Time to purchase your first car seat? It’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed by long lists of features. We’ve looked at four common features found on Australian seats so you can get a better idea of what you’re looking for in your little one’s first restraint.
Your baby’s first car restraint will be either a capsule or a convertible car seat. A capsule is a baby restraint suitable for newborns until around 6-12 months depending on the make and model of the capsule and your little one's torso length. They come in two parts – a base which stays in the car, and a carrier which can click in and out, allowing you to easily transition your baby between places. Some capsules are also compatible with prams, meaning you can transfer them seamlessly between your vehicle and your pram (this is commonly called a ‘travel system’).
A convertible car seat converts from rear-facing to forward-facing, adjusting as your baby grows. They generally are suitable until your little one is around four years old, or whenever they hit the highest height marker.
Capsules and convertible seats in Australia need to be secured to the seat of the vehicle. All models available here can all be installed using your vehicle’s seatbelt, but some come with ISOFIX, which is an alternative installation method. ISOFIX seats allow you to simply clip your child restraint into pre-existing points built into your vehicle (note: not all vehicles are ISOFIX compatible).
Importantly, neither method of installation is inherently safer than the other if they are used correctly. This means that the safest install is one that is done right, and some people find ISOFIX points easier to do properly. So, if your car is compatible, you might want to look for this!
Our ISOFIX pick
We love the ISOFIX compatible Britax SNS b-first ifix Convertible Car Seat. Outside of ISOFIX installation as an option, the ventilation zones offer improved airflow to help prevent overheating and keep them comfier, and Advanced Side Impact Cushion Technology adds extra protection.
*Age is a guide only and usage should always be based on height.
Keeping your child rear-facing in their car seat for as long as possible is the safest option, according to the National Child Restraint Best Practice Guidelines. The report outlines that rearward-facing restraints effectively prevent injury when used correctly because they support children's head, neck, and spine.
In Australia, height markers are the manufacturer's way of communicating a child’s fit within the seat to ensure it will function as intended to protect them, so it's important to use age as a guide only and instead use the inbuilt height markers as a guide for your child using restraints.
Our extended rear-facing pick
The Maxi-Cosi Nero helps keep your little one safer for longer with not only extended rear-facing capacity up to around 30 months old, but also Air Protect technology that offers extra side impact protection. Plus, wicking fabric helps keep them cooler, while the deep seat helps them stay comfier until they're bigger.
Some car seats require what is called a manual rethread every time you need to raise the level of the harness. This means uninstalling the seat each time you need to change the harness and headrest heights, unthreading, rethreading, and then reinstalling the seat.
Other restraints offer an easily adjustable harness, where the headrest and harness move up together, allowing you to simply click the headrest up a level when your little one has one of their many growth spurts. This can be a huge time saver for parents, especially when time is a big factor, like when you're on the way somewhere!
Our easy headrest and harness adjustment pick
The solid and luxurious Joie Armour FX is suitable from newborn to 4 years. Its deep and supportive headrest offers maximum head protection. The GuardSurround™ system offers extra kinetic energy absorption in a side impact. AutoAdjust™ side wings widen automatically as the Grow Together™ headrest and harness system can adjust upward to custom fit growing little ones.
Capsules and convertible seats come in a variety of sizes. If you have a car with lots of room internally, you may not have to factor this in, but if you have a smaller vehicle internally or three tots to fit across the back seat, you'll benefit from a compact shell.
Our compact pick
The Britax SNS Brava is compact for cars where the row of back seats sits close to the front row, and you can fit three in a row in most smaller cars. It also boasts toddler mode with two recline positions for added comfort and a hassle-free harness that automatically adjusts the shoulder straps.
A car seat is an essential baby item for any family planning to use transport their little one in a vehicle, and as parents, we want to know our little ones are being kept as safe as possible while we’re on the move. We hope this feature summary has helped you understand some of the terms you’ll encounter as you browse seats.
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