Essential Guide to Buying a Car Seat

This guide explains the 5 key car seat features you need to consider when buying a new car seat:

  • Car seat types
  • Extended rear-facing
  • ISOFIX
  • Swivel
  • i-size

Learn what each of the above features are and decide what you need. Once you know this, you will find it easier and quicker to find and choose the right car seat for your child.

Type

You might be wondering whether a single group or combination group car seat is better for your child and what the differences between these are. Consider the following when making a decision:

Infant

Newborns and infants are safer in dedicated infant carriers rather than combination car seats. This type of car seats can be integrated with travel systems which makes being out and about with baby easier. Travel systems are simply buggies where you take the seat off and put a car seat in its place (you will need car seat adaptors for some models).

Toddler

Toddler car seats can be up to 18kg (group 1) or can be combined with group 2 (up to 25kg) and group 3 (up to 36kg). To decide which option is best for your child, you will need to consider what other car seat features you want, e.g. extended rear-facing or swivel. This will considerably bring the number of available car seats down.

For example: if you want to go for an extended rear-facing car seat (the recommended way to travel for children), then you are going to look only at group 1 and group 1 + 2 car seats.

Child

For older children, backless boosters are not recommended because they don’t provide side impact protection and don’t route the car’s seat belt to fit the child correctly.

Extended rear-facing

Extended rear-facing car seats are 5 times safer than forward facing seats. Common myths, such as little leg room are unfounded and proven wrong by thousands of children who use rear-facing car seats.

Extended rear-facing car seats allow children to travel backwards for longer than infant carriers do which is usually up until 15 months old. How much longer will depend on how big your child is for their age. In the Car Seat Jungle database, 70% of extended rear-facing seats last until the child reaches a weight of 18 kg but there are also extended rear-facing seats which last until 25 kg (this is the remaining 30% of ERF seats in our database). Always check the manual for the weight limit of your car seat. For example, the Concord Reverso Plus has a slightly different weight limit of 23kgs so it’s really important to always know what the manual says.

When deciding on a new car seat you should consider keeping your child rear-facing for as long as possible. To find out more about extended rear-facing car seats read this blog post.

ISOFIX

If your car is fitted with ISOFIX it is often recommended to use a car seat which is ISOFIX compatible. However, there are a couple of points to consider:

  • some car seats which are rated highly in independent crash testing don’t have ISOFIX
  • some excellent extended rear-facing car seats do not have an ISOFIX installation option

Car Seat Jungle always recommends to get your car seat fitted by an independent specialist. You can learn how to install a car seat correctly without ISOFIX and thus have additional car seat model options as listed above.

You should also consider whether the car seat will be frequently moved between cars and the ability of different carers to install the seat correctly.

In summary, ISOFIX is the easiest to install but there are some great car seats without ISOFIX which you would simply need to learn how to install correctly.

Swivel

Whether you need a swivel car seat will very much depend on your individual situation. This car seat feature doesn’t change the safety level of a car seat and is purely a convenience feature.

Consider the following:

  • Physical ability of toddler
    • If you have a child who can climb easily from a young age, you might find that you don’t need a swivel car seat because you won’t need to lift them into the seat as they climb in themselves
  • Back problems
    • This is a very common reason for getting a swivel car seat. Being able to turn the car seat eliminates strain on the back
  • Budget
    • On average, swivel car seats are more expensive than car seats without this function

I-size

I-size is the name of a new generation of car seats in Europe. More rigorous car seat testing, new rules for installing and using car seats mean that children can now travel more safely. The new i-size regulation doesn’t cancel the previous car seat laws and you are free to choose whether to go for a new generation i-size car seat or not.

Here’s a summary of available i-size car seats:

GroupChild height [cm](given as a range; check user manual what your car seat allows, e.g. 45 - 75cm)Type of car seatNotes
There is no group classification in the new regulation.40 - 87 cm(check user manual for actual range)Infant

First 15 months of life MUST be rear-facing.

This means you cannot turn your child forward before they are 15 months old.

You should continue to rear-face your child for as long as possible.

40 - 105 cm(check user manual for actual range)Infant / Toddler
60 - 105 cm(check user manual for actual range)Toddler
100 - 135 cm(check user manual for actual range)Child

It’s a common misconception that i-size car seats are based only on the height of the child. In fact it’s both height and weight. This is because car seats are tested to specified weight limits. In these simulated car crashes mass is a key determinant of force and how much a car seat can absorb and hold.

In summary, i-size seats are:

  1. Safer in a side impact collision because of additional crash tests as specified in the new R129 regulation
  2. Rearward-facing until 15 months which is mandatory
  3. Height and weight based which means it’s easier for parents and carers to find the right seat for their child
  4. ISOFIX only which minimises the risk of incorrect installation