So you’re looking to buy a car seat?
Should you go front-facing or rear-facing? A harness seat or a booster? IsoFix or 3-point seatbelt installation? There are lots of things to consider, which is why we put together this easy-to-understand Buying Guide to help you find the best car seat for you.
The first place to start is by identifying the car seat groups that apply to you, and that is generally done based on your child’s weight.
|Seat group||Weight range||Approximate age range|
|Group 0||0-10kg (0-22lb)||From birth to about 6 to 9 months|
|Group 0+||0-13kg (0-29lb)||From birth to about 12-15 months|
|Group 0+/1||0-18kg (0-40lb)||From birth to 4 and a half years|
|Group 1||9-18kg (20-40lb)||About 9 months to 4 and a half years|
|Group 2/3||15-36kg (33lb-5st 9lb)||About 3 years to 12 years|
|Group 3 (booster seats)||22-36kg (48lb-5st 9lb)/125cm||About 6 years to 12 years|
|Group 1/2/3||9-36kg (20lb-5st 9lb)||From around 9 months up to 12 years|
Each car seat is associated with one of these groups. So, for instance, if your child is 8kg then you should be looking for car seats in the 0, 0+ or 0+/1 groups.
As a rule, seats in groups 0, 0+ and 0+/1 will be rear facing, meaning that when you place your child in the seat they will have their back to the direction of travel. Anything above that will generally be front facing, meaning they will sit facing the same direction as the driver. Due to the safety benefits and additional support, it is recommended that a child stay in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible before moving up to a front facing seat – rear-facing seats for children up to the age of 4 years old are becoming increasingly common.
What is IsoFix, and should my car seat have it?
There are two ways to install your car seat in your car – you can use a three-point seatbelt installation, where you basically use the existing car seat belts to keep your car seat in place, or you can use IsoFix connectors.
IsoFix connectors are mechanical grips build in to your car seat, which connect to IsoFix anchor points built in to the chassis of your car. Most modern cars have these anchor points, but if you’re unsure you should check – simply feel along the join between your rear seat and the seat back, and if you feel some solid square metal loops then those are your IsoFix anchor points.
Car seats with IsoFix connectors can be more expensive, but the safety benefits often outweigh and financial costs. Car seats installed using a three-point seat belt installation are perfectly safe, however if you have IsoFix anchor points in your car we would urge you to keep IsoFix compatible car seats at the top of your shopping list.
What else do I need to consider?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to the seat group and type of installation method, you should have a relatively small selection of car seats to choose from. At this stage there is one other important thing to consider – what type of car do you have? Some car seats are larger than others, and may prove difficult to install or use in a smaller car. If you’re looking to use two, or even three, car seats at the same time you will need to check that they will all fit comfortably alongside each other. Check that parents and grandparents alike can safely place and secure the child in the car seat. Make sure that you read reviews and, where possible, visit a retailer that can install a demonstration car seat.