Car Seat Buying Guide: What to look for when buying a car seat

Alongside typical parental purchases such as baby grows, cots and cribs, a car seat is usually one of the most important investments a parent may make - and choosing the right seat can be a stressful experience. With a mass of car seat brands on the market each offering its own set of features, it can be tricky to find a seat that is right for your little one. Whether you’re completely new to parenting and on the market for your newborn or looking for a car seat to suit your 10-month-old, 2-year-old or even an older child, Direct4Baby’s guide on what to look for when buying a car seat offers a few tips to make the hunt for the perfect car seat a little easier.

How do I choose a car seat?

First things first, know your child’s needs and what style of car seat they require. There are three basic types of car seats for infants and toddlers: rear-facing, forward-facing and convertible car seats, which are reversible to provide both a rear and a forward-facing position.. As your child grows, you may need to change the direction of your car seat due to regulations, or even switch to a booster seat if they eventually outgrow their car seat. Keep reading to discover our age-by-age guide on the variety of car seat categories, to give you a better idea of what is suitable for your child when looking to buy a car seat.

Rear-facing car seats

For the first few months of their lives, newborns must face the back of the car. This reduces the risk of death or injury in a crash by 90% compared with being unrestrained. Direct4Baby’s range of rear-facing car seats provide greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine, which is essential for the earlier months of their life. Rear-ward seats are recommended for children up to 18 months and parents should only consider moving their child to a forward-facing seat once they are able to sit up unaided, or they have exceeded the maximum weight allowance. If you’re considering purchasing a rear-facing car seat for your little one, make sure you take the time to get to grips with the five-point harness structure. This harness enables your baby to be comfortably strapped in for a pleasant, safe journey. Be sure to check your harness fittings before setting off each time you and your little one take a trip in the car,as different types of clothing can affect how snug the harness fits. Shop Direct4Baby’s range of rear-facing car seats.

Forward-facing Car Seats

As your child grows, you’ll need to change the direction that the car seat faces and how they sit in it. Legally, parents can consider changing to a forward-facing car seat once their baby weighs 9kg, and they must also be able to sit completely unaided for a minimum of 30 minutes. However, Direct4Baby recommends using the rear-facing car seats for as long as your child safely fits, as they often provide much better protection for babies. Forward-facing car seats are suitable for children weighing between 9-18kg, which is approximately around 9 months - up to 4 years. Children using these seats are much less likely to be injured in a crash than children who are using seat belts, or are completely unrestrained. Forward-facing car seats provide impact protection, with the inclusion of the same five-point harness rear-facing car seats typically feature. Shop Direct4Baby’s range of forward-facing car seats.

Convertible Car Seats

The ideal purchase for new parents is a convertible car seat, more commonly referred to as a 3-in-1 car seat. A convertible car seat allows parents to put their newborns in a rear-facing position, which can then be switched to a front-facing position as they grow. These seats are a great option for parents that want to invest in a seat that will last throughout the years, as many reversible car seats even have a feature to use as a booster seat for older children. So if you’re a parent on a budget - it may be worth investing in a convertible car seat, as they can take you from day one - all the way up to infancy. However, it is worth noting that combination car seats are often not designed to be portable and instead they remain fixed in the car. So if a convertible car seat is a top contender for your family, it may be worth investing in a baby carrier too,to safely transport your child to and from the vehicle. Take a look at Direct4Baby’s range of combination car seats.

How much should I spend on a Car Seat?

The price of car seats can vary quite dramatically from model to model, depending on the features on offer and the type you choose. The typical price points of both rear-facing and forward-facing car seats at Direct4Baby range from £60 up to £329 - with the majority of seats coming in around the average £100 mark. Combination car seats come in at a slightly higher price point, which is to be expected as these seats are essentially a hybrid of both rear and front-facing car seats. Whilst it’s beneficial to be mindful when it comes to how much you’re spending on a car seat, cheaper seats sometimes don’t tend to fare as well as the higher priced seats in crash tests. Though, it’s not always about the initial price tag. When it comes to deciding which car seat is right for your child - it’s worth taking your time to research your preferred models according to both your own and your child’s specific needs. Look at existing car seat reviews to ultimately make sure you’re making the most of your money.

So, are cheap car seats safe?

Each car seat that has been manufactured under the newest regulations (2017), has to meet these up to date safety standards by law - so essentially even the cheapest car seats are safe, to an extent. These car seats won’t break your budget, but it’s important to keep in mind that the cheaper seats won’t come with all the added extras and accessories that you may find in a slightly pricier model and may not last as long But no two models of car seats are the same. Some may offer a cheaper price point because they have low safety ratings, whereas other cheaper models may have excellent safety ratings, but have a lower price point simply because they lack style and aesthetics. It pays to do your research on these subjects - after all, it is your child’s safety that is ultimately the most important factor to consider whilst purchasing a car seat. A quick google search of your preferred model will bring up safety ratings, customer reviews and more, to help you make the best decision for you and your child.

Should I buy a used car seat?

It is recommended that you do not purchase a second-hand car seat and there are a number of reasons why this is the case.. One is that you can never be fully certain of the seat's history - as it may have previously been involved in an accident and the underlying damage may not be visible to a new parent. More often than not, second-hand sellers won’t keep a copy of the car seat’s instructions, which makes it more difficult for parents to be sure that they are properly securing their child. Another issue with second-hand car seats is that the plastic may be expiring. A typical car seat’s life-span is around six years and after that, the plastic can become brittle - making it more susceptible to breaking in the event of an accident.

Other things to consider when buying a car seat

There are also several other car seat components you may want to look at when it comes to making your final decision. There are several accessories on the market that provide both comfort and peace of mind for families with small children. If you’re expecting to be travelling a lot with your child in summer, a sunshade may be a useful accessory to consider. Or, if you’re concerned about your baby’s welfare in a rear-facing seat, Direct4Baby offer a variety of back seat mirrors suitable for fixing to your vehicle. These back seat mirrors give parents peace of mind, as you can cleverly adjust the angles so you can see your baby at all times whilst driving. Shop Direct4Baby’s range of car seat accessories