The decision of which car seat to purchase for your child is one of the biggest decisions a parent will make in regards to equipment. Safety is the utmost concern and car seat safety has always been a much debated concept as many of us grew up in times when cars barely had seat belts, let alone proper safety seats. We are lucky now to have such a choice of safety features to protect our children but this choice can also be quite overwhelming.
The laws of car seats for children are also changing. Due to more testing proving the benefits of high backed booster seats, backless seats will be discouraged and eventually phased out to ensure maximum safety for children between the ages of 4 and 12. It’s good to note that car seats produced in the UK are built to align with the laws, therefore you have less to worry about in that respect. As more changes come into effect, though, it is important that you read up on the changes and learn what to look out for as your child grows. The laws in regards to the age in which backless booster seats may be used is also changing, though if you already use one, you will not be breaking the law if you continue to use it. For more information on these changes, check out the Car Seat Rules and a great explanation of the changes from site, Made For Mums.
Car seats are generally broken up into a few different groups, depending on the weight of your child. Car seats will fall into one of these categories and it is based on the size of your child, as well as corresponding age. Some seats may cover more than one group and grow with your child, while others will be more specific. These groups are known as:
- Group 0+ (birth – 13kg, approx 12-15 months)
- Group 0+/1 (birth to 18kg, approx 4 years)
- Group 0+/1/2/3 (birth to 36kg or 135cm, approx 12 years)
The discussion and decision of which car seat is the safest is a long debated and ongoing topic. Not only due to the changing laws, but to the constant release of newer and safer seats onto the market. Through thorough research, we’ve set out to bring you a list of the safest seats on the market from newborns to toddlers, to younger children. The following are our picks for the best and safest car seats on the market right now.
Babies are only allowed to leave the hospital in a vehicle as long as a car seat is installed. Many Group 0/0+ seats are also compatible with travel systems to make transport easier and more seamless. Newborns should ALWAYS be placed in rear facing seats currently until at least 9 months but soon to be until at least 15 months when a child’s neck is stronger. In Scandinavia, they believe children should be placed in rear facing seats until they are 4 years of age. Many manufacturers here, though, have not produced seats capable of this.
The first seat we’ve chosen comes from proven baby safety champions, Maxi-Cosi. No stranger to making well made, safe products, the Pebble Plus is an upgrade to the Pebble and is made to align with new laws and standards. A rear facing seat for up to 12 months, the base is sold separately but does allow for the next Maxi-Cosi seat to be installed so only one base is necessary. Once the base is installed, the seat is very easy to slide in and out and also works with the Maxi-Cosi Quinny buggy for ease of use in a travel system. On more of the pricey side but well worth the investment.
AGE: Newborn – 12 months
DIRECTION: Rear Facing
PRICE: £199 (seat only)
Similarly to Maxi-Cosi, Britax is a tried and tested producer of seats and baby products with high safety ratings and the Baby Safe Plus SHR II is no different. An improvement on the original, the SHR II includes a variety of added safety features such as the patented D-SIP technology, which offers added protection in case of side collisions. SHR stands for “Single Hand Release” which is in reference to the ease of removing the seat from a various range of buggy bases including the B-Smart, B-Mobile and B-Dual. Adjusting the seat as your child grows is easy, as well, as when you adjust the headrest, the slope of the chair also changes (ie: as you increase the height of the rest, the seat sits more upright). The original Britax Baby Safe is also a stand up car seat for those with a smaller budget in mind, simply forgoing the SHR function.
AGE: Newborn – 12/15 months
DIRECTION: Rear Facing
Children should never be left in a car seat for more than 2 hours, unless it is a lie flat seat. It can increase the chance of suffocation and is widely discouraged.
The next group of seats available covers a much broader time frame than the initial seats may. While the Group 0+ seats will take you through until about 15 months, the +/1 seats are usually appropriate from approximately 9 months, or when the baby reaches a weight of 9 kg. These car seats for toddlers, though, will easily be safe for your child up to 4 years of age. Though the two we’re showcasing are forward facing, they both have added safety features that make them suitable for forward facing from 15 months to adhere to the laws, even though they state they are suitable from 9 months.
The Kiddy PhoenixFix Pro 2 has been included in most top safety lists this year. Though it is a forward facing seat, it has a few alternative safety features that do put it above the rest in this category. The PhoenixFix Pro 2 states that it is suitable from 9kg to 36kg (approx 9mths to 4 years), but, as stated above, with upcoming legislation, we wouldn’t recommend a forward facing seat until 15 months which should align with the length of time the newborn seats above would last. The biggest difference between most car seats and the Kiddy PhoenixFix Pro 2 is that, instead of the 5 point harness that you will find on all legal seats available, this model uses what they call an “Impact Shield” that, not only protects in case of impact, but also prevents children from escaping from their seats. This model, and patent, have won safety awards around Europe and has even been approved for use on airplanes.
AGE: 15mths – 4 years
DIRECTION: Front Facing
The biggest attraction to the Cosatto Hubbub (aside from the many choices in coverings), is the 5 Point Anti-Escape System. Instead of the standard 5 point harness, this Cosatto model has almost a waistcoat-like harness that prevents any escape artists from getting out of their seat while you’re on the go! Added side impact protection also keeps your little one protected in case of side collisions. This seat is also great as it grows with your child from 15 months all the way to 12 years (36kg). The 2 part reversible seat liner allows you to adjust the seat as your child grows meaning they’ll always be protected.
AGE: 15 mths – 12 years
DIRECTION: Front Facing
If you are unsure of how to install a seat, we recommend to get it installed by a professional. This initial added cost could save your child’s life.
The final Group covers children from age 4-12. With law now changing to encourage the use of high backed seats instead of backless, these seats will give your child added comfort day to day as well as added protection in case of a collision. They are also available in a variety of styles and colours that will seem less out of place as they grow older.
One of the biggest known names in car seats and children’s safety, the Britax Kidfix II ZP SICT comes in as a solid option for your child to take them from 4-12 years. The XP-Pad aids in case of frontal impact by diverting the force experiences away from the neck, while the well padded side wings protect in case of side impact. Pretty much every aspect of the seat is adjustable for the perfect fit as your child grows and the headrest is ergonomically designed for optimal sleep safety. The seat easily fits into most vehicles and is smaller than many other booster seats meaning passengers can sit beside it comfortably.
AGE: 4-12 years
DIRECTION: Front Facing
The Graco Milestone is one of only a few seats that considers itself an “all in one” product. Suitable for birth to 36kg (birth to 12 years!), the seat offers many safety options that will seamlessly take you through the many stages of your child’s development. With the ability to sit both rear and front facing, it also adheres to EU law and upcoming standard updates. A steel reinforced frame as well as added side impact protection means the seat is built to last and protect your child from all angles.
AGE: 4-12 years
DIRECTION: Rear & Front Facing
Car seat safety is one of the biggest worries for parents and we hope that we’ve helped ease that with a few above suggestions. While the above seats will be suitable in regards to the new laws coming into effect, we would still recommend reading up on the changes, yourselves, and ensuring you have an understanding of what the changes mean. The new rules are said to be totally phased in by 2018, so you have time, but when it comes to the safety of your children, sooner is definitely better!