Parenting is by no means an easy feat; you’re running on limited sleep, you’ve got a little human totally dependent on you, then there’s all the paraphernalia to contend with - and that’s before you’ve even got the car seat fitted and the baby buckled up! We’ve got you covered though with our helpful guide that will tell you everything you need to know when it comes to buying and fitting a car seat.
Buying a car seat
Before you make any sort of purchase, you need to try a couple in your car before making a final decision. Most retailers are willing to help you with this and staff should be trained in fitting car seats – so don’t worry if this is your first time!
Check whether your car has Isofix connectors built into it, these are designed to make the fitting of baby and child car seats simpler and most modern family cars have these included - they can be found hidden in the cracks between the padding of the car seats.
It’s also handy to research some car seat manufacturer’s online guides as these show which cars their seats will fit in. Keep in mind, if your baby or child is likely to be travelling regularly in another car, perhaps with other family members for example, check the car seat fits their car too.
Always choose a car seat that fits according to your child’s current height and weight.
Make sure your car seat is EU approved – you can check this by looking for the “E” mark label on the seat.
Never buy a second-hand car seat; this could have been damaged in an accident, causing parts to be missing. If you are going to buy a second-hand car seat then we recommend that you only accept one from friends or family and only if you know its history.
Think about the uses - if you know you’ll be lifting your baby in and out of the car a lot, we recommend you buy a lightweight seat with a base that stays in the car.
Universal car seats:
Although many child car seats are labelled as universal, don’t be fooled as this doesn’t mean all child car seats are suitable for all makes and models of cars. If you’ve thought about buying an ISOFIX seat – check your car’s handbook before you decide on purchasing anything. This will give you all the right information you need to be knowledgeable about what type of car seat you’re after and will tell you the types and sizes of ISOFIX seat that are compatible in each seating position.
What size car seat:
When travelling in a car, all children must be secured in an age-appropriate car seat until they reach 12 years of age or are 135cm tall, while infants must remain in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 15 months. Car seat sizes are categorised into three groups according to the child’s age and weight.
Group 0+ – rear-facing car seats suitable for babies aged up to about 15 months or who weigh up to 13kg (29lb).
Group 1 – forward-facing seats suitable for children who weigh 9-18kg (20-40lb) or who are aged from 9 months to 4.5 years
Group 2/3 – high-backed booster seats suitable for children who weigh 15-36kg (33lb – 5st 9lb) or are aged from about 3 to 12 years.
You’re also able to buy combination seats that cross over these groups, such as group 0+/1 seats – these are suitable from birth until your child weighs about 18kg (40lb) or is aged around 4 and half years. The benefit of this type of car seat is that is can be more economical, however, they may not offer the same level of protection.
Where to install the car seat:
It's best to fix a car seat in a rear-facing position on the back seat as they provide more head support and spinal protection in the event of a crash, offering five times the protection compared to that of a front-facing seat.
While it is safest to have children travelling in the back, it may be more reassuring and less distracting to let them ride up front particularly if it’s just you and your child in the car. However, many parents are unaware that child car seats should never be used on any seat fitted with an airbag unless it is deactivated, as its proximity to a child in a car seat can cause injury if it is activated. So remember to deactivate the front passenger airbag if you plan to travel with your child in the passenger seat!
Strapping a child in safely:
Always check and adjust the harness before and during every trip. If there's too much slack, it won't fully protect your child in an accident. You should only be able to put two fingers at best between the harness and your child's chest.
Make sure that your child is strapped in properly – that doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is just tightly secured, the harness and chest pads must all be correctly adjusted according to the manufacturer's instructions.
The harness buckle should sit as low as possible, keeping the lap section of the harness across the child’s pelvis and not resting on their stomach.
Knowing all the rules and regulations surrounding car seats and child safety can be confusing, but when it comes to finding and purchasing the right seat can be just as mind-boggling. We suggest that you always ‘try before you buy’ as the retailer will be able to advise you and demonstrate how to correctly use and install the car seat. Having children is an exciting part of life but choosing a car seat shouldn’t be a stressful time, hopefully this guide has highlighted the importance of knowing what car seat you need right down to ensuring your child is secure in his or her seat but ultimately keeping them safe in the car.
Are you a new parent? Did you feel confused when it came to purchasing and installing your child’s car seat? Let us know your experience via our social media channels.
Other CarCliq articles that might interest you:
For more CarCliq Guides, click here.