Buying a child car seat or booster seat

From Transport Canada

It is important to choose the right stage of child car seat for your child. Each province and territory has its own restrictions for child car seat and booster seat use. Your model of seat will also have its own restrictions.

Some child car seats fit more than one stage. It is safest to keep your child in each stage for as long as possible.

It is a good idea to register your new seat with the manufacturer. It is also important to replace the seat if it is damaged, expired, or was in a car involved in a collision.

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Learn the four stages of child car seat use

There are four stages of child car seat and seat belt use for children, as shown in the chart below. All car seats are different. Check the manufacturer's manual and the labels on the seat to find out if your child is the appropriate weight and height for the seat.

  • Stage 1: Rear-facing seats – use until your child outgrows the car seat's weight/height limits. 
  • Stage 2: Forward-facing seats – use until your child outgrows the car seat's weight/height limits. 
  • Stage 3: Booster seats – use until your child outgrows the booster seat's weight/height limits.
  • Stage 4: Seat belts – use once your child outgrows the booster seat's weight/height limits.

Stage 1: Rear-facing seats are placed at a 45-degree angle so that your baby's head is supported. This makes it easier for them to breathe. A snug harness will keep your baby safe in a sudden stop or crash.

Keep your child in the rear-facing seat for as long as they are still in the weight/height range of the seat.

Stage 2: Forward-facing seats have harness straps that are narrower than a vehicle seat belt and fit children's small shoulders.

As long your child is still in the weight/height range of the seat itself, you can still safely use the child seat.

Stage 3: Booster seats are designed to allow seat belt use by children who no longer need forward-facing seats. The booster seat positions a child so that the seat belt fits properly over the lap and shoulder.

Stage 4: Seat belts are used when children are tall enough to use a seat belt that is properly positioned over their lap and shoulder without needing a booster seat.

Choose the right child car seat or booster seat for your child

Steps for buying a seat:

  1. Use the information about the four stages of child car seat use to find out which seat is right for your child. It is safest to keep your child in each stage for as long as possible.
  2. Make sure your child fits the weight and height limits for the seat model you are thinking of buying.
  3. Check the fit by placing your child in the seat and making sure he or she is comfortable.
  4. Make sure that the car seat can be installed properly in your vehicle.
  5. Download the checklist for buying a child car seat or booster seat.

Note: Each province and territory has its own restrictions for child car seat and booster seat use. Check the web site of your provincial/territorial government, or contact its department for motor vehicles.

Avoid cross-border shopping for child car seats

The National Safety Mark (sample shown below) indicates that a child car seat is certified to Canadian safety standards, which are different from other standards.

It is illegal to import, sell, or use child car seats and booster seats in Canada that do not have this mark.

Parents are strongly advised to buy a seat only from a Canadian retailer to make sure the seat meets Canada's rigorous regulations for safety. For more information, read Child car seat cross border shopping – what parents and caregivers should know.

Register your child car seat or booster seat

You should register your new seat with the manufacturer after buying it. Registering with the manufacturer is the only way that you will receive notices about any safety recalls affecting the product. There are two ways to register:

Note: You can also access safety recall notices directly on the Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls Database.

Replacement of child car seats or booster seats

If your child has outgrown a seat, replace it with one that fits.

Dispose of your child car seat or booster seat if:

If the shell or webbing of the seat is torn or damaged, contact the manufacturer to check whether you should replace the seat.

See Safety recalls, notices, and testing for child car seats if you need information on finding recalls or public notices related to your model of seat.

Contact us for more child car safety information

Transport Canada
Motor Vehicle Safety
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N5

Telephone:

  • 1-800-333-0371 (toll-free)
  • 613-998-8616 (Ottawa area)

Fax: 1-613-998-4831

E-mail: mvs-sa@tc.gc.ca

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