Car Seats Buyers Guide

Find the best car seat with a little help from Halfords

Children’s car seats aren’t just a nice to have, they’re a legal necessity with car seat law saying children should be in an appropriately sized seat until they’re 135cm in height (150cm in ROI) or 12 years old, whichever comes first.

That’s why a car seat is one of the biggest investments you'll make in your child's safety, and it's only natural that you want to make sure you're making the right choice.

Getting to grips with all the car seat advice out there can feel like a bit of a minefield, so to help make it easier, we've broken down some key considerations for you.

What is a child car seat?

Children’s car seats are designed to get younger kids from A to B safely and comfortably. As car seats, seatbelts and safety equipment like airbags are designed with adults in mind from both ergonomic and safety perspectives, child safety seats are needed to give children the same level of comfort as adults and often improved safety. Car seats are made from a mixture of robust materials, with impact-absorbing foams and comfortable, child-friendly fabrics usually mounted to a sturdy frame.

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Can I take my child in a car without a car seat?

Short answer – no. Any child up to either 12 years old or 135cm/150cm in ROI (whichever comes first) must be seated in a suitable car seat on every journey, no matter how short it is, how busy the road is, or where they’re sitting in the car. This golden rule isn’t just a guideline either – you can face a fine for breaking the law.

How do I choose the right car seat?

Choosing the right child car seat may seem complicated at first, but it’s actually quite easy once you get your head around the two sizing systems.

R44 (weight-based) seats

The first sizing system is weight-based and is defined by the UK’s R44 legislation. These size groups are defined by a child’s weight, so you can simply pick a car seat that matches how heavy they are, and some seats are designed to span multiple groups. Here’s a breakdown of the R44 sizing groups:

Group Child's weight Age of child
0 Birth up to 10kg/22lb Birth up to 6 to 9 months
0+ Birth up to 13kg/29lb Birth up to 12 to 15 months
0+ & 1 Birth up to 18kg/40lb Birth up to 4 years
1 9-18kg / 20-40lb 9 months to 4 years
1 & 2 9-25kg / 20-55lb 9 months to 6 years
2 15-25kg / 33-55lb 4 to 6 years
1, 2 & 3 9-36kg / 20-79lb 9 months to 6 years
2 & 3 15-36kg / 33-79lb 4 to 12 years

i-Size

i-Size car seats are the next option. i-Size seats conform to EU safety legislation R129, which will eventually be adopted across all new car seats sold, but this doesn’t mean child seats that conform to R44 legislation will go out of date anytime soon – i-Size seats are simply another option at this stage, but with a few key differences.

i-Size car seats are selected by using your child’s height. This means you’ll need to crack out the tape measure or use a chart if you have access to one – we have this available in our stores.

Another big difference with i-Size seats is that babies face backwards for longer. Rear-facing car seats have been found to be safer than forward-facing seats, partly due to a lack of strength in a baby’s neck muscles. That’s why all i-Size seats are rearward facing up until 15 months old. This doesn’t mean your forward-facing group 1 seat is dangerous, however, so you don’t need to upgrade to i-Size straight away.

i-Size seats come in three different sizes, each of which has a rough equivalent within the R44 sizing system:

  • 0-85cm (approximately G0+ in weight-based system) – rear-facing baby carrier or baby seat using a harness
  • 0-105cm (approximately G0/1/2) – rear-facing baby seat until your child is at least 76cm, then forward facing
  • 100-135cm (UK)/150cm (ROI) (approximately G2/3) – forward-facing child seat

Learn more about i-Size car seats

What is ISOFIX?

No matter which type of car seat you go for, it’ll need to be securely fastened into a vehicle. Many car seats use a seatbelt and a brace that pushes against the floor to prevent the car seat moving around, but ISOFIX differs as the child seat fastens to the frame of the car seat itself.

The rear seats of most new cars (produced since 2013) have a pair of anchor points. These anchor points connect to a separate ISOFIX base (often sold with the child car seat but check on the packaging or in the online description), making for an extremely strong connection. The child car seat then fastens to the ISOFIX base, so there’s no need to clip car seat belts around or through the seat or tighten braces in the car seats or floor.

All i-Size car seats are compatible with cars that have ISOFIX anchor points, but some R44/04 car seats don’t come with an ISOFIX option, so check descriptions and packaging if you want to take advantage of ISOFIX systems.

Learn more about ISOFIX in our ISOFIX Guide

What is impact shield technology?

Impact shields are one of the newest safety features available and the technology is being incorporated into an increasing number of car seats.

Otherwise known as safety cushions, impact shields fasten around the front of your child while they’re in their car seat. They act like a pre-inflated airbag and help to spread the forces generated during a collision over a wider area. This reduces the strain on key areas of the body and helps to keep your child safe during an accident.

Car seats with impact shield technology are particularly useful in cases where it’s not possible to use a rear-facing seat, as they provide an extra level of protection.

Learn more about impact shield technology in our guide

Car seats at Halfords

Hopefully, you now feel a bit more clued up. However, we have lots of fully trained, RoSPA-accredited staff members throughout our store who will be more than happy to guide you through this big decision.

To make it really easy for you to choose the right car seat for your little one, we have also broken down all the features of our car seat range into the following categories:

Simply look out for these icons when choosing your car seat to ensure you're getting all of the features that are important to you.

If you’re still unsure and would prefer to talk this through with one of our experts, contact us on Live Chat where we can offer more advice.

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