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a guide to car seats

car seats buyers guide

a guide to car seats

Did you know that as many as 80% of baby and toddler car seats are either incompatible or fitted incorrectly?

We know finding the right car seat can be tricky, because not only do countless styles exist but also countless rules and regulations too. Not all car seats fit all cars - and standing in the hospital car park with your newborn, is not the time to be discovering your car seat doesn't fit your car. This is why it's important to put a little thought into buying the car seat before your baby arrives.

Car safety is extremely important. Follow our advice and you can help your little one to stay safe on the move. And remember, children under 12 years old will be required to use an appropriate car seat, with few exceptions as the law states.

What you'll need

Car seats are divided into different groups. It's the weight of your child that is important, not necessarily the age.

  • Baby seats - infant carriers from birth to 13kg (approx 15 months) are always rearward-facing
  • Combination seats - can be used from birth (rearward facing) to 13kgs, and then forward facing to 18kgs (approx 4 years)
  • Forward-facing seats from 9 to 18kgs (approx 9 months to 4 years)
  • Highback boosters (with a harness or without a harness) and booster cushions from 15-36 kg (approx 4 to 12 years)

Fitting the car seat - things to remember

  • Read the instructions carefully - remember up to 80% of car seats are fitted incorrectly
  • Always try before you buy to make sure it fits your make of car
  • Practice fitting the seat a few times before you need to use it
  • Fasten the seat into the car as tightly as possible. There should be no slack or loose seat belts
  • Adjust the harness for a snug fit against the child's chest
  • When correctly installed, the car seat should not move or slide around excessively
  • Our car seat advisers can check that your seat fits your child and car and they will also show you how to fit it properly

Safety first

  • Read the car seat instruction leaflet before you use your seat. Keep it handy for future reference.
  • Never place a rearward-facing car seat on the front passenger seat protected by an air bag - it can seriously injure or even kill a baby.
  • Push your weight onto fixed child seats as you tighten the seat belt to make sure there is no slack and the seat is securely held.
  • The seatbelt buckle should be straight when locked and should never rest on the child car seat frame as it may snap open.
  • Your child seat should rest firmly on the main seat, with little or no movement.
  • Check that you cannot get more than two fingers between the harness straps and your child's chest: tight enough, but still comfortable.
  • The harness buckle should lie on your baby's pelvis, not tummy.
  • Regularly check fixed car seats to ensure that they haven't worked loose. Pull on the harness of the seat to test thoroughly.
  • Never modify a child seat, its fitting, the harness, or buckle to make it fit your car.
  • Beware of second-hand car seats - as you do not know the history of the seat and it may not meet current standards. Never use a seat that has been involved in a crash, no matter how minor.
  • Watch out for unsecured objects in the car that could be dangerous - in an accident, a tissue box flying off the back shelf has the impact of a house brick.
  • If you have to use the front seat with an older child, (who is in a forward-facing seat) push the passenger seat as far back as possible from the dashboard.
  • Try to keep journeys short for the first 3 months - it's good for your baby to lie flat for most of the day.
  • Use a car seat for all journeys, however short. Even if you don't own a car you'll still need a car seat for when you get a lift from friends or take a cab.

ISOFIX

This is a new standard that makes fitting a child car seat quick, simple and safe. ISOFIX attachment points are built into almost all new cars, so that an ISOFIX child car seat can be plugged in. Watch the video for more information.

Ask in stores for details of ISOFIX seats. Before installation, always check your vehicle compatibility - ask your car manufacturer or dealer.