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.
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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:
|0||Birth up to 10kg/22lb||Birth up to 6-9 months|
|0+||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|
|1||9-18kg/20-40lb||About 9 months to 4 years|
|1 and 2||9-25kg/20-55lb||About 9 months to 6 years|
|2||15-25kg/33-55lb||About 4 to 6 years|
|1, 2, 3||9-36kg/20-79lb||About 9 months to 12 years|
|2 and 3||15-36kg/33-79lb||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 2023
1. Maxi-Cosi Coral: Best car seat for newborns
Price when reviewed: £260 | Check price at John LewisNot 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
2. Cybex Sirona Z i-Size: Best car seat for all-round safety
Price when reviewed: £425 | Check price at Cybex 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
3. Joie Signature 360: Best 360 car seat to save your back
Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at HalfordsAs 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 would 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
4. Joie i-Level: Best car seat for sleeping babies
Price when reviewed: £195 | Check price at Halfords 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
5. Silver Cross Motion All Size 360: Best for safety and adaptability
Price when reviewed: £395 | Check price at Little Peas 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. Axkid Nextkid: Best booster car seat for older children
In the UK, children are required by law to travel in a booster seat up to the age of 12 (or 135cm in height – whichever comes first). Axkid’s Nextkid is designed for this transition, with a comfortable padded seat with four-step expanding side wings, an adjustable headrest and super-soft fabric.
We put the seat through its paces with a fairly tall five-year-old, who looked fully supported and secure once fastened in. The side wings delivered extra comfort when he fell asleep, offering a comfy place to support his head.
The Nextkid comes with four recline positions, which you can adapt as your child grows, and ventilation throughout ensures the passenger remains cool and comfy on the road. The seat proved super easy to install with the secure Isofix system, with no signs of wobble when the child gets in and out. It’s also approved according to R129 regulation.
The Nextkid is a smart and comfortable booster seat that should keep your child safe and comfortable until they can safely sit in a car with just a seatbelt.
Key specs – Group: Children 4-12 years or 150cm in height; Item weight: 7.5kg; Attachment method: Isofix; Additional features: Adjustable headrest