When you pick a car seat for that first trip home with your newborn, you want to be sure that it’s both comfy and safe.
There are so many baby car seats to choose from, and sometimes such conflicting advice, that you may well feel confused.
To make sure that you’re as confident as possible when choosing the right one for you and your baby, we commissioned Alison Williams to research and write about infant car seats.
Alison is a mum to two grown-up children and has experienced every stage of the parenting journey. As a journalist, she has written articles on a wide variety of parenting subjects.
Which baby car seats did we test?
As well as looking at the current market, Alison spent time talking to experts – including Jan James, Chief Executive from Good Egg Car Safety, Nick Lloyd, Acting Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Margaret Bolt, founder of Rear Facing Toddlers – and listening to parents.
Over approximately 30 hours of research, she looked at the safety tests that each car seat was put through, the standards they had to meet, and the pricing for all types of budgets.
She also looked at the seats rated highly on the Mumsnet Talk boards, on other online forums and in other product reviews, before creating a longlist of 25 top-performing seats.
This list was then narrowed down to 14, all of which were put to the test over the course of four months.
Here is the full list:
- Maxi-Cosi Rock
- Mothercare Ziba
- Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size
- Joie i-Spin 360
- Cozy N Safe Arthur
- BeSafe iZi Go Modular
- Hauck Comfort Fix
- Joie i-Level
- Nuna Rebl Plus
- Kiddy Evoluna i-Size 2
- Cybex Aton M i-Size
- Graco SnugRide 0+
- Graco SnugRide i-Size
- Graco Slimfit 0+/1/2/3
In the end, five car seats triumphed: the Joie i-Spin 360 (Best All-Round Car Seat 2019), the Britax Dualfix i-Size (Best Extended Rear-Facing Car Seat 2019), the Maxi-Cosi Rock (Best for Versatility 2019 – Birth to 12 Months), the Mothercare Ziba (Best Value Car Seat 2019 – Birth to 12 Months) and the Cozy N Safe Arthur (Best Car Seat from Birth to 12 Years 2019).
We think that these are the top baby car seats for most parents and awarded each a Mumsnet Best Baby Car Seat award.
Read our buyer's guide, written with the help of Good Egg Car Safety, for more information on what to look for when buying a car seat for your newborn.
Who tested the car seats?
Alison partnered with parent tester Sam, mum to newborn twins – who were five months old at the start of testing – and a seven-year-old.
Each car seat was tested in Sam's Citroen C3 Picasso Exclusive with the exception of the Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size, which was tested in her sister’s Citroen C4.
While it would, of course, be quicker and cheaper to send each product out to a different tester, we believe that consistent scoring and like-for-like comparisons are crucial.
The car seats were also all tested following the same criteria before given a final score:
- Safety and stability
- Day-to-day use
- Value for money
No extras were purchased or tested.
How did we test for assembly, and safety and stability?
First of all, we checked that each seat came with all the parts necessary and that the instructions were clear and easy to follow. We also checked whether there were helplines or online videos available if there were any issues with fitting or if our tester had any questions.
We analysed what tests the seats had passed and, crucially, how easy each seat was to attach and detach in addition to how useful and effective the designated fixing systems (seatbelt or ISOFIX) were in order to avoid making any dangerous mistakes.
We also put them through their paces for ease of getting a child in and out of the car, adjusting straps and padding, switching from rear- to front-facing and reclining where possible.
If you’re in a hurry, running late or tired and stressed, then you need to feel completely confident that your baby’s seat is fitted in the car correctly, and that your baby is also correctly positioned and strapped in properly. Any ambiguous instructions, or any potential room for error, was noted.
We analysed the materials used for durability as well as looks, studying everything from padding to the straps, and we thoroughly checked out the safety features of each, looking for five-point harnesses that couldn’t be clicked open by small fingers.
How did we test for comfort?
We made sure that the baby was comfortable, that there were no parts that could rub or cause irritation, and that all fittings were baby-proof, with no chance of parts being removed or buckles and belts being undone by the child in the seat or others sitting with them.
When you have a newborn, it may seem silly to worry about little hands undoing buckles, but babies develop very quickly and the seat needs to be appropriate both for a tiny baby a few days old and an inquisitive nine-month-old.
We noted if there was anything that was distracting about the seat when driving – did the seat obscure your view? Were the colours too ‘jazzy’ or bright?
How were the car seats tested in day-to-day life?
We then tested how quick and easy it was to get the little one in and out of the seat (timing the whole process), if they were able to fall asleep comfortably if they usually did so in a car, if the seat was able to accommodate them when removed from the car if still sleeping, and if they seemed happy in the seat. We also evaluated if the seat was easily adjustable to grow with your child.
We took the seats on busy school runs, shopping trips, longer journeys and quick trips out throughout the day, observing how happy and comfortable the baby was and how convenient the seat was to get in and out of the car if necessary.
How did we test for design and cleaning?
We also looked at whether the seat was easy to clean – spilling milk and juice on the seat and washing and drying the cover. This may seem like a small concern, but if you’re using the seat everyday, then you need to be able to remove, wash and dry the cover quickly, otherwise the seat is out of action.
Finally, we looked at the aesthetics of the seat – we agree that this is possibly the least important aspect to consider, but it may be a factor if you have narrowed down your list to two or three seats.
What about value for money?
Taking all these things into consideration, we looked at price and evaluated whether each car seat was good value for money.
Using all the above criteria, we then decided which car seat was the best overall, and which others deserved honourable mentions.
Why you should trust us
Mumsnet has been making parents’ lives easier since 2000 and, in those years, we’ve seen, tried and reviewed countless products. We’ve watched trends come and go and safety features become more and more slick. Our testing is best in class – we rigorously test each product with real children in real-life situations as well as standardised lab-style testing and we're confident that our testing leaves no stone unturned. This means that parents don’t need to compare reviews or hunt around for other opinions. They know Mumsnet has it covered.
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