Choosing a new car seat can be hard…
To try and make it easier for you – I have come up with a list of 5 things you seriously need to know when looking at your choices.
Before we start off – I want you to understand that after the infant car seat, the safest car seat for your baby and toddler, is an extended rear facing car seat. Not a standard forward facing Group 1 car seat that so many in the UK get offered when going into a high street shop.
Did you know that rear facing is up to 500% safer for children under 4 years old? It’s ok if you didn’t. Sadly it’s still not common knowledge in the UK, though a common practice in Scandinavia.
You might be thinking that in the UK it doesn’t matter…that the roads are different…that forward facing seats wouldn’t be sold if they weren’t safe?
Well, forward facing seats are not unsafe – that is true, but rear facing car seats are far safer. Especially for children under the age of 4 years old. And the British Medical Journal agrees with the over 50 years of research done by Sweden.
5 Things You Need To Know
As I’ve stated above the car seat choices can be a jungle. And to make it even harder – not all car seats fit all cars, which means that far too often – a car seat is not suitable for the car it’s in.
To make it easier for you – here are 5 things you need to know when selecting a new car seat:
The number one thing to know and the best starting point before you get overwhelmed. Knowing your budget lets you strike quite a few seats off the list, which will help you further in finding the correct seat for your child.
The difference can be looking at 1-5 seats within your current price range – or looking at 55 seats. Safe to say – when the jungle already seems large, there’s no need to get completely lost in it.
What percentile is your baby/toddler/child?
Have a look in their red book to follow the percentile line they are currently on – and see what weight they are likely to be at 4 years old. If your child is likely to be 18kg (40lbs/2st8oz) the safest solution would be to look at rear-facing car seats to 25kg (55lbs/4st) and not the more standard “18kg” car seat.
The reason for this is that high back boosters are for big kids, not pre-schoolers. And children under a minimum age of 4 years old – should not use them for safety reasons.
Are you buying online or in-store?
I will always recommend that people buy their car seats in-store. You can find a lot of good deals online – and the temptation to buy can be strong! BUT- know that the aftercare that specialist retailers offer far out ways the benefit of getting a deal online. It’s also worth checking if the specialist retailer does a “price match” – plenty of them do!
Does it fit my car?
I am afraid it’s a very common misconception that all car seats fit all cars. They do not.
This is why it’s extremely important that you get your car seat fitted when buying it – or if you do not have this option, seek advice both from your own car seat manual, YouTube (most car seats have a fitting video just waiting to be watched) or from a trained car seat expert.
Most car seats will also have a vehicle fitting list which is a guide to what cars the manufacturer has successfully installed the seat in.
When you buy your car seat, make sure you familiarise yourself with the seat and its functions. Everything you need to know about your seat is in the user manual that came with it.
Do I need room in the back seat?
If you have more than one child in the back seat, or if you need to also seat an adult in the back, space could be an issue and you want to make sure to take this into account when looking at the range of car seats. Some are slimmer than others and some puzzle better than others.
There is nothing worse than desperately trying to seat 3 across the back seat – and not be able to.
However, I can also tell you that if you can turn off the passenger airbag you can turn off the passenger airbag – a front passenger seat is a perfect place for a rear facing child.
This also helps with space in the back seat.
Searching for a vehicle seat protector?
Then you should check out David’s useful recommendations over on his blog!
Therese has completed the ‘Advanced Child Car Seat Training Course’ at TRL (Transport Research Lab) and is a CPD accredited car seat expert. She blogs about in-car safety, car seats, tips, reviews, giveaways and advice. She’s a mum on a mission to change the law and raise awareness. She is also a breastfeeding advocate and gentle parenting promoter who loves cloth nappies, baby-wearing, BLW and co-sleeping/bed-sharing.