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Car seats on eBay, Freecycle, Shpock and Gumtree: the safety risks of buying secondhand

By Alison Potter

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Secondhand car seats warning

Browse for baby car seats or child car seats on eBay, Freecycle, Shpock or Gumtree and there are no shortage up for sale secondhand or going for free. 
 

But that bargain basement booster seat could be putting your child's life at risk. In 2019 9% of 3,241 parents we surveyed told us they had bought a car seat secondhand. 

If budget is an issue, it's worth knowing we've found models that are good enough to be named Which? Best Buy car seats that cost less than a family day out to Center Parcs. 

If you must use a second-hand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend. And only if you are absolutely certain that you know its history, it comes with the original instructions and it is not too old (and that the approval label in the seat is still current). Check that it's in good condition. And make sure that it fits both your car and your baby or child correctly.

Secondhand car seat safety checklist

  • Examine it carefully for damage (but remember, not all damage to child seats is visible to the naked eye).
  • Make sure the manufacturer's instructions are available.
  • Check the manufacturer's advice about how old the seat should be before it needs to be replaced.
  • Make sure the seat is suitable for your child's weight and height.
  • Try the seat in your car - if you cannot get it to fit securely, do not buy it.
  • Check that the seat meets the United Nations standard Regulation 44.04 or R129 - look for the label. Seats labelled 44.03 are still legal to use but this is an older labelling so means the car seat will have been made with less modern materials.

But our expert advice is that you should avoid buying a secondhand car seat. Here are our four big reasons why:

Four reasons why you shouldn't buy secondhand

1. Secondhand car seats can have hidden damage

That cheap car seat you're bidding on might  have been involved in an accident and the damage isn't visible. The safety features that give your baby protection may well have been compromised and you just won't know. Is it worth the risk? Or they can just be in poor condition.

2. You won't get the instructions

The instructions are often missing which means you may not end up fitting and using the car seat incorrectly.

3. They'll be older models

Secondhand car seats are more than likely to be older models and might not be designed to meet currently safety standards. In the US, car seats have an expiry date printed onto their plastic shell and the manufacturer accepts no liability for product malfunction after this date. In the UK it's not common practice to date stamp seats, but as technology moves on and evolves, we'd always advise you going for a model with the latest safety features and approved to the latest rules. 

4. You might end up with a Don't Buy seat...

A car seat can become a Which? Don't Buy for several reasons:

  • it performs so poorly in one or more of our crash tests
  • our testing uncovers a serious safety issue
  • it's so difficult to install, there's too high a risk of getting it wrong, which would reduce the crash protection it's suppose to provide
  • or because of another safety reason such as not being able to get the harness tight enough to secure a baby properly


Watch our crash test video above to see the difference between how a good and bad child car seat copes with a crash.

Check our list of car seat Don't Buys to make sure you avoid them

You also need to make sure you avoid Don't Buy car seats that are no longer available to buy new. Because you can't buy them new, the review has been removed from our website, but if you follow the links below you can find out why we recommend you avoid them.

ABC Design Risus 0+

Axkid Duofix

Axkid Kidzofix

Babystart Multi-Recline Group 0/1

Britax Xtensafix

Easycarseat Inflatable

Hauck Varioguard

Joie Stages (2012 model)

Kiddicare Maxi SP (pre-December 2012)

My Child Star Max

Nania Baby Ride Group 0+

Nania Trio Plus

Petite Star City Bug

Recaro Optia - with and without SmartClick base

Safety 1st Tri Safe

ABC Design Risus 0+ 

Type: Isofix and belt installation

Which? test score: 0%

The ABC Design Risus 0+ car seat is a lightweight Group 0+ child car seat that is designed to transport your baby facing rearwards and is suitable until they weigh 13kg. The seat includes a soft padded insert and supportive head cushion for smaller babies.

This baby car seat can be installed two different ways; either via an Isofix base, or strapped straight into the car using the car’s adult seat belt.

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children from birth to 13kg. However, in our own more stringent tests, when we tested it at 40mph installed on the Isofix base, we made it a Don’t Buy because:

  • Our crash tests revealed severe weaknesses in frontal impact safety. The infant carrier detached from the Isofix base and was tipped forward.

For this reason we automatically downgrade the test score of the seat, when installed with the Isofix base, to 0% and have made it a Don't Buy. ABC Design has since updated this baby car seat, but we haven't tested the updated version yet.

A good result in any of our other tests cannot compensate for this poor result.

When installed into your car using the car’s adult seat belt, the total test score for this car seat is above the Don't Buy threshold, but is still a low scoring car seat.  

If you own this seat or know anyone that does, our advice would be to replace it with a Best Buy baby car seat.

Please remember, it is illegal not to use a car seat for children under 12 years of age or 135cm.

 

Axkid Duofix 

Type: Isofix and belt installation

Which? test score: 25%

The Axkid Duofix is a Group 1/2 child car seat suitable for children who weigh between 9-25kg. It can be used in a variety of ways, including as an extended rear-facing seat for children up to 25kg, and can be installed with Isofix or the adult seat belt. This model replaces the Kidzofix which we made a Don't Buy in 2013 due to poor safety results.

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children weighing between 9kg and 25kg (around one to six years old).

However, in our own more stringent tests, we’ve downgraded the total test score for this car seat and it's a Don't Buy.  Here's why:

  • We saw severe weaknesses in frontal impact safety when used as a Group 2 forward-facing seat – the adult seat belt moves upwards in a crash, and our results suggests there's a high risk of injury to a child's neck in a crash. 
  • Our simulated frontal crash test exceeds the limits of the mandatory standards that the Duofix is designed to meet. When used as a Group 1 forward-facing seat with the child secured using the harness, the results were poor (38%).
  • The seat also receives a test score of 38% when used as a Group 2 forward-facing high-backed booster seat. This is because the adult seat belt routing is not maintained well enough in a frontal crash situation and the seat belt slipped towards the crash-test dummy's neck.
  • Despite good overall crash test results when the Duofix is installed rear-facing, it requires so much space that, depending on the type of car, use of the front passenger seat is either completely impossible or severely restricted. It therefore received a poor rating in the space requirement criterion and scores just 25% when used in this way.
  • Although the instructions and warnings are fairly easy to understand, the seat is difficult to actually fit in the car. It's complicated to install the seat and buckle up the child. The seat itself is very heavy and it takes up a lot of space, especially when it's rear-facing using the adult seat belt to secure it to the car.

The only good score this seat achieves is for being installed as a Group 1 rear-facing seat using Isofix (63%). It achieves a four-star rating in our front-impact crash test and an average three-star rating for side-impact safety. If you have this seat, this is the best mode to use it in.    

If you own this seat, or know someone who does, Which? advice is to replace it as soon as possible. But please remember that any ECE R44 approved child car seat is better than no car seat at all.

Axkid Kidzofix

Type: Isofix and belt installation

Which? test score: 0%

The Axkid Kidzofix is a versatile Group 1/2 child car seat that can be used as an extended rear-facing car seat for children from 9-25kg (approximately nine months to six year old). The Kidzofix can also be installed forward facing.

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children from 9-36kg. 

Any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all and will provide some protection in a crash.

However, in our own more stringent tests we’ve downgraded the total test score for this car seat to the lowest possible rating, a Don’t Buy with 0%, because:

  • We saw severe weaknesses in frontal impact safety. Our simulated frontal crash test exceeds the limits of the mandatory standards that the Kidzofix is designed to meet. However, the Kidzofix was clearly not up to withstanding the forces of our severe (but realistic) crash – both Isofix connectors detached, leaving the child seat and crash test dummy flying into the front of the car. This gives it a test score of 0% in this mode as we do not believe that failure in the frontal impact can be compensated for with good ratings in other criteria, this limits the overall result of the Kidzofix.
  • The front impact ratings were also poor when the seat was installed forward facing and used with the harness for children up to 18kg (scoring 38%).
  • When the Kidzofix is installed rear facing it requires so much space that, depending on the type of car, use of the front passenger seat is either completely impossible or severely restricted. It therefore received a poor rating in the space requirement criterion (scoring 25%).

The only non-Don't Buy score this car seat achieved was for being installed and holding the child (15-25kg) in with the adult seat belt. Even so, its poor front-impact rating in this test restricts the score to a very poor 45%.

This seat is also very heavy, bulky and laborious to install and buckle up. It takes up a lot of space and the child's view from the car is limited.

In a statement posted on its Swedish website, Axkid summarised the findings of the ADAC test as showing that the Isofix connectors of the current Kidzofix model could not withstand the crash forces involved in the test. It is investigating the matter further.

'We want to emphasise that it applies only to these new Isofix arms, introduced in June 2013. A chair purchased before that date does not have this problem because it has a different Isofix component that has been tested in high-speed tests like ADAC.

'That this poor component has reached the market is very unfortunate as we have done tests with it according to the latest ECE R44/04.'

A statement on the axkid.co.uk website says it will be contacting everyone affected, but urges parents to get in touch if they have any questions by emailing sales@axkid.co.uk or calling 01666 510 555 or 01666 825 585.

Its statement says: 'As part of recent exhaustive ADAC testing we have been informed that Axonkids want to locate a batch of the Kidzofix seats. These are seats with serial numbers 13165 to 17656.

'Please check your serial number, which is located on the back of the seat. If you have one of these seats, please contact your retailer immediately who will take action to replace it.

'This affects only a limited number of Kidzofix seats and no other Axkid product is affected.'

If you own this seat, or know someone who does, Which? advice is to check its serial number to find out if they own one with a new style of Isofix connectors, blamed for the poor result in our test.

Babystart Multi-Recline Group 0/1 

Type: Belted-only installation

Which? test score: 0%

The Babystart Multi-Recline Group 0/1 is a car seat that was sold as suitable to be used rearward-facing from birth up until your baby weighs 10kg, then forward-facing until your child is around four years old.  

Our car seat experts have confirmed that the approval codes show this seat is identical to the Nania Safety Paris SP (not available to buy in the UK).

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children from birth up to 18kg. However, we’ve downgraded the total test score for this car seat to the lowest possible rating, a Don’t Buy with 0%. Here's why:

  • In our tests with the car seat used as a forward-facing Group 1 seat installed with the adult seat belt and recline, the plastic seat shell did not withstand the forces of the crash, and the harness came away as the plastic broke. This meant the crash test dummy was not adequately restrained.. If this were to happen in a real-life crash, a child would collide with the seat in front, with just the lap part of the belt keeping them attached to the car seat. Our frontal impact tests are conducted at higher speeds and forces than the current UK standards require. There are clear weaknesses when we tested it to our higher standards
  • The BabyStart seat worked better at absorbing the energy from our side-impact crash testing, where we ensure the car seat is fitted correctly, but the very poor frontal crash test result limits the overall result for this seat to 0%.
  • When used as a rearward-facing Group 0 seat, the crash test results are still not impressive, and the overall score for this format is 33%, and still way below our Don’t Buy cut-off point.
  • We do not believe that failure in the Group 1 mode crash testing can be compensated for with good ratings in any other test criteria.
  • In many instances, the seat cannot be firmly secured to a vehicle because the shape of the base is flat, and most modern car seats are not flat. The car seat markings, which should guide you to installing the seat correctly with the adult seat belt, aren’t clear. The belt routing guide is highlighted by small stickers which could get lost very easily and, if this happens, there is a high chance this seat could be installed incorrectly. Incorrect installation would further reduce the protection this car seat would offer your child in a crash situation.

The rearward-facing option on this seat only goes up to 10kg, which could force parents into turning their baby forward-facing far earlier than is recommended.

The Babystart range is sold exclusively at Argos. Argos told us. 'All car seats we sell conform to rigorous quality checks and meet product safety standards. We can confirm that the BabyStart Multi Recline Car Seat passed all the requirements of the relevant European Regulation.¹ The BabyStart range is sold exclusively at Argos and we stopped selling this particular car seat in July 2014 as part of our regular range review. As per our standard returns policy, any item can be returned if it is damaged or faulty for a full refund.

¹ European Regulation ECE R44.04 is the official regulation for all car seats sold within Europe, irrespective of the retail price. The crash test speed for the Official Test is 30mph/50kmh.'

If you own this seat, or know somebody who does, Which? advice is to replace it as soon as possible. Do not use it in a reclined position, forward-facing, in the meantime. Please remember that any ECE R44 approved child car seat is better than no car seat at all. 

Britax Xtensafix 

Type: Belted and Isofix installation

Which? test score: 19%

The Britax Xtensafix was discontinued in November 2013 after receiving poor test results in independent crash tests conducted for European consumer organisations, including Which? and Stiftung Warentest, by ADAC, the German automotive club.

The Britax Xtensafix passed the regulatory tests required by United Nations regulation ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children from 0-25kg. 

Any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all, and will provide some protection in a crash.

However, in our own more rigorous tests, we saw severe weaknesses in frontal impact safety that led to a down-rating of the overall test score. It is a Don't Buy for two reasons:

  • very poor frontal impact safety when used as a Group 2/3 seat with Isofix installation.
  • poor frontal impact safety when used as a Group 2/3 seat with belted installation.

The Britax Xtensafix can be used in four different ways, so we tested it a number of times in front and side-impact crashes with dummies representing children of different ages.

The Xtensafix is a good Group 1 seat, which provides good front impact safety and excellent side impact safety, giving it a score of 72% in this mode.

But front and side-impact safety are only average when you use the harness for children up to 25kg, giving a lower score of 52% when used like this.

Things get worse when you use the adult seat belt to hold your child in. The adult seat belt slipped out of the belt guide during front impacts, allowing the belt to slip up to the neck and create high sensor readings in our crash test dummy's neck. This was worst when the seat was held in with the Isofix connectors and adult seat belt, giving a test score of just 19%.

Because we expect that you will want to use the seat with the adult seat belt at some stage, the overall test score is limited to its Group 2/3 Isofix score of 19%.

So many different ways of installing the seat means that it is fairly complicated to do, particularly in the ways that use the top tether. There is some danger that you might install it incorrectly.

Britax voluntarily withdrew the Xtensafix from sale on 8 November 2013 after conducting its own investigation into the ADAC test results. In a statement it said: 'Stiftung Warentest in Germany recently tested 16 child car seats, carried out by ADAC, the German automotive club. The Britax Römer Xtensafix (a Group 1-2-3 seat for children from 9kg to 36kg) was one of the seats tested. 

'In the test results, the Xtensafix received sufficient scores in all usage modes with the seat’s integrated 5-point harness. However, it received an "insufficient" score from ADAC in usage modes with the vehicle’s adult seat belt.

'Parents should rest assured that the Xtensafix has been fully tested, approved and certified in accordance with the legal standards applicable in the European Union (ECE R44/04) and has passed all legally required safety and other tests in all usage modes. ADAC’s opinions and ratings do not change this position.

'However, simply meeting legal standards is not what Britax Römer is all about and is not what our brand represents. We make premium products, work to very high standards (well above legal requirements) and expect our products to deliver best-in-class performance in the most demanding tests.

'We have, therefore, taken the decision to stop actively manufacturing and selling the Xtensafix in its current form. Although we could have changed the Xtensafix’s recommended usage modes to attain an improved score, we believe this would limit the versatility and value for money the seat offers.

'We understand that owners of an Xtensafix invested in and expected a premium product with long-lasting flexibility. We are therefore prepared to offer each owner of an Xtensafix the opportunity to take the seat back to the store where the seat was purchased in exchange for a redeemable store voucher or cash refund up to the purchase value of the Xtensafix seat. 

'We are working with our retail partners and setting up a website with full details of this, which will be online soon. We do not have concerns in relation to the safety of the seat. 

'We simply want parents to rest assured that buying Britax Römer means "best products, best levels of service and complete peace of mind'

Which? advice is to arrange to replace your Xtensafix as soon as possible, but please remember that any ECE R44 approved child car seat is better than no car seat at all.

Britax is offering people who return their Xtensafix to the store they bought it from a full refund of the purchase price paid or a redeemable store voucher equal to the purchase price paid.

Find more details of the offer, and the terms and conditions for it through the Britax Xtensafix returns programme.

Easycarseat Inflatable 

Which? test score: 7%

Type: Belted-only installation

The Easycarseat Inflatable is an inflatable booster seat. It's forward-facing and designed for children weighing between 15kg and 36kg (around four to 12 years old) with both the seat and the child secured using the adult seatbelt.

It's not widely available anymore, and we made this seat a Don't Buy because it fails to offer adequate protection in either front or side crashes, and gave it a test score of just 7%. If you own one of these seats, we'd advise you to replace it as soon as possible. 

The protection in both front and side crashes is barely evident in our crash tests, so the seat was given just one star for each. This contributes to our lowest-ever total test score for a child seat of just 7%, which is woeful. In the front and side crashes we use in our test, which represent typical serious crashes seen in real life, this seat leaves the child exposed to the risk of serious injury. Don't buy this seat.

The seat is relatively straightforward to install and, at initial pressure, it offers good leg support and excellent padding, and the child has a clear view out of the car.

But it is likely to end up underinflated owing to the use of a pressure relief valve (designed to blow at the required pressure). The valve may blow as the child's weight bears down on it, and may release pressure if the temperature in the car rises, making it underinflated when the temperature falls.

The seat takes up quite a lot of space when it's installed, but also folds down very small when not in use. Finish quality is good and it is easy to clean.

With a total test score of just 7%, primarily because its crash protection is so poor, we recommend you don't buy this seat.

If you already own one of these seats, urgently think about buying a better seat, but don't stop using it until you've bought a new one, any seat is better than none at all.

Hauck Varioguard 

Which? test score: 26%

Type: Belted installation only

The Hauck Varioguard car seat is a Group 0+/1 car seat that can be used rearward and forward-facing. Hauck claims the seat can be used from birth. It can also be used rearward-facing for longer, up until the child reaches a weight of 18kg, or around four years of age.

The Hauck Varioguard Group 0+/1 car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by the ECE R44/04 standard to be sold as suitable for children from birth to 18kg. But in our own tests, which are conducted at higher speeds and forces than the standard requires, the score was downgraded to 0% and made a Don’t Buy for the reasons below:

  • When we tested it at around 40mph, installed with the base attached to the car via the car's adult seat belt and the seat used in a forward-facing group 1 format, the seat was clearly not up to withstanding the forces of the crash.
  • The rear end of the seat detached from the base, and the seat tilted forward, taking the crash test dummy with it. Meaning there is a high risk of injury if you're involved in a front-impact crash.

A good result in any of our other tests cannot compensate for this poor result.

If you own this seat, do not use it with the base attached by the seat belt. When this car seat was installed using the Isofix connectors, in the same format, it did not fail this crash test.

Hauck has updated this car seat, following our tests, and we've tested the latest version the Hauck Varioguard Plus, click on the link to read the results.

Please remember, it is illegal not to use a car seat for children under 12 years of age or 135cm.

Joie Stages (2012 model) 

Which? test score: 26%

Type: Belted installation only

The Joie Stages car seat is actually still on sale. But it has been updated so much since we tested it back in 2012 that it's very different to that model. Confusing though, it still carries the same name. It was this older model that we tested back in 2012 and this older model that we're highlighting as a 'discontinued' Don't Buy child car seat. 

We think that the fact the model still on sale carries the same name as the Don't Buy model is confusing to consumers. We have suggested to Joie that it updates the name to make it more clear to consumers which product they are buying. 

The Don't Buy rating applies to the older model only. There are three ways to tell if you have the older model:

  • The red and blue label on the side of the seat will say 0-13kg for rear-facing, whereas the newer model will show 0-18kg for rear-facing
  • The old version does not have a belt-locking clamp included, or a sticker illustrating how to use the clamp
  • The car seat cover is a different colour and design to the new version

We downgraded the total test score for the older version of car seat to a Don’t Buy with 26%, because of:

  • poor side impact safety when used as a Group 0+ seat installed with with the adult seat belt
  • poor results for fitting this car seat in the car when fitting it as a Group 0+ seat.

In our tests, parents frequently got the lap belt wrong when trying to install this car seat into a car in Group 0+ mode, and there's a good chance you will install this car seat incorrectly. 

An incorrectly fitted car seat could mean the car seat does not perform, so the seat's score is limited because of this.

The older version of the Joie Stages gets a poor score of 26% as a rear-facing Group 0+ seat. 

Front-impact protection is excellent but the side-crash protection is poor.

The seat performs better when you turn the seat forward-facing for Group 1 and 2, although it's only average for safety in both of these modes, scoring 55% and 58% respectively.

Because there's no way of knowing what kind of crash you might be involved in we have to take into account all crash test results.

Joie told us: 'The 2012 model was a Group 0+ rear-facing seat and bears very little resemblance to the current product on sale today due to the four points below:

  • Introduction of extended read-facing capability, it can now rear face to 18kg
  • Introduction of belt locking clamp, used for rear-facing from birth until 18kg
  • Introduction of new seat cover/insert material composition
  • Introduction of new poly energy absorbing construction'

If you own the Joie Stages car seat, Which? advice is to check which version of the seat you own. If it's the older model, we'd recommend you consider replacing this due to the poor crash test results for side impact crashes when used in Group 0+ mode. We'd also recommend you have the car seat fitting checked to make sure it's correct. 

Please remember that any ECE R44/04 or R129 approved child car seat is better than no car seat at all – which is illegal.  

Kiddicare Maxi SP (pre-December 2012) 

Which? test score: 0%

Type: Belted installation only

The Kiddicare Maxi SP child car seat is no longer available for sale, but it provided such poor crash protection in our child car seat crash test that we recommend that if you already own this seat (bought before December 2012) you should immediately stop using it and buy a replacement.

The Kiddicare Maxi SP passed the regulatory tests required by United Nations regulation ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children from 0-25kg. 

Any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all and will provide some protection in a crash.

The Maxi SP can be used in three different ways, so we tested it a number of times in front and side impact crashes with dummies representing children of different ages.

Among the issues identified by our testing were the seat shell breaking, considerable forward movement of the dummy’s head and poor routing of the adult seat belt across the neck and body of the crash test dummy and of children who tried the seat in our ease-of-use test.

As a rearward-facing Group 0 seat for children up to 10kg, it scores 56%.

As a forward-facing Group 1 seat for children of 9-18kg, it scores only 36%, because of poor front and side impact results.

The biggest cause for concern is the position of the adult seat belt when the seat is used for older children. A Group 2 child car seat should hold an older child in place with the adult seat belt across the pelvis and across the shoulder.

But the Kiddicare Maxi SP routes the adult seat belt through the seat, so that the force of a crash is absorbed by the neck and tummy (shown in this picture from our ease-of-use test). 

Some of the Group 2 front and side impact results we obtained during our tests exceeded the limits that we deem acceptable for any child car seat that we test. Because the readings were so poor we could not give the seat any points for front impact safety, which limited the total test score to 0%.

The instructions and warning labels are easy to understand, but you stand a good chance of installing this seat wrongly because of poor belt routing and difficulty securing it to the seat of the car. Buckling it up is complicated, too.

Because the seat can be used in three different ways and we expect that parents will use the seat in all three of them, the overall Which? test score is limited to the lowest score that the seat achieved. So the overall score is limited to 0%.

We asked Kiddicare to comment on the results of our test, and in May 2013 received the following statement from Alex Fisher, Kiddicare Commercial Director:

'Kiddicare works closely with its own brand manufacturers to develop and improve its products. All Kiddicare car seats meet the official and current ECE R44/04 European safety standard, however, we recognise that customers may be concerned by the Which? ADAC test findings. 

'Therefore Kiddicare will be happy to exchange any Kiddicare Maxi SP car seat for an alternatives Kiddicare own-brand car seat or provide the customer with a credit or refund, either in-store or via our central customer care team.'

My Child Star Max 

Which? test score: 35%

Type: Isofix and belt installation

The My Child Star Max Group 1/2/3 is a cheap, multi-group, forward-facing car seat, which can be used with children from 9kg up until around 36kg in weight, or about 12 years of age. 

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children weighing between 9kg and 36kg (around one to 12 years old).

However, in our more stringent tests, we've downgraded the total test score for this seat to 25%, and we made this seat a Don't Buy for several reasons: 

  • The crash test results for this seat when used as a Group 3 seat are very poor. 
  • This seat recommends removing the protective backrest for older children, which means that in a side-impact crash your child has no protection from hitting the side of the car. 

In Group 3 mode, used when your child is around six years old up until 12 years of age (or 135cm tall), the manufacturer recommends removing the protective backrest and using the seat as a booster cushion only.

A child car seat is designed to absorb the forces of a crash away from your child's under-developed bones and body, which aren't up to withstanding them. 

Currently, this seat is legal to use in the UK because the R44/04 regulation doesn't require a side-crash test to be conducted as part of the approval process. Removing the back rest on a child car seat takes away any protection your child could have in the event of a side-impact crash. In this mode, the total test score in our test is 0%, because the crash test results are very poor and there is a very high risk of injury – even if your car has side airbags.

Using the car seat in a Group 2 format results in a test score of 35% – this falls below our 40% Don't Buy cut-off point. While the crash test results are better in this mode (three stars for front-impact and four stars for side-impact crashes), the car seat is too narrow for older children, it's not easy to adjust the size of the seat, and the way the seat belt is held means the inertia lock of the seat belt doesn't work properly, which could reduce the crash protection.

When used in its Group 1 format the seat isn't great, but it gains an acceptable overall score of 53%, with a good overall safety rating of four stars. This seat works best for younger children, but because of the poor results when used as a Group 2 seat and the very poor results in Group 3 mode, we cannot recommend it.

Despite being a light seat, we found that it's awkward to install, and this isn't helped by the instructions and warnings being difficult to understand, which shouldn't be the case for a car seat. Warnings and instructions should be clear enough to guide you.

In many instances, the seat cannot be firmly secured to a vehicle because the shape of the base is flat, and most modern car seats are not flat.

If you own this seat, or know someone who does, Which? advice is to replace it as soon as possible. But please remember that any ECE R44 approved child car seat is better than no car seat at all.

Nania Baby Ride Group 0+ 

Which? test score: 15%

Type: Belted-only installation

The Nania Baby Ride is a very cheap Group 0+ infant carrier that is designed for babies weighing up to 13kg (12-15 months). It's secured rearward-facing using the adult seat belt. We tested it in December 2012 but it's been discontinued now.

Our more stringent tests revealed that this seat has severe weaknesses in side-impact protection, which limited its overall rating. Therefore we made it a Don't Buy.

The Baby Ride provides good protection in a frontal impact. The harness is in a good position and the carrier sits stably on the car's seat. However, the low sides and lack of padding around the head meant that in our crash tests, the dummy's head hit the car door in a side impact, resulting in unacceptably high injury-sensor readings from our crash test dummy's head and neck. For this reason the overall score of the seat has been limited to the side-impact score, as we do not think it matters if a seat is easy to install if your child is not adequately protected.

The seat is very light and has a carry handle, making it straightforward to lift into the car with your baby in it. The instructions and warning labels are easy to understand; but the seat is complicated to install and our car seat-fitting experts say there is some chance of fitting it incorrectly. It requires the seat belt to be fed through four tight belt paths, increasing the risk of user errors, which could reduce how well it protects your child. Moreover, folding down the handle is clearly more difficult than with the average infant carrier.

We'd recommend you replace this car seat as soon as possible, as the results from our tests show the seat does not offer enough protection in a side-impact crash.

Nania Trio Plus 

Which? test score: 0%

Type: Belted installation only

The Nania Trio Plus is identical to the Kiddicare Maxi SP child car seat that was on sale until December 2012. 

Both of these seats have been discontinued since our test. They provided such poor crash protection in our child car-seat crash test that we recommend that if you already own one, you should buy a replacement and stop using it immediately.

Any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all, and will provide some protection in a crash.

The Nania Trio Plus can be used in three different ways, so we tested it a number of times in front and side-impact crashes with dummies representing children of different ages.

Among the issues identified by our testing were the seat shell breaking, considerable forward movement of the dummy’s head, and poor routing of the adult seat belt across the neck and body of the crash-test dummy and of children who tried the seat in our ease-of-use test.

As a rearward-facing Group 0 seat for children up to 10kg, it scores 56%.

As a forward-facing Group 1 seat for children of 9-18kg, it scores only 36%, because of poor front and side-impact results.

The biggest cause for concern is the position of the adult seat belt when the seat is used for older children. A Group 2 child car seat should hold an older child in place with the adult seat belt across the pelvis and across the shoulder.

But the Nania Trio Plus routes the adult seat belt through the seat, so that the force of a crash is absorbed by the neck and tummy (shown in this picture of the Kiddicare Maxi SP from our ease-of-use test). 

Some of the Group 2 front and side-impact results we obtained during our tests exceeded the limits that we deem acceptable for any child car seat that we test. Because the readings were so poor, we could not give the seat any points for front-impact safety, which limited the total test score to 0%.

The instructions and warning labels are easy to understand, but you stand a good chance of installing this seat wrongly because of poor belt routing and difficulty securing it to the seat of the car. Buckling it up is complicated, too.

Because the seat can be used in three different ways, and we expect that parents will use the seat in all three of them, the overall Which? test score is limited to the lowest score that the seat achieved. So the overall score is limited to 0%.

We asked Team Tex, manufacturer of Nania child car seats, to comment on the results of our test and, in May 2013, received the following statement:

'The Team Tex Trio car seat, which is sold under the name Maxi SP by Kiddicare and Nania Trio by Asda, is fully approved to the current European safety standard for child car seats sold within Europe (regulation ECE R44.04) and continues to be approved by regular ongoing testing under the Conformity of Production requirements of this regulation.

'In our opinion there is no better product available in the market at this price, which fully satisfies the requirements of the European safety standard.

'Team Tex does take note of the more stringent Which? tests and has already made modifications to the Trio since the Which? test was made to improve the performance of the car seat.'

A spokesperson from Asda also commented in June 2013:

'We've not sold this car seat since last year. All of our car seats are tested to the same EU standards that are in force across the retail industry. We would support going further in legislation and are happy to work with the industry to advise on how we make this happen. Team Tex is happy to replace the seat tested by Which? with a brand new, modified version.'

Petite Star City Bug 

Which? test score: 32%

Type: Belted installation only

The Petite Star City Bug is a rear-facing group 0+ infant carrier, designed to carry children from birth to 13kg (about 12 to 15 months old). It is secured using the adult seat belt. You can buy the seat as part of a travel system where it fits into a pushchair, allowing you to transfer your baby from there to the car undisturbed.

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children from birth up to 13kg.

Any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all and will provide some protection in a crash.

However, we’ve downgraded the total test score for this car seat to 32% and made it a Don't Buy because:

  • it scores just one star for side-crash protection, which is woeful.

Front-crash protection matches the top-performing car seats with five stars, but side-crash protection is woeful – it scored just one star in our test, leaving the child open to a risk of serious injury in a crash.

Its protection in a side impact is very poor, with the child being exposed to serious risk of injury or even death. This means we've rated this seat as a Which? Don't Buy.

These results are from our 2009 tests. 

The Petite Star City Bug has clear instructions and is really easy to install, although even following the instructions to the letter, we found it difficult to make it sit stably on the seat of the car.

Strapping the child into the City Bug is relatively straightforward and it offers good head-and-leg-support, and the child's view out isn't too obscured by the side wings.

If you own this seat, or know someone who does, our advice is to replace it with a Best Buy car seat.

But please remember, any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all and will provide some protection in a crash.

Recaro Optia 

Which? test score: 0%

Type: Isofix and belt installation

The Recaro Optia is a Group 1 child car seat that uses the same Isofix base as the Recaro Privia baby car seat.

This child car seat has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children weighing between 9kg and 18kg (around one to four years old). However, our crash tests are designed to replicate real-life crash situations, and we've downgraded the total test score for this seat to 0% Don't Buy. Here's why:

  • A good car seat needs to provide good crash protection from both front and side impacts, because we cannot know what type of crash situation you may be involved in. This seat scored an excellent five-star rating for side-impact protection,  but we found weaknesses in frontal-impact safety. During testing, the car seat completely detached from the Isofix base and was sent flying forwards, as the hooks on the car seat base cannot take the force of the crash.

If you own this seat or know anyone that does, then please contact Recaro as soon as possible. Recaro is voluntarily replacing the Recaro Optia child car seat, free of charge, following the results of our crash tests with the SmartClick base. If you own this seat, please contact the dedicated hotline on 0800 0830 128 for more information.

Safety 1st Tri Safe 

Find out why our tests revealed the Safety 1st Tri Safe to be a Don't Buy, and what to do if you own one

Which? test score: 34%

Type: Belted installation only

The Safety 1st Tri Safe child car seat is secured using a seatbelt and is a Group 1/2/3 child car seat.  It has passed the regulatory tests required by ECE R44/04 to be sold as suitable for children weighing between 9kg and 36kg (around one to 12 years old).

Any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all and will provide some protection in a crash. However, we’ve downgraded the total test score for this car seat to 34% and made it a Don’t Buy due to:

  • A poor, two-star rating for side-impact protection, which could expose the child to a risk of injury.

Front-crash protection is acceptable and achieves three stars. 

The seat is also very complicated to install and therefore likely to be fitted incorrectly. Even when it was fitted correctly, we found it very difficult to make it sit stably on the seat of the car, and our users found it really difficult to buckle in a child.

These results are from our 2009 tests.

If you own this seat, or know someone who does, our advice is to replace it with a Best Buy car seat. 

But please remember, any child car seat marked as approved to ECE R44/04 is better than no car seat at all and will provide some protection in a crash.
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