Review and photos by Mark Atkinson, additional photos by Autos.ca staff
New Parent Car Shopping Tips. Click image to enlarge
First-time parents-to-be are flooded with enough information and opinions to give anyone a serious case of anxiety. Bottle or breast feed? Cloth or disposable diapers? Simple monitor or military-grade sensors to detect a thousandth of a degree ambient temperature change and high-definition night-vision camera?
If you’re shopping for a new vehicle at the same time, the questions multiply. Will my stroller fit in the trunk? How far will I have to reach to drag the car-seat out? Will there be enough storage? How easy is the interior to clean – ’cause we all know the number of mystery fluids and stains that appear with new babies… And while the immediate, logical answer to most is “minivan”, there’s an obvious stigma here that some parents just can’t overcome.
If you can find the time between birth-plan meetings with your doula, we’ve assembled a good list of things to consider, starting with car seats, pros and cons of various vehicle styles and sizes and plenty more. Have a read.
Car seats and new regulations
Child seat regulations are changing constantly, and there are plenty of things to consider. Car seats now have significantly more side-impact protection and – thanks to the epidemic of childhood obesity – are built for kids who are larger and heavier than ever before.
When my wife and I were shopping for car seats, we did all the research, figured out what we wanted and ended up buying one that was the only seat that was built to sit comfortably in an airplane seat, and could be folded up for easier transporting. The downside? It weighed as much as an old Buick. It was able to be used from infant through until high school, which helped in theory, but we didn’t consider things like being able to easily take our daughter out. Doubly difficult when she was asleep. We lasted only 10 days like that before agreeing to look for a standalone infant seat with a detachable base that stayed in the car, and most importantly, a handle to haul her around without having to take her out of the seat.
If we’d been smarter about things, we could have either bought a 3-in-1 with a handle already, or picked up the infant seat earlier, saving stress during an already stressful time. So although it’s tough to think that far ahead, keep in mind things like whether you’ll ever need a second seat for another kid, and if it’ll play nice with others… The good news is that expiry dates – and yes, child seats do have expiry dates – are generally in the seven- to nine-year range. That means as long as the seat and belts are in good shape and it hasn’t been in an accident, it’s safe to reuse for other kids.
Child seats may use seat belts or LUAS anchors, with or without a top tether. Some seats, such as the Clek Foonf, use all three.
Cars built after 2002 should have what are called Lower Universal Anchorage System (known as LATCH in the US), which are essentially pre-installed metal clips welded securely to the vehicle’s frame. They are easier to use and generally offer better seat positioning than using the car’s seatbelt. In either case, you still have to use the child seat’s top tether for forward-facing installation, which keeps your child and the seat from tipping forward in a collision.
Just like cars themselves, the LUAS anchors and how easy they are to access varies hugely, even in vehicles with families in mind. Some use plastic covers over the connectors, others use fabric flaps, and some bury them between an obvious seam in the rear seat itself.
The latest regulations now say that the LUAS shouldn’t be used after the combined weight of your kid and the car seat exceeds 30 kg (65 pounds.) It really shouldn’t matter for new parents since the new laws are aimed at older kids, but like knowing when a car seat expires, it’s good information for any parent to have.