The new child seat laws 2017

Are you up to date with the new child seat laws?

As of March 1st 2017 there were some changes to the laws regarding children’s car seats.

Of course, this is vital information and it’s really important that you know this so you can make the necessary changes.

But, what are the new changes?

In this article, we look at the new changes to the car seat laws, how to fit a child seat and why you shouldn’t buy a 2nd hand car seat.

Before we begin, it should be noted that this is our opinion. We recommend that you do your own research and make your own decision based on your personal situation. We also recommend you check for any amendments to the law or local restrictions.

What are the new child seat laws?

Firstly, let’s cover what the new law actually states, as this is probably the most important thing.

As of March 1st, your child must use a child car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Once they are either over 12 years old or over 135cm then they have to wear a seatbelt.

However, your children must sit in a seat with a diagonal seatbelt, unless the seat is designed for lap-belts or has ISOFIX anchor points.

young mother fitting her young child in a carseat

Any child under 9kg should travel in a baby carrier and if your child is under 15 months old then they must sit in a rear-facing seat.

Essentially, the new laws are to prevent manufacturers making backless booster seats for children shorter than 135cm or weighing less than 22kg. It also encourages parents to only use booster seats for their older children.

However, it should be noted that these laws do not apply to booster seats bought before the new law came into effect, nor does it affect old stock in shops.

Will I get fined if I have the wrong booster seat?

No, you won’t. As we mentioned, these new laws are going forward, they do not apply to booster seats purchased before the new law.

The scenario in which you might be fined is if your child isn’t the correct height or weight for the seat. So, if your child was 13kg but the booster seat had a minimum weight of 15kg.

You can still use your old booster seats legally, you won’t get fined for it. However, the point of the new law is to make journeys safer for your child. Many booster seats were sold with a starting weight of 15kg, which can happen at 4 years old. So, while your old seat isn’t illegal, your child will be much safer in a high-backed booster seat compared to a backless booster.

So, while you won’t get in trouble for not complying with the new laws, we do recommend that you invest in a new seat if you can. It is for your child’s safety after all.

Are there exceptions to the new car seat laws?

There are exceptions regarding the car seat laws, though these are just in general and aren’t specifically for the new laws.

According to gov.uk, a child can travel without a car seat in some circumstances. These include:

Man leaning on taxi
  • In private hire vehicles
    • If a taxi or minicab driver does not provide the correct car seat then children can travel without one but ONLY on a rear seat. They should wear a seatbelt if they are over the age of three but shouldn’t wear a seatbelt if they are under the age of three.
  • Minibuses, coaches and vans
    • Minibus and coach drivers or their companies don’t have to provide car seats. You will have to provide a car seat if you want your child to have one.
    • A child can travel without a car seat or a seatbelt on a coach
    • On a minibus, all children have to sit in the rear seats (any behind the driver) and must use an adult seat belt or a child seat if there is one available.
  • Unexpected journeys
    • If the child is over 3 years old and there isn’t a car seat available, then they can use an adult seatbelt if the journey is all of the following;
      • Unexpected
      • Over a short distance
      • Necessary
      • You cannot take a child under the age of 3 on an unexpected journey without the correct car seat unless it is a licensed taxi/minicab and the child travels on a rear seat without a seatbelt
  • There is no room for an another child seat
    • If there is no room for a third child car seat in the back of the car then children over 3 can sit in the back using an adult belt. Children under 3 must travel in the front seat with the correct car seat
  • The car has no seatbelts
    • A child under 3 cannot travel in a car without seatbelts, ever
    • Children aged 3 and over can travel in the backseat

So those are the exceptions to the seat belt rules. The car seat rules also apply to vans, there are no changes in the law for them.

Where can I buy a car seat?

You can get a car seat from pretty much anywhere that sells anything to do with children. Here are just some of the places you can buy a car seat:

  • Mothercare
  • Tesco
  • John Lewis
  • Dunelm
  • Argos
  • Pram World
  • Halfords

And other independent online and retail stores.

woman looking for car seat

What should I look for when buying a new car seat?

So, we know where you can get car seats from, but what are you supposed to look for? Here are some of the things we recommend you look for in a new car seat;

toddler with brown hair sitting in a car seat in a car smiling
  • Measure your child
    • Check their height and weight so you can make sure you’re getting the right seat. Also, remember to use the right units. You may weigh in pounds but the weight groups for car seats are in kilograms.
    • Also, check where their head is in relation to their current seat. You need to change the car seat when their eye line is level with the top of the seat, otherwise their head won’t be as protected as it could be.
    • Another thing; age is just a number. Just because a child of the same age is in a car seat up doesn’t mean your child should be – children grow at different rates so it’s important to use age as a suggestion instead of a rule.
  • Find out which car seats fit in your car
    • Not all cars fit all car seats, so it’s important you check this before you end up spending money on a car seat only to find out it doesn’t fit.
    • Most cars have ISOFIX mounting points as it is the standard for all new cars and car seat manufacturers, but it’s best to double check. Some are easier to spot than others and they are two anchor points in the padding in the back seats of the car.
    • If your car has underfloor storage compartments then you can’t always use a car seat that has uses a support leg. If you do have underfloor storage compartments then your car should have a top tether mount.
    • A top tether mount is in all new cars produced since November 2012. This is a third anchor point to fix a car seat to, it stops the car seat tipping forward.
  • Think about the rest of your family
    • You have to think about other factors when looking at a car seat. For example;
      •  How tall are the other, older passengers? Tall front seat passengers can affect how much space there is for a rear-facing child seat in the back.
      • How many children are usually transported in the car? It’s a struggle trying to fit two or more car seats in one car.
      • Will you need to use the car seat in other cars? For example, child minders or other family members. You need to make sure that the car seat you buy is adaptable to other cars that your child will be travelling in.
  • Do your research
    • Read reviews, look at best buy lists, ask your friends or family which car seats they recommend. The most expensive doesn’t always mean the best, so shop around and make sure that you find the car seat that you think is best.

Why shouldn’t I buy a second hand car seat?

Second hand things are great. Not only are you giving something a new home and getting as much use out of it as possible, you’ll also save money.

However, there are some things that you shouldn’t buy second hand, and one of those things is car seats. We do recommend that you buy a brand new car seat. Again, it’s for your child’s safety.

Wear and tear does happen, and this can weaken the car seat. Although it might not look like it has obvious damage, you do run the risk of compromising on your child’s safety. It may have been in a car crash or it may have been damaged in another way. Regardless, it will not be as safe as a brand new car seat.

So while we understand that car seats can cost a lot of money, it is a small price to pay for safety.

What are the best cars for car seats?

The Ford Edge – the Ford Edge has easy to access ISOFIX anchors and even has reclining seats to make them even easier to access.

The Nissan Pathfinder – like the Ford Edge, the Nissan Pathfinder has easy to access anchors. It also has three rows of seats which is great if you have a larger family. However, the third row is cramped so may not fit a car seat. Great if the oldest doesn’t want to sit in the middle between two car seats though.

The Volkswagen Passat – the Volkswagen Passat is surprisingly good for families when it comes to putting car seats in. It makes a great family car but is also professional, so would make for a great company car for those who want their company car to double up as their personal family car.

Ford Edge in white

Essentially, any larger car that would make a good family car would be best for car seats. Smart cars and any sports car, probably not. You can read our article about the best family cars here.

So that’s it really. Hopefully this article has cleared a few things up regarding the new car seat laws. Remember that you won’t be breaking the law if you do not change your car seat. So you don’t have to worry about getting a new one. However, we do recommend that you do, purely because it means that your kids are safer. We also do not recommend that you get a second hand car seat for safety reasons.

Are you considering getting a new family car? Take a look at OSV's comprehensive comparison here today

Holly Martin

Content Co-ordinator at OSV Ltd
Holly enjoys: Reading, music and spending time with friends.

Within a week of Holly starting work at OSV she became an indispensable part of the marketing team. She's very intuitive and gets on with the whole office effortlessly.
Holly Martin

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