Car seats are one of the most important—and often most confusing—baby items we purchase for our little ones. Before making that big purchase, it’s important to make sure you understand all the information on and about the car seat you plan to buy.
All car seats will come with labels that include information on how to use the seat properly. Here’s exactly what to look for and how to decode common car seat labels.
Weight & Height Restrictions
First and foremost, the label on your car seat should come with weight and height information for the specific seat. This is very important when determining if the car seat will work for your kiddo. It’s also helpful when determining if your little one is ready to change car seats.
You can typically find this information on a sticker attached to the back or side of your seat.
Manufacture & Expiration Date
This is called the tracking label. It will include all manufacturer information including the manufacturer's name, address, phone number, model and/or model number and serial number. This will be helpful when registering your car seat and checking any recall information.
Another important part of this label is the expiration date (AKA ‘Do Not Use After’). This is important to note and keep in mind before purchasing; You want to make sure you’re not using an expired seat and that you’re getting as much time out of your specific seat as possible. If you do not see an expiration date on your tracking label, you can find how many years your seat is good for in the car seat manual.
Every car seat should also include an outline of basic installation information. This will include baseline information on how to correctly install the seat, as well as where important installation features are located—such as seat belt pathways and lower anchor pathways.
Depending on your seat, there may also be accompanying labels showing you how to use different parts of the seat like the harness and tether systems. While these labels are helpful, it’s best to look over your car seat and vehicle manual for in-depth installation instructions.
Level indicators can be found on the base or side of your car seat. Some stick out like a bubble (and are called buble level indicators) while others are just a colored line. They are used to ensure your seat is level and reclined properly.
If you have a bubble level indicator, your car seat will be level when the bubble on the level indicator is between the level lines. If you have a colored line, you can ensure your car seat is level by positioning the car seat so that the level line is level with the ground.
For more information on where and how to do this for your specific car seat, review the car seat product manual.
Safety Standards, Registration and Aircraft Use
As the name suggests, this label will cover any safety standards and registration information for your specific car seat. If will also include information about aircraft use including whether it can be used on an aircraft and how exactly to use it. Not all car seats will have this, but if yours does, you can typically find it in red on the side of your car seat.
Other Car Seat Labels to Look Out For
On top of the labels mentions above, there are several other car seat labels you should see before purchasing your car seat:
- NHTSA Warning Label
- Airbag label (all rear facing car seats)
- Harness warning label (all infant carriers)
If the car seat you’re buying does not display the info above or the label has been removed, then it likely isn’t compliant with federal safety standards and you shouldn’t buy it.
Also, be on the lookout for any counterfeit products by noticing if anything looks off on the car seat labels. If a product is counterfeit, you may notice:
- Misspelled or unrecognizable brand name
- Label not primarily in English (if it has English and another language that is OK)
- Non-US telephone number
- Incorrect grammar and spelling
How to Register Your Car Seat
Using information from the tracking label with all of the manufacturer information, you can (and should) register your car seat. Registering your car seat ensures that you’re notified of any future recalls.
To register your car seat, visit your car seat manufacturer’s website. You can check for any current recalls, by entering your car seat brand name or model here.
For more car seat safety information and resources, check out our other guides: