Whenever someone comes in to buy a car seat they generally say straight up "I just want the safest seat you have!" But actually what is the safest seat? Our standard response is that the safest seat we have for you is one that fits your car, your child, your budget and your needs... so how do you then choose?
Anyone who's ever looked into purchasing a car seat will know just how daunting a task it is! There are so many options let alone opinions and which one is actually going to be right for your situation.
As qualified child restraint technicians we deal with this task everyday. We know the questions to ask and the things to look for to make finding that perfect seat so much easier. Here's a few tips and things to consider to give you the head start in your car seat search.
1. What's your budget? - Think about what you can afford to spend on a seat and don't be afraid to say. Not everyone has endless cash available to them so make sure you know your budget. We tend to work off the idea that we will find you the best seat that we can for the money that you have whether that's $300 or $1000. There are amazing seat options available in all price brackets so setting that budget helps narrow down your options.
2. Will it fit your car? - Car seats are not a 1 size fit's all unfortunately, especially when we are fitting them to vehicles. In NZ you can purchase 3 different standard of car seat (AUS/NZ, USA & European) and each standard has different requirements. This can cause so much confusion especially when you're receiving well intended but often incorrect advice from friends, family and online forums. This misinformation often leads to people purchasing seats that aren't compatible with their vehicles. Common incompatibilities we come across are things like not having anchor points available, inability to get a tight enough install, seat not fitting between belt and buckle (especially in the middle). Another VERY common issue is the amount of space a car seat can take up when rear facing, so often we see front passenger seats that are so far forward it's unsafe or impossible for a passenger to sit in it. The other thing to look at is how does the seat install? Is it with a seat belt, Latch or ISOFIX? We strongly advise against purchasing a car seat unless you have tried it in your vehicle first!!
3. How many kids are you planning? - This question gets some strange looks especially when you have a lovely couple standing there pregnant with their first baby! They can't see past the birth of this baby let alone any more. In all seriousness though, if you are planning on having 3 babies or more in the future you can save yourself a lot of time, not to mention money, by buying seats from the start that will be compatible in the future. The big shiny wide seat with lots off bells and whistles attached might look cool now but if you're trying to puzzle that into a 3 across combo you'll probably end up throwing it on the floor.
4. Does the seat suit your child? - Just like not all car seats fit all cars not all children fit all seats. Due to the different standard of child restraint and each having different requirements this can also cause confusion. Some have tethers, some don't, some have chest clips, some don't, some can convert to boosters, some don't and so on! We need to pick a seat that's going to be suitable for your child's needs so you get the best value for your money and they are the safest they can be. If you've got a chunky little bubba and you want to keep them rear facing until the recommended age of 2 you probably don't want to buy a seat with a rear facing limit of only 13kg... make sense? Your child's age, height, weight and maturity are all things we need to consider when picking out that perfect seat!
5. What functions are important to you in a seat? - Now this question covers so many different things but some other questions we often ask include - How long do you want to rear face? Will the seat be moved often? Is it likely to be used by other children? Are you looking for a quick easy install? Does your child sleep a lot in the car? Would you like them to have a chest clip? Would you want to recline them forward facing? Are you wanting a seat with steel framing? Do you travel (pre-covid world)? There's so many things to consider and most of the time people have never thought about these things.
So in a nutshell buying a car seats isn't actually always as simple as just buying the 'safest one' so we highly recommend seeking the advice of a qualified child restraint technician to help you decide on the perfect seat for you.
You can always pop in and see us in store at 63 Harrison St, Ashburton and we will be more than happy to help you navigate your car seat needs.
Take care & Best wishes