The Ultimate Car Seat Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know
Choosing the right car seat is essential to the health and safety of your child, which can make the decision feel overwhelming. There are many different makes and models out there, and a lot of safety information to wade through. Fortunately, this guide is here to help you find a car seat that fits the needs of your family and keeps your little one safe and comfortable on every journey.
The UK law states that children must use a car seat until they reach 12 years of age or 135cm in height, whichever comes first. They must also sit in the back of the car until they are no longer required to use a car seat.
You must use a car seat that complies with either the R44 or R129 European safety standards, which are based on height and weight respectively. The punishment for transporting a child without an appropriate car seat is a £500 fine and three licence points.
There are two main car seat standards in the UK: R44, which uses height, and R129 (aka iSize) which is based on weight.
R44 - Height
The height-based standard has been around since 1974 and is currently being phased out in favour of the i-Size standard. However, many car seats are still certified to this standard.
R129/iSize - Weight
The weight-based standard was introduced in 2013 to create a more accurate fit for children and extend the length of time that they spend in rearward facing seats. What's more is that i-Size seats offer greater protection from side impact collisions.
Weight-based car seats are classified in groups:
- Group 0: 0-10kg (rear-facing)
- Group 0+: 0-13kg (rear-facing)
- Group 1: 9-18kg
- Group 2: 15-25kg
- Group 3: 22-36kg
When purchasing a seat for your newborn, it's also worth considering an infant carrier as part of a travel system which can then be used with a stroller, such as the Cybex Aton M or the Doona Infant Car Seat.
Different Types of Car Seats
There are three main types of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats.
Rear-facing seats are for infants and toddlers until they reach the height or weight limit set by the seat’s manufacturer. It's safest for young children to ride in a rear-facing seat, as it distributes the force of a crash over their entire body. In fact, research by the Netcare Trauma Injury Prevention programme found that this type of car seat can reduce serious injury by up to 92% in the event of a collision. Therefore, we recommend keeping your little one in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible.
Forward-facing seats are for toddlers and children who have outgrown their rear-facing seats, which usually happens between the ages of 2-4. They should continue to use a forward-facing car seat until they reach the height or weight limit set by the seat’s manufacturer.
Booster seats are for children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats. This type of car seat raises the child up so that the vehicle’s adult seat belt fits properly across their chest and hips.
Isofix is a standardised system for attaching car seats to the car. It consists of two metal bars that are fitted into the car's seat belt anchors and a set of connectors on the car seat that click onto the bars.
Isofix is not compulsory in the UK, but it is becoming increasingly common as more and more cars are being manufactured with the system built in. iSize car seats work with isofix, and some include a base whilst others require it to be purchased separately.
If you're unsure if your car is Isofix compatible, it's best to check the manual or contact the manufacturer before purchasing a car seat.
Don't Buy Second Hand
Becoming a parent can be an expensive process, but you should never skimp on your child's safety. Second-hand car seats are dangerous because you can't guarantee that they've been properly maintained or that they meet current safety standards. There may be hidden damage that can compromise its safety, from unseen cracks to overstretched harnesses, and there’s likely the chance it won’t come with its original instructions so you know how to fit it properly.
Safety comes first, but of course you also want your bundle of joy to be comfortable when travelling around! Padding, ventilation and an adjustable headrest will help keep your baby comfortable and content. Some car seats also come with a sun canopy and UV protection to protect them from the sun's rays, which is ideal for summer outings.
When choosing a car seat, it's important to consider how practical it will be, and how well it fits with your lifestyle.
Car seats that rotate, for example, can reduce back strain and make it much easier to get your little one safely strapped in.
If you travel a lot and change cars often, for example, then you should look for a model that is easy to install and remove.
As we all know, things can get messy very quickly when you have a baby on board, so it’s also worth thinking about how easy your chosen car seat will be to clean.
At Unique Baby Store, we stock only the highest quality car seats to ensure that your child is safe and comfortable on every journey. We're always here to help, so don't hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance when it comes to purchasing a car seat for your bundle of joy.