Car Seat Buying Guide

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Car Seat Buying Guide

We know how important it is to get the perfect car seat, but we also know that there’s a lot of choice out there. This handy guide will help you get the appropriate seat for your little one, your car and your budget.

Don't use a second-hand car seat - you can never be 100% sure it hasn't been damaged or weakened in a previous incident or accident.

If you’re looking for a newborn seat, get it ready ahead of the birth - if you’re planning on travelling home from the hospital, you’ll need to have it fitted to bring baby home in.

Think about what sort of pushchair you’re going to be using, as not all of them will be compatible with every car seat.



Seatbelts and seat sizes can vary drastically from car to car, meaning that it's not always as easy as plug-and-go when fitting a car seat. ISOFIX was introduced to provide a more secure and easier way of attaching child seats in cars to minimise the risk of them being incorrectly fitted.

ISOFIX fitting points are built into many modern cars during manufacture, and then an ISOFIX car seat will simply plug into the corresponding fitting points in the car, removing the need to use seatbelts to secure it. You’ll then also use a top tether or support leg, depending on your car model and the model of car seat you choose.

To check if your car has ISOFIX points, refer to your handbook, contact the manufacturer or look for ISOFIX labels between the base and back of your car seats.


i-Size is the latest safety regulation for child car seats that was introduced in July 2013. i-Size car seats, are tested to higher side impact standards and keeps your child rear-facing for longer i-Size car seats use isofix points for installation, but belted car seats are still available for older cars and still offer safety and protection for your child.

One of the main differences with i-Size is that the seats are based on your child’s height rather than weight. i-Size car seats also keep your child facing rearwards until they are at least 15 months old, meaning they are better protected against frontal impacts.

All car seats sold by Dunelm meet the United Nations Regulation, ECE R44.04 or the i-Size regulation, R129 which runs alongside R44.04. This means you can be confident that all seats bought from us are as safe as possible.


With belt-fitted car seats, the seat is secured by the adult three-point seatbelt. Providing they are installed correctly, belt-fitted seats are just as safe - fitting instructions will be shown on the side of the seat, with coloured indicators to help you correctly position the seatbelt. The main thing is to get the seat as secure as possible, and remember there shouldn’t be any excessive movement when pulling the harness sharply.

Detachable bases

Some car seats have separate bases that stay in the car, either fitted using ISOFIX points or the adult seatbelt. These are designed to make it as easy as possible to take the car seat in and out, as it simply clicks into position. If you're opting for a travel system pushchair, this might be especially useful.

Your car seat

A rear-facing position is the safest way for babies to travel, as it provides the safest support for little heads in the event of a front-on accident. It’s best to keep them in this position for as long as possible, and choosing an i-Size car seat means you can extend this travel position until your child is at least 15 months old.

Not all car seats fit all cars, so it’s vital you check which models your individual car seat is compatible with. ISOFIX seats fix to anchorage points that are already in your car, which reduces the risk of it being incorrectly fitted.

Car seats tend to be separated into groups based on the weight of your child - the exception to this are i-Size seats which use your little one’s height instead. For non-i-Size seats, the table below should help you find the most appropriate choice.


Child's weight Approximate age range Suitable car seat
i-Size – Check the seats recommended height Birth up to 15 Months i-Size, rearward-facing
Baby Car Seat – Birth to 13kg (29lbs) Birth to 12 Months Group 0+, rearward-facing infant carrier
Baby or toddler weighing up to 36kg (79lbs) Birth to 4 12 years Group 0+-1/0+-1-2/0-+1-2-3, rearward and forward-facing combination seat
Toddler weighing from approx. 9kg to 18kg (20-40lbs) Approx. 9 months to 4 years Group 1, forward-facing seat
Toddler or child weighing from approx. 9kg to 36kg (20-79lbs) Approx. 9 months to 12 years Group 1/2/3, Highback Booster with Harness
Child weighing from approx. 15kg to 36kg (33-79lbs) Approx. 4 to 12 years Group 2/3, Highback Booster without Harness

*Changes to the regulations came into effect in February 2017 which prevent manufacturers from introducing new backless booster seats for children shorter than 125cm or weighing less than 22kg.

Car seat accessories

Bases & adaptors We’ve got a range of ISOFIX and non-ISOFIX bases and car seat adaptors to help you create a travel system that works for you. Again, one size doesn’t fit all so be sure to check before you buy.
Raincovers Protect tiny tots from the elements with a clear plastic raincover. They fit snugly over baby car seats (Group 0 and Group 0+) to keep them nice and dry while out and about.
Pillows & Support Keep your tiny passenger safe, secure and comfortable with some little extras - from head cradlers and full body supporters to padded strap covers depending on their age.
Footmuffs & blankets Your little one will be lovely and snug with a specially-designed cosy footmuff designed to fit their particular car seat and harness.
Protection Wear and tear (and juice spills) are just part and parcel of having a child passenger, but a seat protector can be a sound investment to prevent too much damage and keep the car seat level and secure.
Car seat toys Interactive toys that shake, rattle and roll can aid development and keep baby busy while you're concentrating on the wheel.
Storage & Organisation From back-of-seat organisers to pop-up bins, car clutter can be minimised by keeping their favourite things within easy reach, essential for keeping the peace on long journeys.
Other accessories Sun shades, travel bags, backseat mirrors so you can keep your eye on them… there's a whole host of smart accessories that can help make car time enjoyable. And of course, don't forget that baby on board sign!
Top tip Remember children must travel in the right travel restraint until they reach either 135cm in height or 12 years old, after which they can use an adult seat belt.

Before you set off...

  • Remember that you should never use a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat without deactivating the front air bags. Air bags can seriously injure little ones.
  • Take your time reading the instructions, and make sure everyone who’ll be fitting the car seat or taking it in and out knows exactly how to do so safely and securely.
  • The seat should be fitted as tightly as possible with no excessive forward or sideways motion - make sure you check this regularly.
  • When fitting the child in the car seat, only one or two fingers should be able to fit between the child's chest and harness.
  • Thick winter clothing can reduce the effectiveness of the harness, so check this every journey and remove coats before setting off. Remove your child's padded coat and replace with a fitted footmuff or travel blanket.
  • Never cover or modify the buckles to prevent your child from playing with them, this can seriously affect the quick-release mechanism in an accident - but do discourage your child from playing with the buckles.
  • Use an additional rear-view mirror to keep an eye on your little one while driving to save yourself having to turn around.
  • Check your car's headrest doesn't obstruct a forward facing child seat.