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Car Seat Information

Safe, Secure, Comfortable – Choosing The Right Car Seat

Car seats are a baby essential. There are a huge number of car seats on the market, and you need to choose one that fits your child, fits your car, and is easy to install and use. Here are our car seat recommendations – if you need more help or advice, feel free to give us a call or come into the store for a chat.

 

Our top five car seat safety tips

  1. Buy early

    Buy your car seat well before you’ll need it so you can practise installing and using it.

  2. Try before you buy

    Always try the car seat in your car before you buy – and don’t just sit it on the seat. Check that the safety belt of your car is long enough to secure the seat correctly. Check it in forward and rear-facing positions, and if you plan to use the seat in more than one car, test it out in both vehicles.

  3. Install correctly

    Installing a car seat can be tricky, so make sure you follow the manufacturers’ instructions. If the seat is designed with a tether strap, make sure you use it – otherwise you’ll be compromising the safety of your seat.If you’re unsure, Plunket will check your installation, and some retailers have staff who can help as well. An incorrectly installed seat will put your child at risk of serious injury or death, so it’s not something to take lightly.

  4. Pick your position

    The safest place for a child restraint is in the back seat of a vehicle, preferably behind the passenger seat. Never place a rear facing restraint or capsule in the front passenger seat if the car has an airbag that can’t be disabled. In a crash, the airbag could throw the restraint up against the seat, seriously injuring or killing the baby.

  5. Never buy a second-hand seat

    Second-hand car seats can seem like a good idea, but it’s not worth the risk. A second-hand seat could have been damaged in an accident, bought overseas so it doesn’t comply with NZ standards, or be missing essential parts.

    Car seats usually have plastic components and webbing, which can deteriorate over time – which is why they usually have an expiry date. A second-hand seat could look fine, but be dangerously damaged or expired.

    If buying a brand-new seat is out of your budget, some retailers have rental services, and Dimples has a lay-by service so you can pay off your seat over time..

Switching seats: ages, stages, and when to change

The best car seat is one that fits your child, fits into your car, and is easy to install and use.

It’s considered safest to buy new seats to fit your child as they grow, rather than buying one seat to fit a large weight range. Never buy a seat that’s too big for your child.

Car seats are divided into categories based on the weight and height of your child – age is less important.

The weight/age stages are:
Baby:   Birth weight - 13kg l 0-12 months
Toddler:   9-18 kg l 9 months to 3.5 years
Child:   15-36 kg l 3.5 to 12 years

Rear-facing rules

Babies go into a rear-facing seat at first, then move into a forward facing seat when they get too tall to fit into a rear-facing seat comfortably.

Babies have large heads and comparatively weak necks, which makes them particularly vulnerable in a crash. Rear-facing seats absorb the impact of a crash so it is less damaging to your baby.

Wait as long as possible to switch your baby to a forward-facing position – at least up to 12 months, and longer if they’re still comfortable in their rear-facing seat.

Moving to a toddler seat

When the tips of your baby’s ears are above the top of the seat back, it’s time to switch to a new one. Don’t worry about their legs – they can extend beyond the edge of the seat.

Moving to a child restraint

Move your child from a toddler seat to a child seat or booster when their shoulders are 2cm above the highest openings for the shoulder straps in their seat. Make sure the headrest of the new car seat is set to the lowest position when you switch.

No more car seats

When your child reaches 1.5 metres in height, they no longer legally require a car seat. Of course, they still need to use a seat belt whenever you drive.

Check out our range of Maxi-Cosi seats now.

Buying a car seat: handy features and safety standards

When you’re ready to buy a car seat, be prepared to do a bit of research. You’ll want to find the best seat for your needs – not just the first seat you see.

These are our top four features to look for in a car seat:

  1. Adjustable seat back

    Buy your car seat well before you’ll need it so you can practise installing and using it.

  2. Side protection wings

    Padded side wings will help protect your child in a side-impact crash. Side wings are often height adjustable so they can move upwards as your child grows.

  3. Removable, washable cover

    Make sure the lining and cover of the seat can be removed and washed easily – you’ll be surprised by how messy a car seat can get.

  4. Sturdy, simple harness

    Test the clips and buttons on the car seat’s harness before you buy – if they’re very difficult to open and close without a child in them, they’ll be almost impossible with a baby in the seat. Tug on the straps to make sure they clip firmly.

  5. Padded cover

    Some seats are very lightly padded, while others are much softer. More padding means a more comfortable ride for your child, and protection for their head as it moves around.

Safety extras: Isofix and LATCH

Many late-model cars are fitted with Isofix mounting points. An Isofix-compatible restraint can be snapped into the seat frame instead of being held in place by the car’s safety belt, making it easier to install correctly. LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) is a similar system and will also fit the Isofix mounting points.

Many cars have Isofix points hidden under the rear seat cushions. Try poking your hand down between the seat back and cushions, and feel for a metal loop. Each seat should have two loops.

Safety Standards

When you buy a car seat in New Zealand, it must meet one of these safety standards. If you buy from a reputable retailer, their seats will meet one or more of the standards, but it’s good to check, just in case.

Here’s what to look out for:

Australian/NZ standard AS/NZS1754: This is identified by the Australian ‘tick’ mark.

European Standard ECE R44.04: Car seats that meet this standard can be identified by a yellow label with an ‘E’ in a circle. An older version of the European standard, ECE R44.03, was replaced in 2005. There should be very few of these seats left in New Zealand.

US standard FMVSS213: Restraints that comply with this standard must display the number FMVSS213 and carry the ‘S’ mark to show they have been certified for use in New Zealand.

Rules and regulations: New Zealand car seat laws

The law in New Zealand requires children under 7 to be restrained in a car seat every time you drive.

The restraint must be an approved seat that’s appropriate for the child’s height and weight.

These are our top four features to look for in a car seat:

  • Must be properly restrained in an approved child seat
  • They must not travel in the car without an approved restraint

Children aged between 7-8

  • Must use a child restraint if available
  • If there is no child restraint available, the child must use a safety be

Children aged between 8-14

  • Must use a safety belt if available
  • If no belt is available, they must travel in the back seat

Children over 14

  • Must use a safety belt if available
  • If no belt is available, they must travel in the back seat
Find the right car seat for your child now.