With hundreds of different models, types and variations on offer, finding the best baby car seat can often be one of the more challenging items on your baby shopping list. From the seats designed to be attached to a pushchair to form a travel system, to those that come with ISOFIX fastenings, it can be hard to know where to start.
Most parents mainly want to know which car seat is the safest and most comfortable for their baby, and whether they should opt for a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat. To make things easier, we've put together this helpful guide to help you choose the best baby car seat so that you're fully prepared for that first trip home from the hospital with your newborn. Skip to read our pick of the best baby car seats on the market or alternatively, read on to find out more about the safety information parents should know before buying a car seat.
Types of baby car seat
According to Gov.uk, a baby car seat is mandatory for transporting babies in cars. All children under 12 years old (or who are less than 135cm tall (4.4 ft)) need a car seat in the UK, so you’ll most likely need to invest in more than one car seat as your child grows up. Alternatively, you could look into a complete multi-stage car seat, which will stretch from birth to 12 years old. The laws around the types of child seats that are deemed safe have now been tightened, and in 2017, backless booster seats were deemed unfit for children under 125cm (4.1ft) or weighing less than 22kg (48.5 lbs).
There are mainly three types of car seat available that will be suitable for your newborn:
- Group 0+ - can also be called an infant car seat, as it's perfect for newborns. This first type is suitable from birth to 13 kg (or 12 to 15 months). They usually combine with a buggy to form a travel system. Besides that, these seats are rear-facing, as it's five times safer for newborns up to 15 months as it offers greater protection to the underdeveloped head, neck, and spine of infants. At this age, by law your baby will be rearward facing. Babies have fragile necks, so in the event of a collision, your baby could be at risk of spinal cord damage if he is facing forward (the way you are driving).
- Group 0+/1 - The second type is suitable from birth to 18kgs. This type of baby car seat is usually a convertible car seat, with rear-facing and forward-facing options.
- Group 0+/1/2/3 - The third type of car seat is suitable from birth to 36 kg. Also called a 3-in-1 or an All-in-One car seat, it will carry your child from birth to the booster-seat stage, and is meant to stay permanently in the car, so you won't be able to carry your child out in it if they fall asleep.
Things to look out for when buying a baby car seat
- Does it fit your car? Not all child seats fit all cars and things like seat shapes and seat belts can affect this. You need to choose a baby car seat that fits your car and also UK law requirements. The retailer you purchase the car seat from should be able to advise you on whether it properly fits in your car. You can also use online tools such as Britax Romer to find out which car seats fit your car.
- Isofix - This is a system that allows you to fit a car seat into your car and is an alternative to fitting the seat in using a seat belt. Isofix uses two small metal bars, attached to the frame of your car to fit the car sear in. It makes it easy to correctly fit your car seat into your car, as the car seat will very simply click into place. Be mindfiul however that not all Isofix seats are approved for use in all Isofix cars, so check with the child seat manufacturer or 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.
- i-Size - All the new baby car seats in the UK need to be i-Size (a European-wide car seat regulation, ECE R129), and should also have side-impact protection (SICT). They also need to use ISOFIX (an international standard for attachment points for baby car seats in passenger cars).
- Does it meet safety standards? Check that the seat you are buying meets ECE R44.04 (or R44.03) or the new i-size standard (R129). Look for the E mark.
You can find out all about the requirements in this checklist on the official government website. To discern which car seat is best for your child, you'll need to know the weight, age and height of your baby as these are the differentiating factors for each baby car seat model.
The best baby car seats
Every year, the Mother&Baby Awards puts the best new baby products on the market through their paces. We have a huge panel of real mums who test car seats and other items, living with them for a month, then giving us their feedback. This means our list of the best car seats comes recommended by mums just like you - who've lived with these car seats, and know how they suit them and their babies.
A number of the car seats in our list are also previous Mother&Baby Awards shortlisters and winners.
Won Gold in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Car Seat Group 0/0+ category.
Designed with split functionality, it gives you confidence in a car seat that has the highest safety standards from birth up to 12 around 12 months, along with the freedom of having a detachable lightweight carrier that weighs only 1.7kg to reduce carrying weight up to 50 per cent. The soft carrier locks easily into the intuitive safety shell, which can be clicked on the FamilyFix³ base for easy installation and the highest i-Size safety.
- From 40 to 75 cm (0 - 12 kg)
- Complies with the latest i-Size safety standard (R129/03)
- Quick and easy installation in combination with ISOFIX base unit
- Extra-large sun canopy
- Multiple ergonomic carrying positions
Mum tester Jess Banks says: "The ability to remove the insert from the car seat and carry baby in in that was really useful. The car seat itself is quite bulky but being able to remove just that part was really clever. The Isofix base was really easy to install and the 3 light check gave me peace of mind that it had been installed correctly. It was simply to unload the whole car seat from the base when necessary."
Read our full review of the Maxi-Cosi Coral with FamilyFix³ Base here.
Won Silver in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Car Seat Group 0/0+ category
This car seat offers security in the form of three layers of protection inside the side wings and Joie's patented Intelli-Fit memory foam in the infant pillow, keeping baby snug and protected at all times. The i-Snug pairs perfectly with select Joie pushchairs and features a multi-position, ergonomic carry handle and a curved base for rocking and relaxing when out and about. It has removable and machine washable covers, which we love!
- Suitable from birth up to 75cm
- Weight: 3.25 kg
- Dimensions: 66 x 44.2 x 57.9 cm
- Meets the i-Size ECE R129/02 standard
- 3-point harness with shoulder and lower buckle covers easily tightens with one pull motion
Mum tester Alexandra Lee says: "This is a great car seat for newborn, and can be used with or without an isofix making it easy to change between cars. Adapters can be bought so it can fit straight onto a pushchair which is useful rather than having to wake up a newborn. This car seat is really lightweight which makes it easier than most to carry around especially as baby gets bigger. instructions on the side are easy to follow for attaching into the car. when attached by the seatbelt in the car my child was in a comfy and secure position. I also liked that the hood was quite big so came down quite far with built-in SPF."
Read our full review of the Joie i-Snug here.
Won Bronze in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Bronze Best Car Seat Group 0/0+
Its three recline positions allow baby to lie comfortably, whether Arra is buckled in the backseat or attached to a pushchair. It’s i-Size-approved and lightweight, weighing just 3.9 kg (without insert or canopy). Doubling as a car seat and a carry cot, this reclining carrier means that even though life doesn’t stop, their sleep doesn’t have to either.
- Suitable from birth to 87cm to 13kg/29lb
- i-Size approved
- ISOFIX compatible – comes with an ISOFIX base
- Weight: 4.89kg
- Dimensions: H58 x W43 x D63cm
- Three point harness keeps little ones in place
Mum tester Emily Farmery says: "This is a great car seat, nice and light, easy to install and a smart design. There was no need to use the instructions, the base was easy to fix in my car and the security features to confirm you have fitted it correctly were really reassuring. The car seat slots easily into the base and feels really secure so no time is wasted double checking it's secure."
Read our full review of the Nuna Arra here.
Won Gold in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Multistage Car Seat category.
The Kinderkfraft MYWAY car seat allows you to transport your child in the safest position, i.e. rearward-facing, up to 18 kg. Optionally, forward-facing, starting from 9 kg. MYWAY is equipped with 5-point internal seat belts, thanks to which the child can travel safely. The system of indicators ensures correct installation of ISOFIX anchor point fastening. The seat is mounted on a stable base, which increases the child's safety by taking the first impact force. The seat is integrated with the base.
- Suitable from birth up to 12 years
- Base seat - easy to switch positions between forward- and rearward-facing
- Headrest adjustable with one hand - 10 positions (48-67 cm)
- Safe rearward-facing transport of children up to 18 kg with ISOFIX + TT
- Weight: 12.5 kg
- Dimensions: 60 x 32 x 55 cm
Mum tester Claire says: 'I would definitely recommend this car seat to other parents as a great car seat that avoids having to keep buying new ones as the child grows. Not only does it do everything you need in a seat, but it is also good value as it would last you so long. It looks attractive, has nice feeling material, and my son informs me it is very comfortable. I was reassured by the Isofix attachment for safety and it looks so stable when we are driving.'
Read our full review of the Kinderkraft MYWAY car seat here.
Won Silver in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Multistage Car Seat category.
The Joie Bold car seat is three seats in one and will see your little one through from 9 months to 12-years-old. When your child is in the Group 1 size range the seat uses a five-point harness, but once they’re big enough to be in Group 2 and 3 it works as a belted booster. Side impact protection and Guard Surround Safety provide protection for the whole body. For ease of use, all these headrest and recline positions can be achieved using only one hand. For your child’s comfort on the move there’s ventilation on the sides of the shell, plus a cupholder attaches on the side for a drink when they want it.
- Suitable from 9 months to 12 years
- Three forward facing positions
- Dimensions: W49.6cm x D47.0cm x H 66-85.5cm
- Washable cover
Mum tester Victoria says: 'The fact that this car seat converts from a 3 point harness seat into a high back booster with ease is appealing. As a high back booster it is much more solid than other options and having the reassurance that it is secured by the Isofix fittings and the anchor belt give great reassurance as often high back boosters move around when your child gets in and out. It is also great value for money as it will see a child through until they no longer need a car seat/booster.'
Read our full review of the Joie Bold here.
Won Bronze in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Multistage Car Seat category.
Suitable throughout all stages up to approx 12 years old. Great features include: exclusive 5 point plus Anti-Escape system & an adjustable flip-out side impact protection system, as well as a rotate feature for easy access. The rotation to 'side-facing' for easy access from a car door means no more stretching when lifting baby. An easily adjustable harness and recline lock indicator are just two new features added to improve the comfort and ease. The seat then locks into position either forward or rear-facing when you’re on the move, bringing added in-car safety.
- Suitable from birth up to 36kg
- Dimensions 60 x 44 x 61 centimetres
- 10.9 kg
- Secure ISOFIX, ISOFIT and belted fitting options
Mum tester Ellen says: 'The Cosatto All in All Rotate is amazing! The swivel action of the car seat means no stretching or reaching to get my daughter into the seat, this is especially useful when I am parked in a small space or when my daughter really doesn't want to get in! My daughter is three now and likes to climb into her seat herself, as the seat can be turned to face the door, she can get in easily and quickly. Less drama, less stretchy, less arguing every time!'
Read our full review of the Cosatto All in All Rotate here.
Won Gold in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2) category.
This dedicated rearward-facing seat is both i-Size and Swedish Plus Test certified. Positioned where you would naturally reach, the one-handed Simple Swivel creates a smooth, 90 degree spin that turns your kiddo towards you for easy buckling up, and back again for a safe and sound rearward ride. You're guaranteed all round protection with the auto-engage Guard Surround SafetyTM side impact protection panels that lock outward when the harness is tightened and absorb force during a crash. The Tri-ProtectTM headrest offers security, while the one-hand, 6 position Grow TogetherTM headrest and harness system adjusts simultaneously without rethreading the harness.
- Suitable rearward facing from birth to 105cm/4 years
- Meets the i-Size ECE R129/03 standard
- Weight: 14.6 kg
- Dimensions: 65 x 58 x 55-62 cm
- Easy install with retractable ISOFIX
Mum tester Elizabeth says: 'The car seat is easy to use with its spin feature that can be adjusted with only one hand when putting my toddler in the car or taking her out. It prevents us from having to lean into the car and twist to place them in it and also allows me to get into tighter spaces in car parks/driveways where I don’t need to open the door as wide to manoeuvre them in/out. Once we’d worked out how to adjust the Isofix bars on the bottom we found it fairly straightforward to switch between vehicles with only the hanging strut causing a bit of trouble where it wouldn’t stay folded up.'
Read our full review of the Joie i-Spin Safe here.
Won Silver in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2) category.
Mica is an i-Size, 360° rotating car seat from birth to 4 years old. As well as the spin function, easily and quickly install your child in the seat with the stay-open crotch pad and 5-point harness. The comfortable inlay can be used from birth and the headrest benefits from memory foam. Using ISOFIX and a support leg for increased stability in the car, recline the seat in any position, (rearward or forward-facing). Mica has superb G-CELL lateral technology, plus ClimaFlow fabric which aids ventilation and keeps your child at the correct temperature.
- Suitable from birth -105cm
- Dimensions: H.55 x W.45 x D.61cm
- Weight: 14.9kg
- i-Size (R129) compliant
- ISOFIX installation with support leg
- Washable cover
Mum tester Kelly says: 'The Mica makes life so much easier! Car seats can be a confusing subject and the fact that this is so easy to fit is great. It fits with the ISOFIX points and support leg and the instructions were really clear. I have moved to fit in another car too and had no problems. Getting it to the right harness height was easy as it moves up with the headrest in one movement! I have been testing with my 2-year-old and the spin feature makes it really easy to get him in and out without straining my back! It's also easier to fasten his harness and tighten when in this position.'
Read our full review of the Maxi-Cosi Mica here.
Won Bronze in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Baby/Toddler Car Seat (Stage 1/2) category.
The Axkid One has a distinctive and modern design for the next generation of i-Size car seats. Setting out to create a new level of safety, Axkid has designed the lightest i-Size car seat on the market that will enable children to travel rear-facing up to 7 years old allowing every child to be 5 times safer for longer. Inspired by aircraft engineering, Axkid One's protective aluminum frame, and high strength steel bars ensure maximum safety.
- Suitable from birth to 7 years
- Dimensions: W 44 x H 76 x 54 cm
- Weight: 10kg
- ISOFIX connectors
- Machine washable at 30 degrees
Mum tester Celine says: 'This car seat is super easy and convenient to use. I have always had difficulty putting other car seats I have had into the ISOFIX points, but with the Axkid One, it was so easy. The ISOFIX clips are longer therefore slots in much easier (the easiest I have ever seen!) This car seat is so light, without compromising on safety. We always have to move the car seat between our two cars, so the fact it is so light and so easy to fit really made my life easier. The instructions that come with it are also so clear and the car seat actually has pictures on it to show how it should be fitted.'
Read our full review of the Axkid One here.
Won Silver in the 2020 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Rear Facing Car Seat category.
This car seat keeps growing with your baby, as you can adjust the seat as they develop. It's made from soft bamboo fabric, and features an easy lock Isofix system, and recline and 360 rotation settings. Being able to rotate the seat 360 degrees makes it so much easier for parents to put baby in and take baby out of the car - saving hours of back ache.
- Suitable from Birth to approximately four years
- Isofix system
- Motion Safe™ side impact protection
- Five-point safety harness
Mum tester Meg says: "I really like the 360 rotation. It makes life so much easier when getting the baby in and out of the car. Once set up in the car, the car seat feels very secure and safe, the side impacts are an extra peace of mind that your child will have extra protection in the event of a car accident."
Read our full review of the Silver Cross Motion here.
Won Gold in the 2020 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Forward Facing Car Seat category.
The Apramo Ostara Fix is a comfortable, adjustable car seat suitable for 3-12-year-olds. It offers 7 different positions and made from thicker fabrics for higher-level comfort and security. Parents can also rest assured as the removable covers on the seat are quick and easy to wash.
- Suitable from 3-12 years
- Dimensions: H 71.5 x W 47 x D 46 cm
- Weight: 5.5kg
- Install safely in seconds with ISOFIX connectors
- Machine washable cover for practicality
- Forward facing
Mum tester Nicola says: "It was incredibly easy to install due to the Isofix. I prefer a booster to have Isofix really because it means they don’t move around if the seatbelt isn’t fastened. It also feels safer. The cover also seemed very easy to remove for cleaning. Some of our car seats have been virtually impossible to remove. With this, there is a zip up the back and it didn’t appear to have any difficult areas to unhook etc although I did not fully strip it."
Read our full review of the Apramo Ostara Fix Seat here.
Won Silver in the 2020 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Forward Facing Car Seat category
If you’re looking for a good-value car seat that’s a dream to install, seriously comfy – yet doesn’t compromise on safety features or style – this is it. Our testers agree this feels really sturdy and secure. It could do with a deeper recline for naps, but that’s a low priority in a seat that can be used up to age 12.
- Suitable from 9 months to 36kg (Approximately 12 Years)
- Forward facing
- R44/04 compliant
- Belted installation
Mum tester Katrina says: "I feel very confident when strapping my little boy into the Young Sport Hero. It makes my son look comfortable and the seat is made very sturdy and it's secure. This product came handy when I had to take family/friends children out, it meant I could use this car seat for them as it can be used with a variety of different ages. This saved me time as normally I would have to get the child’s usual car seat out and fit it into my car, which I’m not used to and could take a while working out how it fits in my car."
Read our full review of the Recaro Young Sport Hero car seat here.
Won Bronze in the 2020 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Forward Facing Car Seat category.
The MYTI is an ultra-resistant forward-facing car seat that has nine adjustable positions to suit your child's preference. It also has a headrest and adjustable shoulder width, which expands while your little one grows.
- True lock™ base installation with nine position ISOFIX anchors for an ultra tight, custom install
- Suitable from 76cm to 12 years
- Weight: 13kg
- Dimensions: H 64.9-82.2 x W 51-55 x D 53.4cm
Mum tester Christine says: "I really liked this car seat. It was super sturdy and solid which made it seem safe. The fact it grows with your child means it could be in use for years which justifies the high price. My daughter looked comfortable in the car seat and although it did not recline fully due to the shape of my back seats, it reclined enough for her to have a snooze!"
Read our full review of the Nuna MYTI here.
Won Bronze in the 2020 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Rear Facing Car Seat category.
We like the harness that can adjust easily to your baby's size and height, and it features self-tightening straps to ensure they ride comfortably and securely.
- Dimensions: H 56 cm x W 44 cm x D 62 cm
- Suitable from 1-6 Years
- Approved according to ECE R44/04
Mum tester Mhari says: "This car seat is wonderful. It looks and feels very sturdy and the baby appears to be very comfortable sitting in the car seat. It sits quite high therefore the baby can see out of the window. This car seat made the process of going out for the day at lot easier as baby was happy to use the car seat."
Read our full review of the Axkid Minikid here.
Shortlisted in the 2021 Mother&Baby Awards in the Best Multistage Car Seat category
Suitable from birth to 12 years with easy to fit Isofix connections and top tether in group 0+/1. In Group 0+, the 360º spin makes getting little one in and out of the car easier. The rearward facing position can be used up until 18kg/4 years. The Group 1 forward-facing position is suitable from 9kg-18kg. The adjustable headrest in the Group 2/3 solution (15kg-36kg) allows Seat 4 Fix to grow with little one and can be used with the car's three-point seatbelt.
- Weight: 4 kg
- Dimensions: 48 x 48 x 60 cm
- Forward and rear facing
- Suitable from birth to 12 years
Mum tester Victoria says: 'Having a car seat that is suitable for group 0-3 is just fantastic, it makes this product fabulous value and once you have invested it provides peace of mind knowing you don’t have to buy alternative seats as your child grows. It is also nice when you have children of different ages as you can get them both the same seat which looks much better in the car together. The rotating feature makes getting your child in and out so much easier.'
Read our full review of the Chicco Seat 4 Fix here.
Best baby car seat: FAQs
Here are some of your most frequently asked baby car seat questions, answered by car seat safety expert Damon Marriott who has over 18 years experience in the nursery industry and specialises in child safety.
How much does a baby car seat cost?
Car seat prices range anywhere from £50 to £300, depending on quality and type. The longer you are able to use it, the more expensive it will be.
What is the 2-hour rule?
The 2-hour car seat rule is the safest time a baby or a child can be in a baby car seat per 24-hour period, according to safety experts and manufacturers.
How do I install a baby car seat in a car?
Not all baby car seats fit in all cars. Before buying a car seat, you need to make sure that the baby car seat you choose is compatible with your car. Read the manual and head on over to Youtube; most car seat brands have their own video installation guide. If all else fails and you're still not sure, why not ask a professional to install a baby car seat in your car. There are specialised technicians who can make sure everything is working perfectly so your baby can be as safe as possible.
Will my car seat fit safely in someone else's car?
Damon: All child seats can be easily transferred from one car to another, for most this takes around 30 seconds, so we would recommend using your usual safety seat as familiarity in fitting is essential. If you use ISOFIX and a friend's car hasn't this fixing then there are many well made and easy to fit seat belt seats that offer good value like the Joie Stages that covers from birth to seven years for around 50p a month – great value without compromising the safety.
When should I switch to a bigger baby car seat?
If your baby has outgrown their car seat either by height or weight, if their legs are hanging out, and they look uncomfortable, it's time to upgrade the car seat. Pro tip: make a note in your baby's growth chart to remind you that as soon as your baby reaches a certain weight, it's time for a new car seat.
Should I buy a second-hand baby car seat?
Damon: Second hand car seats are fine providing you know the history, ensuring it hasn't been in an accident or suffered damage in another way, as you are trusting your child's life with the seat. So, if it’s from a friend or relative then this should be OK.
What you need to check is the age of the seat as most plastic shells have a shelf life of between five and 10 years, the seat will have a date of manufacture on it to help identify the age, check nothing is missing and if possible obtain a set of the instructions to ensure your friend/relative has been fitting it correctly. For your own piece of mind however, we would recommend opting for a new one with a warranty if possible.
Is it ever ok to put a car seat in front seat, so long as you've turned off the air bag?
Damon: The front seat can be legally used providing the airbag is turned off, but I would always try to use the rear seats as it’s less distracting and potentially further away from the most common point of impact should a collision occur. Attach toys in the rear onto the seat or near so your child can reach them himself, rather then you.
How can I keep my car seat clean?
Damon: When you consider the squashed biscuits, yogurt and spilt juice (not to mention the occasional nappy disaster or sick toddler accident) that end up on your little one’s car seat, it’s perhaps no surprise that it can end up looking and smelling quite grubby.
If your baby’s car seat has seen better days, check to see if you can remove the cover for washing. Don’t tumble dry it as it could shrink the cover, making it difficult to put it back on.
Sponging it down regularly with soapy water will help to remove stains and kill germs, but do this on days when you don’t need to go anywhere as it may take a while to dry out. Alternatively, try sprinkling with bicarbonate of soda and then vacuuming the seat, as that helps to remove strong smells and stains.
My baby hate's reverse facing position and it's really distracting when I'm driving.
Damon: You need to keep her rear facing for as long as possible and at such a young age she won’t be strong enough to face forwards yet. The minimum legal requirement at the moment is 9kg, around nine months, but this is changing to a minimum age of 15 months in a few years.
This law reflects the huge benefit that rear facing offers should the unexpected occur as facing backwards reduces the load on the child's neck due the size/weight of the head in proportion to the body at a young age.
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