Confused About Car Seats? Our Guide To The Rules

11/10/2018

Are you struggling to decide between rear-facing or forward facing, wondering whether you should opt for a multi-stage seat or get new boosters as your child grows, or not sure if your child is ready to ditch the harness and use the car’s seat belt? You’re not alone! The rules and regulations surrounding child car seats can be bewildering at best, and with so many options available when it comes to seat styles, it’s no wonder many parents are confused. We’ve put together this short guide to make things simpler to understand.

Make Sure Your Seat Is Legal

New regulations surrounding child car seats came into force in March 2017, stating that:

  • Children should use a car seat until they are either 135cm tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first.
  • Children must remain in a high backed booster seat (rather than a backless booster cushion) until they are taller than 125cm or weigh more than 22kg.
  • Children aged less than 15 months should sit in a rear-facing seat.
  • Only EU-approved height-based or U-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These will have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’ or ‘R129’.
  • Seats must be fitted using ISOFIX anchor points if available in the vehicle. If ISOFIX is not available, the seat should be secured using a car seat with a diagonal strap, not a lap belt only unless the car seat is specifically designed to be used in this way.
  • Any air bags should be deactivated if using a rear-facing car seat.

We discussed these rules in more detail in our blog post, Child Car Seats, Do You Know The Law? For more information visit the government website page summarising the car seat regulations.

Car Seat Categories

The weight of your child, rather than their age, is what is important when it comes to deciding which seat is suitable. Car seats are divided into a number of categories:

Group 0: Suitable from birth to 10kg (22lb). Rear facing.
Group 0+: Suitable from birth to 13kg (29lb). Rear facing.
Group 1: 9kg-18kg (20-40lb). Usually forward facing, but increasing numbers of manufacturers are introducing rear-facing Group 1 car seats for increased safety. Children are secured with a 5-point harness.
Group 2: 15kg-25kg (33lb-55lb). A forward facing high-backed booster seat. Children are secured using the car’s own seat belt.
Group 3: 22kg-36 kg (48lb-79 lbs) and 125cm or taller. A backless booster cushion. These seats do not offer side-impact protection for the head and chest in the event of a collision.

It’s important to note that there is an overlap in the weight guidelines for each type of seat. You don’t need to change your child’s seat as soon as they reach the minimum weight for the next stage – for maximum protection in the event of a collision it’s better to wait until your child has reached the maximum weight for their current seat before moving them up a stage.

Multi-Group Car Seats

Many car seat models are able to adjust as the child grows, and are called multi-group or combination car seats. These are a practical way to keep your child safe while avoiding having to purchase multiple car seats as they grow.

Group 0 and 0+ seats can be removed from your vehicle and usually fit on to the chassis of a pram or travel system. This is a convenient way to move your baby into and out of the car without disturbing them. If you opt for a Group 0+/1 combination seat, you won’t be able to do this, however you will be able to keep your baby rear-facing for longer, until approximately age 4, which has been shown to have big safety benefits.

Group 1/2/3 car seats are suitable for use from 9kg (approximately 9 months) until 36kg, when a child no longer needs to use a booster seat. These combination seats are designed to adapt to your growing child. The Ickle Bubba Solar 1-2-3 Car Seat is a great example of a combination seat that’s an economical option to keep your child safe in the car from 9 months to approximately 12 years.

Isofix Makes It Easy

Isofix is a car seat attachment system which is now standard in all new car models, and is present in many older vehicles too. Isofix makes it quick and simple to ensure that your child’s seat is correctly fitted, thanks to the red and green indicators on the seat itself. Isofix is an option for all car seat groups except Group 3 backless booster cushions. Group 0 and Group 0+ seats which are designed to be removed from the vehicle and used with a travel system often come with an Isofix base which remains in the car.