Which car seat is best for your child? Here's a breakdown


Using the correct car seat for your child will go a long way towards their safety and your peace of mind. Learn what kind of car seat your child needs and when to upgrade them here.

Would you ever buy shoes designed for a teenager and try get a toddler to fit them? Of course not. In the same way, car seats engineered for grown bodies are simply not suitable for infants, toddlers and pre-adolescent children. Your child goes through quite a few developmental stages as they grow up, so getting an appropriate car seat that keeps them safe as their bodies grow is an important decision. Here's a breakdown:

Group 0+ : new-born and infant seats

Group 0+ or infant seats must be used for the first 6 months. This is when babies are at their most vulnerable stage of development, and need all the protection possible. The older model infant seats used to go up to 10 kg or 1 year, but there are only a few of these on the market today.

Group 0+ seats:

  • Are designed for new-borns until 13 kg or 15 months or 76 cm in height.
  • Are always rear-facing (babies should be in a rear-facing seat until they are 15 months).
  • Have a flatter angle than combination and convertible seats, to protect your baby's vulnerable back. Convertible or multi-stage seats should not be used from birth because babies under 6 months don't fit in them as they should.
  • Offer deeper side-impact protection.
  • Can be removed from the car with the baby inside.
  • Have seat belt guides indicated with blue markings. Remember that the harness must be adjusted to shoulder level or slightly below.

Group 1 : toddler seats

Remember to always read the labels on the side of a seat and the instruction manual to check the weight and height limits of a seat, before you decide whether or not to upgrade to the next car seat level.

Group 1 seats:

  • Are designed for children from 9 kg to 18 kg or to 105 cm or until 4 years. The minimum weight is there to accommodate tall, skinny children who have outgrown their previous seat in height but not yet weight.
  • Are more upright and must still be able to recline to protect the toddler's small back and neck.
  • Have a harness that must be adjusted at shoulder-height or slightly above.

Your child will outgrow a toddler seat in height when their shoulders are higher than the highest harness adjustment or their head is level with the top edge of the seat, or at 18kg.

Group 2 : height-adjustable full back booster seats

Once kids are no longer toddlers, they are often upgraded too quickly for various reasons. A group 2 booster seat makes the adult seat belt fit your child and positions it correctly over their bodies.

Group 2 seats:

  • Have full back height-adjustable boosters and are designed for children from 15 kg to 25 kg, 4 to 6 years or from 95 to 125 cm.
  • The minimum weight allows for tall, skinny kids. Do not use a booster seat for a 15 kg+ toddler of 2 or 3 years old. Bodies under the age of 3 are not strong enough yet to benefit from the seat belt alone.
  • Seat belt guides in the booster seat are indicated with red markers.
  • Keep adjusting the back rest of the seat to keep up with your growing child. The seat belt must be at shoulder height or slightly above. The side impact protection must be around their heads.
  • Some boosters are designed to have a removable back rest. Only remove this when your child has grown past the highest adjustment. They need the back of the booster to keep the seat belt at shoulder level and for the side impact protection it offers. Once they are too tall for the back rest of the seat, you can convert it to a Group 3 booster cushion. Use this until your child is tall enough to ride with a seat belt.

The maximum weight for booster seats are more a minimum weight for the seat belt alone. If you have a heavier-built child who has reached 36 kg before they are tall enough for the seatbelt, it is perfectly safe to keep on using the booster. The seat belt bears their weight during a crash and is designed for far heavier loads than 36 kg.

Group 3 : booster cushions

Some full back boosters will keep a pre-pubescent child safe until 1.5 m or 36 kg. They do not covert to booster cushions. If this is not the case with your child's full back booster seat, consider a Group 3 booster cushion before they upgrade to a regular seatbelt.

Group 3 seats:

  • Are designed for use until your child is 36 kg or 1.5 m tall.
  • Are strictly for children who have outgrown the Group 2 seat and who are not yet tall enough to ride with a seat belt alone.

There are now quite a few seats that will harness children until 25 kg, either rear- or forward-facing. This is especially good news for us here in Southern Africa, as our children tend to be bigger than average, and often reach 18 kg well before they are 4 years old.

Ready for a regular seat belt? Use the 5-point test

Many children only reach the height necessary to fit a regular seat belt when they are around 12 years old. Your child is ready to ride with a seat belt alone once they pass the 5-point test. Ask yourself:

  1. Can they sit with their back against the vehicle seat back rest?
  2. Do their knees bend comfortably over the front of the seat?
  3. Is the lap belt low over the top of their legs?
  4. Is the shoulder belt at the middle of their shoulder?
  5. Can they sit like this for the whole trip?

If you're still uncertain what's best for your child, visit Discovery Insure partner Wheel Well at www.wheelwell.co.za for more tips and expert advice.


Get up to 25% off a car seat for your child every year

As a Discovery Insure client with Vitality Drive, you can get up to 25% off the purchase of a selected car seat for your child every year. The discount will apply on car seats from our partners, Born Fabulous and Toys R Us, and is based on your Vitality Drive status at the time of claiming the reward.

Simply request a voucher through the website, www.discovery.co.za, or through the Discovery app. Find out more here.

Discovery Insure's Impact Alert sends help when you need it most

Wish you had the technology to call for help when you most need it? Discovery Insure's Impact Alert feature can detect when you've been in an accident. If we can't get hold of you immediately, we'll send emergency assistance to your location, while our Vehicle panic button can be used to alert emergency services when you're in your car and need help.

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