Don’t you find it troubling that South African consumers head off to their local baby retailer to buy a car seat without doing a minute of research? That’s like going to the local car dealership and buying a vehicle without checking what size the engine is, how big the boot space is, and whether you’re actually getting a good deal or not. Maybe a car is a lot more expensive, but what value does one put on a child’s life? Leading on from there, it’s somewhat incongruous to see someone driving a big fancy car, probably worth around R750K, with a nice looking but low-priced car seat in the back.

It is understandable, however, that when purchasing a car seat, South African consumers generally focus on price. These consumers need a little help with their purchase, and need to consider the long-term investment of a car seat. They need to look at the price, work out how long they will use the seat and/or base for, and divide that by the number of months of usage. You’ll probably find that their monthly investment is worth nothing more than a couple of Big Macs with fries!

Informed decisions save lives

A cheaper car seat sometimes means that the seat has not been independently crash tested, and the quality of the materials used is lower than more expensive models.

Looking at quality: a family is heading out for a weekend away and pops their little one into a nice looking but low-priced car seat, thinking they are the World’s Best Parents. The first hour will be great, but things will gradually get worse thereafter. The cheaper seats usually have less padding, and the material can make a baby sweat. No one wants to sit in a sweaty, poorly designed and uncomfortable seat for three hours.

Consumers often assume that these nice looking but low-priced car seats have been crash tested to the max, and assume that they have been tested for side collisions and that they’ll remain in place if the car were to roll in the accident. Unfortunately, these are just that – assumptions.

Crash testing has to be one of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a car seat. To get seats onto the market, manufacturers have to go through a minimum-testing standard. Nice looking but low-priced car seats are sometimes tested at slower speeds, with no side-impact testing being performed. Considering 40% of South African car accidents are side impact, and South Africans are known to drive way over our speed limits, you would think that the World’s Best Parents would be more circumspect in their car seat purchases, and do their homework on safety details. The fact is that one of the currently-most-popular car seats in this country does not undergo independent crash testing! Consumers can and should find this information with a little bit of research, and use the knowledge to make an informed decision when purchasing.

Social media is not a valid source of information for safety standards and other information regarding safety aspects of car seats. Parents on social media are often vocal in their support for, and against, certain brands, but this is emotional input and should not be put into the equation when making a purchasing decision. The only people who can offer help are those with authority on the subjects who either work for the brands or work with the brands.

Most importantly, when a child reaches 4 years old, they actually need to move into a booster seat, not into a seatbelt just yet. Booster blocks are illegal, so one needs to get rid of them and find a suitable seat with an adjustable head and back rest. Kids need to remain in these boosters until 150cm tall. And just because it’s a booster, it doesn’t mean it is now acceptable to buy the nice looking but low-priced seat either. Customers need to check the safety records, check the quality, as well as check the testing done.

Here are some suggestions for parents heading out to purchase a car seat:

  • Do some online investigation on car seats in South Africa before leaving the house.
  • Contact the car seat manufacturers directly. Most of them are on Facebook, so reach out and engage. No question is silly. They will gladly assist you.
  • Do not take social media platform conversations and forum chatter as factual. Rather contact the brands directly for more information.
  • Query the manufacturers about warranties and what customer services they offer.
  • Some car seat manufacturers offer to replace your car seat free of charge if you and your child are involved in an accident. Check
  • Lastly, head to your retailer and buy the seat you have decided on. Sales people are sales people, but by now, you will be able to make an informed purchase decision.

Written by: Car Seat Mom