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 How to choose a car seat – the only guide you’ll ever need

by Smyths Toys


How to choose a car seat

Choosing a car seat can be a complicated business, especially if you’re a new parent, overwhelmed by car seat laws, choice and lists of ‘must haves’.

Do you know your i-Size from your ISOFIX? Are you clear on the age from which you’re allowed to use a forward facing car seat? Do you know all car seats laws? Are you feeling a bit like you want someone else to choose for you while you hide under the bed?

Don’t worry, we’ve put together the ultimate car seat guide. It’s an overview of some options and features from the main car seat brands, a look at the car seat laws, and a simplification of the car seat jargon. We want to take the stress out of choosing a car seat, whether your child is six months or six years old.
First up then, let’s take a quick look at the law. Worryingly, it seems that this first, basic element is one that many parents are still not getting right. A survey from Good Egg Safety, an organisation which provides in-car safety advice for families, conducted a survey of 2,351 children aged 0-11 to find out if kids are using the mandatory booster seats.
Scary but true – only 598 of them had a booster seat.
34 per cent of the children between the ages of eight and 11 were using an adult seat belt when travelling, which just isn’t appropriate, and more than half of the 93 children aged 2-3 were in the wrong seat for their age, weight or height.
Frightening isn’t it?
Note: The car seat laws cited in this article applys to UK only.
For more information on child safety regulations in ROI, please refer to RSA.IE
The car seat law in UK however is very simple
All children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car, van or goods vehicle must use the correct child car seat or booster seat until they are either 135 cm in height or 12 years old, whichever comes first.
Right, so that’s the car seat laws, now let’s look at some of the details. With so much choice available, one of the questions you’re probably asking yourself is how do you choose between the car seats? Aside from the key safety elements, what are the features that set them apart?  If you’re not clear on exactly what stage and weight equates to which kind of seat, check out our handy guide
Here’s an overview of some of the main groups:
GROUP 0+  ( Birth to 13kg )
Rearward facing car seats secured with the adult seat belt or an in-car base. Can also be used as a baby carrier. Some models come equipped with ISOFIX compatible bases
GROUP 0-1  ( Birth to 18kg )
Rearward and forward facing car seats. Seat has integral harness and is secured with the adult seat belt. Some models are ISOFIX compatible. Rearward facing up to 10kg and forward facing from 9kg
GROUP 1 ( 9 TO 18kg )
Forward facing car seats with adjustable reclining positions. Secured by the adult seat belt. Some models are ISOFIX compatible.
See our best models
GROUP 1-2-3 ( 9 to 36kg )
Forward facing car seats. From 9 to 15kg, seats are used with the integral harness. From 15 to 36kg, the harness is removed and the adult seat belt is used. Some models are ISOFIX compatible.
See our best models
GROUP 2-3  ( 15 to 36kg )

Forward facing car seats. Available in high back booster form a booster cushion form. Secured using the adult seat belt. Some models are ISOFIX compatible

Car Seat Bases

A car seat base allows safe and easy installation of car seats. ISOFIX base can be installed using ISOFIX anchor points. ISOFIX and belted base can be installed using either ISOFIX anchor points or car seat belt. Belted base can only be installed using car seat belt


Still confused? See a brand overview
Britax are one of the most well known car seat brands, and in partnership with VW launched the first ISOFIX system, which has since become the global standard. ISOFIX is an anchorage point system that has become the standard in some new cars, making it far simpler and safer to install your car seat and eliminating the need for adult seat belts altogether. Instead, all you have to do is attach the ISOFIX points on the car seat or car seat base to the ISOFIX anchorage points in your car.
One of the most important things to remember when choosing a car seat is that what you need will change as your baby grows. It seems like a pretty common sense thing to say, but think back to the survey – remember all those toddlers in the wrong type of seat? If you want to simplify the process, you could think about investing in one car seat system that will adapt to your changing needs, like the Graco Milestone All-In-One.

When you’re choosing a first stage car seat, there are a lot of additional features that you’ll be looking for alongside safety. Comfort will be one of the most important things, and so do have a look at something like the Joie Gemm car seat, which has a soft comfort insert and removable full body support cushion.


As with most things of course, there are the more entry level products, and then there are the top of the range versions, incorporating some really interesting and exciting features and technology. To give you a flavour of what’s available at the latter end of this spectrum, have a look at the AxissFix Black Raven i-Size from Maxi-Cosi.

What exactly is i-Size?

i- Size ( R129) is a European Safety regulation that came into effect in 2013 regarding car seats for children under 15 months old.

The i-Size regulation also makes rearward facing travel mandatory for children up to 15 months and promotes the use of ISOFIX. It does not replace the current ECER44/04 regulation – it runs parallel – there is no need to panic and rush to upgrade your existing car seat.

Alongside all the ISOFIX terminology it is a little confusing, but essentially i-Size is a European safety regulation that came into effect in 2013 regarding car seats for children under 15 months of age. i-Size uses the height and length of your child to determine the best fit for a car seat.
Britax has an excellent FIT FINDER on their website. It’s worth visiting. Find it at
Simply specify your child’s age and weight and then indicate the make, model and year of your car to be shown a full list of Britax car seats that are suitable for your child and compatible with your car. To find more detailed installation advice tailored to your car, simply click on More below your chosen seat.
What exactly is ISOFIX?

Isofix is an internationally standardized

Note: Not all Isofix seats are approved for use in all Isofix cars, so check with your child seat manufacturer, retailer or the car manufacturer, to find out if your Isofix child seat is approved for your vehicle. Many have a list on their website that shows which seats are approved for which cars.

We hope our guide has given you a little bit of insight into the wonderful world of car seats, and demystified some of the terminology. It’s definitely something that’s worth getting your head around, as the safety of your family is undeniably important.
If you’d like any more information, do have a browse of our car seats section, or get in touch.