Choosing the right car seat for your child
Becoming a parent changes your life forever. When your little one arrives there’s so much to think about, and his or her safety is forever at the front of your mind. When it comes to choosing a car seat, your head will be full of questions: which make or model is best, how much should I pay, must I buy new or will second-hand do, and how do I fit it into the car safely?
We at motors.co.uk have done the research – so that you don’t have to. Just follow our guide to choosing and fitting a car seat below.
It’s now a legal requirement to have a car seat for any child under the age of 12, or below 135cm in height, and choosing the right type will depend on your child’s size and age. Newborn babies need an infant or combination car seat, whilst an older heavier child will need a booster seat. As soon as your baby or child outgrows the limit for their seat, you MUST replace it – a child who is above or below the weight range of their seat may obscure the seat’s protection mechanisms.
Avoid buying second-hand
With so many items to buy, you may think that buying a second-hand car seat will save you some cash, but this is something you should avoid doing at all costs. You have no way of knowing if the seat is damaged or has been in a crash, and subsequently it may not work to its full capability putting your little one in immediate danger. Hand-me-downs are only worth considering if you are absolutely certain of their past use.
Will it fit my car?
Not only does your car seat need to fit your child, it also needs to fit your car. Make sure there’s enough room around the car seat to allow it to be adjusted to all the positions necessary, and bear in mind that many car seats now come as part of a pushchair travel system, so you’ll need to make sure that you can fit the frame of the system into your car as well.
Infant car seats - are intended for newborn babies up to approximately 9kg or 20lbs. The seats are designed to give greater protection to the baby’s head, neck and spine and are rear facing. It is advised that the safest place to fix your seat is behind the passenger seat, but if you do have to put your car seat in the front seat, always make sure the passenger airbag is deactivated as an airbag can cause your baby serious injury and is illegal. Key features to look for when purchasing an infant car seat include:
• Reclining seat – this is vital to ensure that your child’s head, neck and back are fully supported.
• Head pillow – look for a seat which includes this as it will provide additional cushioning for your child’s head.
• Safety harness - the seat should have a 3 or 5 point safety harness, with front adjusting straps creating easier access
Combination seats – these can be adapted from rear facing to front facing, saving you money on buying two different types of car seat. They are generally suitable for newborn babies up to the age of 4 years old or 18kg/40lbs in weight.
Forward facing car seats – are designed for small children who are above 9kg or 20lbs and usually around 9 months an above. They can be secured in a car using an adult seat belt or an ISOFIX base and include a 5-point harness and an adjustment mechanism for comfortable positioning.
High back boosters – Once your child is around 4 years and weighs over 15kg or 33lbs, they can sit in a backless booster seat which enables them to be secured using a standard diagonal seat belt in the front or back of the car. Models are available for children aged 4 -11 years, or weighing between 33 and 80lbs.
International Standards Organisation FIX (ISOFIX)
Many people struggle to fit their child seats correctly, therefore ISOFIX was created to make fitting car seats a quick, easy and a safer process. All new cars are fitted with ISOFIX points, but it’s important to make sure that any ISOFIX seats you buy for your vehicle are approved for it.
Using your car seat safely
Once you’ve found the right car seat, it’s important to adhere to the safety regulations when installing it. Most stores selling car seats will have an area where they can demonstrate how to fix your car seat correctly. Some stores will even fit the car seat into your own car before you drive away just to make sure it’s fitted correctly giving added peace of mind. You can also refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for a comprehensive step by step guide.
It’s important to always make sure that you and your passengers wear seatbelts at all times during a car journey. Failure to ensure that your child is wearing the appropriate seat belt could result in a £500 fine and is detrimental to your child’s safety. It could also affect any claim you make against your motor insurance cover, and if you’re carrying someone else’s child in your car who is not wearing a seat belt, you could face court proceedings.