Car Seat Buying Guide

Buying a car seat is a huge responsibility and an expensive purchase. My buyers guide talks you through all the information you need and will ultimately help you to make a decision that best suits your needs and most importantly, ensures your little ones safety from birth through to 12 years old.

What safety standards should my U.K car seat have?

All new car seats sold in the UK should conform to either the United Nations ECE regulation R44.03 (or later version of this standard) or ISO 13216 (ISOFIX). This stands for “International Standards Organisation FIX”. ISOFIX is a relatively new standard and is being adopted by car manufacturers to make the fitting of child seats much simpler and safer.

Which car seat is suitable for my child’s age/weight?

The safest way of checking which car seat is suitable for your baby is by having your baby weighed and then looking at car seats that correspond to this. There are mainly 3 different type of car seats for 3 different weight ranges, these are often referred to as ‘groups’ or ‘stages’. You need to ensure your child is in the correct seat for her weight and you are aware of the maximum weight your child can be before progressing to the next ‘group’ or ‘stage’. You should not buy a car seat for your baby to “grow into” and you should never rely solely on the age range most companies offer as a guide. These should be used a guide only.
Below is a guide to your baby’s weight and the type of car seat needed.

Group 0+ car seats – Rearward facing baby seats

  • Minimum weight: new born – maximum weight: 13kg(29lbs)
  • Rearward facing baby seats are the safest way for a child to travel in a car.
  • Baby’s head is far better protected than in any of the forward facing car seats.
  • You should keep your baby in a rearward facing car seat for as long as possible and only progress to a forward facing car seat when your baby is close to the maximum weight permitted for this seat or the crown of your baby’s head is higher than the top of the seat when they are properly fastened in.
  • Something to consider: Also available are combination car seats. These are designed to be rearward facing from birth, forward facing from 9kg and have a maximum permitted weight of 18kg(40lbs) . The disadvantages of this type of car seat is:

  • They are not very portable (rearward facing car seats are usually lightweight, have a carry handle and can be used as part of a travel system so as not to disturb your baby when moving her)
  • They usually need to be forward facing car seats earlier than we would like. (when your child reaches 9kg rather than 13kg).
  • It is much safer to keep your baby in a rearward facing car seat for as long as possible without exceeding the maximum permitted weight. We therefore recommend rearward facing car seats rather than combination car seats.
  • Group 1 car seats – Forward facing car seat

  • Minimum weight: 9kgs(20lbs) – Maximum weight 18kgs(40lbs)
  • A forward facing car seat is the next step in child car safety once your baby has outgrown the rearward facing car seat.
  • There is a slight overlap between the minimum weight allowed on this seat and the maximum weight permitted on the rearward facing car seats to allow for taller babies.
  • The integral harness keep your baby in the safest position in the seat helping to reduce the risk of injury should you be involved in a road traffic accident, they also offer side impact protection.
  • They are less portable than rearward facing car seats and cannot be used as carriers.
  • Once your child is in a group 1 car seat you should keep her in it for as long as possible.
  • Only progress to the next ‘stage’ car seat once your child has reached the maximum permitted weight or the top of her head is higher than the top of the seat when properly secured.
  • Something to consider: Also available is a high back booster with harness car seat that is designed to last your child up until he is approx 12 years old.

  • The minimum weight for these is 9kg(20lb) and maximum weight is 36kg(79lb).
  • This will save you having to buy a high back booster seat once your child reaches 18kg (the maximum weight permitted for standard forward facing seats).
  • If you decide to go for this option car seat, check the side impact protection is not reduced when compared to a traditional group 1 forward facing car seat.
  • Group 2 and 3 – Booster seats

  • Min weight 15kg (33lb) – Max weight 36kg (79lbs) dependant on particular model
  • Once your child has grown out of the forward facing car seat, the nest step is a booster seat.
  • These are traditionally high backed and offer side impact protection
  • The main difference is your child is held in place by the cars fitted seat belt rather than an integral harness.
  • When buying one of these car seats, you should find out how each specific model grows with your child.
  • Some models have adjustable side wings and some can be converted to booster cushions once your child reaches 22kgs.
  • I recommend keeping your child in the high backed car seat for as long as practicable as they offer far greater protection than simple booster cushions.
  • When tightening the seat belt around your child you will need to ensure that the belt goes over her pelvic region (not the stomach) and the diagonal strap goes across her shoulder(not her neck). Always tighten the seat belt as much as possible.
  • When will my baby be ready for a bigger car seat?

    The only time your baby should progress from one stage car seat to the next is if:

  • Your baby exceeds the maximum weight allowed for that particular car seat, or
  • Your baby’s head is higher than the top of the car seat when properly seated and strapped in.
  • You should never put your baby in the next stage car seat just because he has reached a landmark birthday. (ie 12 months, 4 years)
  • Is it ok to buy/use a second hand car seat?

    If you are going to buy one thing new for your baby, make it a car seat. Without knowing the full history of the car seat, it is impossible to be 100% sure if it has ever been involved in an accident, ever been wrongly adjusted, been poorly handled or maintained or even been stored in conditions that could lead to its overall effectiveness being compromised.

    When will my child no longer need a car seat?

    Your child will need a car seat or car booster seat until he is either 12 years of age or 135cm (approx 4ft 5”). After this he will need to wear an adult seat belt.

    Where can I find out if a car seat is suitable for my car?

    Amazon have a returns policy that allow you to return the car seat if after receiving it you discover that it does not fit your car. Most high street retailers will test the car seat in your own car before you buy and also show you how to properly secure it in your car. If a good returns policy or a testing service is not offered or available then I recommend you take your business elsewhere. Mothercare and Halfords both offer this service. It is your responsibility to ensure that the car seat is properly fitted in your car, even if a member of staff has assisted you in fixing it.