Child car seat buying guide and car insurance

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.

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.

Alex Hasty
Insurance expert
8
minute read
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Last Updated 25 JANUARY 2022

Car seat groups – the law

By UK law, all children must be in an appropriately sized car seat until they’re 135cm tall or 12 years old, and over 36kg (79lbs)

Failure to restrain your child in an appropriate car seat can result in an on-the-spot fine of £30 and, if you’re taken to court, you could even face a fine of up to £500. 

Car seats are divided into group categories, depending on weight and approximate age. 

Group 0: 0kg to 10kg
Lie-flat or ‘lateral’ baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness. 

Group 0+: 0kg to 13kg
Rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness. 

Group 1: 9kg to 18kg
Rear- or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield. 

Group 2: 15kg to 25kg
Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield. 

Group 3: 22kg to 36kg
Rear- or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield. 

Manufacturers can now only make booster cushions approved as group 3. This won’t affect any existing booster cushions in group 2 and you’ll still be able to use them. 

For further information see the Department for Transport and Think’s guide to seat belts and child restraints.

Why can’t my child just use an adult seat belt? 

If a child uses an adult seat belt before they’re tall enough, the lap part of the belt will sit too high on their stomach. This could cause internal injuries in the event of a collision. There’s also the risk of your child slipping out from under the seat belt.

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 might want to buy a more lightweight model. 

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 down your choice.
  • Check out RoSPA’s (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) 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 out the baby seat 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.

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 among 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 assist – for example, Halfords offers a free car seat fit and demonstration 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.

Three facts about rear-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 rear-facing seats that are available up to 25kg (approx six years old).

3. You can buy seatbelt secured 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. The system is 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.
  • ISOFIX is potentially safer because it has a secure connection to the car, whereas there’s more chance of human error when using a seatbelt to secure the seat. There’s the possibility that a seat belt can easily be wrongly routed, twisted or un-clicked, leaving your child vulnerable. i-size seats must have a five-point harness to keep the child safely strapped in, even if the car rolls over.
  • 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.  An Irish Road Safety Authority study found that as many as four out of five child car seats are incorrectly fitted, which can lead to serious injury or even death in a collision.

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 might have hidden flaws that you 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 have the original instructions. Car seats age and may become brittle or not work so well over time. 

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 nor legal.
  • Never allow two children to share a seatbelt.
  • Be aware that in some European countries, the minimum height for not requiring a booster seat is 150cm, not 135cm. If you’ll be driving in Europe, check the law of that country before you go.

Car insurance with child car seat cover 

Car insurance policies can vary, so it’s a good idea to shop around and compare to make sure you get the level of cover you need. Some insurance providers cover child car seats as standard, while others don’t. There are also policies that include extras like pushchairs and prams. Always check the policy details so you know what’s included before you buy. 

Whether you’re looking for third party, fire and theft or fully comprehensive insurance, comparing with us is a quick and easy way to find the right cover for your needs.

Frequently asked questions

Are child seats covered by car insurance?

Not all car insurance policies cover child seats as standard, so don’t just assume you’ll get a pay-out for replacing it following an accident. 

The level of cover can also vary – for example, some policies may pay up to a limited amount, while others might cover the total replacement costs. Check your policy if you’re not sure. If you have a particularly expensive model, you should also check to see if your car insurance covers your child seat if it’s stolen from your locked car.

Can I get child car seat cover as an added extra?

Some insurance providers may offer child seat cover as an optional extra that you can add to your policy, but not all do.

Although insurance providers aren’t allowed to use gender to calculate their premiums, some may offer benefits like child seat cover and handbag insurance specifically marketed at women drivers. That said, there’s nothing to stop men from taking out this type of policy too.

What should I look for in a policy with child car seat cover?

If you want child seat cover as part of your car insurance, you might want to check: 

  • if the provider will replace the child seat or pay out up to a limited amount
  • if you receive a cash sum pay-out, will it be enough to pay for an equivalent seat?
  • if you can claim for a replacement seat, even if there’s no visible damage
  • if there’s an excess to pay
  • if a claim for a replacement car seat will affect your no-claims bonus

What insurance do I need if I’m a child minder?

If you work as a child minder and use your car to transport children, you need to let your insurance provider know. You may need to take out a business car insurance policy that includes child car seat cover. 

You might also need to change your class of use if you use your car for work purposes.

Do I need to replace my child car seat after an accident?

Even if there are no visible signs of damage, it’s always advisable to replace your child car seat after an accident. The structure may have been weakened and might not provide the same amount of protection as before. 

It might not be necessary to replace the seat if there was very low impact and there’s little or no damage to the car itself, or there was no child in the seat when the incident occurred. 

But if in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry and replace the seat altogether. RoSPA believes that the replacement of a child car seat should be considered a legitimate cost by insurance providers. If your insurance provider is reluctant to pay the costs to replace the seat, this letter from RoSPA could help.

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