Most baby items you can do without. Then there's some pieces of baby equipment that are more essential, like a pram, but you can still skimp on what you're paying. Then there are the baby items you absolutely have to have and it is worth spending as much as you can afford. Car seats are one of these. And if you've got a car, then legally you have to use a car seat. There's no two ways about it.
Does everyone? No. It shocks me but I've seen people driving around with mum holding baby in the passenger seat. I've even seen parents I know do similar things - people I know who are well educated, well off, and normally sensible.
Be that as it may, it is a legal requirement for babies, and children, and it is also necessary if you want to save them from death or injury in even a small car accident.
If you've got a budget, then allocate a fair chunk of it to a car seat. You should only ever use a second hand car seat if you know the person you're getting it from really well, so you can be 100% confident that it has never been in a car accident.
Here we look at the best way to pick out the car seat you should get, what you should look out for, and tips on getting it fitted properly.
This one is easy in my opinion. Which magazine is a consumer magazine published by a charity that specialises in looking after consumer rights. It is sold purely on subscription, and has no advertising. It does rigorous testing on all sorts of consumer products.
And top of its lists are items that are vital for our safety. Like car seats. So my advice is to go to their website's Car seat Reviews section, and look at the products they have tested. Choose something from their Best Buys - you can look at these online for a one-off subscription of £1.
Where to buy?
I would say that in this case you should go to a shop and buy instore. Or try instore, and then buy online. But it really is a case of trying before buying.
For one thing, not all car seats fit all makes of car. When you've decided on the car seats you want, go to the manufacturers website, and make sure your car's make and model is listed. Don't take a guess.
Try them out in a store that has an instore setup. Give them a call before you go. A lot of people I know use Halfords, as they allow you to try the seat out in your car too, and they have a fitting service. When we bought our second car seat from Mothercare, we tried it out in the car first too. Check on this though - we had to go to a large store and book a time, as the assistant has to come out with you.
The best thing about trying the carseat first is that you can be sure you know how it works, and also how comfortable it is for your child.
There are two ways that car seats can be fitted in your car. Either using the existing seatbelt or using an Isofix system.
Isofix is by far the safer of the two. In some countries, such as Australia, carseats have to be tethered by law. Many new cars have Isofix fittings now as standard, and even if your car is a few years older it might still have them as manufacturers began to introduce them in more expensive family cars as early as 2002. By 2014 it will be mandatory for all new cars to have Isofix fittings.
With Isofix, you don't have to worry about fitting the car seat. It just slots straight in. It also provides a rigid link between the carseat and the car, for better stability and safety.
However, for now most of us will use the existing seatbelt to secure a carseat in the car. If that applies to you then watch one of the safety video clips (these can be found on the Which website too) for information on how to fit them properly. Also, keep an ear out for fitting spot checks. These are sometimes undertaken at school fetes, or in the carpark of a DIY or Halfords store on a Saturday. A professional will check your fittings and give you some tips if you're not doing it properly.
Which category of car seat?
Car seats are divided into weight categories. This is the most important factor to consider - not the age of the child.
So first you need to know how much your child weighs. And keep an eye on that weight so they don't outgrow their carseat without you realising. Some children weight significantly more than others, even at the same size.
- Group 0 0-10kg (0-22lb)
- Group 0+ 0-13kg (0-29lb)
- Group 1 9-18kg (20-40lb)
- Group 2 15-25kg (33lb - 3st 13lb)
- Group 3 22-36kg (3st 7lb - 5st 9lb)