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Seats in group 1 usually consist of a seat shell attached to a frame, with the child held in the seat by an integral five-point harness
Even though seats in this group may technically be approved for children from 9kg - which could be as young as six months - it's best not to rush to get your child into a forward-facing seat; rear-facing provides better protection and lower risk of injury in a crash.
If you're using a group 0+ infant carrier you should be able to keep your child rear-facing to 15 months or more.
Seats in group 1 usually consist of a seat shell attached to a frame. The child is held in the seat by an integral five-point harness and the frame is attached to the car using the adult seat belts or Isofix anchorages.
Some booster seats, aimed at older children in groups 2 and 3 are supplied with a removeable harness for younger children, so it is possible to buy a single seat for your child covering the range from 9 months or so up to their 12th birthday. Look for seats marked 'Group 1,2 and 3'.
Check whether your car is fitted with Isofix anchorage points. Besides being more secure, these dedicated attachment points can also make it quicker and easier to fit a child seat correctly.
Look for a seat that's easy to adjust
You'll need to adjust the harness a lot to suit the thickness of clothes the child's wearing. Try to adjust the sample in the shop but bear in mind that it'll be harder with a child in the seat.
Built-in reclining facility
Might cost more but can be useful, particularly for younger children who may sleep more often and on longer journeys.
But check the vehicle handbook carefully first to make sure you get the right size class for your car.
Recognising that it is up to five times safer, children in Sweden travel rear-facing until the age of 4 or 5 years using group 1 seats approved to 25kg.
Rear-facing group 1 seats made for the Swedish market and approved for children up to 18kg or 25kg are increasingly available in this country through specialist independent retailers.
It's important to 'try before you buy' with any child seat to ensure compatibility with your car, but this is even more important if you are considering one of these larger rear-facing seats as they have very different fitting requirements compared with forward facing seats.
You must not use any rear-facing child seat on a passenger seat where an active passenger airbag is fitted.
Fitting the adult belt correctly around the frame and adjusting it so the seat is tight in the car takes time and effort. Compared to booster seats, this type of seat can be more difficult to move from one car to another.
Compatibility can be a problem
Few, if any, 'universal' child seats can actually be fitted properly in every seating positions in every car. Check the manufacturer's application list and ask the retailer to show you how the seat can be installed correctly in your car.
Fitting errors are common
This is another good reason to ask shop staff to show you how to fit the seat properly. Read the fitting instructions carefully and keep them with the seat in the car.
The adult belt must pass through all the right belt-guides and the buckle imustn't be bent or lie across the seat frame. Some seats are deigned with an 'alternative belt route' to help you avoid contact between the buckle and frame.
Child seats must be fitted tightly and securely
Kneel into the child seat to compress the car seat cushion underneath while pulling the adult seat belt as tight as possible. You should be able to get it so tight that you can rock the car slightly by pulling and pushing on the top of the child seat.
Belts can work loose
Check the seat before every journey and retighten it if necessary.
Harnesses should lie flat
The harness should be comfortably tight and without twists which could increase injury. Place your hand flat on the child's chest and pull the harness up tight against it for the ideal adjustment.
If you are thinking about buying second-hand to save money, it's important to avoid buying anything that might have been involved in an accident. A seat that has been loaded in a crash will not be capable of offering the protection it could before the accident.
Check that nothing is missing or broken - including the fitting instructions which are essential if you're going to be able to fit and adjust the seat properly.
It should be OK buying from family or friends as you will know the history of the seat and can be sure that it's not been involved in an accident.
We don't recommend buying child seats at boot sales, through free ads or other sources where you don't know the seller and can't be certain of the seat's history.
(29 September 2012)