Car Seat Buying Guide
With so many models to choose from, finding the perfect car seat can feel like an impossible task! We're here to help you cut through the jargon and confusing numbers to guide you to the right choice for you and your little one. The best place to start is to look at what type of car seat you're going to need. They're most commonly sorted into groups that are based on the weight of your child, or sometimes the height depending on which safety certification it has.
As you can see some of the car seat groups overlap, and can potentially come in any combination, but these are some of the most common options:
Some hospitals may have requirements to check your car seat, so make sure you have one and know how to use it in plenty of time before the birth. Some may also insist on it being an infant carrier, and not a convertible seat that cover wider age ranges. Always check with your planned hospital where possible.
Generally, we would recommend using car seats that are designed for a single group, as they're more tailored to a smaller age range which offers better safety compared to a seat that needs to cover a wide age range.
Always check your vehicle handbook, this should have a section on what groups of child seat can be fitted in your car, and whether you have any features like ISOFIX, top tether points or underfloor storage which will affect what type of seats can fit your vehicle.
Make sure the seat fits in every vehicle you plan to use it in, as well as whether you want to use it with your pushchair as not everything is compatible with each other.
Never buy a second-hand car seat, even if it's from a friend; you can't guarantee there haven't been any bumps or scrapes that leave invisible damage, or whether it's been weakened over time.
Don't be afraid of thinking ahead and asking questions!
Changing cars, or having another child can affect what decisions you make about what type of seat to buy.
- Do you want to commit to a single brand or stay flexible?
- Would you prefer to invest in an ISOFIX base that can take the next stage seat as well?
- Do siblings have an age gap that's practical for re-using old seats instead of buying new ones? Do you need to worry about the width of putting seats next to each other?
Our sales team are available to help answer all these questions and more to help guide you to the right model for your needs.
What else do i need?
Many infant carriers will be compatible with an ISOFIX (or belted) base, and some bases can take the next stage seat. A really easy and convenient way to install your car seat.
Let's face it, kids are messy. Sometimes you'll find a spare cover can be a lifesaver when washing the original, or summer covers help to keep them cool in the warmer weather.
Gives you peace of mind when your child is rear facing, it allows you to keep a close eye on them without distracting from driving.
Sometimes they need a bit more support, or some extra padding or warmth and these accessories are a great way to do it safely, especially as coats are a big no no in car seats.
As we said before, kids are messy and that can get all over your vehicle, as well as the pressure of a seat on your upholstery! Seat protectors are a great way to keep your car clean, and often give the seat a bit more grip.
If you're planning on using your car seat on the pushchair out and about, you'll want to consider a raincover to keep them nice and dry.
If you're lucky enough to get much sun, you'll want to keep your child protected from the UV rays, and we have a great range of sunshades to do the trick.
We have a whole host of other accessories, whether it's storage, spares or a good old baby on board sign.
3 Point Belt
A standard vehicle seatbelt with one part that goes over your shoulder and torso, and one part that goes across your lap.
A booster seat designed to raise the child so they're positioned correctly for a seatbelt. Smaller and slimmer than the high-backed alternatives, but offers no additional protection.
This can refer to either the bottom of a car seat where it attaches to your vehicle, or a separate detachable base that stays in your car and the seat clicks on to, making it very easy to get in and out of the vehicle. Some can be installed with a seatbelt, others with ISOFIX.
The term used when a seat belt buckle is pulling against a car seat and negatively affecting the installation.
Used to refer to any seat that covers multiple groups, but most commonly 0+/1 and 1/2/3 seats. These can vary a lot, with some options being rear and forward facing, or with others being only forward facing.
Extended Rear Facing (ERF)
With R44/04 seats rear facing is only mandatory to 9kg, and with i-Size seats it's up to 15 months. As rear facing is approximately 5 times safer than forward facing parents often want to keep their children rear facing for as long as possible. Some models of car seat offer rear facing options up to 18kg or even 25kg!
A seat where the baby faces towards the driver.
High Backed Booster
A booster seat that features a high back that offers head and shoulder protection as well as positioning the child correctly for a seatbelt.
An alternative to harnesses, an impact shield is a big cushion that's held in place with the seatbelt. This allows your child to have their arms free, but still be safely contained in the seat. They're also very good at keeping in budding escape artists.
Also known as Group 0+ seats, these are the portable seats from 0 to 13kg that can be carried with a handle, and are often compatible with pushchairs.
The newest safety regulation, designed to make fitting car seats easier with clearer instructions and the use of ISOFIX. i-Size seats must undergo side impact testing, and children must stay rear facing for 15 months. These seats are based on height rather than weight (but they often have a maximum weight limit as well)
A simple method of car seat installation allowing you to click and go. Typically using three points of contact (two arm bars and either a leg or a tether) to connect directly to the vehicle. ISOFIX is a standard feature in most cars post 2007, but always check your handbook.
The part of the seat belt that goes across the lap, sometimes used to refer to older seat belts that are only 2 points – very few car seats can be installed with just a lap belt.
The older car seat safety standard, with this type of seat you must keep your child rear facing until 9kg
A seat where the child faces towards the rear of the vehicle.
The part of the seat belt that goes across the shoulder and torso.
Side Impact Protection
Not every seat undergoes side impact testing, currently all i-Size ones do, and only some R44/04 seats. Whether the impact protection is something as obvious as a shock absorber or something invisible built into the shell of the seat, if it's been tested it will have some kind of label on the seat telling you so!
The third point of contact in some ISOFIX seats, usually found on a base or built into the bottom of a seat, the support leg goes down to your vehicle floor to prevent the car seat from moving vertically. This is usually incompatible with vehicles with underfloor storage.
The third point of contact in some ISOFIX seats, this is a strap that usually goes behind your vehicle seat to attach to an anchor point in your vehicle (most commonly halfway up the back of the seat) which prevents the car seat from moving vertically. Not all ISOFIX cars have top tether anchor points, so always check your handbook.
Some vehicles may have small storage areas in the floor in front of the rear passenger seats. This is typically incompatible with support legs as putting them on the lids is at risk of shattering in an impact. Always consult the instructions and vehicle handbook as it may be okay if the storage is filled with an approved block, or if the leg can reach the bottom of the storage area.