When I was 34 weeks pregnant and hadn’t bought a single thing for my first child apart from a box of wipes (!) I went to a BBQ where a friend kindly (but urgently) suggested I should start to get organised as she had had her own baby early at 35 weeks. This catapulted me into action and of the few things I knew I HAD to have was a car seat so we could actually leave the hospital (in addition to a bassinet/cot so my newborn child wasn’t sleeping make-shift bed in the bottom of our chest of drawers).
So what makes a good car seat? Safety was the number 1 criteria for 100% parents we surveyed.
The good news is in Australia and New Zealand we have one of the highest standards in the world when it comes to safety, in general, so you can be sure that your product is safe if you buy in Australia (however to be sure, look for Australian Standards sticker for the standard AS 1754).
There are 5 categories of car seats (there is lots to know about car seats!!) and Mamma Raj will share the top brands and some of the specific models parents have shared as the best across all categories
- convertible/reversible carseats (this seems to be the most popular with parents to use from birth to 4 years)
- front-facing only carseats
- booster seats for older children
- booster cushions and half seats
TIP: A lot of parents sign up to Choice to understand an independent evaluation of safety or they seek a sales assistant’s advice for car seats as it is certainly a minefield. However, check out CREP (Client Restraint Evaluation Program) which is a program supported by the Transport for NSW (TfNSW), the NRMA Motoring & Services, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV), the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), the Royal Automobile Club of WA (RACWA) and the VicRoads. It’s free, independent and very helpful http://www.crep.com.au/
The following are the top 5 car seats recommended by parents.
1. Safe n Sound
60% of respondants to our survey recommended Safe n Sound Car Seats as a product they have used or would recommend. One mother shared “It had a high crash test rating and had the highest rating for rear facing (12kg). That to me was important. ”
Safe n Sound have many products with varying prices ranges. However, their product the Meridan AHR model, was highly recommended and there was quite a few insights shared on this model including:
- Super easy self-adjusting straps when you move the headrest up
- Great cushioning around the head that is really sturdy and safe
- It came in a wide variety of colours and fabrics
- A few parents felt the sunshade does nothing when baby is rear facing and suggested to invest in a shade on the window instead
- Not compact rear facing (doesn’t really work well in a small car) but parents saw safety as more important than size
- CREP rates this model “above average” with 3 stars (down from 4 stars from 2013)
In addition check out model Maxi Rider Ezy Adjust for forward facing restraints (6months +) or Baby Safety Capsule which are rated currently as 4 stars by CREP. For more information on the range: http://www.britax.com.au/car-seats
2. Maxi Cosi
Parents voted Maxi Cosi as a second most recommeded brand to the Safe and Sound products. Maxi Cosi has been previously recommended by parents as one of the best infant carrier to insert into a variety of prams Mamma Raj’s top 5 prams. Parents felt the infant carrier is easy to release (to get in and out of the car) and great to travel with.
In addition, parents love the convertible car seat option. It has large side wings for your child’s head comfort and protection (they call this Air Protect Revolutionary Side Impact Technology) and their products have 4 or 5 point harness for ease of use.
Also check out Maxi Cosi Hera voted by CREP as 3 stars for up car seats to 4 years old.
For more information on the Maxi Cosi range: http://www.maxi-cosi.com/au-en/products/car-seats.aspx
Apart from all the wonderful vibrant colours you can choose from, InfaSecure car seats are great if you require multiple car seats in your car due to their narrow base (plus they last up to 8 years from birth). InfaSecure brought out a number of new products in 2013 so this brand is well worth having a look, particularly look at their convertible seats. Their products all come with a SafeGrip Belt Clamp used to lock the vehicle belt into position and prevent slippage. Parents recommend this one for its ease of use – “no leaning, twisting or lifting over things required and it certainly grows with your child”. Check out Luxi Crown model which is 4 stars by CREP for rearward facing seats.
For more information on the Infasecure range: http://infasecure.com.au
4. Baby Love
Reasonably priced for parents (and grandparents!), Baby Love is best described as easy. “Easy to install, easy to adjust, easy to convert from rear-facing to the front” as one parent put it. The convertible model have 6 point harness and easy to clean (that is always a bonus!).
With shoulder pads and some head support with ESP foam for side impact protection, CREP rate the Ezy Combo model as 4 stars = good protection. Don’t confuse this with the Ezy Switch seats that only get 1 CREP star which means it only meets the Australia standards.
For more information on the BabyLove range: http://www.babylove.com.au/Car-Safety/Car-Safety/Auto-Landing-page.asp
Safety 1st provides all the features you need to tick off your list – easy adjustment, 2 position recline, air protect technology to support your child’s head. Some parents commented the back of this seat can be too short and does not grow with your child as well as the Safe n Sound or Maxi Cosi models.
The Safety 1st Sentinel Model is worth checking out with a CREP 4 star =”Good protection”. For more information on Safety 1st http://www.safety1st.com.au/sentinel-ii.html#.Uwm-8YVup7w
Key attributes to look for when buying a car seat
|Safety||Adhering with Australia laws AS 1754 – make sure you check the sticker on the product|
|Comfort & Side Impact Cushioning||Some cushioning never goes astray as often your child will be in the seat on some trips for hours. Cushioning can also be helpful around the head in the case of an accident. Each brand has trademarked it as something different so you will hear this being called a number of things depending on what brand you are looking for example: Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT) – Safe and Sound, Air Cocoon Technology Infrasecure, Air Protect Revolutionary Side Impact Technology Maxi Cosi|
|Ability to adjust straps easily||Make it easy for everyone from grandparents to parents to secure your child properly in their seats. Car seats that can adjust straps with button are quite easy to use and worth considering.|
|Grows with your child over time||Make sure you can adjust the seat (straps, headrest etc) to make this as comfortable and safe for your child as possible|
|Lightweight||Easier to transfer between cars if necessary|
|Compatible with plane seats||Some airlines allow specific car seats on board for use in the plane seat (find out what this is!) to help travel|
|Suitable for many years||To be more cost effective for families. Don’t get something that will only use for 1-2 years|
|Active Head Restraint (AHR)||Active Head Restraint (AHR) features deeper side wings that shield and contain your child’s head in a side impact crash. AHR grows with your child to contain your child’s head and to minimise impact forces.|
|Durable lighter fabric||Good fabric helps if your child sweats a lot|
Other considerations to think about
- Check the width of your back seat if you are planning more children as some cars cannot fit 3 normal sized car seats. So you might want to consider narrower car seats or a new car!
- Expensive doesn’t always equal best! Wait for sales to buy (if you can wait) as they aren’t cheap
- Hire the capsule if you decide you want one (it is not important to have one but very convenient for the parents!). By hiring this will be helpful if your child hates a capsule and therefore it will not be worth the money.
- Have your seats professionally fitted!
- Look for a carseat that will last for a long as it can to get the value from the money you spend
- Make sure it is easy to clean!
What is the law around Car seats?
I was initially shocked when I found out that law stipulate that children must travel in a forward facing child safety seat until they are 7 years old. This seemed like a really long time before I had a baby. However when you see so many horrible accidents on the road, it is nice to know my child is as safe (as they can be) in my car. In the UK and in a number of other countries, laws are in place to have booster seats to 12 years old (or when they reach a minimum height requirement) and there are many lobby groups trying to influence the Australian Federal Government to follow suit. Stay tuned on this one. Here is the guidance based on age:
- 6 months (although most motoring bodies recommend up to 12 months): Your baby must be restrained in an approved rearward facing child restraint like an infant capsule or a convertible car seat specifically designed for newborn babies.
- 6 months to 4-years-old: Your child must be in either a rearward facing or forward facing child restraint, such as a child safety seat.
- 4-years-old to 7-years-old: Your child must be in either a forward facing child restraints or a booster seat restrained by a correctly adjusted and fastened seatbelt or child safety harness
So this was quite a long post but hopefully this has helped you if you are shopping for a car seat. Car seats are important to get right and ensure your child is safe. Happy Shopping!
Do you agree with Mamma’s Top 5? Any great car seats we are missing? What are your tips for how to buy the best car seat?
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