Using a car seat for your little one is essential to keep them safe while you embark on your next adventure. However, knowing when you’re legally required to get a new one is somewhat of a grey area for a lot of drivers – especially with car seat laws changing on a regular basis.
That’s why we’ve put together a simple guide including current laws, signs to look out for, plus a useful buyer’s guide. Hopefully, this will help give you a better understanding and steer you towards a safer driving experience.
Signs that your car seat needs replacing
Naturally, there are some simple visual and physical indicators to give you an idea on when it’s time to start thinking about a new car seat.
- Their age – you should consider an upgrade when your little one goes from baby (0 months-4 years old) to toddler (9 months-12 years old) to a child (4 years-12 years old).
- Their weight – when your baby exceeds 18kg, you might want to upgrade to one more suitable to a toddler’s weight (9-36kg) or child’s weight (15kg-36kg).
- Their height – a lot of car seats don’t have height limits, so you should look out for signs that they’re outgrowing their current one.
- It’s expired – you may not be aware, but a car seat comes with an expiration date on the label or owner’s manual to make sure that it’s safe to use.
- It’s damaged – if your car seat has been damaged or involved in a crash, you should start shopping for a new one.
Shopping for a car seat based on current laws
According to gov.uk, your little one must use a child car seat until they’re either 12 years old or 135cm tall – depending on which one comes first. This means you can choose a car seat based on either your child’s height or weight.
Height-based children’s car seats are commonly known as i-Size seats. These must be rear-facing until your little one is over 15 months old.
Your other option is a weight-based seat, which should be chosen depending on your child’s weight. It also impacts the way they must be restrained:
- 0kg to 10kg (group 0) – you’re allowed a lie-flat baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness.
- 0kg-13kg (group 0+) – you’re allowed a rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness.
- 9kg-18kg (group 1) – you’re allowed a rear or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield.
- 15kg-25kg (group 2) – you’re allowed a rear or forward facing child car seat with a high-backed booster or booster cushion, using a seat belt, harness or safety shield.
- 22kg-36kg (group 3) – the same as group 2.
The different styles of car seats explained
Rear-facing baby seats (birth-13kg)
These car seats are in a reclined position to give your baby support and have a 5-point harness to make sure they are nice and secure. You can also add cushions, padded straps and head huggers for extra comfort.
i-Size seats are based on your child’s height, so it’s important that you measure how tall they are before buying! They can also adjust to a fast-growing baby’s size as well, usually covering you up until around 4-years-old.
Combination car seats are adaptable and built to stand the test of time. You can adjust them to forward-facing when you’re lawfully allowed and recline for sleepy time.
A forward-facing car seat is the best way for your little one to see the world in fast-motion. The multi-point harnesses keep the seat secure, while the elevated base gives them a better view.
Highback booster (15kg-36kg)
A highback booster is perfect for bigger children, usually aged around four. Most of these car seats have adjustable heights and widths to suit all sizes. You’ll find some come with their own harness and others will use your car’s seat belt to keep your little one secure.
This term is associated with cars that have an internationally standardised car seat fitting system, otherwise known as anchor points. Having this in place will allow you to quickly install them into your car.
If you choose to purchase an i-Size or height-based car seat, always look for a label showing a capital E in a circle and R129. This means that it’s been EU-approved and is safe to use in the UK.
Whereas with weight-based car seats like all of the others, you should look for a label with a capital E in a circle and ECE R44.
With this in mind, we always recommend that customers choose a reputable shop who only stock the right car seats like us!
If you need any extra help in finding the right car seat for your child, then check out our Car Seat Buyer’s Guide.
Before you start driving
Finding the right car seat is one thing, but making sure it’s fitted properly is a different kettle of fish. For peace of mind and to adhere to car seat regulations, we provide a free car seat fitting demonstration for all our customers. Even after you drive away, you’re more than welcome to drop in and speak to one of our fitters for further advice and guidance.
For more information, check out our dedicated page here.