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Top tips for buying a car seat at a Baby Expo

Buying a car seat at mama magic(1)

Baby Expo specials are flashing all around us. Many families are reaching out and asking what to look for when buying a car seat on sale. I thought I would share my top tips on navigating the sales pitches and coming out with the safest seat.

Things you should know before taking on the Baby Expo Deals

For all parents
  1. Not all of the car seat brands are available at every Baby Expo!
  2. Be 100% clear on WHEN the car seat stock will arrive. A bargain isn’t a bargain if the seat arrives after your child is born or after they have outgrown their previous car seat.
  3. Not all car seats are created equal. There are very good reasons that some seats are more expensive than others, which you can read about here – The Cost of Car Seats.
  4. Not all car seats sold in South Africa are safe! Most pass minimum safety requirements, but some unethical people sell seats with very little or vague credentials.
  5. You can’t always trust the person selling you a car seat. Many people who sell seats know nothing about the quality or safety of the seats… This doesn’t make them bad people, just people who sell “baby things”. Learning about car seats can be confusing. And sadly the safest seats are rarely the most profitable. Do your research before buying (which you are doing now). Don’t be persuaded by someone because they have incredible sales skills.
  6. A newborn needs an infant seat from birth to 13kg or 75cm, around 1 year old.
  7. A toddler should rear face in a toddler seat until a MINIMUM of 18kg or 105cm, around age 4.
  8. There are incredibly safe car seats, often not at the baby expos, that let you keep your child rear facing in a harness until 25kg or 125cm, around age 6.
  9. A child needs protection in a full back booster seat until 1.5m tall, when they can pass the 5 step test. This is usually between 10 and 12 years old.

5 step test

Top tips for the expecting parents at a Baby Expo

A baby needs an infant seat. No exceptions.

Just because a seat says you can use it from 0 kg does NOT mean it is suitable for a baby. Ethical car seat salespeople will tell you that your baby needs to be in an infant seat until they can sit on their own for extended stretches. Ideally, they should stay in the seat until they reach the maximum height or weight on the orange sticker on the seat. This is usually at 13kg or 75cm, around age 1. All infant seats are exclusively rear facing.

If budget is an issue, buy the safest infant seat and forget the isofix base.

Isofix isn’t a safety feature, except in reducing installion mistakes. I have recently seen a number of parents who have made errors with the isofix base, so that isn’t always true. A proper seatbelt installation is even a percentage point or so safer in most independent testing.

In an infant seat, isofix is definitely a great convenience and makes life a lot easier – which every parent needs. That said, the base often costs as much as the seat itself.

Axkid Modukid Infant Seat

On the topic of isofix bases, some brands will sell the base as a long term investment. There are a number of gorgeous modular systems available, these bases work with both the infant and toddler seat. While there can be great value in this if you have a bigger budget than most, it is worth keeping in mind that the safest toddler seats don’t need isofix. And that isofix seats limit harness use to 18kg, as opposed to the Axkid Minikid, Axkid Move, BeSafe iZi Plus or the Volvo Maxway (seatbelt only install, allowing harnessing to 25kg).

Lastly – choose your travel system AFTER buying the safest seat you can afford. Many travel systems come with no-name brand infant seats that don’t even come with a manual.

My top 4 infant seats to look for at Baby Expos

Mama Magic Baby Expo infant seats

Criteria: seatbelt or isofix installation, independent safety test scores with safety focus, available at the show (Axkid’s Modukid Infant seat arrives before June 2020, Recaro won’t be at the show but offer incredibly safe infant seats).

  1. Cybex Cloud Z i-Size (use from 45cm to 87cm, weight limit 13kg)
  2. Maxi Cosi Pebble Plus (use from 40cm to 75cm, weight limit 13kg)
  3. BeSafe iZi Go Modular (use from 40cm to 75cm, weight limit 13kg)
  4. Joie i-Gemm (use from 40cm to 85cm, weight limit 13kg)

Top tips for parents of babies at a Baby Expo

Your child is safest in a rear facing car seat!

  • The longer you can keep your child rear facing in a harness, the safer they will be. Do not consider a toddler seat that cannot rear face until at least 18kg or 105cm.
  • Forward facing a child under age 2 could result in critical injury or death.
  • Your toddler seat should offer rear facing as an option to AT LEAST 18kg or 105cm (around age 4). And you should use it IN THAT POSITION until that weight or height.
  • There are 3 brands that offer truly extended rear facing car seats, up to 25kg – Axkid (125cm), BeSafe iZi Plus and Volvo Maxway (115cm).
  • Unless you financially have to purchase a multistage seat, rather select a seat designed to protect your child in the specific stage of development they are in. The safety needs of a 4 year old are very different to that of a 10 year old.

Reminder – isofix is not critical and increases the price of the seat, while also preventing rear facing with the harness past 18kg. Make sure your car has isofix and a top tether point before considering seats that require them.

My top 4 toddler seats to look for at the Baby Expos

Mama Magic Baby Expo toddler seats(1)

Criteria: rear facing to at least 18kg, available at the show 

  1. BeSafe iZi Kid X3 i-Size. This seat has built in isofix and cannot be installed with a seatbelt. Rear facing with five-point harness to 18kg or 105cm, around age 4. Does not allow forward facing.
  2. Cybex Sirona S i-Size. This seat has built in isofix and cannot be installed with a seatbelt. Rear facing with five-point harness to 18kg or 105cm, around age 4. Does allow forward facing. Swivel function and available with SensorSafe technology.
  3. Maxi Cosi 2Way Pearl. This seat only installs on the isofix base, which is sold separately. Rear facing with five-point harness to 18kg or 105cm, around age 4. Does allow forward facing.
  4. Safeway Polar. Best budget seat. Isofix and Top Tether OR seatbelt installation. Rear or forward facing with 5-point harness to 18kg or 105cm. With isofix AND top tether, forward facing with harness to 25kg or 115cm, average 5-year-old. Full-back seatbelt positioning booster seat up to 1.5m tall, between ages 10 and 12 years.

Top tips for parents of children age 4 and up

A seatbelt is designed to distribute crash force to the strongest points on an adult male of 1.5m or taller. These are over the shoulder, across the chest and over the pelvis. On a child under 1.5m tall, the seatbelt will transfer all crash forces to the neck and the unprotected belly and organs. The likelihood of critical injury or death is incredibly high. They need a full-back seatbelt positioning booster seat to keep them safe.

  • Your child will use the full back seatbelt positioning booster seat from the time they outgrow their (hopefully extended rear-facing) toddler seat until they reach 1.5m tall, between the ages of 10 and 12. So it is a long term investment and the last seat you will need!
  • A “booster cushion” is NOT a car seat. While they may prevent the worst of the injury from the vehicle seatbelt, they do nothing to protect the developing body of the child from the immense forces of a crash.
  • The booster seat you invest in should have clear red markings to show you where the  guides are that keep the seatbelt safely in position.

Reminder – isofix is not critical and increases the price of the seat. At booster stage, the isofix is simply to keep the seat in place when your child isn’t in it. It is as easy to simply click the seatbelt in as they get out the car.

My top 4 full-back booster seats to look for at Baby Expos

Mama Magic Baby Expo booster seats

Criteria: must have full back and side impact protection to 1.5m tall, available at the show (Recaro do not have a stand, but my daughter is in the Monza Nova Seatfix 2 and the previous iteration of the Axkid booster, their updated version Axkid Bigkid arrives by June 2020!)

  1. Cybex Solution S-Fix 
  2. BeSafe izi Flex Fix
  3. Maxi Cosi Kore
  4. Safeway Opto

Final thoughts on shopping for car seats at a Baby Expo

  • A nice looking seat is not necessarily a safe seat.
  • Recognising a brand name from other baby products does NOT mean their car seat offering is a safe one.
  • Do not choose your car seat by what comes with a travel system.
  • Be determined to only choose a seat that offers rear facing as an option until at least 18kg.
  • Know whether your car has isofix, top tethers, and / or full 3 point seatbelts. The make and model won’t give you the correct information. You need to physically check your car.

And lastly, while receiving a discount on a premium seat is an amazing opportunity, if you can afford the best seat for your child and they aren’t at the Baby Expo or on sale, it isn’t worth the discount… Take full advantage of baby expo shows and other specials on diapers, clothing, baby wraps and baby toiletries and invest in the BEST when it matters the most.

You are able to purchase the safest seats from the most reputable brands through #CarseatFullstop by mailing support@carseatfullstop.org.

Car seats save lives.

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This article is completely unsponsored. #CarseatFullstop does work with some of the brands mentioned, selling only the safest of their seats to raise funds to continue the education and awareness-raising that is its core purpose. If you are not attending Mama Magic or you would like to purchase one of the amazing seats that isn’t at the show, or you would like to support the work we do helping families make the safest choices for their children… Purchasing the safest seat for your child through us makes a huge difference!

You can contact us on support@carseatfullstop.org or follow us on the #CarseatFullstop Facebook page, Facebook group or Instagram account.

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  1. Magriet

    I appreciate your rating list here. It would be even more helpful if you could provide the prices of your top 3 at the expo.

    1. CarseatFullstop

      Thanks. As mentioned, this isn’t a sponsored post and I no longer attend Mama Magic, so while I always know who will be there, I don’t know the pricing. The rule I always follow with car seats is you buy the very best that you can afford. x

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