Quite possibly THE most important thing you’ll be buying for the safety of your new baby is a car seat. It’s not the most glamorous, or the most fun – in fact it can be very confusing – but it’s essential that you know what you need to keep your little one safe when you’re driving. After having several of ‘those’ pregnancy moments in various baby superstores while looking at car seats (you know, the ones where you have a hot flush/a cold sweat and feel utterly overwhelmed by it all) I knew that I should have got my head around the laws and the safety requirements before I’d even begun. And so we’ve put together this post, along with our own personal choices on car seats, which will hopefully guide you through the process with ease, whatever stage of car seat you’re after.

Where To Start

Ok, let’s start at the very beginning – your car. Does it have Isofix anchor points? The answer to this is probably yes – as it has been a manufacturing requirement for modern cars for a while now. These points allow you to fix an Isofix base into your car, on to which you can clip your car seat. This has been proven to be a safer way to attach the car seat, rather than just using the seat belt. Then, you need two things – the actual car seat itself, and an Isofix base which helps you to attach the seat correctly and safely to your car. The Isofix base fits to the anchor points (and in some cases a third ‘tether’ point in your car). So the Isofix base is permanently in the car, and the car seat can be clicked in and out as you need it. (I’m aware this is extremely basic – but when I started out no one ever actually explained that to me!)

Technically, at present, Isofix isn’t a legal requirement and some car seats can be fitted using a seatbelt, but Isofix is recommended as it ensures a correct fit once the system is in place in your car. And eventually, it will become a legal requirement to use the Isofix system with the new regulation i-Size seats.

Top Tips To Getting the Right Car Seat

Before you buy:
– Advice is to avoid second hand car seats, as you cannot be sure of their history.
– Research & Prioritise Safety. All seats must pass minimum standards of safety some manufacturers test way beyond these standards.
– Get independent advice. If not from Child Seat Safety then contact your local authority road safety team. Many have been through the IOSH course or can direct you to someone who is experienced.

At the point of sale:
– Ask for the car seat expert in store to serve you, if they aren’t available ask for an appointment or come back when they are working.
– Where possible, make sure your accredited expert shows you how to fit the seat in your car – this avoids confusion & should give you confidence to fit the seat correctly yourself.
– Don’t worry if you haven’t done this. Car seat fitting clinics occur across the country so drop in & get your car seat checked. I’ll be honest here, this is something we didn’t do before having Elle, but it’s so SO important. No matter how safe a driver you think you are – it’s other people you have to worry about and you want the peace of mind that if you are involved in an accident, you’ve done all you can to protect your baby.

The Law – What You Need To Know

There was a period of time when I got very confused between Isofix and i-Size. Maybe it was my foggy pregnancy brain, but I just couldn’t make sense of it all. And when the new legislation was brought into place when Elle was a few months old – I was even more confused. To be honest, that might have just been me (!) and it could well have been my post-baby crazy hormones, but I’ve written it down for you in a way that helped to clarify things for me…

The current law (which changed in 2006) states that all children travelling in a car must use the correct car seat appropriate to their weight or height, until they are either 135cm in height or 12 years in age – which ever they reach first.

New car seat legislation (i-Size) was introduced in the EU in July 2013, and became part of UK leglisation in Spring 2015. However, at present it doesn’t replace the current legislation, but sits alongside it.

The key differences that the new legislation enforces are that it requires babies and toddlers up to 15 months old to travel in rear facing car seats (currently, only children under 9kg in weight have to sit in a rear-facing seats). And the seats have a five point harness – this provides increased support for the child’s head and neck, and better protection in the event of both frontal and side-impact.

i-Size also classifies seats by the child’s height rather than weight – which as you’ll see from our experiences below can be at very different times depending on your child…

(For more info on i-Size seats and the Isofix system, have a look at these websites – i-Size.org and how does Isofix work?)

The RMF Team’s Choices

To help you come to a decision over which one to buy, I asked the team which car seats they invested in and why…

Mabel had the Maxi-Cosi Cabrio fix and was rear facing until she was 18 months, we chose it over the “newer” Pebble as it was lighter in weight – it transferred easily from the car onto our Quinny Buzz and we had the family fix base. Choosing a toddler seat was more difficult, logistically James and I now need a seat each for nursery pick ups and drop offs and from extensive research the seat we wanted was the Maxi Cosi Axiss Fix i-size but at £350 (!) having one each just seemed too expensive. We managed to find an ex-display in Mothercare that we bought for £250 (it had never actually been used and came with all of the regular warranties and guarantees) so it’s definitely worth shopping around. For the second car we bought a regular Pearl as it fits on the family base that we already have.

We bought the Silver Cross Simplicity as it matched the Silver Cross Surf travel system we had, which I know is a pretty poor excuse to purchase a car seat, but it checked all the safety requirements too. Easily clipping into place on the Isofix base in the car and then transferable to the pushchair frame if needed.

We chose our Maxi-Cosi Axiss car seat for Anabelle after seeing a friends in action and were totally mesmerised by the fabulous 360° swivel action. It makes popping the kids in the car so much easier. I remember the days when the boys were little, I would be half climbing into the car (bottom in the air) scrambling to put the straps on. Not a pretty sight & not at all good for your back! Now it just seems a breeze, plus Anabelle adores facing forward like her big brothers.

Our first car seat was the Silver Cross Simplicity Car seat purchased primarily because it slotted easily onto our Silver Cross Wayfarer pushchair chassis without the need for additional adapters. In fact the Simplicity has been a bit of a godsend in terms of portability; I’ve been able to quickly manoeuvre Hector from car to shops without the faff of strapping and unstrapping from car seat to pushchair and back again saving me time and effort and keeping him happy too. The Simplicity comes with a newborn wedge for smaller babes which can be removed to give a little bit more room as they grow. We also purchased the Isofix base for the car seat as well for peace of mind as well as for convenience. Both came with a free two year guarantee.

Hector grew out of his first car seat at about 10 months old but then he was at the time already the height of a one year old which actually is what the car seat is specified to accommodate up to. We picked the Maxi Cosi AxissFix i-size car seat after a lengthy discussion about various models to replace it. Literally from the moment Hector sat in it he’s loved it which makes car journeys a breeze. Granted the seat is at the pricier end of the spectrum but it does come complete with an Isofix base and is suitable for babies from 4 months up to 4 years which means you’re going to get your wear out of it. My favourite bit about the AxissFix has got to be the fact that it rotates 360° which means that securing Hector in the seat (facing me) is easy peasy and then I can spin him back into position for travelling.

We chose the Maxi Cosi Pebble and Isofix base. I’d read good things about it and liked the idea of the Isofix rather than using a seat belt each time. It made it a bit more spendy but I knew we could use it again for the next size up. We had the Bugaboo so got the adapters which was a dream. It was so easy to pop the car seat on to pop to shops rather than transferring baby from car seat to pram.

For the next seat we went for the Maxi-Cosi Pearl. In honesty we weren’t really sure which one to get so just chose that one! This idea worked until I had Alice a bit sooner than planned and so Molly had already moved to the next seat by this point and we had to therefore use the pebble with the seatbelt for Alice as Molly’s seat ONLY worked on the base which was a pain. It also meant we had to move the base everytime we swapped cars to travel anywhere in Edds. Very annoying.

Now the girls are both in the bigger seats so Alice has the Pearl and we got Molly a Maxi-Cosi Tobi which just works with the seat belt so much easier. Molly can actually move to more of a booster seat now but we haven’t made the purchase yet. The good ones are so expensive still and she does fit in her current one. We’ve been looking at a Maxi Cosi one but suggestions welcome!

Your Purchases

As always, we’d love to know which car seats you’ve bought and why – we’re all on the look out for recommendations, Lottie, Becky & I are all thinking about the next stage seat – so we need group 1, 2 and 3 suggestions please.

And hopefully if you’re about to purchase a car seat for the first time, this will have helped to clarify things for you 🙂

And finally, please tell me I’m not the only one who was totally baffled by car seats to begin with?!?!?

Fern x