The range of child car seats available is fairly broad and it is not always immediately clear as to which type of seat will best suit your needs. The most obvious consideration is your child’s age and weight as different seats are designed for the stages of your child’s life from birth through to around 12 years old. Other considerations are likely to include cost, space available in your car, ease of use and life-span of the seat itself.
Basic car seats can start from as little as £25 but financial considerations should never compromise your child’s safety and you must always ensure the seat you choose is entirely suitable for the stage your child is at. The interior of your car is often overlooked when choosing a car seat, but some cars have steeper sloping cushions or shorter seat depth and these factors will affect how securely a given car seat can be fitted.
In general terms, car seats fall into four categories: baby seats (rear facing); combination seats; forward facing seats and booster seats.
Choosing the right car seat for the age of your child
From 0-9 Months (Up to 13kg)
Some pushchair systems have integral seats that are transferable straight to the car but if you don’t have one of these, the two choices available are a rear facing baby seat or a combination seat. Both are suitable for use up to 13kg and can be used in either the front or rear of the car. However, NEVER use a child’s car seat in the front seat of the car unless any passenger airbags have been disabled.
Combination seats can be used rearward from birth to around 12 months and then forwards, once a child can sit up unaided, to around four years.
9 Months to 4 Years (13-25kg)
From this age all car seats are forward facing and, if you are not already using a combination seat, choices may come down to a standard high back booster seat or a car seat that has a reclining option. If you frequently make long journeys, the reclining seat may help children to sleep more comfortably when travelling, but these can be bulkier if you have other children to fit in the car as well.
4 Years to 11 Years (over 22kg)
From four onwards, a simple booster seat secured using the car’s adult seat belts is adequate, although many parents prefer the extra safety features of a high back booster – usually one that secures with the car seat belts rather than an integral harness to give the older child more freedom of movement. Basic booster seats are ideal for use in a secondary car as they are easier to carry around and store. UK legislation requires that a booster seat is used until a child is over 135cm.
Some of the most popular brands on the market include Maxi-Cosi, Graco and Britax. Each of these companies offers a wide range of colours and styles to suit all age groups. The age groups given for each seat are a guideline as to their use and a child’s weight and height are a far more accurate benchmark for the correct type of seat.