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Choosing and Installing a Car Seat


a car seat designed for a baby



A car seat is one of the essentials you'll need for your new baby.

Here's some advice on choosing and installing the right seat, the right way.

Car seats are required by law and must meet Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). Be sure to use an approved car seat every time your child travels in a vehicle.

When buying a car seat:

  • Look for the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) label. Do not buy a child seat in the United States – it won’t have this label.
  • Make sure you get the right type of seat for your child’s age and weight. Your child should be in a rear-facing seat until 12 months of age, however it is recommended that your child continues to use a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the upper weight and height limits for the car seat.
  • Look for a car seat that fits in your vehicle - install it in your vehicle before you buy it. Be sure it’s easy to use correctly every time.
  • Look for a car seat with at least two sets of shoulder-harness strap slots to allow room for growth. An infant car seat should also have two crotch strap slots to allow for adjustment as your child grows.

Second-hand car seats are not recommended. If you choose to buy one:

  • Have it inspected and checked for any possible recalls.
  • Make sure it meets CMVSS standards.
  • Check that it is the right type and size for your child.

Do not use a second-hand car seat if:

  • The CMVSS label is not attached, or the manufacturer’s instructions are missing
  • There are cracks in the plastic shell
  • The tubular frame is bent or rested at the rivet points.
  • It is older than 10 years or past the manufacturer’s expiry date. If no expiration date is present, check with the manufacturer.
  • A harness strap, tether strap, tether anchor or padded line is missing, frayed, torn or coming away from the seat.
  • You are unsure of the car seat’s history. It could have been damaged in a previous crash. A car seat which has been in a crash should no longer be used.

For more information, call Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0371.

Car Seat Workshops

The BCAA Road Safety Foundation offers a wealth of information about car seat safety including “New Parent Car Seat Workshops” that help you install and use your child’s seat properly. For more information call BCAA’s Child Car Seat Information Line at 1-877-247-5551 or visit the BCAA Road Safety Foundation website.

Correct installation of a car seat is critical for ensuring your baby’s safety. When installing a car seat:

  • Never place a child seat in the path of an active air bag. Put it in the back seat.
  • Follow the instructions in your vehicle’s owner manual and the car seat instructions. They contain important information for safe installation.
  • Maintain the correct reclining angle. The back of a rear-facing seat should be tilted to a maximum of 45 degrees so the baby’s head and body recline comfortably. If your baby’s head falls forward, the seat is too upright.
  • Secure the child seat with the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) or with the adult seat belt. If necessary, use a locking clip.
  • If you’re securing the child seat with your vehicle’s lap belt, make sure it’s long enough to go through the child seat’s frame or over the seat, according to the instructions.


  • When you leave the car for any reason, bring your baby with you. An infant should never be left alone in a vehicle for any length of time.
  • Never place a car seat in the front seat if there is an active air bag. If an air bag inflates, your baby could be seriously injured or killed.
  • Remove any loose, breakable and sharp objects from inside the vehicle.If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, transfer him/her to a safe sleep surface when you are finished travelling.

Resources & Links: 

HealthLink BC: Child Car Seats

Last Updated: January 26, 2018