Buying a new car seat can be very confusing, it can be difficult to figure out which stage seat your child needs, particularly when there may be several suitable stages to choose from. Not only that, but you also have to make sure the seat fits the cars it will be used in, as well as your child.
Once you have figured out what stage seat you require, the choice can still be confusing, with large differences in price and different child car seat features.
This blog looks at those features of a car seat, what they do and why they’re useful.
Child car seat features
Seat belt or ISOFIX
Child seats can come as either belt fitted, or ISOFIX – sometimes they have both options! While both ISOFIX and seat belt fitment is safe when the seat is correctly fitted, ISOFIX is considered easier to fit and it reduces the risk of incorrect fitment.
Seat belt tensioner
Seat belt restrained seats may have a seat belt tensioner, which will help you to achieve a tight fit. A slack seat belt is a very common error, so a tensioner is a useful tool to help you ensure the seat is firmly fitted.
Support leg or top tether
ISOFIX seats tend to have a third point of anchorage, the first being the ISOFIX attachment itself. The third point of anchorage can come in the form of a support leg or a top tether. A support leg is more commonly found, however these generally cannot be used on top of a floor storage box lid. A top tether attaches to an approved top tether point behind the vehicle seat.
The purpose of the third point of anchorage is to reduce the pivotal movement of the seat and absorb energy in a collision.
Some child seats will come with a headrest within the seat and this helps to support the child’s head and neck when they are asleep.
Easy adjust or re-thread harness
A 're-thread' car seat harness
Seats with an integrated headrest also tend to have the harness attached via the headrest, so to adjust the harness, you simply ‘click’ the headrest up or down to gain the correct height. Other seats may have a re-thread harness, which requires you to take the harness out of the seat and re-thread it at the desired height, which can be quite time consuming, and also carries the risk of the harness being re-attached incorrectly.
Are these features essential?
The features described above are present on many car seats, and car seats without them are certainly not unsafe or dangerous. The features are designed to make the child seat simpler to use, so if you are not confident fitting a seat, or changing the harness, they are certainly worth looking at!