Car Seats: FSA Eligibility
What should I look for when shopping for car seats?
While car seats do not have a legitimate medical purpose and are not eligible for reimbursement through consumer-driven healthcare accounts, they are one of the most important purchases new parents can make for the safety of their child. Having a car seat that's appropriate for a child's size and age can possibly mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation, so making an informed choice is crucial. Parents should be mindful of the following before purchasing a car seat via National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Read Vehicle Owner's Manual: How the car seat will be installed in the vehicle is an important variable when choosing a car seat, as most seats will attach to seat belts or a LATCH (Low Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. The owner's manual will detail instructions for the safest possible installation method, as well as the relevant dimensions to the vehicle's seating to help refine the search for the ideal seat.
- Age/Weight: A car seat will do little to protect a child who has outgrown it, so it's vital that parents choose the right seat for their height and weight. The three most common types are rear-facing seats (newborns and infants), forward-facing seats (children must be at least 2 years old) and booster seats (for children under 40 lbs. until they are able to use adult seatbelts), each of which have their own unique height/weight specifications.
- Ease of Installation: Car seats will be transported in and out of vehicles constantly, so ensuring that they can be installed and removed quickly is a major consideration. Pay particular attention to the belt or LATCH path for easy installation/removal, the structure of the retainer clips to ensure they will stay in place and not be unfastened by children, and harness adjusters that are simple to use and easy to tighten/loosen while the child is in the seat.
- Simple to Clean: Car seats will see a constant barrage of milk, juice, snacks and other beverages/foods over their lifetimes, so having one that can stand up to daily abuse of infants and toddlers is another important selling point. Avoid car seats with textured fabric like corduroy that could trap small bits of food and may be difficult to clean and instead opt for smooth fabrics that can wipe clean quickly.