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11 Aug 2020
Jamie Gibbs Jamie Gibbs

How to choose and fit a child car seat

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Pregnant woman looking at child car seats

Confused about which car seat to get? We're here to help.

No matter how many children you have, shopping for a child car seat can be a headache.

There are so many options to choose from. And with new models coming out each year, there's no end to the confusion.

But once you narrow your options, it's not so bad.

 

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Do I need a child car seat?

Your child needs a car seat if they’re:

  • Under 12 years of age

  • Less than 135cm (4 feet 5 inches) tall.

Once they’re taller than 135cm, or have their 12th birthday, they don't need a car seat.

There are some circumstances where they might not need to use a car seat. To view the full list, visit GOV.UK.

 

What car seats are compatible with my car?

To check what car seats you can use in your specific make and model, visit our friends at heycar.

 

What size car seat do I need?

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

Child car seats based on weight

This is the most common type of car seat in the UK. Car seats are grouped into categories - 0, 1, 2 and 3.

The table below shows what weight ranges are appropriate for each group:

Group Weight range 
 0+ 0 - 13 kg
 1 9 - 18 kg
 2 15 - 25 kg
 3 22 - 36 kg

 

What are combination seats?

Combination car seats stay with your child as they transition from one group to the next e.g. groups 1 and 2.

The benefit with these is that you won’t have to change car seats as often.

But they can be more expensive and have fewer features than a car seat dedicated to one group.

 

Should I get a rear-facing or forward-facing seat?

The law says your child must be in a rear-facing seat until they weigh over 9kg.

But the current safety advice is to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. Or at least until they’re 18kg.

Studies have shown that rear-facing seats are quite a bit safer than forward-facing.

 

Car seats based on height

These are called i-size car seats and can only fit into cars with ISOFIX. They also keep children rear-facing until they’re 15 months old.

The drawback is that they only fit cars that have i-size compatibility, which aren't common in the UK at the moment.

 

How to fit a child car seat

There are two ways you can fit a child car seat:

  • Using the ISOFIX anchor points

  • Securing with the seat belt.

It's important to know exactly how your seat should fit into your car. Get your car seat fitted by an expert before trying it yourself.

 

Fitting a car seat with ISOFIX

If you have a compatible car, using ISOFIX is simple:

  • Find the two anchor points at the back of the rear passenger seat

  • Extend the arms of the car seat base

  • Slide the arms into anchor points until they lock

  • Push the car seat back as far as it can go.

There are usually indicators that tell you when the seat is secure. It's important to check the instructions of your car seat. They'll tell you what and where these indicators are - this ensures your child is protected.

Some car seats have a third anchor – a strap that secures to the back of the passenger seat. This adds an extra level of stability to the car seat.

 

Fitting a car seat with the seat belt

The specifics of how to fit the car seat can vary depending on what seat you have.

Check your car seat's instructions for the best way to fit it with the seat belt.

 

Should I buy a second-hand car seat?

You shouldn't buy a second-hand car seat.

There’s no guarantee that a second-hand car seat hasn’t been in an accident. Even if it hasn't, it could have become damaged through wear and tear.

Even if you trust the person who is selling or giving it to you, neither of you can be sure that it’s 100% fit for purpose.

So it's always best to buy a new car seat. That way you can be sure that it meets the right safety standards.

 

Can I recycle my old car seat?

At the moment, there’s no real way to recycle car seats.

To make the seats safe and durable, they’re made of a mix of materials that make recycling difficult.

Get in touch with your local recycling centre to see if they can recycle parts of the car seat. You’ll have to throw the rest out.

When you do throw the car seat out, write ‘unsafe’ or ‘expired’ clearly on it somewhere. This lessens the risk of someone else using it.

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