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Child car seat laws UK and abroad

Child car seats laws around the world

By Lisa Galliers

Article 2 of 2

Find out up-to-date information on the rules and regulations for the use of car seats in top holiday destinations

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Heading abroad for a family holiday, but unsure what the car seat rules are? Find out all you need to know about top destinations before you jet off. 

UK law states that children must use a child car seat until they're 12-years old or 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first. But the rules and regulations for other countries can be different. 

To save you time and hassle we've compiled the rules and regulations for some of the most popular holiday destinations, with the help of our international car seat experts from other consumer organisations, all in one place. 

Here we give you the current rules for each country, who they apply to and the exceptions

We'll be adding taxi information as and when we get it, too, so check back each time you head off on a trip to stay fully up to date.

Need a car seat? A Best Buy child car seat provides good protection from both front-impact and side-impact crashes.

Child car seat law by country
Country Rules Can I use a UK car seat? In taxis

Germany

 

Regulations require child restraints approved to UN R44/R129 for children less than 150cm tall or younger than 12-years old, whichever comes first. Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129 Yes, children are required to use car seats in taxis.
Spain It’s compulsory to transport children under 18-years old and less than 135cm tall in a UN R44/R129-approved car seat in the back seat of the car.

Exceptions: when a car only has two seats, or when it’s not possible to fit more car seats in the back seats, then one car seat can be installed on the front seat, as long as the air bag is deactivated.

If you're caught without a car seat, the police may ask you to wait until somebody brings a car seat, or the children are transported in another car with a car seat, or a taxi. The fine is around 300 euros.
Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129 Children are not required to use car seats in the city areas, but if you land at an airport and your journey is out of the city centre, then you'll need a car seat.
France

All children under 10 and less than 135cm tall must use an UN R44/R129-approved child car seat. A child between 135cm and 150cm can use a booster seat if needed.

You can transport children in the front seat in a child car seat if there is no back seat or no seat belts on the back seats, or all the back seats are taken up with car seats already or the back seats are temporarily unusable. A baby can travel on the front seat in a rearward-facing car seat, but only if the airbag is deactivated.

Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129 No, there is no requirement to use a car seat in a taxi.
Portugal

All children under 12-years old and less than 135cm tall must use a UN R44/R129-approved child car seat.

You can transport children under three-years old in the front seat in a child car seat as long as the airbag is deactivated. 

Exceptions:
 If a car does not have seat belts in the back seat, a child can go in the front seat with the correct car seat and the airbag deactivated. If you want to transport three children in the back seat, but you only have room for two car seats, the oldest child may use the car's seat belt – we'd suggest the middle seat.

Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129  
Ireland

All children under 150cm in height or 36kgs (79lbs) in weight must use a child-restraint system suitable for their height and weight approved to UN R44 or R129.

Children can sit in the front seat as long as they are using the correct child restraint for their height and weight, but it's illegal to use a rearward-facing child car seat in a passenger seat with an active airbag. 

There is now a penalty for drivers who place a rearward-facing child car seat in the front where there is an active airbag. You may receive at least three penalty points on your driving licence. Drivers have a legal responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 17 are appropriately restrained in the vehicle.

Children should always travel in the back of the car, away from active airbags and the dashboard.

Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129

Taxi drivers are exempt from supplying child car seats.
Italy

All children under 150cm in height, regardless of the weight or age of the children, must use as UN R44/R129-approved child car seat.

A baby can travel on the front seat in a rearward-facing car seat but only if the airbag is deactivated.

Exceptions: If a car does not have seat belts, children under 3-years old cannot be transported and children under 150cm can't travel on the front seat.

Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129 There is  no requirement to use a car seat in a taxi.
Netherlands All children up to 135cm must use an UN R44 / R129-approved child car seat.

Exceptions: If a car does not have seat belts in the back seat, children three years or older can sit in the back seat. If you want to transport three children on the back seat, but there's only room for two car seats, a child of three years or older can use the car's adult seat belt.
Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129 If there's no car seat present in a licenced taxi (identified by the blue licence plates) children older than three years may sit in the back seat using the adult seat belt and children under three years can sit in the back seat without a seat belt. The front passenger seat can only be used by children who are more than 1.35m tall, secured with the adult seat belt.
USA Each state has its own child seat laws and travellers must comply with the laws in each state that they are travelling through. The legal restrictions vary a lot between states. For example: South Dakota requires child seats for children four and younger and less than 40lbs, whereas Tennessee requires child seats for those aged eight and younger and includes specifications for rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. All child seats on the market must pass the requirements (including crash tests) of FMVSS 213. Google 'child safety guidelines' and the name of the state for more information.. No, must meet FMVSS 213 requirements  
Canada If you are heading to Canada, then you must check the regulations required for each province. There are 10 different legislations for each province. Google 'child safety guidelines' and the name of the province for more information. No. A child car seat must have the National Safety Mark.  
Denmark

Children should use a child restraint seat suitable for their height and weight until they are 135cm. The seat has to be approved to UN R44 or R129. 

Exceptions: You are not allowed to have a rear-facing seat in the front seat unless the airbag is deactivated. 

It is the responsibility of the driver that every child below the age of 15 is using the right safety equipment (car seat or seat belt depending on height), and the driver will be penalised if not.

Yes, as long as it's approved to R44 or R129 A child can travel in a taxi without a child car seat of there isn't one available. The child has to sit in the back seat. and if he or she is three years or older the car's seat belt has to be used.

How to find the UN approval label

You'll usually find your car seat approval label on the back of your car seat, or at the back on the bottom of the car seat. Take a look at the picture above to see what it looks like. It will either say ECE R44 or R129. 

See which car seats did well in our crash tests in our child car seat reviews

Car seat regulations

The car seat regulations in the table above apply to everyone driving in that country, including tourists. And while it's debatable how strictly these rules will be applied to tourists, we still think it's worth knowing them.

Now test your knowledge in our car seat laws quiz

See how much you already know and what you've picked up from reading our advice, by taking our quick quiz that tests your knowledge on car seats laws, both at home and away. 

 

Car hire abroad

If you're hiring a car abroad for your family, you'll need car seats to keep your children safe. We've heard some horror stories from parents about the car seat they've been offered by car hire companies when arriving on holiday.

If you need to hire a car abroad, check you know how much a child seat will cost in advance. It could be cheaper to take your own. Bear in mind that car hire companies normally say the provision of child seats is subject to availability.  

You're unlikely not to be given one at all, but you may get an old one and may not get help fitting it. You may feel more comfortable taking your own seat, and even if you have to pay extra luggage charges as a result - it may not be that much more expensive than the car seat hire fee.

See our guide to hiring a car abroad for top tips on how to avoid pitfalls.

Don't Buy car seats

Before you head off on holiday, download our list of Dont Buy child car seats so you can check the car seat hired with your car and avoid the worst seats. 

We also have a handy fitting guide you can download and print out to take with you, so you can make sure any car seat you hire is fitted correctly.

Remember - even a Don't Buy car seat that's fitted correctly is better than no seat at all.

Top five holiday car seats safety tips

1. Find out what car seats are available in advance

Our advice is to contact the rental company in advance and ask for a list of seats it supplies, then check whether any are Don't Buy car seats or discontinued Don't Buy car seats. 

Print out and take our list of Don't Buy child car seats with you so you can do another check when you get there. However, even a Don't Buy car seat (when fitted correctly) may provide a little protection in a crash and is better than no car seat (which is also illegal in some places).

Find out which car seats we recommend as Best Buy car seats.

2. Check your child car seat thoroughly when you pick up your hire car

When you're given the car seat, make sure it's suitable for the age and weight of your child by checking the label on the back. If it's been a while since you've bought a child car seat, give yourself a refresher before you go with our car seat weight groups. Check the seat is in a good condition, that the harness isn't damaged or worn and the buckle works properly.

3. Check the fit of the car seat 

Once you have a hire car and a car seat you're happy with, make sure it's fitted correctly. An incorrectly fitted car seat will reduce the protection it offers in a crash. 

Car seat has already been fitted for you? Download our free guide: 10 quick car seat fitting checks so you can double check and give yourself peace of mind that it has been installed properly. 

Need to fit it yourself? Our guide how to fit a child car seat shows you exactly how to do just that in easy steps. 

4. Take your own car seat if possible

If you can manage with the extra baggage, and are travelling within Europe, we recommend taking your own seat if possible. Some airlines will let you take one for free, but it’s worth taking your own even if you have to pay extra luggage charges. Some car seats are approved to be used on a plane, but you'd need to check with your airline for its policy.  

5. Know the laws on travelling with children in a taxi

Remember, if you're taking a taxi to the airport on your way to jet off, the current UK law states that in a licensed taxi or minicab (private hire vehicles):

  • children aged under three can travel without a child’s car seat or seat belt, but only on the back seat
  • children aged three or older can travel on a rear seat without a child’s car seat if they wear an adult seat belt.

If you have a child aged under three, some experts feel the best option is to sit the child next to you on their own seat (if they are able to) rather than holding them on your lap, which isn't safe. In a serious crash your body weight may crush the child, and an adult's arms would not be able to hold onto a child, anyway. 

Our advice is to call the taxi company in advance. See whether it has an appropriate car seat available to use, or check to see if you can use your own (if taking it with you). For young babies, where it's not possible to sit them on the seat and a car seat isn't an option, it may be possible to keep them in their pushchair in the back of a black London taxi (Hackney carriage).

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