/ Motoring, Parenting

Child car seats are far too expensive

Child in car seat

When all kids need to be strapped into car seats until they’re either 135cm tall or 12 years old, costs can go through the roof. Is it too much to ask manufacturers to make these life-saving seats more affordable?

A few months ago, on a potholed dirt track near Hanoi, a wonky-wheeled moped spluttered its way past me. Sitting there on the rust-red handlebars, with a whole family of rice farmers holding her in place, was a tiny little girl.

She looked happy enough, but without even a crash helmet for protection, she didn’t seem all that safe.

And that got me thinking: wouldn’t her parents prefer it if they could get her around more safely? The answer’s obvious. But there’s a problem, and that problem’s money.

High price tag on child car seats

Even here in the UK, where the most testing part of a journey is paying a service station £2 for a sausage roll, people are being priced out of keeping their kids safe on the roads.

Take child car seats as an example. They’re ridiculously expensive. Buying one of them costs enough, but when you add in second or third kids (plus the propensity for little people to grow out of them), the bill is driven higher. So what do parents do? They buy cheap. And that’s when it could get dangerous.

Costs can limits your options

Three out of the five cheapest car seats we tested (all under £80) were named Don’t Buys, which means they almost certainly won’t offer your child adequate protection in a car crash.

And of the car seats we actively recommended, the vast majority cost between £120 and £290. That’s not to say paying more guarantees you a safer car seat (it doesn’t; one of our Don’t Buys is £250), but it shows how, just like the rice farmers, your options are being limited by cash.

Manufacturers should do more

Now I know you get what you pay for, but I think everyone’s kids should be allowed to travel in the safest way possible, whether in Hanoi or Harrogate.

The only way we can make this happen is by testing products rigorously and lobbying manufacturers to make car seats that are both safe and affordable.

In a country where we’re fortunate enough to be free from those wonky-wheeled mopeds, we have to lead by example on road safety. Manufacturers should be doing more to make safe child car seats affordable for all.


I find it interesting that this article is headed "Child car seats are far too expensive", and it contains the sentance "So what do parents do? They buy cheap. And that’s when it could get dangerous."

You appear to be advocating building these products down to a price, then admitting that cheap child car seats are not safe.

With nine children, I’ve bought quite a number of child car seats over the years. And bought them on two continents. With one exception they’ve all been exceedingly badly designed and exceedingly over-priced. With one exception, it seemed that at least three hands were required to fasten a child into the seat. The glowing exception was a Fisher-Price (!) seat bought in Canada. Easy to fit, capable of being fastened with one hand, easy to clean, built-in inertia reel. Even a pocket in the back of the seat for the (rather unnecessary) instructions. Obviously designed by someone who USED a child car seat.

Surely, however, provision for children should be a safety requirement placed on the car manufacturers who should have to provide as standard a rear seat with built in accommodation of totally-standardised specification for children so that larger children could use it directly and standard inserts would take smaller children. If they were standardised there would be competition in the marketplace and the price would hopefully be driven down. It’s hardly rare to carry children on the back seat of a car, so why are the manufacturers not compelled to make full provision for so doing in a legal manner?

At present what we’re paying for in terms of child car seats is grossly-overpriced rubbish which is not fit for purpose.

What’s interesting is that so-called ‘family cars’ aren’t suitable for families – at least without a child seat. Very few manufacturers provide the option of an integrated child seat, and even when they do it’s usually more expensive than a stand-alone child seat – and it can’t be moved from car to car.

Car manufacturers need to recognise that their cars are being used by humans of all shapes and sizes, not just adults.

Claire says:
10 September 2010

I agree there is a vast difference between the legal requirements and what cars provide! When do you see a car used by 4 or 5 adults instead of Mum & Dad + 2 or 3 kids?
Most parents of 3 children need to buy extra large cars because it’s physically impossible to fit 3 child seats on the back seat of a normal car – so you end up with an extra-wide car like a Galaxy or an Ford S-max or a big bulky 4 wheel drive type of car.
The car manufacturer who comes up with something the size of a VW Golf that takes 3 car seats (or boosters) and advertises the fact, will sell them like hotcakes!
Having said that, there is also a certain tendency from parents to overbuy when it comes to car seats – a bit like prams – lots of people don’t seem comfortable with being seen in something basic which does the job! But I remember finding a best buy seat for ages 3+ to be a £49 seat from Halfords, which was also totally portable!
It’s not that unusual to see 6 or 7 year olds in big car seats!…