In short, it depends on local laws, how big your child is, how fast they’re growing, and whether your car has ISOFIX or a similar car seat-friendly design.
But we’ll explain all of that later.
If you’re looking for a child seat, wherever you are in the world, chances are you’re going to encounter perplexing product names and jargon. A quick scroll of car seats on one website reveals names such as Scenera, Trax Jogger and Evenflo Embrace. Also, while you might have heard of ISOFIX, did you know it can also be called UCSSS, LATCH, or LUAS?
The huge range of child seats doesn’t make finding one any easier. Neither does the fact that laws vary by country or state. However, you can scroll down to find a quick and easy guide that covers the basics of baby seats.
That depends on where you are. Check your local laws regarding what car seats are permitted for what ages, as well as how they should be fitted.
The general view is that rear-facing baby seats are required up to the age of two. Forward-facing seats and booster seats are recommended until the child has grown enough that an adult seatbelt fits comfortably, usually when they reach twelve.
In your country, the child seat laws could be relatively lenient. Even so, it’s worth researching the information based on crash tests and medical studies, so you can make an informed decision on your child’s safety.
Car seats are typically divided into categories for baby, toddler and child (up to pre-teen age).
Baby seats are rear-facing and at a 40-45 degree angle, or they can be lateral. That means the baby lies flat, which is recommended for newborns and small babies.
Toddler seats are larger and either front or rear-facing. They often have a harness attached instead of using the adult seat belt.
Child seats (up to pre-teen) are usually booster seats designed to add extra height, so the adult seat belt will properly protect the child.
On your quest for a reliable car seat, you’ll hear terms like ‘i-Size’ and Groups 0 to 2, particularly if you’re in Europe or the USA.
Group 0, 0+, 1 and 2 are an older design of car seats, still in use today. They are based on a child’s age and weight:
‘i-Size’ refers to an EU safety regulation introduced in 2013 – it’s a newer range of car seats based on the child’s height.
They have been developed from more stringent crash testing, which includes side-impact tests along with frontal and rear tests. These seats provide greater protection, particularly from head and neck injuries, as they keep babies rear-facing until at least 15 months old.
ISOFIX (known as LATCH in the USA) is an internationally standardised system for fitting child seats into cars. The idea is that cars across the world will have same attachment points, allowing the seats to be easily locked into place.
This is to replace the usual practice of having to loop the seat belt through a baby car seat, which is more complicated and easier to get wrong.
‘i-Size’ child seats are designed to be compatible with ISOFIX – ideally, all ‘i-Size’ child seats should fit in all ISOFIX cars. Unfortunately, this is not the case yet; ISOFIX can still vary depending on the car’s age and where it’s from.
If you’re confused about your car’s ISOFIX or how to strap a baby in a car seat, you can book a fitting service from your retailer. In short, try before you buy. If that’s not available, it might be worth checking whether there are local councils or charities that offer free child seat fittings.
If you think your child might soon get too big for their seat, look out for car seats better designed to keep up with a child’s growth. Land Rover Accessories offers Groups 0, 1 and 2 child seats with height adjustment, so they will last for much longer.
It can be tempting to snap up a bargain with a second-hand car seat, but experts do not recommend this. A second-hand seat could be damaged, through prolonged use or even a crash, and it could have parts missing.
If you buy new from a trusted retailer, it also comes with the assurance that it meets local safety rules.
One commonly searched question is: can a baby car seat face forward?
Medical experts say infants should travel in a rear-facing car seat, as crash tests show it reduces the risk of serious injury to the head, neck and spine.
Parents often ask: how long must a child have a rear-facing seat? Experts recommend parents to keep them for as long as possible, or at least until the child has outgrown the seat and can support their head unaided.
It’s understandable why parents would prefer a front-facing car seat. Children can have motion sickness and methods to alleviate this, like staring ahead at a fixed point, don’t work well with a rear-facing position. Motion sickness, caused by the eye sending the brain different signals than the inner ear as to the body’s location, is often made worse when vision is limited.
Rear-facing car seats also limit a parent’s ability to keep an eye on their child from the front seat. After all, the last thing you want if you’ve carefully strapped your child in is to find they’ve managed to undo it while you were concentrating on the road.
However, there are options, such as removing headrests to give them a clearer outside view to distract them. You can also attach a back-seat mirror so you can easily check on them whenever it’s safe to do so.
Parent may also worry how rear-facing seats allow the child to kick the back of the front seat, but protective seat covers (offered by Land Rover Accessories) prevent any marks.
That’s not to say there aren’t advantages when your child grows into a front-facing seat. It means you can use other accessories to keep them entertained. The Land Rover Click and Go system lets you set up a tablet on the back of the seat, so they can watch videos and play games on long journeys.
To sum it up: the best car seat you can choose is a new model from a trusted retailer, that comes with proof that it adheres to local safety laws and medical guidelines.
There may be a lot on offer, but hopefully this guide will make finding one that fits your child and car (and will stand the test of time) less stressful and confusing.
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