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Keeping your children safe is the top priority for any parent - and that includes when you’re in the car.
Which is why choosing the best car seat for your little one can be an agonizing decision, especially when you have more than one child.
That’s because getting the right car seat for your particular car can be a challenge, because many car seats and capsules take up a significant amount of room.
Fitting two or even three children’s car seats across the back of most models is difficult, which is part of the reason for the increasing popularity of slimline car seats in Australia. These are, as the name implies, slimmer or narrower seats that are designed to take up less space.
Here’s everything you need to know about them.
Put simply, slimline refers to how wide the seat is but there is no specific size that makes it official. Broadly speaking, these narrower car seats are between 40-45cm wide, but obviously each specific model varies.
To clarify, we’re talking specifically about car seats here, as opposed to either rearward facing capsules or more simplistic booster seats, which use the car’s own seat belts to secure your child instead of a multi-point harness.
There are two types, a convertible car seat - that can face either rearwards or forward - or a standard forward facing car seat (sometimes referred to as ‘harnessed boosters’). Both of these types are capable of accommodating your child until they can sit in a booster or regular seat.
The primary advantage of buying a compact car seat is creating more space to fit multiple seats across the rear of your car.
Particularly in small cars having multiple car seats can be challenging as they are often much wider than the seat base, creating a squeeze. Having an infant in a rearward facing capsule can only exacerbate the problem.
This is why car seat manufacturers have worked to create these slimmer designs. They create more room for you to install two or three seats (if you have a particularly wide rear seat).
Obviously no parent wants to compromise their child’s safety just for the sake of space, so when shopping for a car seat you should consider what’s best for your kids and not just pick the narrowest car seat you can find.
Obviously all car seats - wide and slimline - need to meet all Australian Design Rules and safety regulations, so you should be able to shop with peace-of-mind. However, you should consider your specific child’s needs and your budget.
Some are designed to cater to smaller children - newborn to four years - so they are physically smaller but you’ll need to buy a bigger seat when they reach five. That may be fine if you plan on having more than one child, but if you don’t then you may be better off buying one that can accommodate a kid all the way until age eight.
Best slimline car seats available to buy in Australia
Pros: Great for growing children
Relatively wide by comparison to some others on this list, but it’s still a slimline seat with plenty of upsides. It can accommodate children from the time they are old enough to sit facing forward (typically around 12-18 months) all the way until they’re too big for a car seat.
The Shield features SecureSafe’s ‘TrueFit’ system which allows you to adjust the headrest and harness height with a one-handed action. This is a big step forward compared to older or cheaper car seats that require you to unthread and then rethread the harness as your child grows, which can be a tricky and time-consuming job.
The catch is, at 49cm wide at the base this is one of the larger slimline seats.
Cons: Only works from six-months old
This is one of the slimmest seats on the market, at least at the base which measures just 43cm wide. The headrest isn’t quite as narrow but is still just 49cm across at its widest point, so this is an option for those with small seats in the rear.
The adjustable shoulder straps allow you to move the backrest and harness from 29cm to 51cm, so it can keep up as your child grows. The catch is, because it’s a forward facing seat your child will need to be at least six-months old to use it safely.
SecureSafe claims this is the slimmest car seat in Australia, measuring just 44cm wide and only 59cm when in its rearward facing position - significantly shorter than comparable models.
Despite its compact dimensions it can accommodate children from newborn to eight-years-old, which means that it will last you for the duration of your child’s time in a car seat, but it does cost $599 so you are paying a premium for its tight size.
Cons: Only suitable up to four-years old
The positive for this seat is, because it’s a convertible, it can accommodate your child from birth which is an advantage over a forward facing only seat. From birth up to two years it can sit in rearward facing mode and then you can flip it around to forward facing until your child is approximately four-years old.
The catch is, because it’s a smaller seat in size, it won’t be suitable once your child grows, with Britax recommending a new seat by the time your child is five.
But at just 44cm wide it’s certainly a narrow child seat, especially for a convertible. Plus at $330 it’s cheaper than the other options on this list.
It doesn’t come cheap but the Grandeur Go is a strong option for any parent looking at narrow car seats in Australia. It measures just 44cm at its widest point, but the base is only 34cm wide, which creates more room across the seat base.
The other element that helps justify its price tag is that it can accommodate your child from birth until eight-years old, which means it could be the only car seat you have to buy - no swapping between a capsule and a booster.
It also features Infa-Secure’s ‘Twist and Lift’ system that allows you to adjust the height of the shoulder belts and headrest with one hand, instead of a complicated manual adjustment used by many cheaper seats.
On the downside, apart from the price, it weighs 10kg, which is relatively heavy for a seat and not ideal if you plan on swapping between cars on a regular basis.
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