What do the car seat laws mean for you?

Everything you need to know 

5 minutes

Feeling a little mystified by the latest car seat laws? You're not alone! We talked to a car safety expert to get the lowdown on what the law means for parents.

Here's how to work out which seat is best for your child. 

  • Why the car seat law could change again soon
  • A handy age and weight chart to make it simpler

The UK's two separate car seat laws can be confusing

The car seat laws can be confusing but, like our car insurance policy which replaces car seats that get damaged in accidents as standard, we’ve simplified things for you in this article.

Simon Bellamy, Managing Director of the In Car Safety Centre, highlights the details of the law changes.

What's the current car seat law?

To cause more confusion, there are actually two separate car seat laws in the UK.

  1. The ECE R44/03 and R44/04 regulations are based on the age and weight of your child
  2. The newer ECE R129 or 'i-Size' regulation applies to children aged under 15 months and takes height into consideration as well
The i-Size law, which was passed in the UK in April 2015, hasn't replaced the ECE R44/03 and R44/04 regulations; instead, they run alongside each other.

Will my old car seat be okay?

Yes, as long as your car seat conforms to either the ECE R44/03 and R44/04 regulations or the newer i-Size law.

Why have the laws been changed?

The government considers classifying car seats based on a child's height, as well as their age and weight, to be easier and safer. As a result, height information will be added to all seats. 

A special label that indicates the compatibility with certain vehicles will also be added to the seat. Always check online or in-store to see if a seat is compatible with your car before buying it – and check where the seat can be placed in the car with the manufacturer.

How will it affect me?

If you're a first time parent, it may be a good idea to purchase seats that meet the new R129 i-Size regulation. Seats adhering to the R129 Regulation are tested more rigorously than those with R44 labels, so they're definitely worth considering. If they are R129 approved, they'll display 'i-Size' on the label. 

The government states these height-based i-Size seats must be rear-facing until your child is 15 months old. After 15 months, your child can use a forward-facing seat. Bear in mind that not all cars are currently compatible with i-Size seats, so before you buy anything new, check the car seat manufacturer's compatibility list.

If you have an ISOFIX car and car seat (some cars have been constructed to fix to certain child car seats using metal bars – these are ISOFIX car seats) you should also make sure you check that your car will comply with an i-Size seat.

How will it affect my child?

The new laws are intended to protect a child when they're most vulnerable. At the In Car Safety Centre, they believe the longer a child travels rear facing, the safer it is. We're finding more parents are transporting their children in this way until they're three or four years old. Put simply, a child's disproportionately heavy head is better supported in a rear-facing seat.

If your child's car seat gets damaged, you should buy a new one.

Any other advice?

Buying online is fine but it's difficult to get the expertise and information required. Although it can be confusing and complicated to find the most suitable car seat – only made more difficult by the fact that two laws exist simultaneously – the main thing is to make sure your seat complies with either the R44 or R129 laws, and fits into your car.

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