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 consider. 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.
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:
|Birth up to 10kg/22lb
|Birth up to 6-9 months
|Birth up to 13kg/29lb
|Birth up to 12-15 months
|0+ and 1
|Birth up to 18kg/40lb
|Birth to up to about 4 years
|About 9 months to 4 years
|1 and 2
|About 9 months to 6 years
|About 4 to 6 years
|1, 2, 3
|About 9 months to 12 years
|2 and 3
|About 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.
How we test car seats
A car seat is one of the most important bits of equipment you’ll buy for your baby or child, and we’re aware of how vital first-hand reviews will be in order to make an informed buying decision. This is the reason we test each of the car seats featured in our roundup, rating them on how easy they are to install, their safety features, and how secure our own children feel once strapped into them. Our reviews also include each car seat’s specifications, so you can view key information – including the attachment method – quickly and easily.
We include a range of car seats and booster seats in our roundup, so you’ll find an option for newborns, all the way up to children age 12.
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The best car seats you can buy in 2024
1. Cybex Cloud T i-Size: Best car seat for newborns
Price when reviewed: £230 | Check price at John Lewis
Having previously collaborated with the likes of Jeremy Scott and cited design influences such as Charles and Ray Eames, it’s no surprise that Cybex’s products are as stylish as they are functional – and the award-winning Cloud T car seat is no exception. Offering a comfortable in-car recline and lie-flat option when used as part of a travel system, this lightweight seat is spacious and deep, with an ergonomic design that works with the natural curve of baby’s spine.
With an Isofix fitting, set-up is perfectly easy, even for the most bleary-eyed of new parents. After a brief look at the instructions, getting to grips with the straps and buckle was straightforward. Getting the baby in and out is a breeze, too, mostly thanks to the 180-degree rotation that allows you to swivel the seat to face the car door. This also helps snoozing little ones to stay asleep when removing the seat from the base.
In terms of comfort, the fabric is soft, cushioned and highly breathable, and our mini tester looked safely cocooned in the accompanying newborn inlay. The seat is wipeable and easy to clean, too – a godsend for those with babies suffering reflux and young toddlers with grubby hands (the seat is suitable for babies up to 2 years). We also loved the luxurious XXL sun canopy, which did an excellent job of shielding baby both in and outside of the car. Plus, of course, the benefit of the in-car recline means there’s less pressure on baby’s chest and neck, so they can stretch out more naturally for optimum comfort, particularly on longer journeys.
We tested the seat in classic Mirage Grey, but you can choose from a wide range of colours, including some from the brand’s highly sought-after fashion and designer collections that feature a vibrant array of prints.
Key specs – Group: 0+/1; Item weight: 4.5kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: 180-degree rotation, removable newborn inlay, washable covers (some designs wipe-clean only)
2. Maxi-Cosi Pebble 360 Pro: Best car seat for sleeping babies
Price when reviewed: £260 | Check price at John Lewis
If you’ve had your eye on the much-trusted Maxi-Cosi Pebble for a while, the updated 360 Pro version is a gamechanger. This model stands out not only for its one-handed 360-degree swivel, which makes getting baby in and out of the car easier, but because it’s one of only a handful of designs that offers a fully lie-flat position both in the car and on the pushchair. This is ideal for babies who regularly snooze in the car, since it keeps their airways open and allows them to breathe more comfortably.
We tested this seat on a six-week-old baby, where the slide-out base (sold separately) was a godsend for our parent tester’s postpartum recovery, allowing them to effortlessly rotate and slide baby towards them when getting in and out of the vehicle. It’s also a feature that will likely come in use when your wee one becomes a heavier, wrigglier toddler. To rotate, just use the lever underneath the chair – so simple, it can be done one-handed. The seat is also super easy to install (with the Isofix ports, it just clicks into place), and it doesn’t feel like it takes up too much room in the back. The straps extend well, too, making it easy to get a wriggling baby in and out.
The safety, durability and easy installation are all big ticks, but the comfort and quality of the Pebble 360 Pro are also everything you’d expect from the Maxi-Cosi label. The seat comes with a sumptuous two-part inlay, which allows for a better fit compared to previous models since one part can be used without the other. The shoulder straps feel robust yet soft – with zero rubbing or cutting in – and, most importantly of all, our baby tester seemed to enjoy every ride.
Key specs – Group: 0+; Item weight: 4.7kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Easy-in harness, one-hand FlexiSpin 360-degree rotation
3. Doona i Car Seat: Best all-in-one car seat and stroller for travel
Price when reviewed: £399 | Check price at Doona
The Doona i, a much-anticipated updated version of the classic Doona that now integrates R129 regulations plus a whole new selection of improved features.
When folded, the Doona acts (and looks like) a car seat. When unfolded, it transforms into a small yet perfectly formed stroller that’s perfect for long walks and nippy shopping trips alike – though it’s worth noting that there’s no storage underneath, like a traditional pushchair. Its petite size and functionality also make it great for city-dwelling parents, as our tester found out, allowing them to navigate kerbs and public transport with ease.
Alongside the model’s familiar features, which include a large sunshade and cosy newborn inlay, you’ll also now find an adjustable headrest and new Velcro shoulder pads for extra comfort. Upgraded safety features include a five-point harness and advanced side-impact protection for additional peace of mind. The stylish faux leather handlebar is also adjustable and can reach 102cm.
As a result of its functionality, the Doona is naturally heavier and more expensive than a traditional car seat that you might attach to your travel system, for example. As a stroller, it’s light and an excellent piece of kit for families constantly on the go, not to mention a great space saver for your boot. Since it can be used for babies up to a year old (or 13kg), it’s ideal if you plan to purchase a fixed car seat option later down the line.
Key specs – Group: 0+; Item weight: 11kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Adjustable headrest, quick-release wheels, adjustable handlebar
4. Joie Signature 360: Best value rotating seat
Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Halfords
As your child gets heavier, it can be back-breaking trying to twist and bend as you put them in and pull them out of their car seat. Not to mention when they stiffen their body and resist being put in. To solve this, while also offering an easy way to switch from rear-facing to forward-facing when the time comes, Joie has its very own 360-degree spinning seat. Much like the Maxi-Cosi Pebble Pro, this means you can spin the seat towards the door and then into the correct position.
The Signature 360 also comes with 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 attaches 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
5. Silver Cross Motion All Size 360: Best seat for safety and adaptability
Price when reviewed: £345 | Check price at 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
6. Nuna Pipa Next: Best match for a Nuna pushchair
Price when reviewed: £240 | Check prcie at John LewisThe 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
7. Axkid Spinkid: Best Rear-Facing Car Seat
Price when reviewed: £399 | Check price at Axkid
According to Axkid, research shows that a rear-facing car seat is five times more safe than a forward-facing one in a crash, reducing the force on an infant or child’s neck in an accident. This is the reason the new Spinkid car seat is designed to be fitted rear facing only, but can accommodate a child from birth up to four years of age. Arriving with a soft, cushioned seat it’s super comfy, while straps and a harness safety system created by Swedish technology provider Holmbergs® ensure the baby will be safe and secure.
The seat comes with a 180-degree swivel, which you engage by pressing the button on the base, making getting your baby or toddler out of the car seat super easy. It also features multiple reclining positions with a headrest that can be adjusted in 12 different ways as your baby grows.
As any parent will know, installing a car seat can be tricky, but Axkid has the process down to five simple steps that it states should take around 30 seconds. In tests, we found installation straightforward: it involved simply extending and attaching the Isofix arms to the appropriate points in our car. Once in, the seat’s straps and harness are easy to fasten and undo. Overall, this is in an incredibly well-made and comfortable car seat where safety measures surpass standard regulations.
Key specs – Group: 0-4; Item weight: 14.5kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Rear facing, 180-degree rotation
8. Cybex Solution T i-Fix: Best high-back booster seat with Isofix
Price when reviewed: £175 | Check price at John Lewis
The second Cybex model on our list – and for good reason. The stylish Solution T is designed for ages 3-12 years, with an ultra-comfortable padded seat that grows in both height and width as your child does.
The high-back seat features breathable fabrics for optimum comfort on the road, whatever the weather, as well as a patented, height-adjustable headrest that can be reclined in three positions for a safer ride when your child falls asleep. We put this seat through its paces with a tall-for-his-age four-year-old, who looked and felt fully supported once safely strapped inside. We found the headrest easy to adjust when needed. Synonymous with Cybex’s award-winning engineering, the side wings not only offer a comfortable ride, but the reinforced side-impact protection promises another layer of defence should the worst happen.
The model is equipped with Isofix fittings, meaning you can transition from your previous five-point-harness baby and toddler seat to the Solution T with ease, but it can also be installed in vehicles without Isofix anchorage points by turning the fittings inwards and sliding them into the seat, then using the vehicle belt to secure both seat and child.
The seat comes in eight colourways, though note that some come under the Plus category and are more expensive. Overall, a smart and comfortable piece of kit that will keep your child extremely safe and comfortable until they’re able to sit safely in the car with just a seatbelt.
Key specs – Group: 2-3; Item weight: 7.2kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Reclining and adjustable headrest
9. Graco EverSure i-Size: Best budget high-back booster seat
Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Halfords
Safe, comfortable and well engineered with thoughtful features, this car seat from Graco ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a high-back booster seat on a budget.
Since the lightweight model is installed using only the vehicle belt, it’s simple to move from one car to another and couldn’t be easier to fit. And despite the lack of Isofix, when fitted correctly using the open loop-belt guides, we found it to feel secure and safe, with no signs of wobble when our four-year-old tester got in and out of the vehicle. The side wings also offered premium comfort and extra side-impact protection.
While the product is fairly no-frills in terms of colour choice (Iron-grey is your only option here), the fabric feels plush, comfortable and breathable, with a height-adjustable memory foam headrest that can be moved into 10 different positions. Plus, the retractable cup holders are a hit for journey snacks and drinks.
Key specs – Group: 2/3; Item weight: 5kg; Attachment method: Vehicle seat belt; Additional features: 10-position headrest, retractable cup holders