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Car seats are an essential purchase for any parent – not just for the safety of your child, but because it’s against the law for young children to travel without one.
Here’s some advice on choosing the right car seat, and some handy tips to make sure it’s fitted safely.
So what car seat should you go for?
There are a number of different types of car seat available, and which one you choose will largely depend on the age and weight of your child:
- Baby seats – Children up to around 13 kg (birth to 9-12 months). These should never be used in the front if there is a passenger airbag activated. They face backwards and are fitted by attaching the seat belt through specialised fittings. This can be different for every seat, so make sure to read the instructions carefully.
- Child car seats – children from 9-18 kg (9 months to 4 years). They have their own straps and face forward. They are usually fitted in the back seat of a car with a seat belt.
- Booster seats – children weighing from 15-25 kg and up to 135cm in height (aged 4-6 years). The idea of these is to elevate, so they can use an adult seat belt safely across both their chest and hips without it being uncomfortable.
- Booster cushions – children weighing 22-36 kg (aged 6-11 years). These are similar to booster seats in that they raise the child up enough so that they can use an adult seat belt safely.
Fitting a car seat
Always follow the manufacturer's instructions thoroughly when fitting a car seat to ensure it is properly secured. No matter how good your car seat, it is no use at all if not properly fitted, and the same applies when strapping your child into the seat.
Fit the straps properly, so that they are not too loose, or too tight and uncomfortable. Check that the buckle is securely fastened.
This fitting process must happen every time you use the seat, as seat belts and straps have a habit of loosening when a child has been wriggling around in it. A tip is to keep a copy of the fitting instructions in your car.
Here are some crucial things to remember about the correct way to use your car seat:
- Babies and small children must use a car seat when travelling – it’s the law.
- You cannot allow children under 12 to travel by car unless they are strapped in and using a child car seat, booster seat or cushion, as appropriate.
- Children over the age of 12 (or taller than 135cm or 4ft 5in) must wear an adult seat-belt.
- Never place a rear-facing seat near an active front airbag.
- Never modify a child car seat.
- Always replace a car seat following an accident.
- Ensure your car seat is always properly fitted – if in doubt, double-check the manual.
Sarah Leverton writes for Sainsbury’s Bank Money Matters blog on topics such as car insurance, child safety and affordable driving. She also writes for a variety of other publications, covering a wide range of topics from sailing to health and lifestyle.
Disclosure Policy: I am part of the Sainsbury's Bank Family Blogger Network. I occasionally receive products or financial compensation in exchange for posts.