Working with Parents

My experiences of advising parents on child safety

Steps for buying the right child seat

on January 19, 2016

What do you have to do to buy the right car seat?

Buying a car seat isn’t easy – in fact, it’s damn hard!  Once you have begun researching for your little ones seat, it can quite often feel like you have opened a can of worms!

But, there are steps you can take to make the choice easier.  To be safe in the car, a child seat must:

  • Be the right stage for the child
  • Be compatible to every car it will be fitted into
  • The seat must be fitted correctly
  • Your little one must be strapped in correctly

So, what’s the easiest way to achieve those 4 points?

1) Figure out what stage seat your child will need to move into:


Also, Good Egg Safety have an excellent seat selector tool on their website!

2) How do you find out if a seat is compatible?

There are two ways to secure your child seat – ISOFIX, or with the adult seat belt.

ISOFIX child car seats have ‘arms’ which are attached to the back of the child seat or base, at the bottom.  These ‘arms’ click onto the ISOFIX points in your car, for a quick, easy and fairly fool proof installation.  Most ISOFIX seats will also have either a support leg, or a top tether strap (which must be used)

Seats with support legs (a long bar which goes into the foot well of the car) are classed as semi-universal.  Semi Universal child seats must have a vehicle compatibility list.  You just need to know the make, model and year of every car you want to fit the seat into, and then ensure that each car is on the list for your chosen seat.  Child seat compatibility lists for ISOFIX seats are on the manufacturers website.  Vehicles with floor storage boxes may not be compatible with ISOFIX seats that use a support leg.

ISOFIX seats with top tether straps tend to be classed as Universal, which means they will fit most, but not all cars.  If your vehicle manual states that your car has ISOFIX and a Top Tether point with B1 approval (it’ll tell you in the manual), the ISOFIX and Top Tether child seat will fit your car.

Top tether pointss

So, ISOFIX is fairly straightforward.  If it has a support leg, it’ll have a compatibility list.  If it has a top tether strap, it normally won’t have a list. ISOFIX seats with support legs are much more common.

Seat belt fitment
Most seats which are fitted with the adult seat belt are classed as universal, and will fit most, but not all cars.  There are rarely fitting lists – unless you go with Britax or Maxi Cosi, who may have tested the belt fitted seat in your car, which will be on their super handy online fit finders.

To find out if a seat is going to fit your car, you are best visiting a bricks and mortar retail store with properly trained staff.  Some stores do give poor advice, which has been heavily documented on TV, but there are good retailers out there.  Try your local independent retailer as well as the big boys.  Also, it is worth visiting a couple of retailers to have the same seat fitted in your car to ensure you get the same answer, this may give you a better idea of who knows their stuff.

Extended rear facing belt fitted seats – Many group 0+1 or 1,2 rear facing car seats which fit with the adult belt are classed as semi-universal.  This means they will also have a vehicle compatibility list, which will be on the manufacturers website – nice and easy!  (Note, the Joie range of belt fitted seats are universal and do not have fitting lists *correct at time of writing!*)

3) Fit their seat correctly.

According to Good Egg Safety, in 2015, only 29% of car seats were fitted correctly (based on 3500 checks!).  It is so easy to make a mistake on your child’s seat, and the consequences in a collision can be catastrophic for your family.  When you buy a seat:

  1. Visit a proper shop, and visit a few different ones, to ensure you are getting good advice.  Vote with your feet, and if you don’t trust what you are being told, don’t buy!
  2. Do not buy second hand.
  3. Avoid buying online.  If a staff member is trained to fit seats, buy from them and have them show you how to fit the seat. Most retailers will price match.
  4. Watch You Tube and manufacturer fitting video’s so you know how to fit the seat
  5. Practice taking the seat in and out (preferably with the staff member present!)

4) Strap your child in safely.

Make sure the store shows you how to adjust the strap or head rest height of your seat, along with any inserts that may need removing as your little one grows.  Ask the store if you can go back for help in future – Mama’s and Papa’s allow you to return any time for a fitment check or adjustments.

When securing your little one, remove bulky or puffy jackets, and pull the straps tight enough so that you can just slip two fingers flat between the strap and your little one at collar bone level.  Remember, a loose harness is a potentially useless harness.  Your seat belt tensions on impact, your little one’s harness is tensioned to how tight you pull the straps – if you don’t pull them tight enough, and they won’t protect little one properly.

Here is a handy checklist of what you can do to choose the right seat for you and your little one:

  • Write down what group seats are suitable for little one’s weight and height
  • If your little one is moving out of the baby stage, research the safety benefits of extended rear facing, so you can make a fully informed decision for your child’s safety.
  • Research what each group stage offers, by looking at some seats – write down the key points you like about each group.  The Good Egg website is a great resource as it lists all the benefits of each stage.
  • When you know what direction you want little one to face, and what group stage seat will suit best, start looking at the different makes and models.
  • When you have a list of seats you like the look of, check them out on the manufacturers websites and see what awards they have won.  Seats which have ADAC or German Stiftung Warentest awards have passed higher impact crash testing and side impact testing.
  • If you’ve gone with ISOFIX, check out the compatibility lists of the seats you like, to make sure they’ll fit the cars you need the seat to.   Visit a retailer and have a go at fitting the different models – try little one in them too!
  • If you have gone with belt fitment, visit a couple of retailers with your shortlist of seats and ask for them to be tested in your car/s (have the seat checked in every car it will go in!).  You may find here some seats are crossed off because they are not compatible.  Visit a couple of retailers to ensure you are being given the right advice.
  • When you know what fits your car, and what little one is comfortable in, it’s a case of choosing what seat you want to buy!



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