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When you can move your child out of an infant car seat

Tara Baukus MelloDear Driving for Dollars,
I love the convenience of my 1-year-old's infant car seat with the base that stays in the car and the seat that can just click into place. I love how I can move her when she's sleeping, without disturbing her, whether it's to bring her in the house or to pop her in the stroller -- seat and all. How long can I wait before I have to move her from the infant car seat to the other kind of children's car seat?

-- Sophia
Baby in green car seat | Jamie De Pould/Moment/Getty Images

Dear Sophia,
The general rule of thumb always has been that it becomes necessary to move a child to the next size of car seat when he or she outgrows the height and/or weight requirements as stated by the manufacturer of the child seat.

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While this is still true, new research by Consumer Reports has found that it is better to move your little one sooner rather than later.

Testing on a variety of car seats

New tests by the nonprofit found that the average 12-month-old was less likely to experience a head injury in a convertible car seat versus the infant car seat like the one you are currently using. A convertible car seat is a seat that can be used rear-facing, as well as forward-facing when the child is old enough. It is mounted directly into the car versus snapping into a base that is mounted in the car.

Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of convertible car seats installed rear-facing with a 22-pound dummy with the average height and weight of a 12-month-old and found the dummy experienced a head strike against the simulated front seat back in just 1 of the 25 models it tested (4% of the time), while previous tests of infant car seats with the same dummy resulted in a head strike in 16 of the 30 models tested, or 53% of the time.

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Don't turn child forward-facing

So, while your 1-year-old may still fit just fine in her current infant seat and while you may love the convenience, it seems that it is safer to move her to the next level of car seat.

However, don't be tempted to turn her forward-facing just yet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping all kids rear-facing in cars until age 2. It's also a law in several states.

Did you know that 73% of car seats are not used or installed correctly, according to Safe Kids Worldwide? Learn what you might be doing wrong with these 5 common car-seat mistakes.

Ask the adviser

If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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