What are the car seat laws in California?

Children in CA must be eight-years-old to wear an adult seat belt and 12-year-old to sit in the front seat. Each offense carries a $500 fine and a point on your license.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • There is a $500 fine for not using a car seat properly
  • Local police departments will install car seats and educate parents to do the same
  • California law requires children younger than two to remain rear-facing until their second birthday

Anything can happen at any moment, which is why buckling your children into their car seats is the most important thing you do when you enter your vehicle.

Their little lives depend on these seats, and it’s up to you to know the law, enforce the laws in your car, and keep your kids safe with each trip you take. California law requires all children under a certain age and size are buckled properly into an approved child safety seat.

If you’re unfamiliar with the law, it’s time to get to know how it can help your child as well as how it affects your car insurance when you’re comparing premiums for a new policy.

Use our free quote tool above to find the best deal for car insurance. Enter your zip code to get started.

California Car Seat Laws

No child is permitted to ride in any vehicle without the proper safety seat in any California town or city. This law is not designed to aggravate parents or make children uncomfortable. It’s designed to keep kids safe.

  • All children younger than two-years-old are required to ride in a rear-facing car seat designed specifically for the comfort of rear-facing children who are both smaller than 40 pounds and shorter than 40 inches.
  • Children younger than eight-years-old must be secured in a booster seat or a car seat designed for their size, height, and weight.
  • If your child reaches the weight limit or height limit for their car seat, it’s time to purchase a new car seat that satisfies size requirements, but it’s not permitted to remove the child from a safety seat until they reach the proper age and size.
  • All children younger than 12 should remain in the rear seat of the vehicle. There are special laws that allow children to sit in the front of a vehicle that does not have a back seat only if the passenger seat airbag has been turned off.

All car seats must remain in the rear seat, and all car seats must be able to properly contain your child’s size and age. An improperly fitted car seat does not protect children in accidents.

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Car Seat Safety Information

Californians who have babies should learn how to properly install a car seat before they place their newborn baby into the seat. It’s rumored to be quite difficult, and it does take a little experience to become more comfortable installing a car seat into any vehicle.

If you find yourself without the confidence to install a car seat correctly, you may always visit a California hospital, police station, or fire station to ask for assistance in this matter. These are people who are happy to assist keeping your baby safe.

Another valuable piece of safety information regarding child safety seats has to do with hand-me-down or used car seats. It’s true that many car seats are expensive, and they’re often outside the budget people have to spend on a new car seat.

However, it’s imperative parents understand it’s never safe to purchase a used car seat from anyone. 

If you know the person who owned the seat and you are confident it’s never been involved in even a minor car accident, it’s probably safe to use the seat if it’s been purchased in the past five years.

Used car seats are dangerous if they’ve been involved in an accident. They might not work properly if your car is involved in an accident, and this puts your child’s life at risk. Always purchase a new car seat for your children when it’s time to graduate them into a new size.

Penalties for Not Using Car Seats Properly

Californians who choose to disobey the state car seat laws are going to find themselves in trouble with the law if they are pulled over or involved in an accident.

Anyone who improperly uses a car seat for their child is subject to one point on their license as well as a $500 fine.

If your children younger than two is forward-facing, if a child is not in a booster or correctly sized seat, not using the seat properly, or in the front seat when a back seat is available, you are getting a ticket.

Replacing Damaged Car Seats

No one should ever place a child in a used or damaged car seat that’s been involved in an accident. Even if the accident was minor, it’s no longer safe.

You should check with your car insurance provider to discuss car seat replacement while searching for a new car insurance provider. Some companies might offer you more than others in the comprehensive coverage area of your policy, and that’s important.

Your child’s safety is paramount, and your car insurance agent knows this. A policy that offers more for car seat replacement is often more valuable to parents than one that does not.

In many cases, this is a service you stop paying for once your child is old enough to sit in a regular seat, which is savings you can look forward to in the future.

Car seats are designed for a very specific use. They’re to keep your child safe in the event an accident occurs.

Having a car seat is not enough. You must also do the following

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