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10 things you should know about child car seats

Written By Dan Powell

child in car seat
  • Buying a new car seat? Don't until you've read these 10 things 
  • Work out your child's size, weight and height
  • Why you should avoid second hand car seats

When you drive with a child in the car, you want to know the little one is safe. That’s why we’ve spoken to the experts to create this list that explores some of the most common mistakes that can be made when carrying children in their car.

Know the law

In the UK, children are legally required to use a child seat in a car until they are either 12-years-old or 135cm tall. What’s more, it’s the driver’s legal responsibility to ensure that every passenger aged 14 and under is using a seat belt or is in the correct child seat.

Work out your child’s size and weight

Like children, car seats come in a range of sizes. So, before you start, weigh and measure your child. Car seats are categorised into six basic groups (not including i-size) ranging from 0-3. The age of the child should be treated as a general guide, while the weight and height are the key things to check regularly. If your child exceeds these then it’s time to buy a new child seat. We’ve got a handy Car Seat Chooser tool that can help you work out which child seat group your little one is in.

Avoid second-hand child seats

On the face of it, buying used is a great way to get a cut-price child seat. But where does the seat come from? Has it been involved in an accident? Will it fit your car? For these reasons (and many more) it’s always best to start afresh. No matter how tempting those cheap second-hand child seats appear to be, it’s best to stick to new.

Make sure the child seat is compatible with your car

Child seats are not automatically compatible with every model of car. You’ve got to check the child seat’s description, before you buy. The child seat manufacturer will usually list the compatible makes and models of car in the description of the seat. You can also use our brilliant Car Seat Chooser tool, to make sure the child seat is designed to fit your vehicle.

Make sure the child seat is compatible with you

Child seats can be bulky and heavy. Make sure you can lift it comfortably, especially if you will be carrying it from car-to-car regularly. It’s also worth taking the time to measure the seat dimensions to ensure it’ll fit into your car. For example, you might need to push the driver’s seat forward to accommodate the child carrier. Can you do this and still drive comfortably? It always pays to check these things before parting with your cash.

Find the right fit

Fitting a child seat isn’t always easy. There’s generally two ways to fit a child seat: securing it with the seat belt or via the Isofix points. The former is perfectly safe, but you must ensure the seat belt is tight around the seat and not twisted at any point. Isofix is considered by many to be the best way to fit a child seat. Because there’s less chance of the seat being fitting incorrectly, and it helps to lock the seat in place in a way a seat belt alone can’t.

If you want to read more about different ways to fix your child’s car seat, we’ve got just the right guide for you on our blog: ‘Isofix vs seat belts - which is best for a child seat?’

You should also read our guides on Best cars for three child seats, the Best MPVs  for three child seats, Best SUVs for three child seats, Best electric cars for three child seats.

Don’t use the head rests to fit the seat

If possible, always remove the rear head restraint and store it in the boot. Don't be tempted to use it to hold the child seat in place - it's not designed to do this and could compromise the seat’s safety in the event of an accident.

Get a helping hand from the shop

Still struggling to get that child seat to fit correctly? Don’t worry, it’s a common problem. Most child seat retailers offer fitting demonstrations. This means an expert from the shop will show you how to fit the child seat properly, if you ask. It’s also usually free, when you buy the seat from the same store.

Make sure to take your child’s coat off before putting them in their car seat

You should always remove your child’s coat and any bulky clothing before fitting them into the car seat. A thick coat will make the child seat harness less effective and could also make your child overheat when you switch on the car’s ventilation system. Plus, we all know it’s more comfortable without chunky clothes in the car.

Never reuse a child seat after an accident

If you’re involved in a road accident then you should always replace the child seat. Even a minor prang can cause unseen damage that can result in weakness of the seat’s structure. This means it may not operate as intended in another accident later on. It’s always better to be safe when it comes to your little one’s car seat.

See also: 

Cheapest family cars

Best cars for first time parents

Best rated family cars on heycar