Is your car seat safe? Which? car seat survey reveals shocking statistics

23 July 2015

Mother strapping baby into car seat

67% of car seats checked in 2014 did not comply with minimum fitting standards

Which? has discovered that 53% of UK parents who bought their car seat new were not shown how to fit the seat by a retailer. This could mean children in car seats that are potentially unsafe. 

Our recent Which? survey of 1476 parents on car seat safety also revealed that nearly a quarter of people bought their car seat online. Parents are more likely to install seats bought online themselves, without a trained fitter to check. 

Only a small number of parents, just 3%, get their car seat fit checked by a trained professional.

Even a Best Buy car seat won't offer maximum protection in a crash if it's not fitted correctly.

Browse our Best Buy and Don't Buy car seats.

Car seat fitting failures

In Spring 2014 we investigated the major child car seat retailers offering a free car-seat fitting service. We discovered that 90% of the 42 stores we visited failed in our challenge to fit two car seats correctly (Which? magazine, Aug 2014, p30). Since our investigation, we have been working to improve fitting services and training.

One year on and our car seat experts have met with most of the retailers featured in our investigation and some key car seat manufacturers. We have seen improvements from Babies R Us, Halfords and John Lewis, including updates to training programmes and revised training tools.  

Is your car seat safe? 

In our survey, parents told us the most common car seat issues they experienced were:

  • Twisted car seat belt, 26%
  • Car seat unstable, 7%
  • I don't fit the harness tight enough, 6%
  • Hard to attach Isofix connectors, 5%

All of these issues are easily to remedy if you're shown how to fit your car seat and checking them now could help to make your car seat safer before you head off for summer holidays. 

Parent fitting child car seat

You can make simple checks to ensure your child's car seat is safe

Free car seat fit checks

Which? child car seat expert Lisa Galliers says: 'Our advice is to make sure that you get a car seat fitted by a trained expert, but also to check the seat carefully yourself.

'Many councils offer a free car seat checking service, while car safety specialists Good Egg Safety runs free check clinics across Scotland, and some retailers may also offer a free check even if you haven't purchased the seat from them.

'In February, Good Egg Safety reported that 67% of the 1692 seats it checked in 2014 did not comply with minimum fitting standards. 

'If you've bought your seat online and/or haven't been able to get advice on fitting it, read our how to fit a child car seat guide before heading to one of the car seat checking services. 

'Parents, grandparents and carers can also download our free guide: 10 quick car seat fitting checks, so you can double check your seat on a regular basis and give yourself peace of mind that your car seat is correctly fitted.'

How we test child car seats

Which? crash tests child car seats in two, specially designed, crash scenarios. Our crash tests are severe and our experts feel they more accurately reflect what happens in real crashes more than the legal minimum standards.

Read more on and watch the video footage of how Which? tests car seats

More on this...

  • Child car seats – Discover the seats that survived our front and side crashes
  • Ditch the booster seat – Find out why a high-backed booster seat is best
  • Don't Buy car seats – See which car seats failed key safety tests