When to change car seats for children

One of the most common questions we are receiving is: “when is the right time for my child to change to the next car seat?” – and this is a great and very important question! Different regulations focussing on weight, height and age and can make it quite confusing. We have therefore collected an overview of when to change car seats for your child.

When to change car seats is an important decision to make, as it is important that your child’s seat fits to them well at any age.

At BeSafe, we categorize the three different child car seat stages in a child’s life into three groups:

1) Baby car seats
2) Toddler car seats
3) Child car seats

BABY CAR SEATS

The baby car seat is the first car seat that your child will use from new-born to approximately 12 months of age, plus or minus a few months depending on height. The baby car seat is always installed rear facing in the car. It can be installed either with the vehicle belt or for some seats with an additional ISOfix base, both being equally safe when fitted correctly.

When to change the earliest from a baby car seat to a toddler seat?

We at BeSafe recommend you to use a baby car seat for as long as possible, as it gives you as a parent flexibility and offers your baby great side protection. However, you might consider changing to a toddler car seat earlier. In these cases, we recommend you to only change to a toddler car seat when your baby can sit by themselves, as toddler car seats typically are more upright and give a bit less stability than baby car seats.

Depending on which toddler seat you are choosing, make sure that your child has reached the minimum requirement of that seat. Based on its regulation, this can either be a minimum weight or a minimum height.

When to change the latest from a baby car seat to the toddler seat?

Step 1: Check the weight/height limitation of your seat

If your baby car seat is approved to ECE R44-04, then your seat has a maximum weight based on its approval. This maximum weight must not be exceeded. But this does not mean that you can always use your baby car seat until you have reached this maximum weight, often babies outgrow their seat in height before they reach the weight. For this, check step 2!
If your baby car seat is approved to UN R129, then it has a maximum height given by its approval. This maximum height must not be exceeded. In most cases, the maximum height marks the end of when you can use the seat, but in addition also check step 2!

Step 2: Check the shoulder belts and distance to the top of the seat

When the uppermost point of the baby’s head reaches the highest point of the seat, it is high time to change to a toddler seat. Ideally, you should look for toddler seats already some time before your baby has reached this point.
Additionally, check how the shoulder belts are sitting on your baby’s shoulders and what your seat’s user manual advises about this. Most manufacturers say that the shoulder belts should not come from below your baby’s shoulders. So if the shoulder belts are not coming straight onto the shoulders anymore when having the headrest/belts in the highest setting, then it’s time to change as well.

TODDLER CAR SEATS

The toddler car seat is the second car seat for your child. It can be used from approximately 6 months of age up to approx. four years, depending on the height and weight of your child. According to the regulation UN R129 (i-Size), children must remain rear facing for at least 15 months, but we at BeSafe recommend to keep your child rear facing until at least 4 years of age, preferably longer. Some seats in this group can be used both rear or forward facing.

What to consider when choosing a toddler car seat

Which kinds of toddler car seats is BeSafe offering?

How did BeSafe toddler seats perform in crash tests?

When to change the earliest from a toddler car seat to a booster seat?

We at BeSafe advise you to keep your child rear facing for as long as possible or at least until the age of four. Therefore, we recommend you to move your child to a booster seat only when all three of the following conditions are met:

  1. Your child should be at least four years old
  2. Your child has reached the minimum requirement of the seat (15kg when approved to ECE R44 or 100cm when approved to UN R129) – this is legally binding by the regulations
  3. Your child has the mental maturity to sit still in the high back booster seat. When leaning forwards a lot, your child is outside of the seat’s protection zone, so the seat would not protect your child as intended.

When to stop using your toddler seat the latest?

Step 1: Check the weight/height limitation of your seat

If your toddler seat is approved to UN R129, you have to stop using your seat once the maximum height of your seat according to its approval is reached. In addition, ISOfix-installed UN R129 seats also have a weight limitation which you can find on your seat’s approval sticker and/or user manual. It is time to change to another seat once your child has reached one of the two limitations.
If your toddler seat is approved to ECE R44-04, the seat has a maximum weight which you can find on your seat’s approval sticker and user manual. Once your child has reached this maximum, you have to change. However, practically you might not always be able to use the seat until the maximum weight as your child can outgrow the seat in height before. Check step 2 for this!

Step 2: Check the shoulder belts and ear-to-headrest level

When the top of child’s ears reaches the highest point of the headrest, it is high time to change.

Additionally, check how the shoulder belts are sitting on your child’s shoulders and what your seat’s user manual advises about this. Many manufacturers say that the shoulder belts should not come from below your child’s shoulders. So if the shoulder belts are not coming straight onto the shoulders anymore when having the headrest/belts in the highest setting, then it’s time to change as well.

CHILD CAR SEATS/BOOSTER SEATS

This is the car seat that your child will use for the longest time – from approx. 4 years until 12 years. Using a high back booster seat instead of only a booster cushion ensures that your child is provided with a side impact protection during the whole period of use. We recommend you to use a high back booster seat for as long as possible, even if not required by national law anymore to give your child the best kind of protection.

What to consider when choosing a booster seat

Which booster seats is BeSafe offering?

When to stop using a booster seat?

Step 1: Check the weight/height limitation of your seat

If your booster seat is approved to ECE R44-04, you have to stop using your seat once the maximum weight has been reached, which is 36 kg based on the regulation.
If your booster seat is approved to UN R129, you have to stop using the seat once the maximum height has been reached, which is 150 cm based on the regulation.

Step 2: Check your national laws

Each country has own regulations regarding until when a child car seat has to be used. In UK you are required to use a child car seat until your child is either 12 years old or 135 cm tall – which ever is reached first. In Ireland children are required to sit in a child car until either 12 years old or 150 cm tall.

Step 3: Check how your child sits in the car without a child car seat

In addition to step 1 and 2, you can do the “5-point check” to see if your child’s body would be ready to sit in your car without a child car seat. If one of these 5 points is not reached yet, your child should still sit in a booster seat:

  1. Can they sit with their back flush against the backrest of the vehicle seat?
  2. While doing that, do their knees bend over the edge of the vehicle seat
  3. Does the lapbelt sit low over the pelvis bones and not in their tummy area?
  4. Does the shoulderbelt lay well on their shoulder and is not too close to their neck or sliding off over the shoulder?
  5. Does your child understand and manage to sit properly on the vehicle seat without slouching or leaning over?