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. 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. 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.
Baby car seats and the law
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).
Choosing the best baby car seat for your baby
You need to choose a baby car seat that fits your car and also UK law requirements. 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.
Types of baby car seat
There are mainly three types of baby car seat available:
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. They usually combine with a buggy to form a travel system. Besides that, these seats are rear-facing, as its five times safer for newborns as it offers greater protection to the underdeveloped head, neck, and spine of infants.
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.
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.
Baby car seat technology
A lot of the new car seats have extra features like a rotating seat or a lie-flat function, but the most important features you can get in a car seat are the safety ones. 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).
Best baby car seat: FAQs
Here are some of your most frequently asked baby car seat questions, answered:
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.
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?
It's perfectly fine to buy a second-hand car seat that isn't too old, as long as you get it checked out by a specialist first. For your own piece of mind, opt for a new one with a warranty if possible.
The best baby car seats
To make things easier, our panel of mum testers put some of the best car seats to the test, living with them for a month, then giving us their feedback. Scroll down to see the ones selected for the Mother & Baby Awards.