Car seats come in all shapes and sizes these days and it can be quite confusing when knowing which one to buy. That’s why we’re here to help you with our ultimate car seat guide! All of your questions have been answered – from what size car seat to buy, to how to fit it, when and why they expire, and recommended brands! So sit back, relax and let us guide you…
General guidelines to follow
Before you read any further it is important you follow these three guidelines when purchasing an appropriate child restraint seat:
- The child restraint seat conforms to the United Nations standard. Look for the ‘E’ mark label on the seat.
- Is suitable for your child’s weight and size.
- Is correctly fitted according to the manufacturers instructions.
- Children must normally use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135 cm tall, whichever comes first.
For more information: http://www.childcarseats.org.uk/types-of-seat/
What size car seat do I need?
(e.g. car seat for a 2 year old, 4 year old)
There are many different types of child car seats available and these are divided into categories according to your child’s weight (these categories will be clearly marked on the car seat’s packaging). They correspond broadly to different age groups, however, it is the weight of the child that is most important when deciding what seat to use. Please refer to the following table – created by childcarseats.org.uk – when deciding on the size of car seat you may need:[table id=1 /]
How do you fit a car seat?
The way a car seat is fitted is integral to your child’s safety. Statistics show that 80% of car seats are fitted incorrectly. As car seats come in all shapes and sizes we cannot tell you how to fit one here. However, a general rule of thumb is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for for fitting a car seat. If you have lost the instructions they are often published on the manufacturer’s website. If you cannot find these then your best bet is to simply contact the manufacturer.
However, even after following the manufacturer’s instructions, please keep the following in mind:
- It’s safer to fit the car seat in the back seat of the car but if necessary they can be fitted in the front.
- NEVER fit a backward-facing baby car seat in the front if there is an active airbag on the passenger seat side of the car. If the airbag went off it could hit the seat with a large amount of force, potentially injuring your child.
- If using a forward-facing baby seat in the front seat ensure that the seat is as far back as it can go and the seat belt is secured properly.
When can a car seat face forward?
This depends on the type of car seat you have:
Weight-based car seats must be rearward facing until your child is at least 9 kg. After this weight they should be turned forward facing, however, some car seats can stay rearward facing until your child has reached 18kg (check the manufacturer’s instructions).
Height-based car seats – also known as i-Size seats – must be rearward facing until your child is over 15 months old. Your child can then use a forward facing seat when they reach this age.
How long before car seats expire (and how to check)?
As a general rule, most car seats expire 6 years after the date of manufacture and depending on the make and model of your car seat, the date of manufacture could be located in a number of places:
- On the label. If it is on the label then it will be explicitly stated – i.e. “do not use after this date [date here].
- Imprinted on the seat. As with the label it will be explicitly stated.
In some cases, there will be a date on a tag sewn onto the car seat’s harness straps. Unless explicitly stated this is NOT the car seat’s expiration date but rather a release date.
IMPORTANT: If you cannot the date of manufacture on your car seat then it could be a fake and should be avoided at all costs. A fake car seat is a dangerous car seat. By buying one you could be putting your child’s life in danger. If you are in doubt then ring the seat’s manufacturer.
Why do car seats expire?
The main reason car seats expire is because they are made of plastic, which becomes brittle and weak as it ages (two things you don’t want in something that is made to withstand force)!
My car seat has been involved in a car accident – can I still use it?
In most cases the answer is NO. Most manufacturers warn that car seats should never be used again after a crash, however, The Car Seat Lady says it is OK if you meet ALL of the following criteria:
- The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash; AND
- The vehicle door nearest the car seat was undamaged; AND
- There were no injuries to any of the people in the vehicle; AND
- The air bags did not activate; AND
- There is no visible damage to the child seat
What is the best way to dispose of an expired or damaged car seat?
First of all, NEVER buy or sell an expired or damaged car seat. If you see a car seat being sold at an unusually low price then chances are it’s unsafe. It’s like buying a car without seat belts – you just wouldn’t do it.
To dispose of an expired or damaged car seat safely check with your recycling center to see whether it can be recycled. If it can’t then cut all of the straps off a write clearly in a marker pen “DO NOT USE – EXPIRED” on the car seat before throwing it away.
How do I know if my car seat has been recalled?
A car seat can be recalled if a safety issue becomes apparent after it has gone on sale to the general public. You should never use a car seat that has been recalled. A good website to check whether your car seat has been recalled is GOV.UK as their list is continually being updated:
If you are still unsure then it’s always best to check with the manufacturer – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
How do I clean my car seat?
Cleaning your car seat is a simple process and should be done regularly. To clean it efficiently follow these steps:
- Take it out of your car and place on an old blanket
- Vacuum up all of the dirt and dust
- If you can, remove the seat cover and place it into the washing machine on a gentle cycle.
- If you can’t remove the cover, spot clean the big stains and leave out to dry.
- For the plastic portion of your baby’s car seat use a kitchen or bathroom cleaning product. Apply a small amount on a damp cloth, clean the entire seat and then rinse with a wet cloth.
What is the best car seat to buy?
There are loads of good car seat brands out there but here are some that we recommend (and have good reviews elsewhere):
- Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix, £135 (Group 0+), Age: birth to 13kg (approx 15 months)
- Kiddy Evo-Lunafix, £319.95, Age: birth to 13kg (approx 15 months)
- Silver Cross Simplicity, £135 Age: birth to 13kg (approx 15 months)
- Britax Baby-Safe plus SHR II, £71, Age: birth to 13kg (approx 15 months)
- Joie i-Anchor, £160, Age: birth to 18kg (approx 4 years)
- Cybex Sirona, £400, Age: birth to 18kg (approx 4 years)
- Joie Stages, £150, Age: birth to 25kg (approx 7yrs)
- Joie Every Stage, £200, Age: Birth – 36kg (11/12 years)
If you’re a bit strapped for cash then why not buy a used car seat on Friday-Ad? We have an entire section dedicated to car seats and baby carriers on Friday-Ad. However, please choose carefully when buying a used car seat. This can be done by following all the above guidelines. Remember – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
And that’s it! Thank you for reading our ultimate car seats guide. Did you find it helpful? Let us know by commenting below… and don’t forget to share this post on social media.