If you’re a parent, you know how vital it is to have the correct car seat to protect your child in the event of an accident. By making an incorrect choice and you’re caught with an unsuitable or incorrectly fitted booster seat, you could land yourself with a hefty £500 fine. To ensure your child is safely protected, read our guide to choosing the right car seat.
It’s key to check that the seat you are buying is EU-approved for use in the UK – just look for a label with a capital “E” in a circle.
Furthermore, there are two categories of seats:
Please note that only EU-approved car seats can be used in the UK.
There are various types of child car seats available, so take your time choosing the correct one. Visit shops and research online to get an idea as to what seats are available and which ones are most suitable for your child and your car.
It’s advisable taking your child and your vehicle with you when choosing a car seat and to find a reputable retailer who has trained employees to choose and fit the correct car seats. Even better, try to find a retailer who will help you try the seat in your vehicle before you buy it.
You can choose a car seat for your child based either on the child’s height or weight:
- 0kg to 9kg or 13kg
- 9kg to 18kg
- 15kg to 36kg
Children weighing more than 22kg and taller than 125cm can use a backless booster seat.
Child seats must be fitted either using ISOFIX mountings or a diagonal seat belt strap.
For smaller children, a highback booster seat is recommended.
All i-size car seats come with ISOFIX fitting points. This means you can fit the car seat to your car safely without relying on seat-belts. ISOFIX fitting points are increasingly fitted to new cars as standard.
However, not all Isofix seats are approved for use in all Isofix cars, so check with the child seat manufacturer or retailer or the car manufacturer, to find out if your Isofix child seat is approved for your vehicle. Many have a list on their website that shows which seats are approved for which cars.
|Group||Child’s weight – applies to R44.04 seats ||Approx age of child ||Child’s height – applies to i-Size seats|
0+ and 1
0+, 1, 2 and 3
1 and 2
1, 2 and 3
2 and 3
|Birth - 10kg/22lb|
Birth - 13kg/29lb
Birth - 18kg/40lb
Birth - 36kg/79lb
9 - 18kg/20 - 40lb
9 - 25kg/20 - 55lb
15 - 25kg/33 - 55lb
9 - 36kg/20 - 79lb
15 - 36kg/33 - 79lb
|Birth to 6 - 9 months|
Birth to 12 - 15 months
Birth to 4 years
Birth to 12 years
9 months to 4 years
9 months to 6 years
4 to 6 years
9 months to 12 years
4 to 12 years
|40 - 85 cm|
40 - 85 cm
40 - 105 cm
40 - 150 cm
85 - 105 cm
85 - 150 cm
105 - 150 cm
85 - 150 cm
105 - 150 cm
It's important to bear in mind that moving babies and younger children up to the next seat up before they reach the maximum weight or height for their seat could lead to more severe injuries in a crash. Babies and children can vary wildly in terms of size, so it’s much better to use height or weight as a guide for what car seat they should be in, rather than age.
It is vital to check that the child seat you purchase will fit in your car and that it will fit in all the seat positions you intend to use it. The manufacturer and retailer should advise you.
While it can certainly be much cheaper to buy a second-hand car seat, do proceed with caution.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends that you avoid buying a second-hand car seat altogether, even from people you trust, as you don’t know if it’s been involved in an accident. You may not be intentionally misled by an unknown seller or a trusted friend, but minor damage can easily be forgotten or overlooked and still affect the safety of the car seat.
If you proceed with buying one second-hand, make sure you check the following before agreeing to a purchase:
In the UK, children must be restrained in a car seat until they are 12 years old or at least 135cm tall. From that point onwards they must use a seat belt like all adults.
Exceptions to this law include:
If the taxi driver doesn’t provide the correct car seat, children are ok to travel without one, as long as they travel in the back seat.
Failure to ensure your child is in the correct car seat could result in you getting a £500 fine and the driver receiving up to 3 penalty points on t
heir licence. In turn, this could result in pushing up your car premiums as car insurers might perceive you as being higher risk.
If you have been unfortunate enough to have had your car seat stolen or your vehicle has been involved in an accident, you might be able to can claim on your vehicle insurance policy.
Not all car insurance policies include this type of cover, even with fully-comprehensive policies, so you might want to consider this when shopping around for cover.
Even insurers that do pay out for a claim don’t offer the same level of cover across the board, with as many as half of insurers only offering a full reimbursement.
If the seatbelt or harness is loose, twisted or appears to sit incorrectly across your child, make sure that you correct the placement before you head off.
During the autumn and winter months, it’s best to remove your child’s bulky coat before adjusting the slack as the thickness of the material can leave the harness too loose to be effective in an accident.
Additional child car seat checks are:
Any store that has trained child seat fitting staff can assist you. You could try Halfords, John Lewis, Mamas and Papas, or any number of independent retailers. Perhaps avoid Argos as their staff aren’t able to advise on the suitability of car seats, let alone demonstrate how they should be fitted to your car.
You can also check Child Seat Safety’s website www.childseatsafety.co.uk who can provide you with a list of IOSH-accredited advisers on its website along with contact details, to help you find a local expert wherever you live in the UK.
If you’re going to be travelling for a lengthy amount of time, it’s advisable to stop for regular breaks to allow you to check on your baby and change their position. Ideally, a second adult should travel in the back of the car with your baby, or if you are travelling alone it is helpful to secure a mirror to enable you to observe your child.
If at any point your child slumps forward, it’s recommended to stop and adjust their position.
All children under the age of 15 months must be rear-facing because, before this age, their necks are not strong enough to withstand the pressure of a head-on collision in the forward-facing position. Groups 0 and 0+ are rear-facing.
Many infant car seats come as part of a wider travel system and can be clicked into the pram chassis with adapters.
However, expert advice states that car seats are for travelling alone and not intended for lengthy naps. The most ideal position for a sleeping infant is lying flat. It’s best not to keep babies in a car seat for any longer than two hours at any one time and they should be taken out frequently.
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