Purchasing a Child Restraint System is such an important purchase because we will be investing in the safety of our children. Putting a child in a CRS is the only way of ensuring they will emerge unscathed in a crash, therefore we ought to consider carefully what type of chair we are going to buy and we should be extra careful when it comes to choosing one as a gift.
And if we are going to be receiving a car seat as a present this Christmas we should have a series of aspects in mind when evaluating whether or not it is the most appropriate seat for our young children.
Is it an approved seat?
The first thing we have to do is check if the seat is approved according to the ECE R44/04 standard or the ECE R129 standard. This approval guarantees that the seats' components offer a minimum protection level and quality. This is a good basis on which to build better seats.
An approved seat will comply with all the regulations on a series of aspects relating to the quality of the materials, the crash tests and durability tests. If they gift us a non-approved seat we should not use it and should let the person who has given us the seat know that it cannot provide the required protection. Alternatively, we can exchange the present for another recommended seat from a trusted establishment with retailers who know how to respond to all our questions, they can help us install it for the first time and will accept returns under certain circumstances.
The reason for this is because the approval guarantees certain minimum safety standards but when it is not an approved seat it offers no such guarantees. This does not mean that the seat is unsafe but rather that the manufacturer cannot guarantee its protection in a crash.
Is it a second hand seat?
We would advise you not to accept a second hand seat. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the main motive is that we do not know the seat's history: how many years has it been in use, has it been in a crash, how has the seat been used, etc.
Although the seat may appear to be in perfect condition, if it has been in an accident it is important to get rid of it immediately: the restraint system might have tiny cracks that could make it unsafe.
Furthermore, child car seats deteriorate over time. They are specially designed to be safe, but not to last forever. Plastic deteriorates very quickly, above all if it is exposed to sunlight or kept in damp places such as a store room. Time and deterioration can mean that the seats do not react in an impact in the same way as when they were new.
One of the components that most suffers is the harness. Extended use of the seats, friction or certain cleaning products can speed up the wear and tear of this crucial car seat component. Therefore, if we do not know the seat's history (we would know what had happened to it if it was from an elder brother, for example), we should not trust second hand car seats. You can read in detail about the precautions you should take with a second hand seat here.
And what about cheap child car seats?
Just because a car seat is cheap does not mean that it is unsafe. If it complies with all the safety standards of an approved seat and it is not second hand, there is no reason for it to be an unsafe seat.
What we do know is that a lower price seat will be made using lower quality materials than a more high range seat. This is something we should keep in mind. For a safety system, the price often determines the quality of its materials and its resistance, as well as its tendency to lose effectiveness over time.