When you’re in the exciting time of expecting the pitter-patter of feet from that little ray of sunshine, the prospect of buying everything you’ll need can be incredibly daunting. Do you get the pushchair with off-road capabilities or a built-in cup holder? Why are there so many different types of nappy? How do you know what size clothes to buy before they’re born?
One of the most important of these purchases is what type of car seat you’re going to need. In many cases, this is something that is needed on the day Baby is born, otherwise you’re going to have trouble when it comes to going home. That first drive home is something all parents remember, and quite often you’ll see social media posts of Dad carrying Baby through the hospital wing in their car seat.
With such a huge market to choose from, it’s no surprise that you face some uncertainty on what to buy. Thankfully, here at Scrap Car Comparison, we’re here to make things a little easier for you, and in the latest entry in our Car Care Guide, let us talk you through everything you need to know about children’s car seats.
But before we get started, what car is the seat going to go into? If you’re driving an old car that’s just one hiccup away from an MOT failure or worse, then that’s not a safe environment for your upcoming child. Or perhaps your current car lacks those all important ISOFIX connectors that everyone’s told you is so important?
Whatever the reason, Scrap Car Comparison offers you a quick and simple solution to any problems you may be facing. Our team of dedicated and friendly advisors are on hand to ensure you get the very best price for your car, no matter its condition. Not only that, but we can also come and collect the car directly from your door at no extra cost. Get started today by calling 03333 44 99 00 or by using our quick and easy online quote generator.
What types of child’s car seat are there?
The first thing you’ll notice as you begin your shopping trip is that there are a wide variety of seats available to you, ranging from the way they are belted to the direction they face. You’ll find many different pros and cons to each, and in many cases it’s really up to you and how you feel your baby or child will feel within the seat that you buy. Unlike a mechanical part where it either works or it doesn’t, each child will have a different set of requirements to what makes them comfy, and this will need to be taken into account when looking for your next seat.
Child seats are often categorised by a group number, which include Group 0, 0+, 1, 2 and 3. Most seats bridge a number of categories and are simply adjusted as the child grows into the next category. They can also be categorised by the orientation of the seat within the car itself. Rearward facing seats are most common for younger children, with front-facing seats for older children. Combination seats offer a choice between the two, often meaning you don’t need to purchase a new seat just because your child has outgrown facing backwards.
Once children have outgrown the traditional car seat, they are able to upgrade to high-backed child car booster seats, before moving on to booster cushions and finally the full adult seat.
What is ISOFIX?
You may hear the term ‘ISOFIX’ or ‘ISOFIX base’ a lot when trying to find the right child seat. Isofix, which stands for International Standard Organisation Fix is the international standard for child seat attachment points, also known as LATCH in the United States. To know if your car is equipped with ISOFIX capabilities, have a look at your rear seats. If you see two little plastic covers with the image of a child car seat on it, then these are your ISOFIX points.
A seat secured by ISOFIX is much safer than using conventional seatbelts, as the anchor points are directly connected to the car’s shell, and lock in place. Prior to the advent of ISOFIX, all car seats used seatbelts to secure the seat in place, but were very rarely used correctly. Research carried out by the German Insurance Institute (GDV) in 2018 showed that, for the first time ever, the majority of children were buckled correctly. A previous survey found that, for Group 1 seats, an alarming 95% of non-ISOFIX child seats were incorrectly secured, compared to just 30% that used ISOFIX.
Isofix became mandatory in UK cars from 2014, although in reality a lot of cars offered the option long before. The anchor points are usually found in the rear seats, although some two-seater sports cars do offer ISOFIX anchor points in the front passenger seat, too. It’s true that ISOFIX seats are often more pricey than their belted parallels, particularly if you need to also buy a corresponding base for your seat, but for the vast majority of parents, if not every single one, the safety of their child when in the car is the most important part of their journey, and with ISOFIX providing that extra layer of safety, it’s worth the extra cost.
When does a child not need a car seat?
Any child under the age of 12, or that is under 135cm tall (whichever comes first) must be in a specific child seat when travelling in a car, van or goods vehicle. Any child that is being transported in the front passenger seat must not be rearward facing if there is an active airbag, and in the majority of cases children must be in their relevant restraint. There are, however, some exceptions to these rules, which are outlined below.
Child Under 3
If riding in a taxi or licensed private hire vehicle where no child seat is available the child may be unrestrained. This is the only exception for children under 3.
Children over 3, under 12 OR 135cm tall
There are 4 instances where children can travel with an adult seat belt; in the rear of a taxi or private hire vehicle where no child seat is available, in short or unexpected (but necessary) journeys, where two occupied child restraints mean a third can not be used and if the car itself isn’t fitted with seatbelts.
When can a child face forward in a car seat?
Child car seat law states that a child must be at least 15 months old before they can sit front facing in a car seat, however this should really be the minimum age. Continuous research has proven time and time again that the longer that you can keep a child rear facing, the better. Rearward facing is a much safer way for children to travel, but of course, this will always depend on the child – some may wish to ride front facing and see where they’re going as soon as they can, whereas others might be happy enough riding backwards.
How to fit a child’s car seat
Fitting a child seat depends on the type of seat that you are trying to fit. We’ve already mentioned ISOFIX, but not actually explained how you fit one – which isn’t quite as simple as it may seem, but is still an incredibly safe method. We’ll also explain what to do if you don’t have ISOFIX and need to use the conventional seatbelt method.
Fitting an ISOFIX child seat is safe and secure, and is done by using two connecting arms from either the seat or the base. These arms slot into the connecting points located on the rear seats and will then be secured by an additional top tether or support leg that will stop the seat from tilting or rotating on impact.
You will usually have to use some force to make sure the seat is connected correctly, and you should listen for an audible click to ensure it is secured. Some devices will include a colour-coded indicator that will turn from red to green once safely in place. The same applies for seats with a support leg, as this, too, will have an indicator that will turn green.
If you haven’t got an ISOFIX-supported car, or seat, then you can secure the seat in place with the car’s seatbelts. To do this, you must ensure that the seatbelt passes through all of the guide points on the seat. If the seat is front-facing, the belts must pass through the red guide points, and through the blue ones if the seat is rear-facing. Push your weight down into the seat as you secure the belts to ensure it is as tightly in the car as possible, and there should be no slack in the belt whatsoever. Some seats include a button or lever to help tighten the belts once in place.
You will need to ensure that there is no movement in any direction from the seat, and also must make sure the seatbelt buckle is not resting on the frame of the seat – this is known as ‘buckle crunch’ and means that the child seat is not secured correctly.
When did child car seats become mandatory in the UK?
In what is quite a surprisingly late regulation, child car seat rules didn’t come into force in the UK until 2006 when it was made a legal requirement for children to be in the relevant seat. Failure to have a child in the correct seat could result in you being slapped with a £500 fine.
Where to recycle child car seats in the UK
Once your child has outgrown their seat, you might be wondering what to do with it now? Sell it? Well, possibly, but you won’t be able to take it back to any specialist shop, as they will not accept second hand items of that nature. Child safety experts also vehemently discourage the buying of second-hand car seats.
With a sale out of the question, or at least not recommended, where do you go now? Well, you could go to the tip, but surely it’d be better for everyone if you could recycle it? You’ll be surprised what you can recycle these days (even cars!), and while child car seats are pretty difficult to recycle due to their strength, there are still options open to you. Call your local council to see whether there are any services open to you. In some cases, the council will strip your seat of all the items that can be recycled before any of the more structural elements are put through the incinerator with other waste materials.
Get the best price with Scrap Car Comparison
If you’re looking at getting a child seat, chances are you’re expecting a new arrival sometime soon and you’re going to want them to be in the safest place possible, and why would you spend all that money on the best car seat if you’re then going to put the child in a tired old banger? Get rid of your unreliable rust-bucket quickly with Scrap Car Comparison and we’ll replace it with the best price possible straight into your bank account.