If you have spent time reading the safety advice on Pontoonopedia, you might already be aware of my stance on child car seats. I recommend that you never leave your baby strapped into one on your boat. But to answer the original question here’s my response:
There have been some limited studies to show that some baby and child car seats will float. However, due to the construction they are probably inclined to float face down due to the weight of the child in the seat being far heavier than the lightweight aspect to the rear of the seat.
Do Car Seats Float in Water?
I looked on various child seat manufacturer websites to try and find any reference to floating and buoyancy and found nothing online, other than the reference to a study made many years ago.
Currently I can find no up to date studies or research on whether car seats do float or not, so can only go on assumptions, where I prefer to err completely on the side of caution at all times.
Because from my perspective, you have zero guarantees that your car seat will float if it has a baby if child secured into it. You certainly won’t find those guarantees on the manufacturer websites at all.
Securing a child or baby into anything whilst on water is potentially very dangerous.
IMPORTANT: Never leave your baby or child strapped into a car seat on your boat. It simply isn’t safe, and instead you should buy a US Coast Guard Approved Kid Life Jacket.
Being a leisure boating website, the reason I say to not take your portable car seat onto a boat, as tempting as it might be, is that if your baby is strapped in and the seat goes overboard, it could be extremely dangerous.
My advice is to always carry your baby in your arms when on a boat, particularly those with open decks.
If need be, take it in turns to share the childcare duties. Alternatively there are buoyant child safety seats that you can buy if you are certain that’s what you want to do – but they are for boat use only and won’t be compatible with your vehicle.
Do Graco and Britax Car Seats Float?
Two of the more popular brands of child car seat are Graco and Britax and it was only last week that I saw on a forum a parent asking whether Britax car seats float or not.
I looked on both the Graco and Britax websites to see if there was any reference at all to their car seats floating in water and found nothing at all to suggest that they can.
You can take a look at the Britax website for the safety standards their car seats have passed, and there’s nothing on there at all with regards to flotation.
I also examined the questions that buyers are asking on Amazon about both brands. I wanted to see if anybody has asked the question “do your car seats float in water” and surprisingly found nobody had asked this before so there were no official answers from the manufacturers.
Based on our research, I cannot say for certain if baby car seats float in water other than a reference I found to a study completed many years ago. Even with that study I was unable to track down any solid data, particularly for the named brands referenced above.
Can You Buy Floating Car Seats for Boats?
Not as such as there’s not a truly cross-over product that has been safety rated for automobiles and boats to fit babies and children.
However, you can buy specialist buoyant child safety seats for boats.
My recommendation is that you leave the car seat in the car, and either carry your baby at all times, or look at some of the safety seats available to browse on Amazon.
My Final Thoughts
I know how tempting it can be if you pull up to the marina, see your baby is fast asleep in the back, and think just to take the car seat and bring it onto the boat.
This is a habit you should try to break.
At the very least, if you do take the seat and child onto a boat, unbuckle them and take them out of the seat as soon as possible.
That way you remove any risk of the seat ending up in the water and possibly sinking with your child strapped in.
Do child car seats float?
“Perhaps” is the only honest answer I can give here and personally don’t think it’s a risk worth taking if you’re a boater with a young child or baby.
Handy Hint: If you are planning no taking your baby on a boat, please take a look at my recommended baby boat gear and accessories list for safety and fun.