Tips and advice

How to choose the best toddler car seat

Finding the best toddler car seat for your child can be tricky - here are some of the best Group 1 and 1-2-3 child car seats you can buy

By law, children must use a child car seat until they reach the age of 12 or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. With so many child car seats to choose from, it can be difficult to find the right one for your toddler. You also have to take into account your child’s height and weight.

Baby car seats, which are Group 0 or 0+ car seats, are designed for children up to the age of nine months or 13kg in weight. After that, you’ll need to start thinking about buying a toddler car seat. These seats are adjustable in order to cover a range of heights and weights, so they should last for several years. A Group 1 toddler seat is designed for children aged nine months to four years of age, or 9kg to 18kg in weight.

Child car seat laws explained

Alternatively you could consider a Group 1-2-3 combination seat. These cover a much wider age range, typically from around 9 months up until around 12 years of age (9-36kg). This is the most cost-effective way of buying a seat but tests have shown that multi-group child seats might not provide the same level of protection as a single group seat.

Toddler car seats are commonly forward-facing but you can also find many rear-facing seats in this category. Some parents like to keep their child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible but it’s important to note that you must deactivate the passenger airbag before fitting such a seat in the front passenger seat.

In the case of forward-facing toddler car seats, your child will use an integral harness until they are 18kg, or 25kg on some seats. At this point you should secure your child with the car’s standard seat belt.

All child car seats must pass strict safety tests before they go on sale and most will use the ISOFIX points in your car. This is by far the safest way for your child to travel.

Also consider i-Size car seats. This new safety regulation was introduced in 2013 and is a new way of crash-testing child car seats. Instead of weight and age, i-Size uses the child’s height to determine the correct size of the seat. The key benefits are improved side impact safety in the event of an accident and a reduced risk of fitting a car seat incorrectly.

While it’s possible to research the best options online, always head to a store to check that the car seat is right for your child and car.

Read our list of some of the best toddler car seats available right now. 

Maxi-Cosi Tobi

  • Price: £179
  • Category: Group 1
  • Weight: 8.75kg
  • ISOFIX: No

The Maxi-Cosi Tobi is a forward-facing child seat designed for children between the ages of nine months and four years of age. It does have its limitations, as it’s not ISOFIX compliant, but you can secure it using the car’s seat belt. The intuitive belt routing points and a colour indicator on the harness confirms a secure fit for your child. There are multiple recline positions and simultaneous headrest and harness adjustment. A great option if you’re after a dedicated Group 1 child seat.

Buy now from Kiddies Kingdom

BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size

  • Price: £289
  • Category: Group 1
  • Weight: 8.7kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes (base sold separately)

The BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size is a great option if you intend to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible. It’s far from the cheapest toddler seat on the market, especially once you’ve added the optional base at £200, but it scores highly for its simple installation and green indicators to tell you if your child is seated correctly. It’s suitable for children aged from six months to four years old.

Buy now from Uber Kids

Britax Romer King II LS

  • Price: around £190
  • Category: Group 1
  • Weight: 10.3kg
  • ISOFIX: No

The Britax King II LS is a little heavier than some of its rivals but it performed well in tough German safety tests. The harness indicator tells you with light and sound when your child is harnessed to the correct tension, and while there’s no ISOFIX system, the seat tilts forward for simple and tight installation with the car’s seat belt. This dedicated Group 1 seat is suitable for children aged between nine months and four years old.

Buy now from Britax Romer

CozyNSafe Galaxy

  • Price: £120
  • Category: Group 1
  • Weight: 10kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes

The CozyNSafe Galaxy is a fantastic option for parents buying on a budget. It costs just £120, although it’s widely available for around £100, so it could be a great choice for grandparents who require infrequent use of a seat when the grandchildren come to stay. It’s a forward-facing-only seat but there are five recline positions and indicators to show that your child is safe and secure.

Buy now from Asda

Recaro Tian Elite

  • Price: £230
  • Category: Group 1-2-3
  • Weight: 8.6kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes

The Recaro Tian Elite has an integrated sound system in the head area so your child can listen to their own tunes on the move. It weighs just 8.6kg, so it’s easy to install and remove, making it perfect if you need to transfer the seat from one car to another. Another neat feature is the so-called HERO safety system, which combines the shoulder pads, shoulder straps and headrest into a single unit. The seat is suitable for children aged from nine months to 12 years old.

Buy now from Very

Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro 2 i-Size

  • Price: £240
  • Category: Group 1
  • Weight: 7.55kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes (base available separately)

The Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro 2 i-Size is arguably the best all-rounder you can buy in the Group 1 category. There are cheaper seats available but Maxi-Cosi has covered all the bases, creating a lightweight, easy-to-fit and versatile toddler seat. From six months up to four years old, this can be used rear or forward-facing, with a recline position available for when your little one drifts off to sleep. There’s also an easy-in harness for getting your child in and out in just seconds.

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

Joie Bold

  • Price: £175
  • Category: Group 1-2-3
  • Weight: 12.9kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes

The Joie Bold can accommodate children from 9kg to an extended 25kg using the five-point harness, then to 36kg using a belted booster. This makes it suitable for children aged from nine months to 12 years old. The nine position connectors, top tether and car seat belt combine for a safe installation, and there’s even a handy cupnholder for drinks on the go. 

Buy now from Smyths Toys

Britax Eclipse

  • Price: £90
  • Category: Group 1-2-3
  • Weight: 7.0kg
  • ISOFIX: No

The Britax Eclipse is an affordable and lightweight child car seat from one of the industry’s most respected brands. For these reasons alone, the Eclipse should be on your shortlist but this seat goes further (quite literally) by being certified for air travel. No more worrying about packing an extra car seat when travelling to the airport. It’s one of the few car seats that can be installed with a two-point lap belt as well as a three-point seat belt.

Buy now from Halfords

Kiddy Phoenixfix 3

  • Price: £235
  • Category: Group 1
  • Weight: 6.6kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes

The Phoenixfix 3 is a forward-facing seat for children aged from nine months to four years old. It’s very easy to install, with green indicators to show when your child is safe and secure. The sliding connectors are for use with your car’s ISOFIX points but these can be removed for cars without this system. Not all parents like the impact shields on the Phoenixfix 3 seat, so check before you buy. It’s relatively expensive but this seat has been approved by the Federal Aviation Authority.

Buy now from Donaghy Bros

Joie i-Spin 360

  • Price: £280
  • Category: Group 0+/1
  • Weight: 13.9kg
  • ISOFIX: Yes

This Group 0+ and 1 car seat is suitable for newborns until the age of four. You can use it rear-facing until your baby reaches toddler age but it’s also suitable for forward-facing from 9kg to 18kg. The 360-degree swivel makes it easy to get your child in and out of the seat, while the safety panels automatically extend when the child is placed in the seat. It’s not cheap but the ISOFIX base is included in the price.

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

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