Alberta & BC Rockies Transportation & Cars: Car Shopping Tips for New and Expecting Parents
If you have -- or are expecting -- a newborn and are now looking for a family-friendly vehicle, there are a few additional considerations. Because child and baby seats are now mandatory for children travelling by car, as a parent you want to test the daily use of your child's car seat as part of your test drive:
- Buy your car seat before shopping for a car
Only a properly installed car seat can protect your baby from injury or death, yet studies show that around 80% of child seats (in the US) are improperly used or installed. Not all back seats properly accommodate a car seat, so take your car seat to the dealership and try installing it. A correctly and tightly installed car seat will move no more than an inch in any direction. New cars and seats have the LATCH (also known as ISOFIX) system; use it. If you have a convertible seat, test both rear- and front-facing installation.
- Try getting the baby in and out of the car.
You're going to be hoisting your child in & out of the car for a few years, so make sure the vehicle is suitable. For car seats with detachable carriers, test getting the carrier in and out of the car with some weight in the carrier (5-10 kilograms, like a couple of sugar bags). If your seat does not detach, bring a life-size baby doll (or a life-size baby) and try putting the baby into the seat and taking baby out again. In some cars, this may involve getting into the car with no-hands and/or some very interesting balance and acrobatics.
- Stow the stroller.
There should be enough storage space for your stroller or carriage (and kiddie-care amenities, toys, diapers, bottle…) as well as the usual cargo (shopping, groceries, etc.). Try lifting the stroller in and out of the trunk or cargo bay a few times, to see how comfortable it is.
- Check the rear and rear-side window.
Some sedans and coupes have deeply-sloped rear windows that allow sunlight to stream down on a rear-facing child seat, which could cause sunburn, other heat-related injuries, or eye damage. You may need to invest is some sun shades for these windows (many come with those "baby on board" stickers, or vice versa)
- Check door handles and locks.
Try a full baby-carrying dress rehearsal, getting a bay, baby seat and cargo into the car with doors locked, and then reverse it, getting all three out of the car and locking the doors. Ease of use and locking/unlocking is key once the child gets more mobile and more difficult to control in this process. Check that the locks have an optional child safety feature (which prevents accidental unlocking of back doors from inside the car).
- Take a ride in the back.
From time to time, you, your spouse/partner, a friend, or grandparent may want to ride in the back next to baby (or may have to…think family get-togethers!). Part of your test drive should include a ride in the back seat next to the strapped-in child seat, to see if the seat takes up more space than expected, and that adults can get in and out easily.
- Check out two-door vehicles.
If considering a 2-door vehicle, many coupes and hatchbacks have both wider door openings and front seats that slide forward to make enough of room to get baby in & out. On the other hand, coupes have longer doors, which are a problem in tight parking lots.
Car seat inspections
In Canada, call 1-866-FIT-4-A-KID,