How To Choose The Best Car Seat for Your Baby or Toddler

With the amount of variety out there, how do you pick the best car seat for your baby or toddler?

As a new parent, your child’s safety is a top priority, especially when it comes to travelling by car. Finding the best car seat might seem daunting, so we’re here to help shed some light on what’s what in the car seat world!

The Best Car Seat To Suit Your Child’s Age

There are typically three categories of car seat for your baby or toddler:

1. Infant Car Seats

These rear-facing car seats are designed for newborns and can be easily removed from the car. They are super convenient if your baby is sleeping, because you can take them out of the car easily without disturbing their nap! Many infant car seats can be attached to a pushchair chassis using handy adaptors. This is great if you’re nipping out to the shops and your baby is still asleep when you arrive.

It’s important to remember that young babies shouldn’t be left in a car seat for extended periods. Some brands sell reclining car seats that enable you to lay your little one flat when the car seat has been removed from the car.

Infant car seats are designed for babies from birth up to 15 months old.

“The first car seat we got was a Maxi-Cosi. We chose this because it is great for newborns, very comfy with a shade to keep out the sun, and compatible with our pram. We found it a bit daunting buying our first car seat when we knew nothing about babies or car seats, so we had a nursery consultant appointment at a department store. They were super helpful, showed us all of the car seats on the shop floor, and had a realistically weighted baby doll to show us how to use the car set properly (I was still pregnant at the time so no baby to demo on!!) as well as how to attach to a car seat they had as an example. They then helped us narrow down our choices, emailing us with our top three. We came back at a later date to buy the one we wanted.”

Helen – Happity Growth Marketing Assistant

2. Convertible car seats 

Designed for babies and older children. They can be rear-facing initially and then converted to forward-facing as your child grows. Some can be used from birth all the way up to 12 years old. Really handy if you’re on a budget! Convertible car seats have baby inserts for new-borns and the backrest can be extended as your child gets bigger. When your child is around 5 or 6 years old, the harness can be stored away for your child to use the car seat with the car’s existing seatbelt.

“We bought a Joie Tilt, it converts from new-born all the way up to age 4 so it will last us quite a while. I chose this one as it is very lightweight, and very quick to install with just a seat belt. This is great as we don’t have a car, so perfect for fitting in other people’s cars if you are getting a lift or in a taxi. I’d also recommend a spare car seat if you have to switch between cars a lot. It is very comfortable, has washable seat fabric and suitable for forward facing or rear facing. It ticked all the boxes for me!”

Helen – Happity Growth Marketing Assistant

3. Booster Seats

Ideal for older kids, booster seats raise your child so that they can use the car’s existing seatbelt. Booster seats are available fairly cheaply, making them a great option if grandparents or other family members look after your child regularly and they want an affordable option for their car. There are both high-back and backless booster options available.

We had a convertible car seat for our son’s main car seat, and a couple of booster seats for our spare car and the grandparents’ car. They’re so lightweight and easy to move around and take in and out of the car, and because they don’t have a harness, they’re really affordable because there’s not much to them.”

Gayle – Happity Partnerships Marketing Assistant

ISOFIX Or Non-ISOFIX?

Both ISOFIX and non-ISOFIX are safe forms of car seat installation. Choosing the best option for you will depend on personal preference and whether or not your car is ISOFIX compatible. Here are a few pros and cons of both options:

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ISOFIX

Pros:

  • Ease of Installation: ISOFIX car seats use anchor points that are built into the car. If you are not sure if your car has ISOFIX, check the car’s user manual to find out. Using ISOFIX makes it easier to insert and remove your child’s car seat as it slots neatly onto a fixed base.
  • Safety: With ISOFIX, you’re less likely to install the car seat incorrectly. It can give you extra peace of mind that your little one is safe. Switches, buttons or audible alerts indicate when the ISOFIX system has been installed correctly.

Cons:

  • Compatibility: Not all vehicles have ISOFIX anchor points.
  • Weight Limit: Some ISOFIX systems have weight limits, so may not be suitable for larger children. Check with the car seat manufacturer if you are unsure. 

Non-ISOFIX:

Pros:

  • Versatility: Non-ISOFIX car seats are recommended to be used in any type of car. So this is the best car seat option if you don’t have ISOFIX points.
  • Transferring to other cars: If you’ll be transferring the car seat between different cars regularly, non-ISOFIX options tend to be less heavy and awkward to move around.
  • Convertible Options: Many convertible car seats that grow with your child may not rely on ISOFIX exclusively.

Cons:

  • Installation Complexity: Without ISOFIX, proper installation can be more challenging. You’ll be attaching the car seat to the car with the existing seat belt, which can be fiddly.

Which Car Seat Brands Are The best?

Several car seat brands for your baby or toddler are well-known for their safety, quality, and reliability, and they vary in price. Here are some brands to help you choose the best car seat to suit your needs and budget:

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Maxi-Cosi

Known for their stylish, innovative designs, Maxi-Cosi car seats focus on both safety and comfort. They offer a range of car seats to suit your baby or child’s age, and some of their prices are a bit more affordable than other brands.

Joie

Another affordable option. Joie car seats provide a variety of options suitable for different ages and they offer an extended rear-facing option. 

Cybex

Cybex car seats are popular for their sleek designs and advanced safety technology. They have side-impact protection and innovative installation systems. Some Cybex car seats use an impact shield instead of a harness. It’s a big, padded bumper that goes across the child’s waist instead of a harness. This offers extra protection when your child is forward-facing.

Britax Römer

Renowned for their robust safety features, including side-impact protection and user-friendly designs. Britax Römer offers a wide range of car seats suitable for various age groups.

Nuna

If you’re after a modern, sleek option, Nuna has it in spades! Their car seats also have convenient features such as easy installation and comfortable padding.

Cosatto

Jazz up the back seat with one of Cosatto’s colourful car seats! But don’t worry, their eye-catching styles aren’t just style over substance. They are built with safety in mind too.

Silver Cross

The Silver Cross brand has been around for almost 150 years. They know children! Their car seats focus on premium quality and safety, and they are another good option for those on a budget.

Choosing the best car seat for your little one might seem overwhelming but we hope these tips have answered some of the questions you might have had. If you are still unsure, you can book appointments at some shops to run through the different car seat options. With a bit of careful research and planning, you can find the best car seat for you and your child.

Want to get out and about, have fun with your baby or toddler, and meet other parents?

Search Happity to find everything that’s happening for the under-5’s in your local area – from music and singing classes, to messy play, arts and crafts, baby massage, gymnastics and more. Simply enter your postcode and child’s age to search, and then book your spot in a few taps. Enjoy dedicated fun time with your little one, watch their skills develop, and make friends at the same time. Mums, dads, grandparents and carers will all find something to love!

Find a class today!

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Helen Holding

Helen Holding

Happity's Growth Marketing Assistant. Helen works hard to get more classes around the UK onto Happity, connecting more parents with activity providers every week. Mum of one beautiful daughter, Lyra. When she's not working she is usually enjoying toddler classes with Lyra. Their current favourites are toddler gymnastics and Forest School!

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