Choosing a child car seat or booster seat

A child’s developmental stage, weight and height can help determine what type of child car seat is best suited for them:

Type of car seatStageWeight of childHeight requirement
Rear-facing child car seatBaby/infantUp to 9 kg (20 lb)None
Forward-facing child car seatToddler9-18 kg (20-40 lb)None
Booster seatUnder the age of 818-36 kg (40-80 lb)Under 145 cm (4 ft 9 in) tall

Your child can use a seatbelt alone when they reach any of the following milestones:

  • turns 8 years old
  • weighs 36 kg (80 lb)
  • reaches a height of 145 cm (4 ft 9 in) or more

Follow recommendations from the manufacturer

It’s safest to keep your child in a child car seat or booster seat until they reach the maximum weight and height limits of the child car seat.

Most child car seats do not allow the use of aftermarket products and advise to not dress the child in bulky clothing or sports gear as it can compromise the fit of the harness.

Always follow the recommended use set out by the manufacturer.

Watch a video

Watch this video for tips on choosing, installing and checking that a child car seat meets safety standards:

Video transcript

Buying a child car seat

When purchasing a child car seat or booster seat, check that it has:

Canadian motor vehicle safety standards label
  • a National Safety Mark label which indicates that the seat complies with Canadian regulations and standards and is legal for use in Canada
  • an expiry date or useful life date that has not past
  • all necessary components
  • instructions on how to use and install it
  • no signs of wear, torn harness straps, stress marks or cracks
  • never been in a collision

Installing a child car seat

For all child car seats, read the manufacturer’s instruction manual and your vehicle owner manual for proper use and installation.

Your child can remain in a rear-facing child car seat until they outgrow the weight and height limits. When switching to the next stage of child car seat, check that the child meets all the minimum requirements outlined by the manufacturer.

Rear-facing and forward-facing child car seats

  1. Place the child car seat in the back seat of the vehicle away from active airbags.
  2. For rear-facing seats, angle the seat according to the sticker or level indicator on the side or base of the seat. Use the appropriate recline level set out by the manufacturer.
  3. Feed the seatbelt or universal anchor system (UAS) through the appropriate belt path of the child car seat. Fasten it. There should be no more than 2.5 cm (1 in) of movement at the belt path. Be sure to check the UAS weight limits in the vehicle owner’s manual and the child car seat manufacturers instruction manual.
  4. Use the harness slots to position the straps:
    • for rear-facing child car seats, the harness straps need to be coming from the slot at or below the baby’s shoulders
    • for forward-facing, the harness straps need to be coming from the slot at or above the child’s shoulders
    Check that the straps are straight and do not twist or fold. The harness should be snug so that you can’t pinch any excess webbing.
  5. For forward-facing child car seats, fasten the top tether strap, which is located on the rear of the child car seat, to the appropriate anchor point in the vehicle.
  6. Center the chest clip on the harness at the child’s sternum (armpit level).
  7. Each time you place your child in the child car seat, check that the installation is still secure. Tighten the harness straps again if needed. If you are using a rear-facing child car seat with a base, make sure the child car seat latches into the base every time.

Booster seat

It’s safest to let the child outgrow the forward-facing child car seat before moving to a booster seat. Follow these steps to properly use your booster seat:

  1. Only use a booster seat in a vehicle seat position that has both a lap and shoulder seatbelt.
  2. Place the booster seat in the back seat away from an active airbag.
  3. Adjust the lap and shoulder belts. The shoulder strap lies centred across your child’s shoulder (not the neck or face) and middle of the chest. The lap belt crosses low over the hips (not stomach). Do not use seatbelt adjusters.
  4. Make sure your child's head is supported by the top of the booster seat, the vehicle seat or the headrest.

Seatbelt tips for children

When using a seatbelt on a child:

  • seat children under 13 in the back seat of your vehicle
  • each child should have their own seatbelt
  • make sure the shoulder strap lies centred across your child's shoulder and the middle of the chest (not the neck or face) and the lap belt crosses over the hips (not the stomach)
  • check that the shoulder strap is not under your child's arm or behind their back

Fines and penalties

In Ontario, all drivers — including visiting drivers — must make sure that children under the age of 16 wear a seatbelt and children under the age of 8 are properly secured in the correct child car seat or booster seat.

You can be charged under the Highway Traffic Act for failing to secure a child under your care. If convicted, you can face:

  • fine of $240
  • two demerit points on your driving record

Exemptions from Ontario's child car seat requirements

Some drivers are exempt from the legal requirements of child car seats and booster seats including drivers of:

  • a taxicab transporting a passenger for hire except when:
    • transporting children for personal reasons
    • operating a taxi while under contract with a school board or other authority for the transportation of children
  • bus or public vehicle transporting a passenger for hire
  • an ambulance as defined in section 61 of the Highway Traffic Act
  • vehicles that only have lap belts (exempted from using booster seats only)

Transporting a child with special needs

For children with special needs, alternative restraints must comply with federal safety standards and can include:

  • car beds
    • premature infants born at less than 37 weeks
    • low birth weight infants at less than 2,500 g (about 5.5 lb)
  • Snug Seat Hippo
    • children requiring casts
  • EZ-On Vest (safety vest)
    • children at least 2 years old
    • weigh between 9 and 76 kg (20-168 lb) with:
      • poor trunk control
      • certain casts
      • children diagnosed with a developmental disability
  • Modified EZ-On Vest (safety vest)
    • children 2 to 12 years old
    • weigh between 9 and 45 kg (20-100 lb)
    • who must travel lying down

Car seat recalls

You can find car seat recalls for safety issues — including manufacturer information and models — by visiting Transport Canada.