Child car seats: how to buy the best seat

Despite the coronavirus crisis, there are still safe, easy ways to shop for a child car seat. Here’s how to ensure you get the correct one...

Child car seats

Being a new parent can be stressful at the best of times, but in our ‘new normal’ post-coronavirus world, it might no longer be possible to follow the usual advice that you must try a child seat in your car before buying it and get a seat fitting expert to show you how to install it correctly. 

Although the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown has ended for many people, shopping hasn't returned to normal. So, how can you ensure you’re buying a seat that will accommodate your child correctly and be compatible with your car? 

To find out, we spoke to child seat fitting expert Julie Dagnall of Child Seat Safety, an organisation that holds seat fitting clinics for the public and provides Europe’s only professional qualifications in child seat safety awareness. These are attained by many of the experts that you’ll find when you visit retailers, or if you talk to seat manufacturers. 

Her advice is to “shop back to front”. That means checking out seats on manufacturers’ websites first to find out which is the best seat for your child, then visiting retailer websites to shop around for the seat. 

Child car seats

“Before you set your heart on a specific seat, check your car can accommodate it,” she says. “Many seat manufacturers have online car seat compatibility checking tools that let you search for the make, model and year of your car and add the weight, height and age of your child to create a list of seats that will be suitable for use in the car’s various seating positions. Don’t assume the seat will automatically fit, though. In some cases, there will be other issues that can affect fitting.”

There is also a car and seat compatibility tool and fitting videos for many seat brands at childcarseats.org.uk, the child car seat information website for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. 

Or, if you’d rather stick with the seats recommended for your car by its manufacturer, you can find out what they are in your owner’s handbook. It’s also worth reading the Euro NCAP crash test results for your car because they provide detailed information about the type of child seat that can be used safely in each seating position, along with the name of the seats used during crash tests.

Child car seats

Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two suitable seats, it’s worth doing a bit more intensive research before you buy. Dagnall advises downloading the manual for each seat and reading up on the adjustments you’ll have to make to it as your child grows. For seats that can be used facing either forwards or rearwards, it’s useful to see how much room they’re likely to take up and how they’re secured into the car, in each of the seat's modes. 

“If you’re not sure about anything, ask the manufacturer for additional information - it’s their product, so they should know it best,” says Dagnall. “Good manufacturers will have a frequently asked questions section on their website and customer service helplines on which you can either speak to an expert or have an online chat. Many will also have fitting videos you can watch to help you understand how to correctly install the seat. 

“Alarm bells should start ringing if the manufacturer whose seats you’re looking at doesn’t provide any of these services. We’d recommend only buying from those that have a good amount of information and advice.”


Next: What are retailers and seat makers doing to help? >>

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