Many parents face this question when embarking on the highly responsible journey of buying a car seat for their little ones.
This car seat buying guide will give you a great insight into the law and different type of car seats. The importance of the child weight/height rather than their age. By reading this, it will help you how to choose your car seat.
Car Seat Law
In the UK, all children must be in an appropriately sized car seat from birth until they are 12 years old or until they are 135cm (4ft 5in) tall, whichever they reach first. Children over 12 years old or over 135cm tall must wear an adult seatbelt.
How to know if my car seat is EU approved to use in the UK?
Look for a label in a circle with a capital "E", also hight-based approved car seats should show " R129" and approved weight-based seats should show "ECE R44.03" or "ECE R44.04".
How do you choose your child's car seat, and what criteria to look at to keep them safe?
First of all, your child's weight what matters, not the age. Make sure you check your little one`s weight before buying the car seat to keep them safe and secure. Not every car seat fits every car, check the seat if it is compatible with your vehicle. As recommended by ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) it is best to stay clear of buying second-hand car seats for children, mainly because you can never be sure of their entire history, and therefore their safety.
Which NEW car seat to choose?
Furthermore, you consider the position of the airbags in your vehicle, the shape of the car seats, length of seat belts, and position of seat belt anchor points.
Then, you may wish to look at some less obvious points, such as being able to move your child in and out of the car without waking them up, should they be light sleepers, for example. (This will not be possible if you choose a combined car seat such as group 0+ and 1). There are toddler seats which are swivels, however the most important aspect to look at if the seat can recline or not. More explanation about these features can be found below.
Newborn car seats and carriers
Baby car seats, Group 0+ are a great way to move your baby easily without disturbing them. ISOFIX is an option for easier removal in and out of the car. Newborn car seats are also, flexible travel systems. Please NOTE that car manufacturers recommend babies should not spend more than 2 hours withing 24 hours in a car seat. This is due to the babies developing spine.
Rearward-facing baby seats
The safest way for babies to travel is rear-facing which provide greater protection for their head, neck and spine. It is advised only to move them when they can sit up by themselves, they exceed the maximum weight or they are too high for the seat. It is recommended that babies travel rear-facing until at least 15-month-old. However, it is recommended to keep them rearward-facing as long as they are 4 years old.
Lie-flat car seats
Babies born weighing less than 2499 grams (5.5 pounds) is known as a low birth weight baby. In standard, rear-facing car seat babies lie in 40 – 45 degrees, for low birth babies this position may cause breathing difficulty as their hear could fall forward and restrict the airways. Lie-flat carriers have 5 point harness with strong frame.
Group 0 for babies up to 10kg (22lbs)
- roughly from birth to 6-9 month
- baby can lie flat
suitable for new-born, low birth weight and premature babies
i size car seats
`i size` car seats (ECE R129) were introduced in 2013, a new EU safety regulation to keep children longer in rearward-facing position, easier to fit and better side impact protection. i size seats are based on the child`s height rather than weight.
- enhanced protection of head and neck
- recline position from sitting to sleeping
Rearward and Forward facing Combination seat
Combination seats are great as it can be used for a longer period of time. Newborns start in a rear-facing position as this is the safest way to travel and the combination seats can be reclined to create a safe, comfortable lie-flat position on the journey. Children can be turned to forward-facing position when they reach 9kg, however it is advised to keep them as long as they are till age 4 in rear-facing position as this is the safest way to travel for young children.
0+/1 From Birth to 18kg (approximately till age 4)
- Extended rearward facing position
- Reclining for a lie-flat position
- Car seat stays in the car, not suitable for a travel system
- side impact protection
- 5 point harness
- Britax Römer car seat, FIRST CLASS PLUS
Graco All in One Group 0+/1/2/3
Graco combination seat can be used from birth to age 12. Can be easily converted, head rest grows with your child, the harness height automatically adjusted with the headrest. Four reclining position.
Rearward-facing car seats
Rearward-facing seats are Group 1 to Group 1/2/3. (From 9kg till 36kg). There are different group seats as group 1/2 or group 1/2/3. When buying car seats Group 1 it is important to check that the seat has a reclining position. Putting a young toddler using these seats it is advised to recline the seat when they are asleep. All group 1/2/3 seats have an internal harness, side-impact wings and the harness can be adjusted as the child grows. Some car seats are swivels for easier access to take your child in and out of the car.
From 9kg till 18kg
- 8 reclining position
- solid fit
- can be operated with one hand
Group 0+/1/2 /3
From 0kg till 36kg
3 in 1 car seats, easily converts:
- Rear-facing harness (0-18kg)
- Forward-facing harness (9-18kg)
- High-back booster (15-36kg)
Highback boosters without a harness
Highback boosters are suitable for older children, Group 2/3 car seats (around age 4-12 years, or 15-36kg). Forward facing car seats with side impact protection. There are different styles, like Cybex car seat which can recline and fits cars using with or without ISOFIX.
- 15-36kg, 4-12 years
- sturdy, high queality
- can be with or without ISOFIX
- recline position
- side impact protection
- adjustable headrest
Overall, to ensure the maximum safety of your little one(s), we highly recommend checking the car seat is approved (as seen above), then your child`s weight and height before looking to buy a seat. Make sure your car is compatible with the chosen car seat and there are options for an in-store car seat fitting. Looking at the comfortability of the seat and for young babies if you prefer the travel system or fixed seats.