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The Ultimate Guide to Car Seat Rules in Canada

By Yuri Sychov | Published on 29 Jun 2023

A pic of the car seat

    When it comes to child passenger safety, nothing should be taken lightly. As such, each Canadian province has implemented laws regarding the use of car seats for young passengers — albeit with a few slight variations from one province to another. Violating car seat rules in Canada can result in hefty fines, and most importantly, it may undermine your child’s safety, increasing the risk of injury. That is why being aware of Canadian car seat regulations is of utmost importance for every parent and caregiver.

    This article will cover car seat rules in Canada for different provinces and certain universal standards that apply across Canada. Plus, we will provide recommendations on maximizing your child’s safety and when switching to different car seat stages is better. So let’s get started.

    Child’s Safety and Car Seat Rules in Canada

    While car seat rules in Canada are created to minimize the risk of injury in the case of an accident and provide specific legal requirements for car seat usage depending on the physical characteristics of your child, you should keep several things in mind to ensure the highest degree of safety for your child.

    Firstly, It is paramount that you never rush to move from one car seat stage to another. Even if, according to Canadian law, your child no longer needs a rear-facing or forward-facing seat — keep using it for as long as they don’t outgrow the manufacturer’s height and weight restrictions. This should always be taken into consideration first and foremost.

    Another important thing to note is that Alberta has no legal requirements to use booster seats for young children traveling in vehicles. However, it is highly recommended that you do so. Failing to use booster seats may not have any repercussions under the law – but your child’s safety should always be your top priority.

    Also, you should always check the current car seat rules and regulations as they tend to change. Use primary legal sources, such as the Highway Traffic Act of your province, to keep up to date with the latest changes.

    Car Seat Rules By Province in Canada

    Now, let’s take a closer look at each individual Canadian province’s car seat regulations. Make sure you follow them when driving in each respective province.

    ProvinceRear-facing and forward-facing car seat requirementsBooster SeatsLegal SourceFines
    OntarioRear-facing (infant) until 9kg. Car seats (rear or forward-facing) between 9-18kg.Until 8 years, or 36kg, or 145cm. (4’ 9”)Highway Traffic Act Section 106 and Reg. 613: Seat Belt AssembliesC$240 and 2 demerit points
    QuebecUntil 9 years, or 145cm (4’ 9”), use a car seat appropriate for the child’s physical characteristics.Until 9 years, or 145cm (4’ 9”)Highway Safety Code Section 397 C$80-C$100 and 3 demerit points
    Nova ScotiaRear-facing (infant) until 1 year and 10kg. Car seats (rear or forward-facing) between 10-18kg.18kg+, until 9 years, or 145cm (4’ 9”)Seat Belt and Child Restraint System RegulationsC$180+ and 2 demerit points
    New BrunswickUntil 9 years, or 36kg, or 145cm (4’ 9”), use a car seat appropriate for the child’s physical characteristics.Until 9 years, or 36kg, or 145cm. (4’ 9”) Seat Belt Regulation (83-163) under the Motor Vehicle ActC$172.50 and 2 demerit points
    ManitobaUntil 9 years, or 36kg, or 145cm (4’ 9”), use a car seat appropriate for the child’s physical characteristics.Until 9 years, or 36kg, or 145cm. (4’ 9”)Highway Traffic Act s.189(9) and Regulation 89/2013C$299.65 and 2 demerit points
    British ColumbiaRear-facing (infant) until 1 year and 9kg, forward-facing for more than 1 year and less than 18kg More than 18kg, until 9 years, or 145cm. (4’ 9”) Section 36.03-36.09 of the Motor Vehicle ActC$167
    Prince Edward IslandRear-facing (infant) until 1 year and 10kg. Car seats (rear or forward-facing) between 10-18kg.More than 18kg, until 9 years, or 145cm. (4’ 9”) Highway Traffic Act Seat Belt RegulationsC$110 and 3 demerit points
    SaskatchewanUntil 18kg, use a car seat appropriate for the child’s physical characteristics.More than 18kg, until 7 years, or until 36kg and 145cm. (4’ 9”) Traffic Safety Act Section 248C$165 and 3 demerit points
    AlbertaUntil 6 years or 36kg, use a car seat appropriate for the child’s physical characteristics.Not legally requiredVehicle Equipment Regulation Sections 80-83C$162
    Newfoundland and LabradorRear-facing (infant) until 9kg. Car seats (rear or forward-facing) between 9-18kg. More than 18kg, until 9 years, or until 37kg and 145cm. (4’ 9”) Highway Traffic Act Section 178.1C$115 and 2 demerit points

    Car Seat Stages in Canada

    As children grow, they should progress through the various stages of car safety restraints to ensure their protection. This includes rear-facing seats for infants and toddlers, forward-facing seats as kids get older and bigger, and booster seats until they reach a certain height or weight. Let’s take a closer look at each car seat stage in Canada.

    Stage 1: Rear-Facing Car Seats

    Infants and young toddlers should be securely seated in rear-facing car seats to protect their delicate heads, necks, and spines. To ensure maximum safety for your precious little ones, it’s important to keep them buckled up until they reach the weight or height limit specified by the manufacturer – which can often extend beyond a year of age. A rear-facing car seat is an ideal way to ensure that a child’s body receives an even distribution of force during a collision.

    Stage 2: Forward-Facing Seats

    As children grow, they must transition from a rear-facing seat into one facing forward with a harness. This harness distributes the force of an accident across the body’s strongest points for maximum protection. Kids should remain in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the specified height and weight limits. When that happens, it’s time to move to a booster seat.

    Stage 3: Booster Seats

    Booster seats are designed to lift a child up so that the seat belt can be properly positioned across their body. It’s recommended that children keep using booster seats until they’ve grown enough for the car safety belt to fit securely without one. There are two main types of booster seats to choose from: high-back and backless. High-backs offer the added benefit of providing head and neck support, plus they’re great for cars without a proper headrest or with low seat backs. Meanwhile, backless boosters may be simpler and more portable but require your car’s seat/headrests to provide adequate protection. Some booster seat models come with a removable back support, so you can use them both as a high-back and backless.

    Convertible Car Seats

    Convertible car seats are a smart, cost-effective choice for parents. They offer the flexibility to accommodate your child’s growth throughout multiple stages of life. Eliminating the need to purchase different types of car seats as they age. Convertible car seats can be 2-in-1 or 3-in-1. For instance, some convertible car seats can be switched from rear-facing position to forward-facing, others can be used as forward-facing car seats or booster seats, while 3-in-1 convertible car seats can be used in all three configurations. One of the main disadvantages of convertible car seats is that they are larger. So if you are a frequent traveler, non-convertible car seats are your go-to option. You can also buy a car seat travel bag to transport your car seat conveniently.

    Key Car Seat Regulations in Canada

    In addition to provincial car seat rules, some universal regulations and rules apply on the federal level to all car seats in Canada. Here are they:

    Certification

    In Canada, all car seats and booster seats must meet the requirements of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). To confirm certification, they should have a National Safety Mark label.

    Expiration dates

    Car seats and booster seats have an expiration date, typically 6-10 years after they are manufactured. The expiration date is printed directly on the seat. Using non-expired car seats only is important, as using a car seat or booster past its expiry date is against the law.

    Driver responsibility

    In Canada, drivers must ensure that all passengers under 16 are properly restrained, whether with a seatbelt, car seat, or booster seat. You may face fines if you don’t restrain your children properly.

    Proper installation and use

    It’s essential to install and use the car seat in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Neglecting this could result in hefty fines or demerit points added to your driver’s license.

    Recalled car seats

    If you are buying a used car seat, check that it hasn’t been recalled and that no defects were found in this car seat model. You can find the list of car seats that don’t comply with safety standards on the Transport Canada website.

    What To Consider While Buying a Car Seat

    We all want to buy the best car seat possible for our children to provide maximum comfort and safety. So seek out ones that provide crystal-clear instructions and are easy to install. For even greater ease of use, look for models with helpful built-in features like level indicators — these can really help make the installation process smoother and more precise.

    While you can buy a used car seat, it is generally advised to purchase a brand-new one. Not only can this ensure the highest level of safety and reliability, but also peace of mind knowing your child has all the protection they need. If you decide to buy a used car seat, make sure it is not expired or recalled, has never been in a traffic accident, and comes with the original manufacturer’s instructions.

    When selecting a car seat, it is essential to ensure its size is compatible with your vehicle. Unfortunately, some models may not fit correctly in smaller cars – so if you plan on using the same car seat across multiple vehicles, take the time to check for compatibility with each one.

    Enhancing the comfort, convenience, and even safety of your child’s car seat is possible with the use of appropriate accessories. Car seat travel bags can be incredibly handy for protecting your car seat while you’re on the go, especially when it comes to air travel. Car seat mirrors make it easy to keep a watchful eye on your little one while they’re securely positioned in their rear-facing car seat. Car seat heaters can provide extra warmth on cold winter days. Cushion covers and head supports can make those long car trips more comfortable for your child. As you can see, there is an abundance of various accessories that can make your child’s car seat experience much safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable.

    FAQs About Car Seat Rules in Canada

    When to switch from infant car seat to convertible car seats in Canada?

    You can switch from an infant (rear-facing car seat) to a convertible car seat when your child exceeds your car seat’s weight and height limits. Typically, infant car seats have a height limit of 32-35 inches (81-89cm) and a weight limit of 30-35 pounds (13,5-16kg). Typically, convertible car seats have higher weight and height limits in a rear-facing position, plus they provide better protection for head contact for children aged 1 and older.

    Why do car seats expire in Canada?

    The constant exposure to UV rays, extreme temperatures, and other environmental factors can take a toll on car seat materials over time. This deterioration of the seats may compromise their ability to protect your child in case of an accident. Most car seats expire after 6-10 years from the manufacture date. Remember! Never use expired car seats, as it is illegal in Canada and significantly increases the risk of injury in case of an accident.

    Are car seats mandatory in Uber in Canada?

    Car seats are not mandatory in Uber and taxis in Canada. However, you should take a car seat with you for added safety of your child while traveling by Uber. Consider buying a car seat travel bag for easier portability.

    When do car seats typically go on sale in Canada?

    Car seat manufacturers bring out new car seat models in spring, and old models often go on sale at this time in Canada. Plus, you can also find some good Black Friday offers.

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    Yuri holds two Master’s degrees, one in geology and one in international law, and has run successful businesses, but several years ago, he changed careers to use his talents as a professional writer. Yuri writes on business and financial topics, including personal finance, business strategy, investment, and financial planning. Yuri uses Wise for payments to take advantage of the secure, fast, and efficient service it provides.