You may have heard that car seat legislation is due to change in September 2023. To complicate an already complicated car seat system, Brexit means that the new rules are currently likely to be different depending on where in the UK or Europe you live.

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So what's changing in 2023?

The changes involve the safety standards for car seats and what can and can't be sold from September 2023.

There are currently 2 approved safety standards for car seats sold in the UK and the EU. These are:

  • R44 (also known as ECE R44) – this is the original safety standard
  • R129 (also known as UN Regulation 129) - this is a higher safety standard that was introduced from July 2013 and includes i-Size car seats

From 1 September 2023, retailers in the EU and Northern Ireland will no longer be able to sell R44 car seats.

But, at the moment, there isn't an agreed end date for sales of R44 in Great Britain (Wales, Scotland and England).

The Baby Products Association (BPA), a UK industry organisation representing nursery manufacturers and retailers, explains: "The legislation for this end date wasn’t adopted in Great Britain and therefore until we hear differently, sales of R44 child restraints can continue in Great Britain beyond the 2023 date."

The legislation for this end date wasn’t adopted in Great Britain and therefore until we hear differently, sales of R44 child restraints can continue in Great Britain beyond the 2023 date

So will R44 car seats still be on sale in Scotland, Wales and England after September 2023?

Currently, yes. Sales of R44 car seats can continue in Great Britain beyond the September 2023 date. And if you already have an R44 seat, you can continue to use it as normal as long as it is suitable for your child and your vehicle. So if you live in Great Britain, nothing is changing – yet. However, the rules on selling these seats may change in the future, and we’ll keep you updated if and when they do.

We asked the Department for Transport about future changes, and they confirmed: “There are currently no plans to change legislation in relation to the sale of car seats in Great Britain.” A spokesperson added: “All child restraint systems used in Britain must comply with strict safety regulations to ensure they provide robust levels of protection for passengers.”

But does this suggest that R44 car seats are unsafe?

No – the BPA is very clear on this, stating: "This does not infer that these are unsafe and you can continue to use an R44 seat for the foreseeable future."

The R129 introduced new safety standards and so is seen as offering a higher level of safety, but the R44 safety standards mean that the car seat still has to meet rigorous safety standards. What you do need to look for is that you have an R44/03 or an R44/04 car seat – the earlier versions (R44/01 and R44/02) should no longer be used and are very unlikely to still be in circulation as they haven't been on sale for decades.

What about my existing R44 car seat – can I still use it?

Yes, absolutely. The legislation change only applies to the sale of new seats in the EU and Northern Ireland.

Can I still use my existing R44 car seat if I’m travelling in the EU or NI after September 2023?

Yes, you can. If you use an R44 car seat and live in the EU or Northern Ireland, or if you plan to take it on holiday with you in these regions, you'll still be able to use it legally, even after September 2023. The idea is to slowly phase R44 car seats out of circulation, not to have a hard stop overnight. It's a bit like the planned phasing out of petrol and diesel cars in favour of EVs.

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Will I be able to buy an R44 car seat in the EU and NI after September 2023?

No. The new rules mean the sale of R44-type seats must stop in these areas on 1 September 2023. However, a 12-month grace period has been proposed, which may enable retailers to sell off their remaining stock, although this hasn't been confirmed. While If you are travelling in those regions between September 2022 and 2023, and want to buy a car seat, you may still see R44 seats on sale.

Finally, what is the difference between an R44 car seat and an R129 car seat?

The key differences are:

Sizing - the new thinking is that it's safer to assess a child's suitability for a car seat based on height rather than weight
R44 car seats – are sized in relation to your child’s weight, using 5 weight groups – Group 0, 0+, 1, 2 and 3
R129 car seats –are chosen according to the child’s height, with an additional upper weight limit given for ISOFIX seats

Side impact testing
R44car seats
has fewer detailed tests for head and neck protection
R129 car seats – includes additional requirements for side impact protection

Extended rear facing
R44 car seats – allows children to forward face in a car seat from 9kg (approx 9 months)
R129 car seats
– requires children to rear face until at least 15 months old

i-Size
R44 car seats – can not be i-Size
R129 car seats
– may be i-Size (i-Size is a subset of R129 car seats)

Looking for more information?

The Baby Products Association has published a handy guide to car seat rules and terms.

Plus MadeForMums has Best Buy guides listing the best car seats on the market for every stage, including:

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