Our pick of the best car seats to keep your little one safe on the road
Buying the best car seat for your child can feel like running an obstacle course of upturned plugs and Lego bricks. New governmental regulations for backless booster seats have now come into law, and they require you to keep your child in a baby seat or booster until they’re 135cm (4ft 5in) tall or they turn 12. Failing to do so could result in a fine of up to £500.
When doing your research for the best car seat, there are various factors you need to take into account. First, not all car seats fit all cars – you need to check measurements to ensure your car can fit the seat of your choice. Second, some seats come with special safety systems, such as the more universal simple click-in Isofix system. Seats that use these bases are safer, but not all cars can support them – although Isofix is the general standard in many vehicles.
Lastly, there are also three different types of baby car seats you need to be aware of:
- Group 0+ – birth to around 12-15 months.
- Group 0+/1 – birth to around 4 years
- Group 0+1/2/3 – birth to around 12 years
We’ve taken these different variables into account for our pick of the best car seats on the market in 2019.
How to buy the best car seats for your baby in 2019
What features should I look for when buying the best car seat?
As baby car seats go, many of them share the same feature set. The real draw from one seat to the next is its grouping and any additional features such as removable newborn inserts or a carry handle to easily take your child from the house to the car or into a compatible buggy.
The former means you don’t have to lug a heavy car seat with you, and they’re typically designed to make it easier for a child to be placed into, and taken out of without breaking your back. The downside to this, of course, is you’ll likely have to wake the baby to do so. The latter means you can easily transport a sleeping baby from the car to the house or onto a buggy.
Be aware that it is not advised to keep a baby in a car seat for longer than two hours at a time. If your journey is longer than that, the NHS suggests pulling over and taking the child out for a short time before continuing on your way. This is because the cramped, upright position of many seats puts pressure on the child’s chest. You can, however, buy baby car seats that recline to make longer journeys more comfortable. We recommend the Joie i-Level for this.
How much should I spend on buying the best car seat?
Rather than asking “how much should I spend?”, it’s better to think, “what do I get for my money?”. If cost is a limiting factor, you’re best off looking at seats that work for you all the way from newborn to when your child no longer needs to use a car seat or booster. These models may seem more expensive on the initial purchase, but you won’t be replacing them every couple of years as your child grows older.
Additional costs include inserts, in some cases, as well as the Isofix base. The latter doesn’t come with baby car seats as standard and although the connections are the same, many manufacturers are now offering their own, proprietary bases for a price. For example, a Silvercross Simplifix Isofix base will set you back an extra £190. Maxi-Cosi’s one costs around £120. Some manufacturers ship a base with their car seat, including Joie, so it’s worth factoring this in when looking at the prices below. A slightly more expensive price to include the base may be better value in the long run.
What car seat laws do I need to be aware of?
UK law on car seats has changed recently to require your child to use a baby seat or booster seat until they’re 135cm (4ft 5in) tall or they turn 12. Failing to do so could result in a fine of up to £500.
The most recent addition to the law involves booster seat regulations, but it doesn’t actually affect you as a consumer. Instead, all newly released booster seats can only be made and sold to a child who is 4ft 1in or taller, or who weighs 22kg or more. Existing booster seats will still be valid in your car, so don’t worry about rushing out to buy brand new seats.
Best car seats for your baby in 2019
1. Graco Milestone: Best car seat for growing babies
The Graco Milestone makes the top of our list for three reasons. First, its headrest and harness adjustment provide comfort for a growing baby, its four-position recline allows your child to be secure and comfortable no matter if its rearward-facing or not, and its three convertible riding modes mean the Milestone can be used for kids from birth up until the age of 12. This means that this is the only seat you’ll ever need to buy.
The only real downsides here are that it’s actually quite a wide and heavy seat – meaning you won’t want to be taking it in and out of your car too regularly, and narrower cars may not be able to fit two seats in side-by-side. It’s not the best looking of car seats and doesn’t have some of the more curved, comfortable seats as others in this list, but we’re nitpicking really. It also only secures via a three-point seatbelt, so if you’d rather use Isofix or Familyfix, this isn’t for you. Still, for a car seat that lasts 12 years and costs less than many other infant-only seats on the market, this represents excellent value.
2. Britax Baby-Safe plus SHR II: Best car seat for safety
As the seat of choice for the royal family, the Britax Baby-Safe plus SHR II is one of the best car seats you can get. Listed as “robust, super safe, well-made and affordable” by Made for Mums, this seat also comes equipped with Britax’s patented “D-SIP technology” to provide side-impact protection. It also has padded side wings to ensure your baby’s comfortable long journeys.
Unlike the Graco Milestone, the Britax will only fit your child from birth to 12-15 months. You can install it into your car with either Isofix or via standard three-point seatbelt. As Group 0+ seats go, there are few better.
3. Kiddy Phoenixfix Pro 2: Best car seat for easy installation
Kiddy’s Phoenixfix Pro 2 may be unusual inasmuch as it doesn’t use the standard five-point harness to keep your child secure – opting for an “impact shield” instead. That aside, the Phoenixfix is an excellent choice for the money offering up outstanding crash-safety results, easy installation and great comfort for your kid.
The Phoenixfix Pro 2 can be installed either via Isofix or three-point seatbelt and is designed for children aged around 12 months to four years old. You can, if so inclined, use it on most airplanes, too – making it perfect for travel with your little one.
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