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Choosing car seats – top tips from Mark Bennett

publication date: Mar 12, 2011
author/source: Mark Bennett
Mark BennetThe best car seat is one that fits your child, fits your car and is easy to install. One of the most important factors when buying a car seat is choosing a seat that is suitable for your child's weight. European experts have established six groups for child restraint systems, which are defined according to the child's weight:
  • Group 0 for babies weighing up to 10kg (about 9 months).
  • Group 0+ for babies weighing up to 13kg (about 15 months).
  • Group 1 for small children weighing 9-18kg (from about 9 months to 4 years).
  • Group 2-3 for older children weighing 15-36kg (from about 4 to 12 years).
  • Group 0+ and 1 for babies and small children weighing up to 18kg (about 4 years).
  • Group 1-2-3 for small children and older children weighing 9-36kg (from about 9 months to 12 years).
When to change car seats
You will also need to consider when it's the right time to change your car seats, this is especially important when your child moves from a Group 0+ to a Group 1 car seat, I recommend using the following as a rule:
  • Move from a Group 0+ to a Group 1 seat when your child can sit up unaided with confidence, exceeds the weight limit, or if the top of their head is higher than the top of the infant carrier.
  • Move from a Group 1 to a Group 2-3 seat when the weight limit is exceeded, or your child's eye-line is higher than the seat's highest point.
Before you purchase, check that the seat you've chosen is compatible with your child and your car by using the Britax Fit-Finder at www.britax.co.uk . Always follow the car manufacturer's recommendations and try fitting the child seat into your car using the fitting instructions supplied with the car seat.

When deciding what to buy, take into account that the child car seat may be used in several different cars. Check that the seat belt is long enough, particularly in rearward facing systems and always take note of how the child car seat should be fitted, eg with a three-point seat belt only, or with ISOFIX according to approved car list.

Please make sure:
  • The seat is suitable for the weight of your child.
  • The height of the child and other dimensions (form, seat height and seat width) are taken into account.
  • The seat is tested to the ECE R 44/04 European Standard (look for the orange approval label).
  • The seat is suitable for your car (not every seat fits properly in every car).
  • You can try to install the seat in your car before you buy it.
  • Your child feels comfortable in the seat, otherwise she/he will complain and distract the driver. Take your child along when you buy the seat.
  • The child can get in and out easily. That saves trouble and nerves.
  • The installation is simple and existing seat belts in the car can be used.
  • The seat is used every time regardless of how long or how short the journey.

 A correctly used child safety system serves three purposes:
  • It avoids or reduces injuries in an accident.
  • It enables the child to sit in a posture which is appropriate for the age of the child.
  • The child is well protected and does not distract the driver.
For more information visit: www.britax-babyonboard.co.uk/

By law all children under the age of 12 must use some form of car seat unless they are taller than 135cm (4ft 5in).