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27 Nov 2019

A third of parents are failing to do these crucial car seat fitting safety checks

Using a car seat that's incorrectly installed could be as big a safety risk as using one that fails in our crash tests

Nearly a third of parents are risking their children's safety by not being shown how to fit a new car seat correctly. That's possibly because more than a quarter of all parents are buying their car seat online where they're not shown how to install it.

Using an incorrectly installed car seat could be as big a safety risk as using one that fails in our crash tests and is a Which? Don't Buy car seat.

That's why we always recommend buying your car seat from a retailer that offers a fitting service so an expert can check the car seat will fit in your vehicle as well as make sure it's installed correctly.

Go to the best baby and child car seats to find an easy to install and safe car seat for your little one.

Parents not being shown how to fit car seats

We asked 2,949 parents who bought a new car seat if they were shown how to fit it in their car.

  • Nearly a third told us the retailer showed them how to fit their car seat before they bought it.
  • A further 15% were shown how to install the seat after they'd paid for it.
  • A shocking 31% admitted they were never shown how to fit the child car seat into their car.

Browsing and buying online only

We asked 3,286 parents how they bought their child's car seat.

27% did their browsing and bought their car seat from an online retailer.

While there are some great deals to be found online, limiting yourself to shopping and buying online is risky as you might buy a seat that won't fit in your car and you won't have the knowledge to fit it.

Our advice when buying a child car seat

  • Don't buy a car seat without getting it fitted first.
  • Always get your car seat fitted by a trained expert,
  • Before you get to a store, research your seat. You can compare popular models in our car seat reviews.
  • Take along our car seat fitting checklist of key information you need to give the sales assistant
  • Give the answer to all of these to the store staff
  • Ask for a demonstration
  • Get hands on while you're there
  • Challenge anything you don't feel is right.

One of the benefits of going to a store such as Mamas & Papas, Mothercare, John Lewis, Halfords, Smyths and independent car seat shops is that you can ask for a demonstration of several car seats.

All the retailers listed above offer a fitting service, which means you can get your car seat fitted by a trained expert before buying it and can check it fits safely and securely in your car.

Mothercare is going out of business though and Mamas & Papas has announced it's closing six of its 32 shops.

But there are other options if you aren't able to have it fitted by an expert at the time of purchase.

You can also visit a qualified car seat specialist to make sure it's installed correctly, for example at a specialist car seat centre, a council-run car seat event or one of many nationwide events held by car seat safety organisations.

If you're finding it tricky to get to a car seat checking event in your area, visit childseatsafety.co.uk and browse the find an advisor page. There you'll be able to locate a trained car seat advisor near you who can answer your questions.

Or give your local road safety team a call to ask for help in locating assistance in your borough.

Why regular checks are important

As well as having your car seat initially fitted by an expert, it's crucial you check to make sure it's securely attached and there's nothing to compromise your child's safety.

You can do it yourself and should do it regularly.

Common car seat issues to look out for include:

  • Twisted seat belt
  • Unstable fit
  • Loose harness
  • Not all Isofix points connected
  • Support leg not reaching the floor
  • Child is able to escape

Visit our guide to common problems when fitting a baby or child car seat for lots of helpful advice to help you check your car seat.

You can also download our PDF of 10 quick child car seat checks to help you make sure you don't miss anything crucial.

It's also worth having an expert checking your car seat every so often, especially if it's being moved to a new car or if you swap it between different cars frequently.