How are car seats tested?

All car seats available for sale in the UK and Europe have passed the legally required testing as specified in regulations UN/ECE R44 and UN/ECE R129. The results of these tests are not freely available to the public and so there is no way of knowing how individual car seats performed. And although all car seats passed the testing criteria and have been awarded the same certification in reality they may have performed very differently. This is why independent testing is so important.

What is independent safety testing? Consumer organisations as well as independent automobile clubs across Europe conduct hundreds of tests each year to examine how individual car seats perform in various crash tests. These tests go above an beyond of what’s required by law and the differences can be seen in the table below.

EU REGULATIONSINDEPENDENT TESTING(freely available data)INDEPENDENT TESTING(data behind a paywall)
ECE R44 Certification RequirementsECE R129 (i-Size) Certification RequirementsADACTCSÖAMTCPlus TestWhich?Stiftung Warentest
Safety: front impact50 km/h50 km/h64 km/h64 km/hN/A56 km/h40 mph (64 km/h)64 km/h
Safety: side impactN/AYes50 km/h50 km/hN/AN/A30 mph (48 km/h)25 km/h
Safety: rear impact30 km/h30 km/hN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Neck load measurement (how much a child’s neck would suffer in a crash)NoNoNoNoNoYesNoNo
Ease of useNoNoYesYesYesNoYesYes
ErgonomicsNoNoYesYesYesNoYesYes
Harmful materialsNoNoYesYesYesNoNoYes
Final scorePass/FailPass/FailSafety (50%)
Ease of Use (40%)
Ergonomics (10%)
Safety (50%)
Ease of Use/ Ergonomics (50%)
Safety (50%)
Ease of Use (40%)
Ergonomics (10%)
Safety (100%)Safety (60%)
Ease of Use (30%)
Ergonomics (10%)
Safety (50%)
Ease of Use (40%)
Ergonomics (10%)
Test locationVariesVariesGermanySwitzerlandAustriaSwedenUKGermany
Where do the seats come from?N/AN/AProducts bought anonymously in a shopN/AN/AN/AN/AProducts bought anonymously in a shop

The most stringent and hard to pass is the Swedish Plus Test. Only a handful of seats have passed this test. 12 of the car seats in our database and marked as ‘available in the UK’ have the Plus Test certification.

Generally, a car seat which received a good rating from an independent testing institution is a safer choice. Reviewing seats which have an independent testing score should help you in finding your next car seat. You can search for these car seats in the Car Seat Library by selecting the appropriate test from the drop down menu.