looking for a car seat for your child, you’ll quickly realize there are thousands of options out there. It can be really confusing, especially with each brand claiming their products are the best! This guide is designed to help you differentiate between infant car seats, convertibles, all-in-ones and boosters, so you can narrow down your search to the right category!

Why Do You Need a Car Seat for Your Child?

Baby Car Seat

Car seats are special seats that you can install in your car so your child can travel with you safely, comfortably, and legally. But as mentioned, you have a plethora of options. You can find different types of models and different car seat products, but not all are effective for your child.

To make the most out of a car seat for your baby, you have to take into account their age, weight, height, and whether or not you will need to remove the car seat from your car often (for example, if you will use the same seat in two different cars). You will find certain features in each model, and deciding whether these features are useful or not will depend on your personal needs and expectations.

Keep in mind that the legal requirements for car seats and booster seats might differ from one state to another, so you have to check the legislation in your area and follow it accordingly.

Different Types of Car Seats On The Market

There are four different types of car seats available for your child, but you have to choose the one that your kid can benefit from the most.

We will talk about each of these types and let you know what age your baby can use them best. Then, once you go through all the types of car seats for your child, you will know exactly the category you should look at!

Infant car seat

Flexfit Infant Car Seat

Designed for

Infant car seats are made for infants, and the seats can be used from birth until around two years old. It is designed for kids with a height and weight of 32 in and 4 pounds to 35 pounds. But the limitation still depends on the model of the car seat.

Although the general rule is that your infant seat should only be used until your child reaches the age of two, you can use it a little longer.  This is as long as your child’s within the product’s weight limit.

When your baby outgrows the infant seat, you will have to change the infant car seat to a car seat meant for toddlers.

Position

Infant car seats are intended to be installed in the rear-facing position only.

Installation

Installing an infant car seat is usually easy as most of them have a Click and Go system. You can easily attach it to the car by itself or by using a base or multiple bases. The bases you use might differ from one car model to another, and the installation will also differ according to the product you purchase. So don’t forget to check the reviews too before buying.

For car seats that don’t have a base or a Click and Go system, you can usually install them by threading the seatbelt through specific points of the seat. This can be fiddly at first – and is definitely not an activity you want to engage in at 3am while you’re in labor on the way to the hospital! But with practice, you’ll find yourself threading and unthreading seatbelts like a pro.

Installation of car seat

Additional information

It’s possible to use an infant car seat is as a carrier, but you have to make sure you use it appropriately. For instance, it is not recommended to place your infant cart seat on the grocery cart, even if it is easy to attach. There is always the potential that your car seat could fall or jolt as you move the cart, and hurt your baby.

Convertible car seat

Convertible car seats

Designed for

Another type of baby car seat is the convertible seat, which can also be used from your child’s birth until they reach the maximum weight or height of the product.

The average weight and height limit for this car seat are up to 50 pounds and 49 inches.

Position

Unlike the classic infant car seat, the convertible car seat can be used in a rear-facing or forward-facing position, depending on your child’s age.

It is recommended to put your baby in a rear-facing position when they are below three years old.  Once they are three, you can switch to a forward-facing position if you prefer. However, research has shown that staying in a rear-facing position for as long as possible is better for your child’s safety.

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat position

Installation

Installing a convertible car seat in your car is not difficult as you don’t even need a base. Instead, it uses your car’s seat belt or LATCH system so you can directly install it in your car. 

Additional information

The shortcoming of convertible car seats for babies is that you can’t used them as carriers for small babies. Also, as they are larger and bulkier than infant car seats, convertible car seats might be difficult to switch from one car to another.

The general opinion regarding convertible car seats is that they are not ideal for young infants. But the fact that they are bulkier makes them look and feel very secure as long as you use them correctly.

Convertible Car Seat info

Booster car seat

Booster Car Seat

If you want a car seat for an older toddler, you might need to look at a booster seat. This type of seat pushes your child higher as they sit on the seat in the car, so that the seat belt fits them properly, or uses a harness to secure your child.

Designed for

There are different models of booster car seats that you can choose from. And depending on the model, you can use this seat for babies with a minimum weight of 30 pounds to 40 pounds.

Position

When using the booster seat, it should be in a forward-facing position.

Installation

As far as the installation of a booster car seat goes, some of these models are more difficult to install than others.

Additional information

You will find booster car seats that come with their own harness and buckles but also models that can be attached to your car’s seat belt. A good way to choose the best booster car seat is to have your child try it out before purchasing it. Your child’s height can help you decide between one model and another, giving you better chances to find the most effective product. 

A booster seat will be the final type of car seat you might need to purchase for your baby until they are ready to use only a seatbelt.

Graco Booster Seat info

As for the weight limits and height limits regarding a baby car seat, you will have to check the laws in your state. Then, choose a product that can accommodate your child’s needs according to the legislation in your state.

All-in-one car seat

All-in-one car seat

The all-in-one car seats, also known as 3-in-1 car seats for babies, are very popular among parents. These baby car seats can be a great alternative to convertible car seats, but they also have a booster feature.  

Designed for

The main advantage of an all-in-one car seat is that you can use it from your child’s birth until they are old enough to use a seatbelt only.

It is perfect for children weighing between 4 to  120 lbs.

Position

You can use them in a rear-facing position and forward-facing position.

Parents usually use rear-facing when their baby is under 50 pounds in weight and 49 inches in height.

Installation

You might not be a fan of the fact that all-in-one car seats tend to be more massive and a lot more difficult to move once you install them. All-in-one car seats are not portable, and you will not be able to attach them to your baby’s stroller or use them as a carrier. This means that you will have to pick your baby out of this car seat when you want to take them out of the car, and you can’t just remove them along with the car seat.

Additional information

These all-in-one car seats can come with impressive lifespans of up to ten years. This means you can save money along the way since you don’t have to change your baby car seat as your child grows. However, you still have to consider that this product will go through a lot of wear, tear, and spills during its lifespan. So, these car seats might get more damaged than you expect them to during so many years of use.

In addition, these seats usually have recline positions as a safety feature for your baby.

Britax All-in-One Car Seat info

Questions To Ask When Buying a Car Seat?

Now that you know the difference between an infant, convertible, all-in-one, and booster car seat, what else should you look for in a car seat?

Is this the most appropriate model?

Your child will transition from one car seat to another, so you should pick the best car seat for his age. Use the guidelines above when choosing the safest and suitable car seat model.

Will it give comfort to my baby?

You want safety features, but you also want to ensure your baby’s comfort throughout the ride. So when you search for a car seat, try looking into car seats that offer extra comfort, especially for infants. For example, there are car seats available that have extra padding or snuggly head support. Always ensure you use accessories that are approved by the manufacturer, as these will have been safety-tested.

How about safety features?

There are car seat models that offer extra security and protection for your child. For example, some seats have five-point harnesses for the safety of your little one. 

If you can, choose a car seat that offers an additional layer of protection.

infant car seat safety features

Does the car seat fit in your car?

You don’t want to waste your money by buying a car seat that doesn’t fit your vehicle. For instance, think carefully when choosing between an infant car seat vs. a convertible car seat. The convertible will last for longer, but it takes up more space. If you’re fitting it next to a booster seat for an older child, there won’t be much spare space on your back seat! Consider using an infant car seat in that case, until your baby has grown and your older child may have moved out of their booster.

fit car seat in car

Bottom Line

Car seats are essential – and it’s one of the most important things you can buy for your child.  You want to travel with them without concerns about their safety and comfort. And so, knowing which car seat is right for your baby is vital.

Use our guide to help pick the right car seat for you: one your baby can use the most and one that will make a good investment for you in the long run. Once you’ve chosen the right type of car seat, you can start looking at the extra features that make certain brands stand out!