Car seat buying: a simple guide

Car seat buying: a simple guide

The safety of your children is paramount, so buying a car seat needs careful consideration to ensure it’s safe and fits well into whatever vehicle you use.  

We’ve gathered all the information you need to help you when buying and fitting a car seat, to ensure your child is as secure as possible when travelling in the car. 

Daniel Hutson From the Motor team
6
minute read
posted

What to consider when buying a car seat

Buying a car seat for your child shouldn’t be a rash, on-the-spot decision. Take time to do the research so you can make an informed decision equipped with as much information as possible. 

Weight

Consider how large and heavy the car seat is. If you’re constantly moving it from one car to another, you may want to buy a more lightweight model. 

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Research

  • Check out manufacturers’ websites – well-known brands such as Graco, Maxi-Cosi and Britax have detailed information on their car seat ranges. Don’t forget to check out the product reviews for verified customer opinions
  • Go to online parenting forums, such as BabyCentre UK , where parents give honest information and advice on car seat models
  • Read product reviews in parenting magazines and professional review sites such as ‘What Car?’. Most will have lists of their top five car seats to help narrow your choice down
  • Check out RoSPA’s Child Car Seats website for detailed safety advice on buying the right car seat to suit your needs

Combos

Modular pushchair/pram/car seat travel systems are extremely popular and useful, as you can just lift the baby seat out and place it straight onto the buggy or pram frame. Although practical, they are more expensive, so make sure the car seat feature meets your requirements before spending your money.

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Ensure the car seat fits

Before buying, ensure the car seat fits correctly in your car. Seat belt anchorages and the shape of rear seats can vary between vehicles. It's sensible to try a few before making a decision. Good retailers should be willing to help you with this, and many have trained staff on hand to help, for example, Mothercare offers a ‘free safe fit’ service. Some local councils run schemes for local retailers to get training and accreditation for fitting car seats correctly, while others operate a free safety check service – so it may be worth looking at your local council website before you buy.

Safety tests

Take a look at NCAP’s safety review of the car seat model you’re considering. NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme) is an independent and unbiased body that rigorously tests all car seats in different accident scenarios.

Safety labels

Make sure the child seat you choose has either an orange ECE R44/04 label, or the i-size R129 label. These ensure the seat complies with the current child safety standards.

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Three facts about rearward facing car seats

1. They offer more protection from spinal and neck injuries in an accident

2.  Brands like Britax and Maxi-Cosi now offer extended rearward seats that are available up to 25kg (approx 6 years old).

3. You can buy seatbelt or ISOFIX depending on your car

ISOFIX vs seatbelt

  • ISOFIX is a car seat safety system that uses anchor points rather than a seatbelt to secure the car seat in place. They are compatible with i-size seats, which are based on the child’s height rather than their weight
  • Seatbelt car seats can go in any car, whereas ISOFIX car seats are only compatible with cars fitted with ISOFIX anchor points. Many new cars already have them fitted as standard
  • A seatbelt seat is a more flexible option if you want to use the car seat in other vehicles, such as the grandparents’ or childminder’s car, as their vehicles may not be equipped for ISOFIX
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  • ISOFIX is proven to be safer. It has a secure connection to the car, whereas seatbelts can easily be un-clicked, leaving your child vulnerable
  • ISOFIX booster seats stop your child from slipping off the seat
  • It’s quicker and easier to put your baby seat in the car if it’s fitted with a base, rather than tangling yourself up in a seatbelt around the car seat itself
  • It’s hard to fit an ISOFIX seat incorrectly. Seatbelt versions, on the other hand, can be confusing and are different depending on the model. A report by Child Seat Safety revealed only 52% of belted car seats were fitted correctly

New vs old

It may be tempting to buy a second-hand car seat off Ebay, especially if you want a more expensive, fashionable model. But it’s highly advisable that you don’t.  

You don’t know if anything’s happened to the car seat. It may have been involved in an accident or may have hidden flaws that you may only discover later. 

If you’re using a ‘pass-me-down’ from older siblings or friends and family, make sure the seat is still in working order and you still have the original instructions. Car seats age and may become brittle or not work so well after time. 

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The sensible advice, for peace of mind, is to buy a brand-new car seat. If you’re finding it difficult to find an affordable car seat, ask your local council Road Safety Department if they know of any child seat discount schemes. 

Safety facts for car passengers

  • Don’t just assume because your child has reached 12 years of age that they no longer need a booster seat. The law states that they must be over 135cm regardless of their age
  • Riding with a child on your lap is never safe or legal
  • Never allow two children to share a seatbelt
  • Be aware that in other European countries the minimum height for not requiring a booster seat is 150cm not 135cm, so if you’re driving in Europe, check the law of that country before you go

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