Car Seat Buying Guide
Car Safety for Little Ones
Buying the right car seat for your new baby is a big responsibility but once you know the basics, making your choice should be fairly easy. The information contained in this buying guide is designed to help you and your family remain safe on the roads but you should always read the manufacturer's instructions and ensure your car seat is fitted correctly.
In the UK, children either under 135 cm in height or 12 years of age (whichever comes first) are legally required to use a car seat or other child restraint system (CRS). Therefore, to provide as much protection as possible in the event of a collision, it's vital that the seat you buy is the right size for your infant and is fitted correctly in the car.
No parent would knowingly gamble their child’s life but approximately 70% of car seats are not completely effective in an accident due to a number of avoidable reasons:
• The car seat doesn’t fit the car
• The car seat is installed incorrectly
• Child placed in the wrong group of car seat (relates to weight and height, see below)
• Harness straps are incorrectly positioned or tightened
With this in mind; look for a car seat with clear instructions that is easy to fit, browse the customer reviews for the car seats you like, evaluate the subtle details e.g. quality, resilience and installation, always read the manufacturer's instructions and ensure your car seat is fitted correctly.
Choosing Your Car Seats
Car seats sold in the UK have to comply with the current UK law, which splits car seats into 'groups' but we have broken this down into helpful stages relative to the child’s weight and height:
The first car seat your baby will require is a 'from birth' car seat or infant carrier--both are rear facing as this is proven to be the safest way to travel. At this time, a car carrycot that lies flat across the rear seat of the car can also be considered. If the seat, carrier or carrycot is described as 'Group 0' it is suitable until your baby achieves the weight of 10 kg (22 lb), whereas if it is described as 'Group 0+' it is suitable until your baby weighs 13 kg (29 lb). Both groups of car seats will have limitations in regard to your baby’s height, though normally this will not be a concern until about the time of their first birthday. Some 'Group 0 / 0+' infant carriers or carrycots can also be attached to a pushchair to make a 'travel system'. Care should be taken that your child does not occupy a car seat for longer than two hours a day. Ideally the car seat should only be used for travel and if you intend on using a car seat for long journeys you may want to use a lie flat car seat / carrycot or seek medical advice before travel.
> View our range of Group 0 / 0+ Car Seats
Your baby may start to outgrow their 'Group 0 / 0+' car seat between 9 kg and 18 kg (20 lb and 40 lb) and therefore you will need to consider a 'Group 1' car seat. Generally, your child will reach this weight between 10 and 15 months of age. However, it is really important that you do not transfer your baby into this stage of car seat before it is absolutely necessary. The majority of 'Group 1' car seats are forward facing, with some rearward facing.
Rear facing car seats can be safer for children because a child’s proportions are different from that of an adult. For example, at this age, children have under-developed spine and neck muscles and a child’s head weighs 25% of their total body weight compared to an adult, which is 6%. In the case of a frontal collision, a child who was sitting rear facing would have the force spread over a greater area of the body and there would be less pressure on the spine, neck and inner organs.
Additionally, some 'Group 1' seats use a harness to secure your child in the seat whilst other models may use impact shields. 'Group 0+ / 1' seats are also available and will save you buying two different car seats. The only downside is that a 'Group 0+ / 1' car seat is unlikely to be compatible with a travel system pushchair. See our Pushchair Buying Guide to find out more about travel systems.
> View our range of Group 0+ / 1 Car Seats
> View our range of Group 1 Car Seats
Once your child outgrows his / her 'Group 1' car seat (normally at about four years of age) they should transfer to a 'Group 2 / 3' car seat--suitable for children weighing between 15 kg and 36 kg (33 lb and 79 lb). In essence, these are booster type seats used in conjunction with the car’s seat belt system. A car seat with a high back will offer your child protection in the event of a side impact accident. Once your child achieves the legal threshold of 135 cm or 12 years old they no longer have to use a car seat or child restraint system.
> View our range of Group 2 / 3 Car Seats
Combination Car Seats: In some cases a car seat is designed by a manufacturer to encompass more than one group. These can be useful especially for grandparents or other carers and can be quite cost effective. The disadvantage to combination car seats is that often they lack features or benefits associated with car seats designed for just one group.
> View our range of Combination Car Seats
Securing the Car Seat
Car seats are secured to the car via:
• The car’s seat belts--A car seat that attaches to the car via the seat belt system can be just as safe as an ISOfix system as long as it is attached exactly as described in the manufacturer's instructions
• ISOfix mounts--An ISOfix car seat clicks onto a base that is semi-permanently attached to the back passenger seat of an ISOfix-enabled car, as per the manufacturer's instructions. ISOfix seats are therefore quicker to attach than normal seats. The major benefit of ISOfix is that it makes it easy to ensure the car seat is correctly attached to the car, which is absolutely essential to minimising injury during a collision
• A base or platform, which is secured by the car seat belts or ISOfix mounts--If your car doesn't have ISOfix connectors (check the manual or ask your dealer to find out), you can sometimes attach an ISOfix base to the car using the seat belt, saving you time when attaching the seat to the car. Also, bases using seat belts only are sometimes available (dependent on manufacturer and model)
Care should be taken to buy a car seat or base that fits your car (or cars). Problems that could affect your choice include:
• Length of car seat belt--Usually only a problem with stage 1 / 2 combination car seats
• If the profile of your car seats slopes at an angle you may experience problems. An infant carrier should sit at about 45 degrees to the ground when secured
• Under-floor storage--Normally, you cannot use a base or platform if it has a support leg resting on the opening to a car’s under-floor storage box. Some cars or car seats offer tether strap options as an alternative to a support leg
• Length of seat belt stem--The buckle of a seat belt must not rest on any part of a car seat, which in an accident places pressure on the buckle causing it to burst open. This is called “Buckle Crunch” and must be avoided
• For stages 2 and 3 (forward facing), the profile of the child’s car seat should reasonably match the profile of the seat built within the car. As a rough guide, children’s car seats that have older designs tend to be less expensive but may not fit so well in a modern car
Please be aware that not all car seats fit all cars. Some car seat manufacturers will offer an online guide as to what model car seat fits what car. However, even car models can vary due to manufacturers using different factories and components. As a consequence, although these online guides can be useful they should not be considered as being 100% accurate.
Supplemental aids are also available that can provide peace of mind and ensure your little one is comfortable during the journey. Whether it’s protection from the sun or an additional mirror to keep an eye on them on the backseat, we have a full range of Car Seat Accessories available to you in the Baby store.
Car Seat Safety Essentials
• It is illegal to use a rear facing Group 0 / 0+ car seat in the front seat if an active airbag is present
• Never buy a second hand car seat--you do not know its full history and it may have been weakened or damaged in a previous accident or parts may be missing
• Read and obey the fitting instructions carefully and install the car seat as advised by the manufacturer. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly
• Many local authorities and councils operate free car seat safety checks and, if available, you should take advantage of these
• Replace any car seat involved in an accident or if it has been dropped, no matter how minor
• Buy the right car seat for your child's weight--age ranges are just a guideline
• Check the car manual for information and recommendations
• Move your child up to the next car seat group when they outgrow their current seat but don't be in a rush to do this too soon
• Be aware of the laws surrounding protecting children in cars and the impact on your insurance if children are not protected properly
• Always use a car seat, even on very short journeys