What a maze of products on the market! We aim to help you know how to choose your best car seat based on your family's needs. Here are a few important points to put you in the picture first:
When your first consider how to choose your best car seat, remember that you have to have a car seat for any children up to 135cm tall or until they are 12 years old. Children from 12 years old have to wear a seat belt. In the UK, you may not be able to bring your baby home from hospital until you have an appropriate car seat installed so buy your car seat before the new member of your family arrives. Until your baby / toddler is 15 months old, they have to sit in a car seat which is rear-facing.
In order to know how to choose your best car seat you can do it according to your child's height (if i-Size) or weight. Either way, the car seats available from each brand are tested in order to keep your child safe according to their weight or height. You probably know from your own research that babies and children are kept safer in a car when travelling with their back to you. Therefore, for continued safety, the longer your child faces rearward whilst travelling the better.
If you want to know how to choose your best car seat by weight, then you have a number of weight classified car seat groups to choose from as follows: (i-Size car seats, classified on the height of your child are explained further down the page.)
Group 0+ (0-13kg) from birth to around 12-15 months. These car seats/baby carriers usually weigh less and take up less space than those used for older children.
As babies have delicate, developing bodies, their organs, back and neck need the extra protection provided by the cushioning and shape of their car seat. You can install most of the car seats in Group 0+, like the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix Car Seat and Familyfix Base, very easily using a 3 point car seat belt or Isofix (with the use of the car seat base).
The Maxi Cosi Cabriofix Car Seat with FamilyFix Base - comes with a lifetime warranty
Group 0+ car seats including the Maxi Cosi Pebble (see below) can also attach to a pushchair frame as apart of a 'travel system' . You can attach your car seat to a pushchair chassis whilst your child is still safely harnessed and comfortable. This is very useful for ensuring your family has happy journeys. Only Group 0+ car seats can be used in this way.
The Maxi Cosi Pebble Car Seat can be attached to a pushchair frame
Group 0+ & 1 (0-18kg) from birth to around 4 years. This group of seats includes the Britax DualFix Car Seat. They let your baby face rearwards and then swap to a forward facing position when the time is right.
Britax DualFix Car Seat - Rear and Forward Facing
Group 1 (9-18kg) from around 9 months to 4 years. If your child is about 9 months old then this Group of car seats will last them until they are about four. Most of these seats including the Maxi Cosi Pearl Car Seat are only forward facing facing. The Kiddy Phoenixfix 3 Car Seat includes an impact shield across your child's abdomen. This helps absorb impact on your child's cervical spine in the event of a collision.
Maxi Cosi Pearl Car Seat - Faces Forward
Kiddy Phoenixfix 3 Car Seat includes an Impact Shield
Group 1-2-3 (9-36kg) from around 9 months to 12 years. If you are looking for a car seat that will suit children of different ages and weights then a group 1-2-3 seat (or Multi-Group seat) is for you. They cater for children weighing between 20lb to 5st 9lb. Multi-Group car seats usually feature a 5 point harness for your baby's safety. They adapt into a high-backed booster seat suitable as your child grows. With options to move from rearward to front facing, these car seats also provide you with better value for money without compromising on safety and protection.
You will find a wide range of car seats in this group to choose from. For example if you choose the Cosatto Hug 123 (5 Point Plus) Car Seat, extra thought has been given to the design to stop younger children wriggling free of the car seat whilst travelling. The Joie Every Stage FX 0+/1/2/3 Car Seat provides a rearward facing position from new born up to 18kg. This car seat can easily be adapted into a forward facing seat when required.
Cosatto Hug 123 (5 Point Plus) Car Seat for a snug fit
Joie Every Stage 0+123 Car Seat - Rear and Forward facing
Group 2-3 (15-36kg) from around 3 years to 12 years. When moving on from Group 1 car seats, don't go looking for just a Group 2 seat because they don't exist. If your child is about to move on from Group 1 they will need a Group 2/3 booster seat with a high back. There are plenty of models to choose from: The Joie Trillo 2/3 Car Seat gives your child added security should the car be in a collision from the side. The Nuna Aace 2/3 Car Seat is also a Group 2/3 Car seat and has eight adjustable seat aspects. It also features a headrest with ten different positions. This headrest works with the padding at shoulder height to make sure it fits your child perfectly as they grow to the age of 12.
The Joie Trillo 2/3 Car Seat for added security
The Nuna Aace 2/3 Car Seat fits up to age 12
In 2013 EU safety law ECE (R129) also called 'i-Size'came into being to enable children's car seats to fit into different styles of car. The aim of the i-Size regulation was to allow babies and children to travel even more safely. 'I-Size car seats' are suited to your child's height rather than their weight and are an optional choice.
If you go by height, then i-Size seats cater for around 40cm to 105cm (roughly birth to 4 years old). You can choose from a wide selection of i-Size car seats from top of the range to good quality or value for money models.
What type of fixing will you use in your car?
What if my car has ISOfix connectors?
An ISOfix connector is the name given to the 'International Standards Organisation Fix'; this is the standard for connecting car seats in passenger cars. Sometimes you will see the term 'LATCH' being used, which stands for "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children". ISOfix fittings are not found in all cars (but most manufactured within the past 10 years do have them) so you need to check whether or not your car is included before looking for a car seat.
ISOfix seats, using rigid connection points, help you to correctly fit your car seat in the right position; they generally cost more than car seats installed by seat-belts and they also tend to weigh more. So, if you are planning to transfer your car seat between several cars, this could be the type for you.
There are three kinds of ISOfix car seat to look out for if you want to use your ISOfix:
Universal approval - these are forward facing car seats in Group 1 and you can use these in nearly all newer cars. You can install Univeral approval car seats using a two-point fixing system and a top tether.
These are car seats that can face forward or rearward. Semi-universal approval seats cannot be used in cars with storage space under their floor.
Vehicle specific approval
These car seats are compatible with specific vehicles only, and use a two-point fixing mechanism.
Whichever car seat or method of installation you choose, it is really importance that you know how to install your chosen car seat correctly.
What if my car only has seat belts?
If your car has car seats then choose a car seat with clear guidelines on correct positioning and guides for installation. By doing this you will reduce the likelihood of using the car seat incorrectly. Otherwise, by using car seat belts for installation such as with the Joie Stages 0+/1/2 Car Seat, you will find the following advantages:
Advantages of using seat belts
They ensure safety if installed and positioned appropriately; They give you a flexible option to transfer car seats between cars; You don't have to have ISOfix connectors installed in your vehicle
Disadvantages of using seatbelts
However, the disadvantages of using car seat belts for installation include: The time taken to install these car seats can be much longer than using ISOFIX connectors; The risk of installing a car seat incorrectly is higher, especially if you have never bought or installed a car seat before; The subsequent failure to provide optimum safety protection to your child should you be involved in a collision
The Joie Stages 0+/1/2 Car Seat can be installed using a seat belt.
Why should I choose an ISOfix Car Seat?
Ease and Safety
ISOfix car seats make installation easy and safe. If you make a mistake when positioning a car seat it can have serious consequences for you and your family. ISOfix car seats include metal parts on the base which slot into the chassis of a car between the seats. When you use an ISOfix car seat, there is no question that it is in the correct place and securely attached. You can fold a 'support leg' to reach the floor of your car. Another way of making sure your car seat is held securely in place is to use a 'support leg'.
ISOfix car seats have a 'top tether' as their additional fixing point. Cars manufactured since 2012 all have anchor points or top tethers and some older models of cars also include them. It is worth checking this on your car before deciding which car seat to purchase. ISOfix car seats are in the categories of infant car seat (or Group 0+ i-Size), toddler car seats (which are Group1, i-Size) and group 2/3 car seats (for children from 4-12 years).
Group 2/3 ISOfix car seats
The Group 2/3 ISOfix car seats, designed for older children, function differently to the other categories. As your child is slightly older, the adult car seat belt holds them in position should there be a collision. Adult seat belts distribute forces in a collison away from your child's body. ISOfix anchor points hold car seats firmly in place when noone is sitting on them.
To be sure that the ISOfix car seat you might purchase will fit into a car with ISOfix anchor points, you need to have an i-Size car seat and an i-Size car. Read on for further details as well.
Why should I buy an i-Size Car Seat?
The reasoning behind i-Size car seats is that in the future, all car seats fit in all cars. All cars will have ISOfix (as outlined above) and all car seats too.
As time goes on more and more cars will the European Standard and be i-Size ready. However, if you buy an i-Size car seat you need to check which cars it will fit in to.
Impact Protection from the front, rear and side.
Another reason to buy an i-Size car seat is for protection from side impacts in the event of a collision. This is part of the approval process too.
Rearward facing to 15 months.
I-Size car seats like the Kiddy Guardianfix 3 Car Seat oblige you to have your baby facing the rear of the car until 15 months of age.
You can use the Kiddy Guardianfix 3 Car Seat from 9 months to 12 years old.
Before the i-Size regulation came into place, car seats allowed babies to face rearwards until they were around 10 months old. Similarly, i-Size car seats including the Cosatto Den i-Size Group 0+ & 1 Car Seat are classified according to the height of your child; whereas older models are classified by your child's weight.
The Cosatto Den i-Size Group 0+ & 1 Car Seat is suitable from birth to 3 years old.
What if I want to use a car seat base?
When you are choosing a car seat base, you will need a separate product installed into your car. You can fix your car seat base into your car by either your seat belt or ISOfix connectors. You will find that you can also install car seat bases and lock them into your car in different ways. Car seat bases provide you with an additional level of safety by clicking into their base. An example of a car seat that fits into a separate base is the Joie i-Anchor Advance Car Seat.
Joie i-Base Advance
Joie i-Anchor Advance Car Seat positioned on the Joie i-Base Advance
When you are travelling with your family it isn't always plain sailing. To help you have as smooth a journey as possible, you will notice that car seat accessories are carefully designed. Most of the key brands including Cosatto, Maxi Cosi, Britax and Joie offer a practical yet luxurious range of car seat accessories to fit the bill. From summer covers to kick mats, rear view mirrors to car seat cocoons, there are plenty of additional extras. There fore, when choosing the best car seat, think about what accessories are available. Are there any you really need to cushion your driving experience? Read on for further details:
Why do I need Car Seat Footmuffs?
Car Seat Footmuffs such as the 7AM Enfant Blanket 212 Evolution can bring your little one extra warmth and comfort when travelling. Car seat footmuffs have fittings like hoops and hooks to help you keep them securely in place. They are also are very versatile and you can usually use them in a pushchair as well (see below).
Allowing the car seat or pushchair harness to fit and stay in place, the 7AM Enfant Blanket 212 Evolution footmuffs make all the difference on a chilly day.
What is so important about Car Seat Replacement Covers?
Giving you the opportunity to swap the colour of your car seat, car seat replacement covers are a must especially if one cover is in the washing machine. Having a replacement cover like the Maxi Cosi Rubi Replacement Seat Cover as shown below, means you are always ready for the road.
Maxi Cosi Rubi Replacement Seat Cover providing all the comfort and design features of the original, a replacement car seat cover is a great idea.
Why do I need a summer cover for my car seat?
Seasonal variations in car seat covers perform a functional purpose. For example the Mountain Buggy Protect Infant Car Seat Cover is made from a fabric that is moisture absorbent. This allows your baby to stay comfortable on hot days and can be used with or without a seat liner. Therefore removing the previous cover and using the summer cover is very easy to do.
Summer covers are usually made to fit specific car seats as you will find with models like the Maxi Cosi MiloFix Summer Cover, above.
If you are still not sure about how to choose your best car seat, ask more questions. If you need to know if the seat will fit your car, check the manufacturer's 'approved vehicle list as well. This is on the packaging box or on the manufacturer's website. Also you can check your car owner's handbook (found online). If you are still in doubt, contact BuggyBaby.co.uk or the brand website for guidance.