Child seats in the car: differences and decision criteria

The selection of child seats is huge. Baby seat, reboarder, Isofix yes or no - if you don't know your way around, you quickly lose track of things here. In order to ultimately choose the right model, you first have to find out: What differences are there, which child seats are allowed in the car? Here you will find a summary of the most important points that you should consider when choosing a child seat.

For which children are child seats in the car mandatory?

Basically, children up to 12 years and a height of 150 cm need a child seat in the car. This also applies to short distances. The legal basis for this is the road traffic regulations.

If children are over 12 years old, but still less than 150 cm tall, it is up to the parents whether they continue to use child seats in the car. Only from a size of 150 cm, the belt of the car runs as it needs to offer the right hold. If the child is too small, the belt can cut into the neck and possibly cause serious injuries in an accident.

Babies and toddlers up to 15 months must drive backwards, i.e. with a backward view. It is even recommended to let children up to 2 years old drive backwards. A suitable baby seat or a reboarder is required for this. The reason for the opposite direction of travel has to do with the safety of the accident: Tests have shown that babies and toddlers suffer much less serious damage to the neck, back and head if they have their backs in the direction of travel in the event of an accident. Therefore, the child should travel backwards for as long as possible, but in any case up to the statutory age limit.

The most important thing: pay attention to test marks and test reports!

Child seats for babies and toddlers are often very expensive. Fortunately, the Internet offers a large selection. Again and again very cheap models can be found there. But be careful: Not all child seats are allowed in the car! Likewise, some test seals that were valid some time ago are no longer permitted. This in turn means that you must pay attention to the test seal when buying a new child seat as well as when buying an older one. This is clearly visible on the seat, usually on the side or on the back.

The child seats in the car that have one of the following three test numbers may be used: UN ECE Reg. 129 (i-Size), UN ECE Reg. 44/03 and UN ECE Reg. 44/04.

In addition to the seal of approval itself, you should also take a look at the current test reports that are published every year by the ADAC. It often happens that models from well-known brands do poorly, but supposedly cheap models look good. You can read the test reports on the Internet and make your purchase decision accordingly.

What are the differences in child seats?

Child seats are divided according to child size and body weight. The information about the age is mostly only for rough orientation. The following classes of child seats are available:

Class 0: up to 10 kg / 12 months
Class 0+: Up to 13 kg / 1,5 years
Class I: 9 to 18 kg / 1,5 to approx. 4 years
Class II: 15 to 25 kg / up to 7 years
Class III: 22 to 36 kg / 7 to 12 years

Some models grow with the child and can be converted if the child needs the next larger class.

There are also differences in the mounting and the direction of travel. There are swivel seats that are initially directed backwards and can later be used in the direction of travel. Some baby car seats also have a base on which they can be turned to make it easier to place the baby in the car seat. This is an advantage for 3-door cars, but is also very convenient.

The child seats can usually be secured in the car using Isofix. The prerequisite is that it is a car that has the appropriate device integrated. This is not always the case with older cars, but can sometimes be retrofitted. A request from the car manufacturer can clarify this. Isofix is ​​considered the easiest and safest method of fastening child seats in the car. The child seat is attached directly to the rear seat of the car using two hooks. The device is located between the backrest and seat, and is often marked on the back seat itself. Isofix was often a selectable option for older cars, but it has been compulsory for all new cars since 2014.

If you drive an older car where Isofix is ​​not available and can be retrofitted, you must fix the seat with the normal seat belt. However, a child seat is necessary for this, where this is possible. Also pay attention to the belt length. In the past, this was not the same for all cars; the belt is even too short for a few vehicles. However, these are only individual, older car models. The only remedy in such a case is another child seat, which manages with less belt. Extending the belt is possible because there are adapters. However, this is not permitted and can lead to serious problems in the event of a control or an accident. You should also always attach the child seat in the car as prescribed by the manufacturer, even if it is difficult to fasten the seat belt.

Used or new?

Child seats can also be bought used. In any case, you have to make sure that the seat is free of damage and accidents. Remove the protective cover and check the styrofoam. This must not be damaged. If the covers are worn or faded from the sun, they can often be purchased separately. These are only visual defects that are not relevant to security. Whether the seat is accident-free or not - here you have to rely on the information provided by the seller. Ideally, you know the previous owner and know that they can be trusted. If in doubt, it is better not to buy the child seat.

Of course, new child seats must also be flawless. If it is delivered and the packaging shows severe transport damage, you should examine the seat carefully.

What should you pay attention to when buying? The abstract

- Seal of approval UN ECE Reg. 44/03, 44/04 or 129 (i-Size)
- Right class for the kid
- test reports
- Accident-free and without defects

Take these points to heart and do not spontaneously buy the first best child seat, even if the offer seems very good. Be sure to keep your hands off child seats without any seals of approval. Also, you should always transport your child in the child seat and fasten your seat belts, even over the shortest distances. In the event of an accident, a single negligence or unsuitable seat can endanger the life of the child or lead to permanent damage. If you follow the criteria mentioned when choosing a seat, nothing stands in the way of a safe and comfortable ride.