Child Car Seats – a guilt-ridden and confusing world

This weekend whilst out and about Mrs F, the kids and I went to take a look at car seats. D is now getting to the stage she is too heavy for Mrs F to lift into her current harnessed seat, especially with her Fibromyalgia, and is close to the limit for her existing seat so along we went to look at some high backed booster seat. I’m never great at window shopping however after 30+ minutes of looking in one store, it dawned on me… shopping for such car seats is not only confusing, it’s also guilt ridden.

On a basic level there are 4 groups of child seats, starting at 0 – the classic “take home your newborn in” through to 3 – a front facing high back / booster seat using your cars own seatbeat system. Your child progresses through the group levels based on their weight and height rather than age and certainly not the point at which your child (or parent) gets bored of rear-facing. The general rule is that even if your child is technically able to move up a group, if they are within their current chairs weight and height tolerances they should continue as long as possible in that one as the lower the car seat group number, the more additional protection there is.

The trouble is car seats range from around £25 through to £500 and all have various safety features from ticking a box to sealing your cherub in a bubble upon impact. But what is truly the difference between them all?
Some have:
  • Side impact protection,
  • Harness support,
  • Isofix,
  • Chest pads,
  • Airbags,
  • Padded seating
  • Heat rests

Some car seats have multiple features, some have a selection with no clear rationale as to which are the most important. Some even have random features like cup holders and pockets for things.


These features are not just differentiated by brands and their williness (silliness) to name things differently either, some brands have 5-6 almost identical designs within a range only unique by the safety features they have over another…

Then there’s the NCAP rating… which is how it’s performed in a test crash, many of the chairs all receiving the same ratings but really… is a £30 the same as a £200 chair?? For the record, whilst in the said car seat store, the ‘helpful’ assistant also told me about a German crash rating system that many parents are now considering when purchasing seats… as that’s said to be a more thorough and robust way of testing them (don’t worry, I don’t think they use actual kids though)… as if there’s not enough variables to consider already… I haven’t even thrown fabric or plastic colours into the mix yet or whether once you’ve made a choice whether the seat is compatible with your car model.


Purchasing decision is where the guilt really comes into it… can you really put a price of safety on your child’s head? Well some people clearly do (or don’t) when purchasing one? I mean did you think:

“I’ll just go for the old banger rather than the sports car as it still gets me from A to B?”
Call me a snob, or even uneducated but personally I could never buy a cheap car seat just because it’s in the latest baby event or is the equivalent price to a night on the town, as despite what anyone could try and tell me, they can’t possibly be the best at their intended use…or even mid table for that matter..can they? At best these things should surely be as an extremely temporary measure for when they go out with a friend’s family or have to have an emergency pick up from school from grandparents. Likewise though, we all don’t have money trees in the back garden so I get that families, like us, have budgets too.
Another guilt point that I hadn’t originally thought about when thinking about D’s next move in a car seat…. I couldn’t let the children have the same Group Seat (2-3) but be from a different brand or even model as what if one performs better than the other? Am I showing favouritism of one child over the other? I know I wouldn’t live with myself if God forbid the worst happened and one had better protection than the other due to different seats.


The truth be told, it’s so confusing for parents to make an informed decision over which seat to buy other than ‘pay as much as you can’ or look for the highest NCAP rating and price doesn’t matter… I personally think car seats should be points based… For example 5 points for their NCAP rating with extra points being added for additonal safety features (maybe even minus points for tacky designs 😉 ) and these should be clearly advertised in stores / online to help parents to make informed decisions… yes you’ll still have the guilt of not having the top one but at least it’s a fair playground for all and the child’s safety remains the priority rather than price, colour or discount available. If we can colour code everything from chicken nuggets to chocolate digestive then surely we can have a consistent rating system for the confusing and guilt ridden world of child car seats.


How did you base your choice? Did you research your child’s seat?


Until next time




P.S. In case you were wondering… we didn’t end up buying new child car seats on this occasion and have kept D in her Group 2 for a little while longer whilst we have a more thorough research into what we should do for the best :-/