Choosing a child seat

The right seat for your child's weight - but there are other things to consider too

You will need to know how much your child weighs before you can buy a child seat

You will need to know how much your child weighs before you can buy a child seat

You will need to know how much your child weighs before you can buy a child seat because this is the main factor that defines the different groups of child seat available and the children they are suitable for.

All seats will come with an indication of the age range covered but this can only ever be a rough guide because of the wide variation in height and weight among children of the same age.

Though weight is important there are lots of other things to consider too when you buy a child seat:

  • Safety – is the seat suitable for your child and compatible with your car?
  • Price – aim to buy the best seat you can afford taking account of independent test results and reviews.
  • Usability – are the instructions clear, can you fit and adjust the seat easily, is your child comfortable in the seat and can the covers be removed/refitted easily after cleaning?

Weight groups

Before a child restraint can be offered for sale it is put through a number of safety and performance tests by the authorities. These are defined in UNECE Regulation 44 (you'll see this mentioned on the seat and the packaging) and include crash tests using a number of child-size dummies.

All seats will come with an indication of the age range covered but they are actually approved for sale in specific weight groups.

A child restraint will belong to one or more of the following size/weight groups (defined by UNECE Regulation 44):

  • Infant carrier (Group 0 and 0+) – up to 13kg (around 15 months) for group 0+ or only 10kg (6-9 months) for group 0
  • Child seats (Group 1) – 9 to 18kg (approx. 9 months to 4 years)
  • Booster seats (Group 2 and 3) – 15-25kg (approx. 4-6 years)
  • Booster cushions (Group 3) – 22-36kg (approx. 6-11 years)

Points to remember

Your child's weight - find out your child's weight (kg) before you shop for a restraint

Instruction manual - read it carefully to make sure the seat is suitable for your child and compatible with your car. Keep it in the car with the seat for future reference.

Weigh your child regularly - so you can tell when you should start thinking about buying the next seat. The child will probably grow too big for the seat before exceeding its weight limit.

Don't be too eager to move children to the next, larger seat - a big child in a small restraint will be safer than a small child in a large restraint, and a child in a rear-facing restraint will be safer than one forward-facing. Don't rely on the upper age limit printed on the packaging; some children may outgrow a seat faster than you think.

Isofix - If you're looking at isofix seats check the vehicle handbook carefully first to make sure you choose a compatible type and  size class.

(27 September 2012)