Child car seats - how to choose the right one
Having a baby doesn't necessarily mean you need to change your car but it's essential that you consider the car when choosing a child seat.
As a first-time mother I'm not quite ready to give up on my hot hatch but I was determined to buy the best possible car seat to protect the new bundle.
Manufacturers categorise car seats into four groups - group 0 (birth-10kg), group 1 (9-18kg), group 2 (15-25kg) and group 3 (22-36kg). Many seats will crossover a number of groups so you can use them for longer.
It is important to choose a seat and seating position based on your child's weight and height to choose a seat that meets the correct EU safety regulations.
Most child seats on the market use ISOFIX mountings that fit into anchor points fixed to the car body, but before buying any seat you should always ask to try it out in your car to make sure that it actually fits.
If the seat you're buying has a stabilising leg to the front make sure this rests on the floor of the car.
i-Size seats conform to the European Regulation 129 standard and provide extra support for a child's head and neck while allowing your baby to stay rearward-racing for up to 15 months - and they are the best choice.
ISOFIX is by far the safest way to ensure your car seat is securely fitted as it vastly reduces the chance of incorrect installation.
It was introduced in 1999 but did not become a standard feature in cars until 2006, so if your car is pre 2006 you must check that you have ISOFIX points.
It's always best practice to put a child seat in the back of a car but if this isn't an option and you have to put a rear-facing seat in the front make sure all passenger seat airbags are switched off. If you are uncertain check with an authorised dealer.
Many new parents opt for travel systems which often come with a newborn car seat which clips in and out of a base fixed to your car and allow for the baby to be lifted in and out of the car and into the buggy frame without being removed from the seat.
If you go with this option you'll have to look at a new seat from about nine months onwards as your baby outgrows this system.
While safety should always be the first priority, budget is no doubt a consideration for all first-time parents.
With so many things to buy, you may think that buying a second-hand car seat will save you some cash, but this is something you should avoid doing at all costs. Second hand car seats are never advisable due to wear and tear or involvement in a crash which could have weakened the seat,
This damage may not always be visible.
It is a good idea to look at the long-term value of a car seat rather than the initial cost. Spending €500 on a seat that will last for four years will work out cheaper than buying a seat that could last just nine months for €150.
The key to safety is fitting the seat properly. Recent data suggests 66pc of child car seats are incorrectly fitted. When you buy a car seat get a trained member of staff to fit it, and remember to check the fit regularly.