How to choose the best child car seat

Don’t you find it troubling that South African consumers head off to their local baby retailer to buy a car seat without doing a minute of research? That’s like going to the local car dealership and buying a vehicle without checking what size the engine is, how big the boot space is and whether or not you’re actually getting a good deal. A car may be a lot more expensive than a car seat, but your child’s life is priceless.

On that note, it’s somewhat incongruous to see someone driving a fancy car worth upwards of R500K with a nice-looking, but low-priced car seat in the back. However, it is understandable that when purchasing a car seat, South African consumers generally focus on price. These consumers need a little help with their purchase and understanding the long-term investment of a car seat. If they take look the price and calculate how long they will use the seat and/or base for and then divide that by the number of months of usage, they’ll probably find that the monthly investment is worth little more than a couple of Big Macs with fries.

“Social media is not a valid source of information for safety standards and other information regarding the safety aspects of car seats.”

Informed decisions save lives

A cheaper car seat can mean that the materials used are substandard compared to more expensive models and that the seat hasn’t been independently crash tested.

  • Looking at quality

Parents that have purchased a low-priced car seat will quickly find out the effects this has on their child when they spend more than an hour in their vehicle. Cheaper car seats have less padding than the more expensive counterparts and poor-quality fabric, which results in a sweaty and unhappy baby. Nobody wants to sit in a poorly designed, uncomfortable seat for hours at a time.

  • Crash tested

Consumers often assume that all child car seats have been crash tested to the max for front, rear and side collisions, as well as stability, should the vehicle roll. Unfortunately, these are just that – assumptions. Crash testing has to be one of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a car seat.

To get seats onto the market, manufacturers have to go through a minimum testing standard. Lower-priced car seats are sometimes tested at slower speeds and no side impact testing is performed. Considering 40% of South African car accidents are side-impact and speed related. In fact, one of the currently most popular car seats in this country does not undergo independent crash testing! Consumers can and should be to more circumspect in their car seat purchases and do their homework when it comes to safety.

Social media is not a valid source of information for safety standards and other information regarding the safety aspects of car seats. Parents on social media are often vocal in their support for and against certain brands, but this is emotional input and should not be part of the equation when making a purchasing decision. The only people who can offer help are those with authority on the subjects, who either work for the brands or work with the brands.

Most importantly, when a child the age of four, they need to move into a booster seat and not use seat belt just yet. Booster blocks are illegal, so you need to find a suitable seat with an adjustable head and back rest. Kids need to remain in these boosters until they are 150cm tall. As with infant car seats, consumers must check the quality and safety records, as well as check the crash testing done.

Suggestions for parents heading out to purchase a car seat:

  • Do some online investigation on car seats in South Africa before leaving the house.
  • Contact the car seat manufacturers directly. Most of them are on Facebook, so reach out and engage. No question is silly. They will gladly assist you.
  • Do not take social media platform conversations and forum chatter as factual. Rather contact the brands directly for more information.
  • Query the manufacturers about warranties and what customer services they offer.
  • Some car seat manufacturers offer to replace your car seat free of charge if you and your child are involved in an accident.
  • Lastly, head to your retailer and buy the seat you have decided on. Sales people are sales people, but by now you’ll be able to make an informed purchase decision.

For more on car seats and breaking the law, read here.

Also read:

Don’t have your family vacation end in tragedy
Road-tripping with young children