Bringing your baby home from hospital may well be one of the most joyful experiences of your life, but it's also the most nerve-wracking, so you definitely don’t want to worry about whether you have the right car seat.
Choosing the best car seat can be tricky, whether you're looking for an infant seat or booster seat, there are a myriad of designs to navigate and confusing classifications for age to get your head around.
We’ve rounded up a list of the best-rated car seats around, and also included some important safety information you need to know.
If you're looking to upgrade the safety of your vehicle, then we'd recommend you also get one of the best dash cams to keep an eye on the road, one of the best sat navs so you know where you're going, and one of the best car phone holders, so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Also, if you're travelling with your child, you should check out the best best baby carrier.
How to buy the best car seat
Before you look at any seats, it’s best to get an understanding of the law. In the UK, all children need a car seat from birth until 12 years old or until they are 135cm tall (whichever comes first). Of course, your car seat needs to meet EU safety standards (shown by the E symbol on the label) and it’s vital that you make sure your child’s car seat is the right category for their age and size.
There are lots of categories or ‘Groups’ that tell you whether a car seat is suitable for a newborn or toddler. For example, Group 0+: 0-13kg is suitable from birth until around 12 months, while Group 0+/1: 0-18kg, last from birth to around 4 years. So once you’ve worked out which groups are suitable for your child a given weight or age, you have a decision to make about longevity – whether you want to pick one that you might keep for as little as six months, or invest in a long-term seat, which can be more expensive, but might save you money overall.
While the weight or height of your child is the primary thing to take into account, new mums, in particular, may want to investigate the weight or a car seat. Most Group 0+ seats weigh around 3.5kg and can be clipped into a travel system (buggy with benefits) so it’s easy to move a sleeping baby and not put your back out. However, Group 0+/1 car seats tend to weigh more and may be a lot larger to lug around – which may or may not be a concern, depending on your lifestyle.
Another big consideration is the system you choose to safely fasten a car seat to your car – and this requires a bit of rooting around in your motor.
Isofix (International Standards Organisation FIX) systems work by the base of the car seat being hooked onto two small metal bars, or anchor points, in your car, making it quick and easy to attach and detach seats. Alternatively, there are traditional systems that make use of your car’s seat belt to hold a car seat in place.
Whatever system you choose, it’s important to make sure the seat is fitted correctly, and this is where buying your car seat from a shop may be handy, because some stores have experts to help fit them.
The Sirona S i-Size car seat from Cybex offers seriously comfortable rear-facing travel for children up to 105 cm (or approximately 4 years). It features an intelligent design that means even taller kids have plenty of legroom to sit comfortably, and is combined with plenty of soft memory-foam-style padding resulting in lots of compliments during our review period.
The Sirona S features a simple 360-degree rotating mechanism, which makes it easy to switch between rear-facing and boarding position. The seat also offers five reclining positions when rear-facing and 3 reclining positions when forward-facing. This can all be operated with one hand, which can come be incredibly useful.
For your child's safety, the seat features an Integrated Linear Side-Impact Protection System, which reduces the force of a side-impact by approximately 25-percent, and Driving Direction Control, which prohibits forward-facing use until the child has reached 16 months of age.
The Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus i-Size infant car seat is a Group 0+ seat, perfect for new mums on the go, as it weighs a manageable 4.5kg. Suitable from birth to 12 months (or up to 13kg/29lbs), the i-Size car seat can be easily clicked into a pushchair to create a flexible travel system, meaning you can move your sleeping baby from car to pushchair or carry the whole infant seat into the house, without waking them… or that’s the idea.
The popular car seat is Isofix compatible and can be used with a 2wayFix base (sold separately). Like all newborn seats, this one is designed to be rear-facing, but also features a high tech impact-absorbing side protection system at the top side wings to provide extra comfort and extra support in the unlikely but terrifying event of a side-impact collision. There’s also a comfortable baby-hugger inlay for a tailored fit and a removable machine washable cover, which as all parents know, is important.
To make life easier, the harness and headrest can be adjusted simultaneously to suit the height of your child and there’s a one-pull, three-point harness adjustment and a memory button for easy release from your pushchair, which could be a Bugaboo, Quinny, Maxi Cosi, iCandy and Uppababy thanks to adapters sold separately. The seat itself doesn't cost too much, but it’s worth bearing in mind that an Isofix base and any adaptors you may need will make this more expensive.
The new Bugaboo Turtle Air by Nuna is an ultra lightweight child’s car seat that weighs in at just 3kg, but is packed with safety, comfort and convenience features. Designed for newborns, the Turtle Air is a car seat that can be lifted out and placed into all models of Bugaboo stroller using the included adapters – and without waking anyone up.
Enhanced safety features include a newly-developed Isofix wingbase, plus side-impact protection wings to keep your child secure. Comfort comes from the use of premium foam padding with a washable Merino wool insert helping to regulate your baby’s temperature. Bugaboo’s Signature canopy and snooze shade mean parents can transform the Turtle Air from a car seat into a shaded cocoon for daytime napping with any disturbance.
Lightweight and easy to carry at just 2.8kg, this fuss free offering from British brand Ickle Bubba has been expertly designed so it can be installed using a standard seat belt, making it super easy for you to switch between vehicles.
It comes with removeable fabric covers, and, despite being so affordable has been tested & approved to ECE R44 04 British and European safety standards. The car seat has an impact absorbing shell and a 5-point safety harness to ensure tots travel safely in the rear facing position, from birth up to one year. And, thanks to a comfortable head hugger, you little one’s head and neck will be supported as they grow.
This is, without doubt, the most innovative car seat on this list. The Coral contains a two-part modular system, an ‘outer’ car seat shell for superior safety, combined with an ultra-light detachable ‘inner’ carrier with retractable straps and is i-Size (R129) compliant. This allows parents the option to lift the whole seat, or just the lightweight inner carrier, with their precious load.
Perfect for new parents on-the-go and mums who’ve recently given birth or had a caesarean section, the ultralightweight ensures easy carrying for baby to and from the car.
It also contains a Baby-hugg inlay designed for newborn comfort plus a 3-point harness with one-pull tightening system for the ultimate ease of use.
The Cybex Pallas m-fix car seat is a great option for parents who need to replace a newborn car seat they used with a travel system, but want something that will last. This is because the seat is group 1/2/3, which means it’s suitable for toddlers aged from 9 months to 12 years (or 9-36kg).
While the car seat looks fun with its vibrant colour scheme, it has tonnes of safety features, including a reclining headrest that prevents your child's head from falling forward while an L.S.P. system to absorb the force of a side-impact collision, reducing the risk of injury. Best of all, these features also make your baby more comfortable. The seat uses an Isofix system, making it potentially unsuitable for older cars.
The Cybex Solution Z-Fix car seat in Autumn Gold is for 3-12-year-olds (15-36kg) or Group 2/3. Unlike adaptable baby seats, it’s designed to cater to the needs of slightly older children and is slightly less restrictive, while offering lots of safety features. In combination with the energy-absorbing shell (L.S.P. System), forces from a side-impact collision are reduced by approximately 25% and the child’s head is actively guided into a safe position thanks to the Cybex Safety Pads. The booster seat is Isofix compatible for easy installation and extra stability and safety but can also be used in older cars that don’t have the necessary attachments.
The booster seat has a three-position reclining headrest that prevents the child’s head from tipping forward while sleeping, while the seat itself can be used in 12 positions, because the head and shoulder protectors can be adjusted in height with automatic width adjustment to meet the individual space requirements of the child. For those shopping for a good car seat for the summer months and holidays, the car seat has an integrated ventilation system providing a comfortable seat temperature for your child even on hot days.
BeSafe iZi Go Modular i-Size is a Group 0+ infant seat for babies up to the age of 12-15 months or 75cm tall. It’s designed to be easy to carry, which is a godsend if your lifestyle involves getting a baby from A to B in a car. With an ergonomic handle that’s comfy on the hip and at a light weight of 3.7kg, the infant seat is very easy to carry. The innovative egg shape also makes it easy to lift in and out of the car – something that cannot be underestimated.
The seat has extra side impact protection and a unique ‘SIP+’ shock absorber you can place either side of the seat next to the car door. When it comes to comfort, the seat boasts a soft, padded memory foam inner seat and sides as well as unique head cushion inserts for your child’s safety and comfort, which can be removed as soon as baby’s head fills the head area snuggly.
Rear-facing, with a wide 5-belt harness and handy extra grip blue belt guiders that make it easy to secure when you’re using a car seat belt, the seat also has magnets to keep the internal harness out of the way so they don’t get stuck under your baby when you place them in it. Removable double cushion inserts allow the seat to grow and there’s even an SPF50 sun canopy included, which is great if you’re having a summer baby. The car seat is part of a modular system so you can use the same base for the next seat (available separately), and even extend the base for extra legroom up to 4 years, but it is one of the slightly more expensive options.
Britax Römer Dualfix’s USP is its ability to rotate 360°. This means it’s easy to change from rear to forward-facing when your child’s big enough, without reinstalling it. You can use the Group 0-1 car seat in the rearward position until your baby weighs 9kg, then you have the option to either keep them facing the rear (which has safety benefits in the event of a collision) or turn them forward-facing. Whatever you choose, the seat is designed to give you flexibility from the birth of your child until they are a toddler.
The car seat includes all the safety features you'd expect, such as Isofix and a 5-point safety harness, which has a one-pull adjustment that distributes the impact forces out across the car seat and away from your baby. The newborn insert provides extra comfort and support for your baby, while the height-adjustable headrest and harness with easy single-handed adjustment allow the seat to grow with your child without the need to remove and re-thread the harness.
Deep, softly padded full side wings provide optimum side impact protection for your child, while multiple recline positions allow a comfortable sleeping position for your child that you can adjust without disturbing them – a godsend for parents of babies who are not keen on napping.
The Maxi-Cosi AxissFix car seat is a Group 1 seat, making it suitable for babies 61cm to 105cm in height (or approximately 4 months to 4 years). The 360° swivelling seat makes securing your toddler a breeze thanks to AxissFix. Parents don’t need to lean over and squeeze in between the car seat and the back of the front seat, because it allows front-on access by just turning the seat towards you. The company claims this means you can buckle up your child and rotate the seat either rearward or forward-facing in seconds.
The seat uses the Isofix system and also needs a top tether, so you’ll need to check your car has a top tether anchorage point in order that it can correctly installed. The padded seat has an angled base, providing additional leg room to keep your baby in the safer rearward facing position for longer and has four recline position in both directions. There are adjustable harness hooks and one-pull harness system to make strapping in your child easy and harness strap hooks, keeping the harness out of the way to make it easier to place your child in the seat.
The Every Stage car seat from Joie is suitable from birth to 12 years (or 18kg) and adjusts as your child grows. While it comes in lots of colours, the two-tone black is a versatile and ‘serious’ choice for people that don’t want their cars to become an extension of the nursery. The seat is technically Group 0+/1/2/3 and has AutoAdjust side wings that widen as the headrest is adjusted for a custom fit and maximum protection through every stage of your child’s life. Meanwhile, the ‘Grow Together’ multi-height headrest and harness system also adjust simultaneously and require no re-threading of the harness.
The car seat has compartments that store the 5-point harness when it is being used as a Group 2 booster seat, as well as side mesh storage pockets for toys and snacks. After all, anything that helps keep the car tidy is a bonus. The Joie seat has plush deluxe cushioning and fabrics and inserts can be easily removed and washed, which is a must for a seat designed to last. While the car seat is one of the more basic options available, parents on a budget can invest in just one car seat for not very much money, which has all the necessary safety features.
The Mothercare Palma high back booster seat has been designed to keep older children safe on car journeys. Suitable from 4 years until they no longer require a seat at approximately 12 years – (or more accurately 15kg/33lbs to 36kg/79lbs) the booster seat has an adjustable headrest and side-impact protection. It also comes with a two-year guarantee and a removable hand-washable cover, although the main body is sponge clean only.
Sure. It’s not the most eye-catching option out where when you compare it to car seats emblazoned with colourful patterns or shaped like characters, but if you’re after a discrete car seat for a nice car, or simply a solution that’s unlikely to date and go out of favour with your child, like so many fads from Peppa Pig to the joy of sitting on tractors, this option may be for you.