Child car seats: How to buy a child car seat Going to the child car seat retailer
You've done your homework and selected some Best Buy child seats from our range of tested models, so you're off to the store. Read on to make sure you get the best out of your visit.
At the child car seat shop
You've decided which seats you want to look at, so go into the store and check the shelves to see whether they have them in stock. If they do, find an assistant to help you.
In a good store, they should ask you several questions to help guide your purchase, including:
1. How much does your child weigh?
Your child's weight is the deciding factor when it comes to selecting an appropriate seat. Without this information the assistant cannot give you sound advice.
If you are changing from a Group 0+ infant carrier to a Group 1 toddler seat, 9kg is the lowest a child can legally move into a larger, forward-facing seat, but is far from ideal because it exposes children to a higher risk of neck injuries in a crash until their neck muscles are well developed.
A good retailer will recommend keeping the baby rearward-facing for as long as possible. For an infant carrier this will be 13kg and for a rearward-facing Group 1 seat 18kg.
2. How tall is your child?
If you are changing from one group of seat to the next, they should ask about your child's height, relative to the top of the seat. If the crown of the child's head is level with the top of the Group 0+ seat they are ready to move up.
For Group 1, 2 and Group 3 they are ready when their eyes are in line with the top of the child seat (or higher).
3. What cars are you planning to use the seat in?
Not all seats fit all cars and, while some manufacturers list which models fit which cars, it needs to be checked before you buy. You can do this by checking the manufacturer's website or when you try the car seat in your car before you buy.
Finally, the assistant should also be able to explain the features of any seat stocked by the retailer. The best assistants have knowledge of seats they don't stock as well, so they can advise about the pros and cons of different approaches.
Demonstrating the child car seat
Once you've established the seats you're interested in are suitable, ask the assistant for a demonstration on the instore rig. This will allow you to see how the seat fits and adjusts, without the complexities of being in the confined space of a car.
Have a go at strapping your child into the seat and make sure you can adjust everything that's likely to need adjusting during the time your child will be using it.
Adjustments are likely to include:
- tightening the harness (Group 0+ and Group 1)
- reclining the seat to allow kids to sleep more comfortably (Group 0+ and Group 1)
- transforming from rearward to forward facing (combined Group 0+ and 1)
- moving the position of the shoulder harness up as the child grows (Group 0+ and Group 1)
- removing padding and inserts for infants (Group 0+ and Group 1)
- removing harnesses (Group 1-2-3 seats)
- adjusting headrests and side padding (Group 1-2-3).
Try the seat in your car
Once you're happy that the seat seems right for your child, ask for a demonstration in your car(s). This will allow you to verify that the seat does actually fit in your car.
Sometimes, the angle of the car's back seat or the position of its seatbelt mountings and buckles can render a good seat useless - so trying a child seat in your own car is absolutely essential.
Strap the child in and have a go at making all the adjustments. Make sure you're happy with the fit of the seat in the car(s), and your child in the seat.
Again, this is your chance to ask the retailer questions before you are on your own at home with the seat and a confusing set of instructions.
Only when you're satisfied that the seat works for you, your child and your car, are you ready to buy.