The most important piece of information you need to know is your child’s weight. Many car seats are sold according to age, but this is essentially meaningless since all children develop at different rates and any two children could be drastically different weights at the same age. The weight will tell you which “group” your child belongs to. See below.
* Group 0 is for children weighing up to 10kg – 22lbs
* Group 0+ from birth to 13kg – 29lbs
* Group 0+ and 1, birth to 18kg – 40lbs
* Group 1 from 9-18kg – 20-40lbs
* Group 1 and 2, 9-25kg – 20-55lbs
* Group 2, 15-25kg – 33-55lbs
* Group 1, 2 and 3, 9-36kg – 20-79lbs
* Group 2 and 3, 15-36kg – 48-79lbs
Some children’s car seats cover more than one group so that they can be used for longer. Children’s car seats are manufactured in accordance with the safety specifications of the European Standard R44.03. For rear-facing seats the child’s head should be below, but not level with the top of the seat, and the child’s ears should be below the top of a forward-facing seat.
What to look out for? A good safety harness, preferably a 5 point safety harness which fits well. The shoulder straps should fit closely to connect with the buckle but not be too tight. Child-proof buckle – seems obvious, but not always standard. The seat should be comfortable for the child, with adequate cushioning/padding. Some seats are specially ergonomically shaped for extra comfort. Padded sleeves which cover the straps provide more comfort and less chaffing on delicate skin. If you plan to buy a model which can be removed from the car and carried – weight may be a consideration.
A reclining seat is great for a long journey. Some models can even be positioned completely horizontal. Some car seats are secured using the car seat belts and some use a separate fixing mechanism. Cars produced after 2002 should have ISOFIX fixtures as standard (check your car manual, with the manufacturer directly or with the dealership). ISOFIX is considered the safest form of securing a child’s car seat.