Last updated: August 4, 2021

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If your child is younger than 12 years and smaller than 150 cm, he or she must be transported in a child seat in the car according to the law. Baby seats are suitable for young children (up to approx. 1.5 years) and also have a practical carrying handle to help you carry your baby around in everyday life.

You can distinguish between baby car seats by the way they are installed: There are some that can be fastened in the car with ISOFIX or with a belt. This big baby car seat test 2021 should help you to find the best baby car seat for you. Here we show you what you should look for when buying a baby car seat to make the best decision for you and your newborn.




Summary

  • Baby carriers are suitable for transporting your child in a car. The integrated carry handle allows you to take your baby with you wherever you go.
  • Depending on the type of car seat, you can choose a car seat with ISOFIX or belt attachment. You should also consider the size of the infant carrier. These are divided into groups 0, 0+ and 1.
  • You should take a closer look at the adjustable height and reclining surface, the seat reducer, the weight and the accessories of a baby car seat before buying.

The Best Baby Car Seat: Our Selection

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a baby car seat

What are the advantages of a baby car seat?

Baby seats are essential for the safe transport of babies. Babies would not be protected by the safety belt in the event of a collision. For this reason, the legislator introduced compulsory child safety seats in 1993. Since then, children younger than 12 years and smaller than 150 cm must sit on suitable "restraint devices" in motor vehicles.

Baby seats can also be used flexibly. Baby carriers have a practical carrying handle so that you can take them along with your baby wherever you go. If you have a chassis, you don't even have to carry the baby car seat, but can push it comfortably.

How can you tell if a baby car seat is the right size?

The right size of baby seat is crucial for the safety of the child. The first two groups form the category of baby seats.

  • Group 0: Suitable for babies weighing 0 - 13 kg (up to approx. 1 year)
  • Group 0+: Suitable for babies weighing up to 13 kg. (up to approx. 1 1/2 years)
  • Group I is no longer aimed at babies, but at toddlers.

The age of the child is relatively irrelevant in the purchase decision and only serves as a rough guide. In addition to the weight, the height of your child is also decisive. The entire surface of the head must be supported. If the child's feet are already touching the backrest, this is not a problem. Moving to group I too early can be dangerous.

There can be significant differences in size within a group. If your child is too big for one shell, he or she may fit into another shell in the same group.

It is worth looking carefully and asking for the exact measurements.

The following table gives you a detailed overview of the different sizes of baby car seats and the corresponding size of the child.

Seat group weight size age
Group 0 0 to 13 kg 45 cm to 75 cm up to approx. 1 year
Group 0+ up to 13 kg 45 cm to 75 cm up to approx. 1 ½ years
Group I 9 to 18 kg 70 cm to 105 cm 6 months to 4 years
Group II 15 to 25 kg 100 cm to 150 cm 3 ½ years to 12 years
Group III 25 to 36 kg 100 cm to 150 cm 3 ½ years to 12 years
Group II-III 15 to 36 kg 100 cm to 150 cm 4 to 12 years

Baby car seat or reboarder?

You can also transport your baby in a reboarder. But what are the differences? Reboarder are similar to the groups 0+ and 1, i.e. they can be used from birth to the age of 4. They are already standard in Scandinavian countries. Since their introduction, significantly fewer children have died in car accidents.

The biggest disadvantage, however, is that you cannot carry your child out of the car together with the reboarder. This means that you might need an additional infant carrier if you have to carry your child up or down stairs on foot.

The extra weight also makes it more complicated to switch between cars.

Where can baby car seats be fitted in a car?

Baby carriers are usually transported on the back seat. If the passenger's airbag is deactivated, the child may sit next to the driver.

If the baby does not weigh more than 9 kg, it must be transported against the direction of travel. Some pushchair seats can be transported perpendicular to the direction of travel. However, this is not recommended. It is essential to follow the operating instructions when assembling.

The baby car seat must be adapted to the size of your child. This is the only way to ensure safety and optimum comfort. (Photo source: Wassana Sakulrattanapornchai / 123RF.com)

What does a baby car seat cost?

The prices of a baby car seat vary greatly. Prices range from 40 to almost 400 euros. The biggest price difference is undoubtedly ISOFIX. If you want the system integrated, you have to reckon with between 125 and 400 euros. With a three-point belt installation, you can get by for as little as 40 euros.

The following table summarises the prices of the two different baby car seats.

Baby seat Price
With ISOFIX 125 to 400 euros
With three-point belt installation from 40 euros

Which car seats have done particularly well in Stiftung Warentest tests?

The website kindersitzests.com determines an overall score from tests by ADAC, Stiftung Warentest, ÖATMC and TCS. The Kiddy Evoluna i-Size won in the 0+ group.

At the end of 2016, Stiftung Warentest and ADAC tested two baby car seats, both of which scored 1.7: The Cybex Aton Q i-Size and the Cybex Aton Q i-Size/Base Q i-Size. Both products had the same quality features in terms of safety, operation, ergonomics and harmful substances.

How important is a mobile base of a child seat?

If the infant carrier has a mobile base, you can push the infant carrier. This function is similar to that of a pram. This takes the strain off your back, but in the long run it can put a strain on the baby's back. Paediatric orthopaedists recommend that the infant carrier should not be regarded as a substitute for a pram.

It lacks a firm lying surface and babies cannot make independent movements. This puts a strain on the spine. The baby should not lie in the car seat for longer than two hours at a time.

Should I buy used infant carriers to save money?

Used baby car seats are cheap - of course! But much more important than saving money is protecting your own child. If you buy the seat from strangers, you never know if the seat has been involved in an accident. Therefore, it is better to buy the seats from friends or relatives.

Especially if you buy a used seat, you should check the seat for damage. To do this, you should remove the seat cover and check the shell for cracks or deformations. The belt should also be free of cracks, pinch marks or fraying.

Did you know that the baby car seat was launched in Europe in 1984?

The first car seat for babies back then was a Maxi Cosi. Of course, the traditional brand can score points with this and with the many years of experience, show why they are the most purchased baby car seat.

The buckle must engage smoothly in the locking system. In the case of harness straps, the pads of the harness must not be missing. Also remember that the instructions should still be available. Only then can you be sure that you have done everything correctly.

An outdated child seat may not comply with the legal regulations. These have become much stricter in recent years. Therefore, always look at the inspection label. If the numbers start with 03 or 04, you can still use the seat today.

Are there infant carriers that are especially suitable for premature babies?

Yes, there are also special baby carriers for premature babies that transport the child in a horizontal position. In an upright sitting position, the upper body can collapse, which restricts breathing.

The Römer Babysafe carrycot can be recommended here, as it scored a good mark in the ADAC test. This carrycot is strapped to the middle of the rear seat. However, the child can only lie in the seat for a few months.

How dangerous is the exposure to harmful substances in baby carriers?

In the past, Stiftung Warentest has found harmful substances in various products for children. These include softeners, flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In 2011, however, most child seats did not show any elevated levels. If your child suffers from allergies, you should still remove and wash the cover.

Decision: What types of car seats are there and which is the right one for you?

How do you want to attach the car seat to the car? This is the first question you should ask yourself when buying a baby car seat. Basically, child seats can be differentiated according to the following systems:

  • ISOFIX
  • Belt installation

The decision for one of these systems depends in particular on whether your car supports ISOFIX at all. If this is not the case, you have to attach the car seat using the belt.

Some infant carriers are particularly flexible and can be fitted both with ISOFIX and with a belt. We will introduce you to both systems and show you their respective advantages and disadvantages.

How does the ISOFIX installation work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

ISOFIX is an installation system for child seats in cars. There are significant differences between the US and European systems. In the following, we will refer to the European version. Here, there are two brackets between the backrest and the seat of the car. The child seat is hooked in with the help of a click function.

To ensure a high level of safety, the two restraining bars are supplemented with another system. There are several options for universally approved baby car seats:

  • With the so-called Top Tether, an additional belt strap is stretched over the back of the seat.
  • Alternatively, some infant carriers have a so-called Support Leg. It is supported directly on the floor panel.
  • The third option is a low tether (lower tether strap), which is used with reboarders. In these rear-facing systems, the belt tightens the infant carrier to the floor.

The biggest advantage of the ISOFIX mount is its high level of safety. The baby car seat is firmly attached to the car body. Thus, the baby cannot be squeezed between the baby seat and the backrest.

Nevertheless, ISOFIX has small disadvantages: the baby's chest is subjected to greater stress at the moment of impact. In addition, child car seats with ISOFIX can only be fitted to the outer seats, with the middle seat being considered safer. Despite these drawbacks, experts recommend ISOFIX for safety reasons.

You can attach the child seat to the car with just a few clicks. With these quick operations, there's not much you can do wrong. Some base stations also have an LED indicator and acoustic signals to confirm correct installation. You can attach the base stations for the infant carriers permanently. This way, even an empty child seat is fixed.

Before buying a car seat, you should check whether your car has ISOFIX. Since the turn of the millennium, most child seats have been equipped with this system.

If your car does not have this system, you can upgrade it later. However, this is very expensive. Some ISOFIX child seats can alternatively be fastened with the seat belt, which provides increased flexibility.

Often the cost of an ISOFIX baby seat is slightly higher than baby seats that are attached with a harness system. Due to the sturdy construction, the weight of some ISOFIX seats is slightly higher.

Advantages
  • High level of safety
  • Uncomplicated and quick to attach
  • Compatible with almost all new cars
Disadvantages
  • Somewhat more expensive than belt installation
  • Inflexible
  • Sometimes heavier

How does the belt installation work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

If your car does not support ISOFIX, the car seat for children is installed with the so-called three-point belt. A three-point belt should be available in every car - at least on the outer seats. As the name suggests, the three-point belt is attached to the car body at three points.

This belt secures the infant carrier in the seat. The child is secured either by integrated straps of the infant carrier or by the car seat belt.

This method of attaching the child seat using the belt system is not only time-consuming, but also more complicated than ISOFIX. Often the belt gets twisted. Often parents do not pull the belt tight enough. If the seat is fitted incorrectly, the child's protection is drastically reduced.

Advantages
  • Can be fitted in any car
  • Less expensive
  • Easy to fit
  • Weight sometimes lighter
Disadvantages
  • Not quite as secure as ISOFIX
  • Takes a long time to fit the harness
  • Very prone to error

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate baby car seats

For the layperson, it is not easy to distinguish between baby car seats. We are here to help you. Baby car seats can be differentiated as follows:

  • Type of installation
  • Safety
  • Size of the infant carrier
  • Adjustable height of the infant carrier
  • Seat reducer
  • Adjustable recliner
  • Weight
  • Adapter for pram seat
  • Accessories
  • Design

Type of installation

This is probably the most important question you should ask yourself. If you do not pay attention to this, in the worst case scenario you will not be able to use the car seat in your car.

If your car does not support ISOFIX, you will need a car seat that you can install with the 3-point harness system. ISOFIX systems are considered safer, but they are a little more expensive. With some models, a light informs you about the successful attachment. You can find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of each in our guide above.

Safety

This is also one of the most important criteria for buying a car seat, as this is the actual purpose of a car seat. In the event of an accident, the baby car seat must not let your child down. Therefore, it is absolutely recommended that you inform yourself about the safety of your baby car seat beforehand.

In order to be able to assess the level of safety of infant carriers, you can refer to tests by Stiftung Warentest or ADAC. They provide information not only about the safety of individual products, but also about other essential quality features.

Did you know that airlines do not usually allow babies to be held on the lap during flights?

Many have their own safety devices on the plane! Older children also benefit from these safety devices, as they provide better protection than just the lap belt.

Size of the baby seat

The size of a baby car seat plays a crucial role, especially as babies' heights change. The baby car seat must be exactly the right size for your offspring.

We have described above how you can find this out. You should make sure that you buy a baby car seat in the right group (0 or 0+). Group I is no longer a baby car seat, but a normal child seat.

Adjustable headrest height

Your baby grows! Of course, the baby car seat does not grow with your baby. But you can adjust some baby seats to the size of your child.

But if you can adjust the headrest to fit your child individually, the baby car seat can accompany your child on car journeys for even longer. Most models already offer this function. Nevertheless, you should make sure of this, especially if your child is still very small.

Seat reducer

Some manufacturers offer seat reducers to prevent your newborn from sinking into the car seat and possibly being at risk.

These are placed in the infant carrier and provide the necessary support. When the baby has grown, they can of course be removed again. Not all infant carriers have such a seat reducer integrated, so you should find out about this before buying.

Adjustable reclining surface

If you can adjust the infant carrier to a flat reclining position, it is more comfortable for your child when sleeping and protects the back. This is especially relevant for premature babies, as the upper body can collapse in an upright position.

Weight

The weight of a baby car seat is certainly not the most important factor. Nevertheless, you should pay attention to it before buying if you are often on foot.

If you live on a higher floor and don't have a lift, a lightweight baby car seat is literally a relief. But also when you are on foot and the pram is not available, you can carry the baby car seat.

Almost every baby car seat has a practical carrying handle for this purpose. In such situations, the weight is crucial for comfort, especially after pregnancy.

A lightweight infant carrier is also helpful when putting the infant carrier on and taking it off.

The weight of the baby car seat is of secondary importance at first, but you should pay attention to the weight when using it on the move.

Adapter for pram frame

To avoid carrying a baby car seat altogether, there are suitable adapters for a pram frame. With the help of this adapter, you save space in the boot and also a lot of time. However, you must make sure that your infant carrier is compatible with the corresponding pram frame. The manufacturer's descriptions will help you here.

Nevertheless, you should not completely do without a pram. According to experts, long-term transport in a baby car seat can damage your child's back.

Accessories

Many parents expect certain extras when buying a baby car seat, such as effective sun protection. But sometimes you have to buy these accessories separately. To avoid disappointment when unpacking the baby car seat, you should find out about the contents before buying.

If necessary accessories are missing, you can buy them separately. Many of these products can be attached universally. Almost every toy can be attached to all common baby car seats. However, some other accessories are only suitable for a specific product.

An example of this is a mobile base so that the baby car seat does not have to be lugged around. Manufacturers often deliberately specialise in their own system.

Suitability for an aircraft

Baby car seats are not necessarily only intended for the car. If you travel often, you should make sure that your baby car seat is also suitable for transport in an aeroplane. Only if the baby car seat has a valid TÜV seal with the note "For use in aircraft" is the baby car seat suitable for transport in an aircraft.

If you want to travel with your child, you should definitely let the airline know. If you are interested in this topic, you can read more in the trivia below.

Design

For fashion-conscious parents, this aspect should not be neglected. After all, the baby car seat is part of the child's living space. An appealing cover in pattern or colour can have an effect on the child's psyche.

To create an even more pleasant atmosphere, you can attach various toys that will make your little one shine.

Facts worth knowing about the baby car seat

What accessories are available for baby car seats?

Protection from the weather

Summer or winter - in every season your newborn baby discovers the world in a whole new way! To ensure that they are not exposed to unfavourable weather conditions, there are of course suitable accessories for baby car seats.

Good weather is usually associated with sunshine. But on a very hot day, the sun can be dangerous for your baby. That's why there is a sunshade for most car seats that you can remove quickly and easily. In some infant carriers, this is directly integrated.

If it is raining cats and dogs, your child needs a reliable rain cover that does not make it difficult for him to breathe. The transparent and water-repellent material also protects your child from annoying insects.

Footmuffs keep your baby at an ideal temperature. The child can be strapped in with normal clothes through the large opening. He will feel really comfortable in the fluffy material!

Replacing the cover

Of course, the cuddly soft cover of the baby car seat can be replaced. After all, the baby car seat cannot be used without it, the baby car seat is much too hard. The integrated headrests also increase your child's safety.

Many models come with a high-quality cover. However, a replacement cover can be worthwhile, especially after frequent use. That way, the child's shell looks like new! If you want to avoid buying a replacement cover, you can combine the cover with an additional protective cover in advance.

Baby toys

Your baby is not always busy. Especially on long car journeys, your little one will not have enough to do. Give your child a few hours of fun during the car ride!

Simple rattles, for example, are a good way to keep your child happy and occupied during a long car journey. (Image source: Cathalin / pixabay.com)

Figures, mirrors and rattles stimulate the little one's imagination. The toddler wants to watch it, grab it and squeeze it! You can attach the toy to the carrying strap. This is easy to do with the help of a spiral function or loops.

How do you transport babies in an aeroplane?

Travelling by plane can be life-threatening for a baby without a suitable child carrier! Therefore, you should describe the specific case to the airline and reserve a seat for the child.

If children do not have their own seat, they cannot be strapped in appropriately. This is because they are secured to the adult's seat belt with an additional loop belt. In the event of a collision, the baby will be squeezed between the parent and the front seat.

Despite this danger, this type of restraint is permitted in the EU. The reasons given for this are the low probability of accidents and the different safety standards worldwide. Restrictions could also reduce the competitiveness of the airlines concerned.

Children with a height of 1.25 metres should take a child seat with them that has a TÜV mark with the words "For use in aircraft". If this seal is missing, they cannot be transported in the aircraft. Either they are unsuitable for the 2-point harnesses available in the aircraft, or they are not compatible with the aircraft's special lock.

In any case, coordinate the procedure with the respective airline. They will also tell you what you need to bear in mind when flying outside the EU.

Photo credit: unsplash.com / Sharon McCutcheon

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