Car Seat Buying Guide
Purchasing Car Seats
Consider the following when shopping for child car seats:
- Don’t wait until your child is born to choose a car seat. Many hospitals will only discharge mother and baby if a suitable restraint is in place so make sure you’re ready for your new arrival.
- Where possible, avoid purchasing booster cushions in favour of choosing booster seats with side protection. Such restraints reduce the risk of injury and offer support for sleeping children.
- Avoid purchasing secondhand car seats. If the previous owner was in an accident, the seat may have invisible damage that compromises its structural integrity.
- Check your car seat on a regular basis. Ensure that your child fits in the seat as the manufacturer intended. If not, it may be time to upgrade.
Car Seat Classifications & Installation
Car Seat Classifications
The Australian car seat laws specify the type of car seats that are appropriate at every stage of a child’s development up until the age of 10. The following guide will help you ensure that you are compliant with the rules (please note, ages are approximate):
- Type A1: for children up to 70cm tall or children aged up to 9 months old.
- Type A2: for children up to 80cm tall or children aged up to 12 months old.
- Type A4: for children up to approximately 2-3 years of age.
Car Seat Installation
Car seats must be installed correctly to work. Child car seats must be installed using a top tether strap - even when using the Isofix system.
- Most modern cars are equipped with the Isofix system. An Isofix car seat simply clips into anchoring points within the vehicle’s seats to create a secure connection. Easy-to-use and highly effective, Isofix should be employed where available.
- Child restraints must be fitted according manufacturer instructions. Always thread the seatbelt through the correct path (new car seats will likely feature a colour-coded system). Installation by a professional is highly recommended.
- Your car seat should be fitted as securely as possible with no excessive forward or sideward motion. If there is too much slack on the seatbelt, contact the manufacturer or a professional installer for more information.
Car Seat Stages
A baby’s first journey can be nerve-racking for any parent. With the right safety equipment, however, this experience need not be stressful.
- All Type A car seats come with a carrying handle for transporting sleeping babies to and from the vehicle. To get full use from this feature, consider opting for a lightweight baby seat.
- Type A car seats are often compatible with a variety of pushchair chassis. By pairing your baby seat with your pram, you can cut down on the amount of equipment you need to take on every trip.
When your child is of age, he or she can be travel in a forward-facing car seat. These seats come with features that help your child enjoy a more comfortable and enjoyable trip.
- Where possible, look for forward-facing child car seats with adjustable head rests and adjustable harness positioning. This will allow you to tailor your set up to suit the specific requirements of your child.
- Many forward-facing car seats are available with antibacterial covers and straps. This feature can help combat the build up of odours caused by the likes of food and drink spillages.
- Car seats with cup holders allow your child to keep a drink within arm’s reach at all times. This can be particularly useful during long trips in the summer months.
Children up to 12 (Forward-Facing Boosters)
As a child grows, their bones become stronger. However, there are still certain areas of the body such as the skull and the pelvis that need more protection than a standard seatbelt alone can provide.
- Where possible, avoid backless booster seats and seat cushions as they expose the child to a larger number of injury threats than those with back and side supports.
- Some booster seats come with removable, machine washable covers. Such a feature can be of huge benefit if there are ever any spillages in the car.
- Booster seats with mesh panels allow for greater ventilation. This will help your child stay cool when taking car journeys in the heat of the summer.
Points to Remember
Bear the following in mind when shopping for a baby seat, car seat or booster seat:
- It is advisable to use a rearward-facing car seat for as long as your child will fit in one. However, once your child's shoulders reach the first height marker on an A or AB type seat, you should switch the seat to the forward facing position.
- To ensure maximum comfort and protection, adjust the internal harness of your child’s car seat for every journey.
- Never place a rearward-facing car seat in the front seat of a vehicle that features airbags. The impact of the airbag on the restraint could cause serious injury.
- When your child's shoulder reaches the baby capsule or child seat's height marker, it is time to upgrade.
- Always check shoulder straps are at the right height – slightly below the shoulders for Type A seats and above the shoulder for the rest.
Car Seat Essentials
Sun shades offer your children protection from direct sunlight. Easy-to-apply and remove, sun shades help your kids arrive at their destination feeling as fresh as possible.
Seat grabbers can protect your upholstery from spills and compression damage. Affordable and easy-to-install, these protective products can greatly reduce wear and tear in your car.
Rear Window Mirrors
Rear window mirrors enable you to monitor children in rearward-facing car seats without taking your eyes off the road. Affordable and uncomplicated, they help you drive without distraction.