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 seatsMinimum 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 seatMinimum 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 seatsMin weight 15kg (33lb) – Max weight 36kg (79lbs) dependant on particular modelOnce 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 protectionThe 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, orYour 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.
The Britax First Class Plus Car Seat is Rearward and Forward Facing (Group 0+1), it should be used as a rearward facing car seat from newborn up to 13kg and as forward facing from 13kg -18kg. It is comfortable, safe, practical and easy to use.
The Britax First Class Plus has deep, soft padded wings, performance chest pads and a 100% cotton newborn insert which provides extra comfort and support for your newborn (up to 8kg max). When in forward facing mode, the seat has 5 recline positions and the rearward facing position has been designed to create a more natural (extended recline) sleeping position for your baby.
As you would expect, this car seat complies with the European safety standard ECE R44/04. Keeping your baby rearward facing for as long as possible is the safest way of minimising the consequences of a car crash; this car seat is rearward facing up to 13kg which gives you a little more time of rearward facing when compared with group 0 car seats (10kg max). The First Class Plus has side impact protection, a five point safety harness with ‘one-pull’ adjustment and also has a unique pitch control system which reduces the severity of any sudden forward movement in the event of an accident. It comes with a 2 year warranty which is effective from the date of purchase.
Practicalities and Ease of Use
The Britax First Class Plus car seat has some nice features which ensure ease of use and peace of mind; the click and safe audible harness system lets you know that your baby is properly secured in the car seat, the harness clips help to keep the straps out of the way, making it easier to put your baby in, the spring loaded belt locking mechanism allows for easy installation and to top it all the soft padded cover can easily be removed for washing purposes without having to mess about with removing the harness! (Trust me, that is a big bonus)! So, to round up:
What’s good about the Britax First Class Plus?No need to buy 2 car seats within 12-18 months of each otherAllows you to keep baby rearward facing for longer period than standard group 0 car seats5 Recline positions in forward facing modeExtended recline position for new born babiesComes with newborn insertEasy to installEasy to remove, washable coverPitch control system reduces forward movement in an accidentSide impact protectionComfortable for newborns and older babiesHeight of car seats allows children to see out of the car window (in most cars)
What could be better?Can be quite fiddly putting your baby in when rearward facing as the belt reduces the space available
Who is it good for?
This is a safe, reliable car seat with the flexibility of rear/forward facing options. If your baby is starting to look too big for his/her rearward facing infant car seat, he/she may be more comfortable in this, meaning more time rearward facing at no additional cost! The Britax First Class Plus Car Seat is available here.
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The Maxi Cosi Opal Car Seat is what is known as a combination car seat (or group 0+/1), this means that it can be used as both a rearward facing and forward facing car seat. It’s suitable from birth up to 13kg as a rearward facing car seat and from 13kg-18kg as forward facing; this is usually up to approximately three and a half years of age.
It is recommended that you keep your baby rearward facing for as long as possible, this car seat helps you to do that as it is specifically designed to provide more leg room for your baby. The interior width can also be adjusted to accommodate your growing child as can the height of the headrest; moving the headrest automatically adjusts the height of the harness and there are six positions available to ensure a perfect fit for your baby/child.
The Maxi Cosi Opal is secured using your usual car seat belt and is designed to be compatible with all cars, there are belt tensioners on both sides of the car seat which protect against incorrect fitting and ensures the car seat is properly secured. There are belt hooks on either side of it which makes things much easier when putting your baby in. You will be pleased to hear that the Maxi Cosi Opal is also very easy to clean – the cover can be removed without having to remove the harness!!
The Maxi Cosi Opal offers optimal side impact protection which is an essential feature and should never be overlooked. The great thing about this car seat is it will save you money (no need to buy a new car seat once your baby is around 12 months old), your baby will find it snug (includes a removable support pillow and soft padded seat) and comfortable (5 recline positions when in forward facing mode – when rearward facing it is automatically in the reclined position and therefore can not be adjusted). You can rest assured that this car seat has been designed and tested for your baby’s comfort and safety and complies with ECE R44/04 Car seat regulations.
Good PointsSuitable from birth up to approximately 3 1/2 years oldCan be kept as rearward facing for longer than most other car seatsEasy to installHeight and width adjustable; it grows with your childStylish and comfortable (with multi recline positions, padded seat and removable support cushion)Easy to switch between rearward and forward facing – press a button and spin!No need to buy a second car seat once your baby is 13kg
Negative PointsThe harness can be a bit fiddly to fasten when in rearward facing modeIs not compatible with a travel system (stays in your car permanently)
Who is it good for?
This car seat is ideal if you don’t require a car seat that can be fitted onto a pushchair as part of a travel system. Buying the Maxi Cosi Opal will mean you do not have to buy 2 car seats within 12-18 months of each other. My personal opinion is that it will suit you if you prefer to walk shorter journeys and drive the longer ones (meaning you aren’t continuously getting your baby out of the car and back in again 5 minutes later…) or you are looking to buy the next stage up car seat but want to keep your child rearward facing for as long as possible. The Maxi Cosi Opal is available here.
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The Petite Star Kurvi Klassic 3 in 1 Travel system is a stylish looking 3 in one comprising of a buggy (forward or rearward facing), a car seat and a pram. It is competitively priced and is well designed.
The rearward facing car seat is built to EU specification meaning that it offers side impact protection which is absolutely paramount for the safety of your child, the car seat is also very easily attached to the chassis (frame). The buggy and the pram are not two separate pieces as is usually the case with 3 in one travel systems, it is an ingenious design that allows you to simply lower the back and straighten the foot rest for a comfortable, snug, safe pram, and to use it as a buggy- which can be forward or rearward facing, you just lift the footrest, raise the back and you are good to go. This means one less thing to store once your baby grows out of it which for me and for many parents is a huge plus!
The height of the handlebar can be easily adjusted to accommodate taller parents and it also comes supplied with a good sized rain cover that fits perfectly. The sun shade has two positions so there is no need to completely block your baby’s view on a sunny day if the first position offers sufficient protection.
The buggy is nicely padded and comfortable and can be reclined from sitting up straight, all the way to lying flat. This buggy will last you for the whole 2-3 years that your little one will need to be pushed around and comes at a very competitive price.
Dimensions are as follows:
Folded: 61cm x 94cm x 29cm
- Easy to use and to fold down
- Car seat is built to EU specification offering side impact protection
- Very easy to take the pram out and fit the car seat to the chassis
- No need for an additional pram (that you won’t use after 6 months!!)
- Quick release wheels
- Rain cover is supplied and fits perfectly
- Can feel a little wobbly(but not in any way unsafe)
Who is it good for?
This is great if you are looking for a stylish, reliable travel system without the hefty price tag and/or if you are lacking in home storage space!… If you are looking for a 3 in one travel system on a budget then the Petite Star Kurvi Klassic will serve you very well and I don’t foresee any disappointment. Likewise, if you are searching for a travel system that wont take up much space when not being used then this is the one for you. It measures 61cm x 94cm x 29cm when folded, doesn’t have a pram unit that you won’t use after 6 months and as an extra space saving idea; it has detachable wheels. Your baby will be safe and snug and you will have spent your pennies very wisely indeed. Click here for a full product description of the Petite Star Kurvi Klassic (opens in new window – this window will not close).
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The 3-in-1 Travel System by Baby Sportive with Pram, Car Seat, Pushchair and Accessories is absolutely fantastic value. It is lightweight, small enough to fit into most small cars when folded, easy to use and has everything you need; a car seat, a pram, a changing mat, mosquito net, rain cover, bottle holder and much more. The wheels are nice and big which makes for a smoother ride for your baby, if you would like swivel wheels you can order these from the supplier, it costs an additional £16.
As you know, when your baby is newborn, she will need to lie flat, this travel system is easily converted from a stroller to a pram; you simply adjust the pushchair so that it is flat, lift up the footrest, attach the support bar and ‘hey presto’ you have a pram. This saves having both a push chair attachment and a pram attachment which in turn means one less thing to store “until baby is big enough”.
If, like me, you want your baby to face towards you when he/she is sleeping and face forwards when he/she is awake and alert then this can be done with minimal fuss or effort. The thing I love most about this travel system is that you can easily change the direction your baby is facing by lifting the handlebars up and over the buggy. As far as I am concerned, every travel system should have this feature! The pushchair also has several recline positions which include a lie flat position.
- Folded pram with wheels 99x60x56cm
- Folded pram without wheels 85x59x44cm
- Overall height of the pram with hood 112cm
- Carry-cot internal dimension: 72x34x15cm
- Weight pram: 13kg
- Removable safety bracket protects from baby falling out
- Multi-position recline seat (including lie-flat)
- 5-Point security safety belt
- Adjustable footrest
- Pocket at the hood
Car seat Features
- 3 Point security safety belt
- Removable foot cover
- Seesaw function
- Ergonomic carrying handle
- Equipped with a removable hood
- European Safety Standard ECE R44-04.
- Adjustable suspension (at the back)
- Height adjustable pushchair handle (70-113cm)
- Strong reciprocal brakes
- Weather resistant materials
- Integrated reflectors for a better visibility
- Viewing window at the hood
- Spacious shopping basket
- 12 months guarantee
The 3-in-1 Travel System by Baby Sportive has some excellent reviews, the only negative I can find is that swivel wheels aren’t standard. This travel system is a great product at a fantastic price. Here is a round up of the most recent reviews:
- Lightweight, strong, robust and very well built
- Easily adjust the direction your baby is facing by moving the handlebars over the buggy
- Height of handlebars can be easily adjusted
- The colour and fabric are good quality
- Comes with everything you need (changing mat, mosquito net, rain cover, bottle holder, bag)
- Excellent value!
- Instructions could be easier to read
- Does not have swivel wheels as standard
Who is it good for?
This travel system is unbelievable value with no compromise on quality. Why pay £400 for a travel system when you can get everything you need plus more for under half of that! This is my best buy for those looking for a quality travel system without the top end price.
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