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Best car seat 2021: The best car seats from birth to age 12

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Our pick of the best car seats for newborns through to pre-teens

When it comes to child safety, the stakes can feel high. You’ll naturally want to buy the best car seat available for your little one – but what that means very much depends on the specifics of your situation.

There are various factors you need to take into account. First, not all car seats fit all cars. Second, some seats come with special safety systems, such as the more universal click-in Isofix system. Seats that use these bases are safer, but not all cars support them.

We’ve taken all of these different variables into account for our pick of the best car seats on the market. Ahead of that list, we've put together everything you need to know about UK car seat laws, as well as other factors such as price and installation, in our handy buyer's guide.

READ NEXT: Best prams 

Save on Bugaboo Turtle Air by Nuna for Black Friday

Although this exact model doesn't feature in our list below, this Nuna car seat is currently £19 off on Bugaboo for a Black Friday deal. The seat also works seamlessly with the Bugaboo pushchair and comes in two colours, black and grey mélange.
Bugaboo
Was £190
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How to choose the best car seat for your baby

What types of car seats are there?

There are different groups of baby car seats you need to be aware of:

GroupWeightApproximate age
0Birth up to 10kg/22lbBirth up to 6-9 months
0+Birth up to 13kg/29lbBirth up to 12-15 months
0+ and 1Birth up to 18kg/40lbBirth to up to about 4 years
19-18kg/20-40lbAbout 9 months to 4 years
1 and 29-25kg/20-55lbAbout 9 months to 6 years
215-25kg/33-55lbAbout 4 to 6 years
1, 2, 39-36kg/20-79lbAbout 9 months to 12 years
2 and 315-36kg/33-79lbAbout 4-12 years

Note: Some car seats will be approved in two or more groups.

You can get car seats in variations of these groups. For example, a group 2/3 car seat is suitable from three years to around 12 years, but isn't suitable from birth.

As the best car seats go, many of them share the same feature set. The real draw from one seat to the next is its grouping and any additional features such as removable newborn inserts or a carry handle.

The former means you don't have to lug a heavy car seat with you. The downside is you'll likely have to wake the baby to do so. The latter means you can easily transport a sleeping baby from the car to the house or onto a buggy.

Be aware that it’s not advised to keep a baby in a car seat for longer than two hours. If your journey is longer than that, the NHS suggests pulling over and taking the child out for a short time before continuing on your way.

What are the UK laws?

UK law on car seats has changed recently to require your child to use a baby seat or booster seat until they’re 135cm (4ft 5in) tall or they turn 12. Failing to do so could result in a fine of up to £500.

The most recent addition to the law involves booster seat regulations, but it doesn't actually affect you as a consumer. Instead, all newly released booster seats can only be made and sold to a child who is 4ft 1in or taller, or who weighs 22kg or more. Existing booster seats will still be valid in your car, so don't worry about rushing out to buy brand-new seats.

Babies must be rear-facing, ideally in the rear of a car until they reach 9kg, and only then if they can sit unaided for a minimum of 30 minutes. Ideally, they will be placed in the back of the car and face the rear until they're 15 months old, but this isn't always an option.

How much should I spend on the best car seat?

If cost is a limiting factor, you're best off looking at seats that are suitable all the way from newborn to when your child no longer needs to use a car seat or booster. These models may seem more expensive on initial purchase, but you won't be replacing them every couple of years as your child grows older.

Additional costs include inserts, in some cases, as well as the Isofix base. The latter doesn't come with all baby car seats as standard and, although the connections are the same, many manufacturers are now offering their own proprietary bases for a price. Some manufacturers ship a base with their car seat, so it's worth factoring this in when looking at the prices. A slightly more expensive price with the base may be better value in the long run.

What else should I know about?

It goes without saying that all car seats should be fitted in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and guidance. This includes making sure you don't use a seat for longer than you should. It may say it's suitable up to the age of four, but all car seats are based on weight so if you have a chunky toddler, they may outgrow their seat long before this upper limit.

Don't be tempted to overdress your child before putting them in a car seat. Children are in danger of overheating if they're put into car seats with coats, hats and other winter layers on and they can't tell you that they're too hot.

READ NEXT: Best baby carriers

The best car seats to buy

1. Maxi-Cosi Coral: The best car seat for newborns

Price: £239 | Buy now from Boots


Not only does the Maxi-Cosi Coral offer all the safety and comfort features that parents have come to expect from Maxi-Cosi, but its Coral car seat is also the first so-called modular seat and is so simple and effective that it's a wonder the feature hasn't been widely seen before.

This modular design allows you to either lift the car seat out in one go or take your little one ergonomically out in the soft carrier, leaving the safety shell in the car. This makes moving your baby – especially if they're sleeping – to and from your car easy. This car seat is compatible with all Maxi-Cosi stroller frames, too.

What's more, this car seat has an extra-large sun canopy and an “easy-in” harness that keeps the straps out of the way and makes clipping your baby in, as well as taking them out, quick and easy. No more wrestling under their bum to pull out the straps and clip.

The Maxi-Cosi Coral car seat fits via a separate FamilyFix3. This connects to the Isofix anchors in your car or it can be secured using the seat belt of your car. It's not cheap and will only last until your baby is a year old (or 12kg), but we think it’s worth it.

Key specs - Group: 0/0+; Item weight: 1.7kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Pushchair attachment available, 360-degree rotation

Buy now from Boots


2. Cybex Sirona Z i-Size: The best car seat for all-round safety

Price: £300 | Buy now from John Lewis

The Cybex Sirona Z i-Size not only offers superior comfort for your little one, as well as 360-degree rotation that makes it easier for you to get them in and out of the car, but it also boasts the highest level of protection, thanks to Cybex's Sensor Safe tech.

This sensor pairs with an app and warns you if your child isn't strapped in correctly, monitors the seat's ambient temperature to make sure they don't get too hot or cold and will send a notification when they've been sat in the seat too long.

It also features installation guides for Cybex's car seats, as well as how-to videos. What's more, you can buy the Sensor Safe clip separately and it works with Cybex Platinum and Gold car seats.

These safety features complement those built into the seat itself, including side impact protection and Cybex's so-called Energy Reduction Technology. This reduces the forces on the neck of your child, should you be involved in a crash, by more than 20%, compared to other existing five-point harness systems. 

The seat is suitable until your little one is four years old so it's an investment that will last and goes from rear-facing to forward-facing with a flick of a switch.

Key specs - Group: 0+/1; Item weight: 15kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: 3yr guarantee, washable cover, 90 and 360-degree rotation

Buy now from John Lewis


3. Chicco Seat 4 Fix: The best car seat for versatility and longevity

Price: £299 | Buy now from Boots

The Seat 4 Fix can be used from newborn until your baby is 12 years old, making the Group 0+/1/2/3 car seat Chicco’s most versatile solution yet, and one of the most versatile car seats on the market. For safety, it can be installed with an Isofix base and top tethers.

In the Group 0+ position, the 360-degree swivel system means you can rotate the car seat to make it easier to get your baby in and out without twisting your back or banging their head. It can then be placed in a rear-facing position until your baby is 18kg or around four years old.

As a Group 1 seat, the Chicco Seat 4 Fix can be spun to be forward-facing from 9kg to 18kg, and there are an adjustable headrest and harness.

As your child grows, typically from when they weigh 15kg to 36kg, the forward-facing Group 2/3 option acts as a booster seat with an adjustable headrest and reclining system. You can also remove the harness and use this seat with the car's regular seatbelt as your toddler becomes a child and a pre-teen.

It's not a cheap car seat, but it's much better value for money than other similarly priced car seats on this list.

Key specs - Group: 0+-3; Item weight: 4kg; Attachment method: Isofix and top tethers; Additional features: Forward and rear-facing

Buy now from Boots


4. Joie Signature 360: The best 360 car seat to save your back

Price: £200 | Buy now from Halfords

As your child gets heavier, it can be back-breaking trying to twist and bend as you put them in their car seat. Not to mention when they stiffen their body and resist being put in there completely.

To solve this, while also offering an easy way to switch from rear-facing to forward-facing when the time comes, Joie has created a car seat that, as the name suggests, spins 360 degrees. This means you can spin the seat towards the door and then into the correct position.

It has a “Grow with Me” infant and body support that can be adjusted to fit your growing child and this seat will last from birth up to the age of four or 18kg. It secures via Isofix and the base is included in the price.

This is an incredibly easy-to-use seat and our baby falls asleep almost as soon as we get going because the seat is curved, cosy and comfortable. The lowest recline option isn’t as low as we’d like, but because of the large seat, our baby doesn’t look cramped or constricted. The bucket seating also makes it hard for him to reach the windows and door controls.

Key specs - Group: 0+/1; Item weight: 11kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Rotating seat, washable cover, no-rethread harness, 2yr guarantee

Buy now from Halfords


5. Joie i-Level: The best car seat for sleeping babies

Price: £200 | Buy now from Argos

The Joie i-Level is part car seat, part carrycot and comes with three recline options. It doesn’t quite lie completely flat, as the company claims, but it certainly lies flatter than other seats we’ve tried, making it more comfortable for longer journeys or for babies who try to avoid nodding off in the car.

The benefit of this is that it puts less pressure on your baby's chest or neck and they can stretch out more naturally, even on long journeys. We still recommend that you regularly get your baby out of this car seat when driving a long way, though, to make them more comfortable and help them stretch further.

Its insert is soft and you can adjust the headrest to suit taller children. The canopy is one of the best on this list for blocking out the sun as it comes halfway over the seat. It can also be removed when not in use.

The Joie i-Level additionally comes with an Isofix-compatible base and the seat is suitable from birth up to 15 months (or 13kg/29lb). Our baby would drift off almost the second we got moving when he was in this car seat and we were disappointed when he outgrew it.

Key specs - Group: 0+; Item weight: 10kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Washable cover, 2yr guarantee, pushchair attachment available, carry handle

Buy now from Argos


6. Silver Cross Motion All Size 360: The best for safety and adaptability

Price: £375 | Buy now from John Lewis

Every parent wants a car seat that’s incredibly safe, but Silver Cross’s Motion All Size 360 goes the extra mile. In fact, it’s the first car seat of its kind to be R129-approved, created alongside state-of-the-art crash test dummy technology.

What’s most impressive about the Motion All Size 360 is that it can be used from newborn to approximately 12 years of age, so you won’t need to invest in numerous car seats as they grow. Its 360-degree rotating design also adapts to your child as they grow, with easy-to-remove natural bamboo inserts and a stowaway harness.

Other features include an extended rearward facing mode, adjustable headrest and newborn insert, a side-loading position – which makes it easier for you to strap your baby in – plus a five-point safety harness and Side Protection System (SPS).

Put simply, if you’re looking for the very best in safety standards and a seat that can quickly adapt to different-aged children, the Motion All Size 360 is one of the best available.

Key specs - Group: 0-3; Item weight: N/S; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: 360-degree rotation, removable inserts

Buy now from John Lewis


7. Nuna Pipa Next: The perfect match for a Nuna pushchair

Price: £200 | Buy now at John Lewis

The Pipa Next car seat can be used with any Nuna pushchair so it’s a good option for fans of the brand. It’s i-Size-approved, suitable for children from birth to 13kg (or 83cm in height) and weighs only 2.8kg so feels comfortable to lift and pop on top of the pram.

It also has tons of handy features that make day-to-day life easier. There’s an adjustable headrest, a no-rethread three-point harness that seamlessly moves up and down, side-impact protection wings for extra security and it can be secured with a seatbelt or an Isofix base.

The overall design is great. The fabrics feel soft and plush, and the merino wool insert combines a super-cosy texture with ample ventilation and moisture-wicking properties. One of our favourite details is Nuna’s Dream Drape that pulls over the front of the seat to help baby sleep soundly as you move from the car to the pram.

Overall, this is a thoughtful and well-designed car seat at a great price.

Key specs - Group: 0/0+; Item weight: 2.8kg; Attachment method: Isofix or seatbelt; Additional features: Pushchair attachment available, no-rethread harness

Buy now at John Lewis


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