Car seats buying guide

Law on child seats

By law, children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.

Seats must conform to the United Nations standard, ECE Regulation 44.04 (or R 44.03) or to the new i-size regulation, R129. Look for the 'E' mark label on the seat.

Buying by group and weight

You can choose a child car seat based on your child’s height or weight.

Children grow at different speeds, so make sure the car seat is correct for the weight of your child.

  • With these seats, you are legally allowed to move your child into a forward-facing position when they reach 9kg, however, safety experts agree that infants should be kept rearward-facing for longer

  • Some seats are Isofix-compatible

Group Types:

Group 0 Birth–10kg/22lb (approximately 6 to 9 months)
Group 0+ Birth–13kg/29lb (approximately 12 to 15 months)
Group 0+ and 1 Birth–18kg/40lb (approximately 4 years)
Group 1 9–18kg/20–40lb (approximately 9 months to 4 years)
Group 1 and 2 9–25kg/20–55lb (approximately 9 months to 6 years)
Group 1, 2 and 3 9–36kg/20–79lb (approximately 9 months to 12 years)
Group 2 15–25kg/33–55lb (approximately 4 to 6 years)
Group 2 and 3 15–36kg/33–79lb (approximately 4 to 12 years)

i-Size – buying by group and height

Until a few years ago, car seats were only grouped in weight categories, now you have the option to buy according to your child’s height

  • i-Size European standard for child car seats was introduced in 2013 to make car seats easier to fit, provide better side impact protection and keep children rearward-facing for longer, as this is proven to be safer.

  • All i-Size seats are Isofix compatible, reducing the chance of fitting the seat incorrectly. In the future, i-Size car seats will fit all ‘i-Size ready’ vehicles.

  • They must be rear-facing until your child is at least 15 months old – shouldn’t move to a forward-facing position even if their feet are pushed against the car’s back seat.

What is Isofix?

Isofix are fixed points within your vehicle’s seats that can be used to securely attach your child’s car seat. The benefit of Isofix is that it’s easier for parents to be confident they have the correct fit, than when they use a three point seat belt to secure a car seat.

Infant Isofix car seats use a base which the seat simply clicks into, making it easier to get the car seat in and out of the car.

Some high back booster seats can also be directly attached via Isofix connectors, and is used alongside the adult seatbelt holding both the child and seat in place.

All cars produced after 2011 are equipped with Isofix points.

You can also check to see if you have an Isofix system by:

  • Contacting your vehicle manufacturer

  • Consulting your vehicle manual

  • Checking for staple-shaped fittings between the back and bottom of the seat

Please also check whether your car has under seat storage as this may affect the Isofix base you can have.

If you plan to use your car seat in different cars, it’s a good idea to fit separate Isofix bases in each car.

High-backed booster seats and booster cushions

High-backed booster seats and booster cushions – group 2 or group 2/3; for children aged from 4 years.

Booster seats raise a child’s seating position so that the car’s seat belt fits them properly.

High-backed booster seats have side wings that help to protect the child’s head in an impact.

Some have an adjustable back or adjustable head rest, which can be raised or lowered to suit the height of the child using it.

High-backed booster seats do not have an integral harness to hold the child in place. Instead, the car’s seat belt goes around the child and the seat (except groups 1, 2 & 3 booster seats which have an integral harness which the child uses until they reach 18kg in weight, when they should swap to using the car’s seat belt with the booster seat).

Booster seats can be used in the front or rear of the car, but it is safer to put them in the rear, especially if there is a passenger airbag in the front.

On some high-backed booster seats, the back can be removed once the child reaches 22 kg in weight, or their head is higher than the top of the seat’s back when it is its highest position. We recommend keeping the back on the seat.

Booster cushions – also group 2 or group 2/3

Some booster seats have backs that can be removed, leaving just the seat cushion part. You can also buy booster cushions that do not have a back.

The lack of a back and side wings removes any side and head protection from the child car seat, leaving the child vulnerable to head and side injuries, particularly in side impacts.

Under new rules expected to come into effect by 2017, backless booster seats or booster cushions will only be approved for use by children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg. Currently children as young as 3, or 15kg, are able to use a backless booster seat. The new rules will mean backless booster seats will no longer be approved for these young children.

Travel systems

There are many buggy frames that come with interchangeable seating options. This usually involves a carry cot for newborn babies, and a pushchair seat, as well as a car seat.

If you’d like the convenience of being able to take the car seat out of your car and clicking it directly onto your buggy without waking your sleeping baby, then choose a Group 0 or Group 0+ car seat that works with your chosen travel system. It is wise to check which car seats work with which travel systems before you buy one – and to remember that they don’t always have to be the same brand as many different makes are compatible with each other.

Always follow the manufacturer’s fitting instructions and keep them with the seat.

Practise how to use your car seat and ensure you are confident installing it in your car – especially if you’re a first-time parent-to-be.

Don’t leave even the shortest journey to chance: always take the time to harness your child in an appropriate car seat.