- By law, babies and children must use a car seat when travelling by car or van.
- The law does not include taxis and other private hire vehicles, but it is strongly recommended that you use a car seat.
- The seat must be suitable for their height, size and weight.
- It is also illegal to transport a child in a rear facing car seat in the front passenger seat if the airbag is active.
What happens if you break the law?
If you break the law and are convicted, you will be fined £100. This could go up to £500 if your case goes to court.
Find out more about car seat laws
Picking the right seat for your baby
Take your time when choosing a car seat. Some shops will have trained staff that can help you fit the seat in your car; many will let you try this before you buy.
As well as fitting your car, it should be the right size for your baby.
Check that the seat complies with current safety standards by looking for a label with the letter ‘E’. Safety regulations include the United Nations standard, ECE Regulation 44.04 or the new i-Size regulation.
Types of baby seats
There are two main types of seat for babies, infant carriers or combination seats.
What to look for in a car seat for your baby
- It should be rear facing.
- The ‘wings’ on the side should be well padded.
- A base can make it quicker and easier to fit in the car.
- Look for a label with the letter ‘E’ on the seat to make sure it is safe.
Find out more about choosing the right car seat
Second-hand car seats
Of all the things you will need for your new baby, a car seat is one of the most expensive. This is for good reason – it will keep your baby safe in an accident.
We know that not everyone can afford a brand new seat. However, the advice is to buy new (if you can) for three reasons:
- You don’t know where it’s been or what it’s been through!
- Safety standards get better all the time, and an older seat won’t have been through the same tests.
- You may be able to get a child seat discount through the council – ask your local Road Safety Department.
If you have to buy second-hand:
- buy from someone you trust, like a family member or a friend
- look at the seat carefully and check for any damage
- ask for the instructions so you know how to fit it properly
- check for the ‘E’ or i-size mark
- try fitting the seat in your car before you buy it
- check how old the seat is and ask the company who made it when it needs replacing
- make sure that it is the right size for your baby.
Find out more about second-hand car seats
Fitting a car seat correctly
Each seat will come with its own instructions from the company who made it. If you have lost the instructions, check the company’s website or ask them to send you a copy. There should also be a label on the side of the seat to show you how to fit it.
There are some basic rules for fitting all baby car seats:
- Babies must be rear facing to give them the best protection possible.
- Never fit a rear facing baby seat in the front of your car if the airbag is active.
- The carry handle should be in the right position because, in some cases, it acts as a roll bar.
Find out more about fitting child car seats
If you don’t have a car but need to take your baby home from hospital
Not everyone drives, so if you plan on walking or getting the bus with your baby day-to-day, you probably don’t want to buy your own car seat. But we would still recommend you take your baby home in a car seat if you give birth in a hospital or birth centre.
Try asking a friend if you can borrow theirs for that first, important journey home. Chances are they’ll be more than happy to lend it to you for such a grand occasion. And don't forget to ask them to show you how to fit it safely in your car.