From the moment it is born, your baby should always go in its carrycot or safety seat in the car. Even if the journey is short, you should never travel in anyone’s arms, as carrying a child without an adequate restraint system multiplies by five the chances that he or she will suffer serious damage in the event of an accident.
The regulations in this regard are very clear: children under the age of twelve with a height of less than 135 cm must travel in a car protected by a child restraint system (CRS). As the baby’s age progresses, we will have to adapt the chair to their needs.
However, the reference to differentiate the different groups of chairs is not age or height, but weight, which is the key criterion. These are the different groups:
- Group 0 (0-10 kg / 0-9 months*): in this group we can find cots, known as ‘baby carriers’, or baby seats.
- Group 0 + (0-13 kg / 0-15 months): this group is similar to the previous one, however, it reaches up to 13 kg of weight. In this case, and in the 0, the chair must be facing backward (opposite direction of travel).
- Group 1 (9-18 kg / 8 months-3 or 4 years): from this group onwards, it can be positioned in the direction of travel. They consist of chairs that are attached to the vehicle with the seat belt or with the new ISOFIX system. This system is safer, however, not all cars have this option, so check before buying a seat of this type.
- Group 2 (15-25 kg / 3-7 years): consists of a cushion and a backrest that is placed on the vehicle seat. The child sits on the child seat and the car seat belt is fastened.
- Group 3 (22-36 kg / 6-12 years): in this case, they consist of a cushion, sometimes with a backrest. As in 2, it is placed on the seat and the child uses the vehicle’s belt to secure himself.
- Group 1-2-3 (9-36 kg): includes groups 1, 2 and 3. However, specialized group chairs usually give better results in terms of safety.
Best Infant Car Seat
No matter what, your child’s safety shouldn’t be compromised at all. Also, when it comes to safety, you should not hesitate to spend a little extra to get a quality product. Here are some of the best infant car seats you should consider buying.
1. Graco SnugRide SnugLock Infant Car Seat
Graco is a compact infant car seat with the new Snug Lock technology which offers you a hassle-free 3-step installation using your vehicle’s seat belt or the latching system. This smart seat really helps to protect your baby and is ideal for infants from 4 to 35 lbs. and up.
This seat has an adjustable based which offers 4 reclining positions to get in the right position for a proper installation and for the ease of your baby. It also has an easy to read level indicator which helps to eliminate all the guesswork when you are installing it in your car. This way you will feel confident that you’ve done all the installation work perfectly.
2. Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat
Graco Extend2Fit is a 2-in-1 convertible car seat which is designed for rear-facing infants anywhere from 4 and up to 50 pounds along with forward-facing toddlers that are 22-65 pounds. This seat offers a 4-position extension panel which makes it easy for you to adjust it along with providing r child with an additional 5” of legroom so that he can ride safely while rear-facing.
Graco Extend2Fit also features Protect Plus which is a combination of rigorous crash tests to help protect your infant on the front, side, rear and rollover crashed which is based on New Car Assessment Program and also for extreme car interior temperatures.
3. Safety 1st Smooth Ride Travel System
Safety 1st is a complete travel system that has an infant car seat as well as an infant stroller so that you can travel worry-free with your baby and carry him anywhere you go. It comes in four unique colors and allows a completely seamless transition from your car to the stroller. Thanks to the QuickClick technology which helps to secure the latch which is nicely equipped with the car’s seat and to the stroller without causing any trouble to the young one.
You will love its outstanding side impact protection and the 35 LT rear-facing infant car seat which has an added back and neck support for newborns.
There is an oversized canopy with a flip-out visor and peek-a-boo window which offers shade plus airflow during extreme sunny days. You will also find a small basket under the seat where you can hoard your child’s items.
Overall, this is the perfect and safest baby car seat which comes with a lightweight stroller and is JPMA certified for traveling, and exceeds the ASTM safety standards.
4. Peg Perego Primo Viaggio
Peg Perego is an Italy made infant car seat that is suitable for babies that are up to 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32” tall. It comes with an integrated anti-rebound bar with a dual-stage cushion system which offers extra support to the neck.
It also offers side impact protection which can be adjusted to six different positions without the need for rethreading. This helps protect your child’s head and shoulders. You will love its patent handle and the seat design which comes with color-coded belt paths to aid belt routing in case the base is not in use.
Overall, it offers safety and comfort along with an innovative shell design which is perfect for you child’s protection during travelling.
5. Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat
Maxi-Cosi is a popular brand that is known for its ergonomic design and safety features. It comes contoured with a handle that nicely curves around your hip. The padded Cosi Carry cushion provides your child the comfort to sleep in it.
Its expandable canopy featuring flip-out visor and WeatherShield accessories help to provide maximum safety to the child from wind, rain, and UV rays. The fabric used in it is wicking and it deodorizes and draws out all the liquids away from the skin which keeps your baby dry and comfortable. You will also get the Cosi Micro shades for extra covering.
You can easily remove its fabric for washing them and installing the infant seat is a couple of easy steps.
Minors with a height of less than 135 cm must travel in an approved seat, ie if you use the car you will not get rid of this purchase.
This does not mean that you have to get all the safety extras available on the market, but you should look for the car seat that best suits your pace of life.
Does that mean we need four chairs, one for each group? No, because most models cover two to three age and weight ranges. The most common is to buy Group 0 separately and then a Group 1 and 2 and even 3. But there are also models that cover everything, adjusting pieces and accessories according to the size of the child.
And where does the Maxi-Cosi fit in there? The terminology can be confusing, but in practice, it has no complications. Maxi-Cosi is actually a brand that specializes in Group 0 and 0+ chairs, which are the most different from other groups. The brand has already become a kind of generic, like Kleenex, Rimmel, or Tupper.
Whether it is called Maxi-Cosi or not, if your chair is approved for these groups it will have the same system: a fixed base on the car seat and a baby carrier or “egg” in which the child travels, always upwind.
The baby carrier is easily unhooked and has a handle to transport it out of the car, something very useful especially if the child is asleep. In addition, it can normally be attached to the carrycot or buggy structure, although you have to worry about buying compatible models or looking for adapters.
However, it’s advisable to use the ‘egg’ only at specific times, because it’s not good for a baby to maintain a semi-seated posture for a long time.
From there we move on to Groups 1, 2 and 3, in which the child can already travel seated in the direction of travel and the chair has a more traditional shape.
Any Group 1, 2, and 3 seats must have at least special seat belt sizing latches and a padded headrest to protect the upper body.
When the child has enough height, there are chairs that allow you to remove the backrest and stay with a simple booster cushion, to better place the adult seat belt. However, you should know that this increases the risk in case of side-impact since the head is not so protected, so it is advisable to always keep the backrest.
Isofix – What is it and why are you interested?
Isofix is an international standard attachment system that allows the car seat to be securely attached to the seat.
These are anchorage points that are part of the chassis of the car and you will find them in all vehicles manufactured from 2014 (in previous models you must confirm that it is installed).
The basic installation consists of two anchors located between the seat and the back of the car. In addition, some chairs include a third attachment point at the rear of the car (usually in the boot) called Top Tether, which prevents the chair from rotating involuntarily. As the parts are homologated, buying Isofix ensures that they will always be compatible.
The other option is to use the seat belt to attach the seat. It is safe, but it can also be more complicated to leave the structure perfectly secured.
With Isofix the assembly is as easy as clicking on the couplings, which are perfectly fixed ensuring that the chair does not “dance”. This is more comfortable in general, but also safer in case of a blow or sudden braking, as it reduces the range of movements that the chair can make.
The only “but” we can put on the Isofix is obvious: it is more expensive. And also, the pieces make the chair a little heavier. However, the difference in price with other systems is not so much: it compensates if you want to add an extra parameter of safety, even if it is not mandatory, and especially if you are going to assemble and disassemble the chair often, as it will make the task much easier.
In Which Direction Should I Place The Chair?
Group 0 must be positioned in the opposite direction. This is because newborns still do not hold the neck and if there are brakes the inertia should bring the head towards the chair, never forward. If the chair is to countermarch in the front seat, make sure that the front airbag is deactivated.
From Group 1 onwards, the direction of travel is optional, although there are several studies that say that looking backward is much safer in the event of an impact. In Spain, there is a very active lobby that is calling for an increase in the legal age for traveling in the direction of travel. It’s a very interesting topic that you can learn more about here.
Other Characteristics to Take into Account
Weight and size of the chair
Measure your car well to calculate how much space you have for the seat, and calculate if you need in addition to the baby one or two seats in the back.
If you have a side impact protection system (those small pieces that eliminate the space between the car seat and the car door), you may be interested in having both sides installed independently to gain space on the passenger side.
If you are not going to leave it fixed in the car, either because you need the space, or because you change the vehicle according to the occasion, see that it weighs little and is easy to assemble and disassemble.
What kind of trips do you make?
If they are only small displacements for city, with a little padding will be enough, but if you consider long trips you have to pay much attention to the comfort of the chair … or the child will begin to protest sooner rather than later.
It is one of the main pieces, to which we have already dedicated its space in all model revisions. Make sure that you are convinced by the reclining so that the child does not throw his head forward when he is asleep: it is annoying for him, and above all dangerous in the event of an accident.
Check that it is comfortable for you to ride your child in the car, that you have easy access to buckle and unbuckle the harness, if any, or to run the seat belt through the seat guide. And don’t forget to check from time to time that the pieces have not loosened and are appropriate for the size of your baby, as it grows. Otherwise, safety systems are useless.
Of course, it should be washable, and also easy to put on and take off. If you do a little maintenance and wipe it with a damp cloth or wipe to clean from time to time, plus a soft bristle brush or vacuum cleaner, it will be easier to hold it, but don’t doubt it: at some point, you’ll want to put that cloth in the washing machine.
Car Seat Regulations
The current law states that minors who are 135 cm or less in height are required to use child restraint systems in the rear seats of the car.
Failure to carry children properly seated in the car with approved chairs is considered a serious infraction, with an economic penalty of up to 200 euros and withdrawal of three points. They may even immobilize the vehicle.
The current regulations affect manufacturers, who must comply with the requirements to homologate their chairs, but this does not exempt users from using an approved car seat.
The latter is stricter in terms of safety controls since the chairs that have this approval have also passed side-impact tests. They also make it easier to anchor correctly as all of them must incorporate Isofix.