Isofix vs seat belts - which is best for a child car seat?
Georgia PetrieEditorial, heycar
There’s always going to be debate about the best way to keep your little one safe in their car seat. Let us take you through the basics so you know everything you need to.
Put simply, Isofix is an attachment system for child car seats. Isofix anchor points come as standard in all new cars, but also feature in many older models too. Even grandma’s car might have them.
Isofix is designed to make installing a car seat much easier, which lowers the risk of getting it wrong.
Can I just use seat belts?
When installed right, seat belt fitted seats are perfectly safe - protecting children in the same way they do adults. But in some cases the seat belts may not be fitted correctly over the child seats, meaning infants aren’t necessarily fully protected in the event of a crash.
With Isofix mounts, the connection between the seat and the car is more rigid, so there’s less chance of making a mistake when fitting a child seat to the car. But, saying that, it’s not a legal requirement to have an Isofix seat.
Is Isofix safer?
Independent tests show that Isofix mounted seats are extremely safe. Rather than relying on a belt, the car seat is fixed directly to the child seat base. That means there’s less movement in the seat in the event of an accident, particularly a side on impact.
The real advantage to Isofix is that it’s so simple to fit. Research by child seat brand Maxi-Cosi shows that 94 per cent of parents use Isofix correctly. That’s because you simply click the Isofix legs in and the car seat is solidly installed.
Nearly all Isofix seats have green and red indicators to show you when the seat is fixed correctly, too. Add in a rebound bar and an extra leg support or top tether strap and the Isofix system feels incredibly secure. Booster seats can also be permanently secured with Isofix.
There’s little to no guesswork when using Isofix, which is very handy for new parents who might want a little extra reassurance that they’ve fitted the seat correctly.
However, Isofix seats tend to be heavy. And more awkward to swap between cars. They’re also more expensive to buy new and many Isofix seats can only be installed with Isofix points – there’s no seat belt option. So if you want to use your seat in an older car, which doesn’t have Isofix, you may find yourself stuck.
How do I know if my car has Isofix?
Isofix has been standard on all new cars since the mid-2000s so if there is a high chance, your car will have it fitted. Originally Isofix had the two anchor points but some cars also have a top tether point – usually on the back of the seat.
If you’re not sure, look for the Isofix labels or simply run your hands along the gap where the seat base and back meet to feel for the metal hooks. Two-seater cars often have them fitted in the passenger seat - but you’ll need to make sure you’ve turned the passenger airbag off if you want to fix a car seat here.
What’s the best option?
Ultimately it comes down to what method works best for you. And - more importantly - which you have more confidence in. We’d always strongly recommend using Isofix as there’s less chance of a seat being fitted incorrectly.
But if you have an older car, or your kids regularly travel in older cars with Isofix mounts, it may not be best for you. If so, opt for seat belt-secured child seats, just take care that it’s fitted properly in order to keep your little one safe.